• Handling Breakups

Can a friendship overcome a terrible betrayal?

Published: February 28, 2013 | By | 11 Replies Continue Reading
A friendship can only survive a betrayal if the friend who was betrayed is able to forgive. 


Hi Irene,

I am in the difficult situation of having disappointed a friend. I broke one of friendship’s sacred rules by giving away one of my best and only friend’s secrets. My friend is a lesbian and I told another friend, and it got back to her.

Under no circumstances, should I have told anyone. We live in a small village and everybody knows everybody so if her parents find out that she is a lesbian they will…well, I don’t really know what they will do. But she is awfully upset and we have stopped talking.

She wants to continue being my friend…but how can we after I betrayed her? I would be honored to hear your advice.

Signed, Pam


Dear Pam,

This was a terrible lapse in judgment because of the consequences it could have had (and still may have) for your friend. Whether or not your friendship can survive this betrayal rests entirely with your friend.

Perhaps there was enough history and good will between you that your friend was able to forgive—-and that will allow you both to put this incident behind you. However, there still may repercussions for your friendship—depending on how this plays out.

Unfortunately, there is nothing more you can do than apologize, be supportive, and follow your friend’s lead.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

Also on The Friendship Blog: Betrayed by the office gossip girl

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Category: Apologies and forgiveness

Comments (11)

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  1. Forgiveness says:

    I agree with Aisling,

    If you don’t forgive after it is offered despite making your friend probably angry as hell at night, trust me it is worse than betraying in the first place,

    In the first place there is trust and if it is broken once no matter how big a great friend will often think life is not always up and maturely try to forgive,

    If you don’t and you betrayed them you will be stepping on their hope of being your friend and being there for you even when you stuffed up,

    Is the problem I have right now, but worse after being betrayed and I try and fix things people offer no forgiveness or even intention to get over their own treacherous habits,
    What you leave in that case is honestly someone who despises your character,

    Who is to judge that betrayal is worse than stealing from a neighbour or committing fraud,
    Unless you believe in stoning every ‘sinner’ than everybody needs a chance at forgiveness where it is genuinely sought other society would be pretty garbage IMO,

    Those who are willing to forgive and those who are willing to change from their mistakes and not be defensive or find the easy way out (they reckon they are only somewhat to blame) will always be the people able to move forward and achieve great things and peace in life, let’s not pretend we don’t ever stuff up and that everything is one way of things go bad.

  2. jitterbug says:

    An excellent description of the damage gossip does is in that movie with
    Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Meryl Streep-(she’s the nun, he’s the priest)
    Although he was the villain in that movie, there’s an insightful scene in which he calls out Meryl Streep’s character for engaging in gossip.

    He says, to make things right, you must take a feather pillow to the top of a high hill on a windy day. When you reach the top, cut the pillow open, and let all of the feathers loose.

    Even though those feathers will scatter far and wide in that wind, your next task is to collect all of those feathers, and put them back.

    Meryl’s character said, “But that would be impossible!”

    Hoffman’s character said, “Exactly. Such is the nature of gossip.”

    Just something to keep in mind, next time you’re tempted to spill someone’s secrets.

    There is NO undoing that damage, and your friend is being exceedingly gracious, in allowing you a second chance.

    She may very well find herself unfairly isolated, when word of her orientation spreads around, so the least you can do now, is to stand by her, and continue being her friend.

    Your shame is yours to bear, please don’t make her pay the price for that.

  3. Been There says:

    To the letter writer; I love how you completely let the person YOU told off the hook. That’s one “friend” I would put in outer orbit away from me and quickly. Bet you know better than to tell that biddy YOUR biz, don’t you? You thought nothing of throwing your lesbian friend to that gossip hyena, however. The best thing that can happen here is the poor woman you betrayed suddenly realizes what a backward and Peyton Place she lives in and how horrible isolation forced her into inappropriate “friendships” with townees who squeal with delight whenever something happens because, well, NOTHING happens. And SHE MOVES. Because it sucks there. With you. And you made it worse. Congratulations. You win.

    With friends like you……yeah, you know the rest.

    Might I recommend the movie “Dogville” with Nicole Kidman to you and the rest of your estrogen-soaked, soul-atrophied gossip pack? Pop some popcorn and spread out like a warm breakfast. It’s your kind of place.

    • Bronwyn says:

      I hadn’t checked the responses here in a while. Glad someone told it like it is instead of handling a traitor with kid gloves.

      • Rain says:

        To me, trying to rebuild trust after such a huge discretion and betrayal would be almost impossible because I believe the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. I would not be prepared to place myself in your trust again. Having said that, do I believe people can change. Well Yes, but it requires the biggest shake up and reality hit for that to happen and to be honest I doubt I would place my life in your hands again on that remote possibility. I really need to ask one question though. Why did you do it? What was the catalyst or at least the anticedant to your disclosure of her private life? Was it an accident, a opportunity to be a know all and boast you know something no-one else knew, what?

    • Lauren says:

      Wow, what she did was bad and wasn’t okay in the least. However, I’m sure you are absolutely perfect. You’ve never made a mistake, correct? I’m willing to bet.

  4. Judy Kirkwood says:

    Gossip is a terribly seductive proposition. It gets you more attention, makes you feel important. The downside is it can hurt people and affect your own credibility. Everybody does it at some point. It is a learning curve to stop because it is such a human activity.

  5. Bronwyn says:

    I’m just really curious as to WHY it happened in the first place.

    Your asking how you can remain friends after betraying her causes me to wonder if this occurred because you wanted the friendship to end, then had second thoughts.

  6. Amy says:

    If she says she wants to continue being friends, you’ve got to take her at her word. You owe her that. She may never trust you in the same way, but that doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t salvageable.
    I’m curious as to why you’re the one who is questioning the feasibility of continuing the relationship, when she was the wronged party. If you don’t want to be friends, do her a favor and tell her.

  7. Aisling says:

    I think it is mature and admirable that your friend has offered you a second chance despite the betrayal, im sure it took alot for her to offer this peace offerring but why would you not accept it? To not accept it would be as hurtful as the betrayal, if your friend can forgive you then you need to forgive youself too and learn from the this.

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