“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
“The friendship that can cease has never been real.”
There are so many uncertainties that surround friendship. But when you have a good friendship, life seems so much easier.
But what do you do when friendship is scary? When you feel like there’s no one for you? Do you give up and bury your head in the sand? Or do you reach out, yet again, only to be scorned? Again.
Before burying your head in the sand or worrying about getting scorned, let’s look at the problem in a different light.
How to Overcome Friendship PTSD
Friendship can seem complicated, but everyone craves it. But before you can start a new friendship or even strengthen the ones you already have, you need to heal from your friendship PTSD.
So what exactly is friendship PTSD, how do we overcome it, and is it possible to have a real friendship?!?
What is “friendship PTSD” and why do you have it?
I first heard the concept of friendship post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from Lisa-Jo Baker, author of Never Unfriended.
When I read Never Unfriended, it felt like Lisa-Jo Baker was reading my mind and speaking directly to my heart. I had friendship PTSD, as I’m sure most women who survived middle school do. But even after middle school, many women continue to suffer from friendship PTSD.
Friendship PTSD is caused by friendships (or even lack of friendships) that have ended badly. Maybe a good friend gossiped about you behind your back. Or maybe she just stopped. Stopped returning your calls. Stopped hanging out. Or maybe just ended the friendship entirely.
So, instead of moving on and focusing on what could be wrong in your friend’s life, or even focusing on another friendship right in front of you, you start to focus on yourself. What you did wrong to make the friendship end. What you could’ve done differently. What you should’ve said, done, or been.
That’s friendship PTSD. That awful “that friendship ended, so there must be something wrong with me” feeling that makes you scared to start again.
How can you overcome friendship PTSD?
There are two steps to overcoming friendship PTSD.
It may be easier said than done, but once you walk through the two phases, you’ll be ready to tackle your friendships.
And if those friendships don’t work out? Try again!
1. It’s not your fault
The first step to getting over your friendship PTSD is to realize that it’s not your fault.
Even if you truly did something wrong, like that time in sixth grade when I told my friend that I was “too cool” to be her friend.
Yes, you might have done something wrong, but it’s time to stop taking ownership of others’ feelings. If you did something wrong, apologize (and mean it).
It took me an embarrassing two years to apologize to my friend. And then the next year she hurt me. But she apologized and we got over it (eventually).
True friendships can withstand a little pain. If anything, it makes the friendship stronger. But you both have to apologize and be willing to get over it. If not, then it’s time to move on.
2. Drop it
Once you’ve apologized for your part in the friendship mishap, you need to move on. You’ve done your part.
As cold as this may sound, you can only be responsible for your part.
Maybe your friend, like me, holds grudges for years. After you’ve genuinely apologized and tried to “make it right,” it’s up to your friend to forgive you and let go of the hurt feelings.
And if it wasn’t your fault but you attempted to “make it right?”
Again, it’s up to your friend/former friend to accept the friendship. Maybe they’re not ready for a friendship, or maybe the friendship was toxic. Either way, you need to make your peace and move on.
How do you make new friends after having friendship PTSD?
We can’t always have friendship our way. -Lisa-Jo Baker
The trick to making new friends after having friendship PTSD is looking inward.
Friendship won’t always look the way we expect. And no, we don’t have to hold on to others’ baggage. But it is important to know what we want in a friendship.
What is your love language? You may be familiar with Gary Chapman’s concept of determining your love language in marriage, and even looking at your kids’ love languages. But have you ever thought about your love language when it applies to friendship?
Part of the problem with friendship PTSD is that we spend too much time looking inward. While it’s important to reflect on the friendship, there’s a healthy way to do it.
Once you know your love language, focus on how you can use that language in friendship. What do you need in a friendship to meet your love language? What do you have to give friends based on your love language?
And what about your friends’ love languages? What do they need in a friendship? What do they have to give?
As you’re meeting new people and even as your analyzing your existing or past friendships, think about the love language concept. What do you need in a friendship? Is that the same thing that your friend is looking to get out of the friendship?
When you start to think about friendship in a new light, especially as you focus on the gifts that you bring to the table and what you need out of a friendship, you’ll slowly be able to work your way through your friendship PTSD.