Is It Too Late to Mend a Broken Relationship?

The holidays are a wonderful time to get together with friends and family to experience the joy of laughter, reminiscing, and renewing connections.  However, it’s also a time when many people face the painful reality of not being with someone they love because of a broken relationship. 

During the holidays, I often meet with clients who are grieving due to being estranged from a parent, sibling, or other close relative or friend. 

Recently I had a woman ask me if it was too late to try and mend a relationship with a brother she had a falling out with three years ago.  I have summarized my response to her below. 

As long as the person you had a falling out with is still alive and is mentally competent it is never too late to make an attempt to restore the relationship you once had with them. 

You can not control the type of response you will receive, or whether or not you will even get a response, but you can control what you attempt to communicate to the person.  If you offended them, admit it, and apologize.  If you desire to move toward having contact with them again, let it be known.  If they offended you and you are ready to forgive and move forward, go on the record as having made that decision. 

Whether you communicate in person, by telephone, or through a letter, I recommend using a simple – I didn’t say easy - communication model to help you deliver the important elements of your message.  

  1. Objectively describe the details concerning your conflict.
  2. Openly and honestly state what you think and feel about the experience.
  3. Clearly state your request with regard to what you want, need or desire.
  4. Identify the potential positives associated with having your request granted. 

Here is one example of what your message may convey: 

  1. The last time we spoke three years ago I told you I never wanted to see or speak to you again after we had a conflict over how I was parenting my children.  
  1. I have been haunted by my words ever since and have felt angry at myself for saying them. I have been lonely without you in my life and terribly sad for having hurt you by my comments. 
  1. I want to ask you to forgive me and to allow me to be a part of your life again in some capacity. 
  1. I believe I have learned from my mistakes and that we can work toward having a loving and close relationship again. 

Not every relationship is salvageable for many different reasons, however, if you are living with regret over having lost an important relationship in your life don’t give up hope. 

If there is someone you love who is missing from your life and you have yet to make an effort to reconcile, don’t put it off. This holiday season may be the time to begin taking steps that could lead to a restored relationship. 

Live, work, and relate well! 

Dr. Todd

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