• Handling Breakups

Dealing With An Unforgiving Friend

Published: January 6, 2022 | Last Updated: January 6, 2022 By | 20 Replies Continue Reading

She’s apologized to an unforgiving friend—and hasn’t been forgiven. What should she do next?

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I am hurt/upset with my best friend because she refuses to accept my apology or listen to me. She won’t forgive no matter what I say. She says there’s no way back and I should let it go.

I am so upset because my unforgiving friends won’t listen or hear me out.

Signed, Maya

ANSWER

Hi Maya,

I can understand how upsetting it is to lose a best friend. It can be as painful and upsetting as losing a romantic partner. Best friends have an emotional investment in their friendship. They also spend a great deal of time together so breakups leave a huge vacuum in both friends’ lives.

You haven’t shared the specifics of the argument or the misunderstanding you had with your friend but problems do tend to crop up in all relationships, even very good ones. Sincere apologies can often smooth things over. In fact, they can make the relationship stronger.

Why won’t your friend forgive you? Here are a few possibilities:

  • The mistake was so heinous (e.g., a betrayal or lapse in judgment) that it was unforgivable,
  • Your friend over-reacted for reasons having to do with her more than with you (e.g., perhaps because of her past or other things going on in her life now), or
  • This was one of a string of mistakes or misunderstandings, a final straw that led your friend to say there’s no way back.

You can’t undo what happened but you did the right thing by apologizing. Now you have to take a step back and give your friend the time she needs to cool off. You could try writing to her a note if you want to explain yourself but resist the urge to apologize repeatedly.

If your unforgiving friend doesn’t respond or change her mind, there’s not much more that you can do. It takes two people to sustain a close friendship.

Hope this helps and that you begin to heal from this loss.

Best, Irene


*This post from 1/6/16 has been updated and reviewed on 1/6/22.

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Category: Apologies and forgiveness, HANDLING BREAKUPS

Comments (20)

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  1. Call me Billy Mack says:

    It is amazing how some people really can carry around their butthurt for many years. Some people aren’t satisfied with just ending friendships. They have to nuke them, bust up the pieces, salt the earth, and plow the salt six feet deep so that nothing can ever grow there again. I don’t get how long term friendships are so fragile. I mean, should people REALLY just let friendships that have stood the test of time and remained strong for many years just die like they are nothing? Especially over petty things? I mean, let’s be real. As we get older, friends get harder and harder to come by. Sure, sometimes there are offenses that are considered unforgivable. But, to me, it has to be something MAJOR. Like the person just snapped one day and beat the crap out of me and put me in the hospital. Or they stole my identity and spent up everything I had. Basically, it would have to be something criminal. In which case, if a friend has done something criminal to me, then the law will be involved, and they will probably end up in jail as a result, so I wouldn’t be seeing them anymore anyway.

    But, little arguments can be resolved. Things can be worked out. Even if things got really heated, then some time apart SHOULD help everyone involved cool off. But to end a friendship over pretty crap? That is ridiculous. Friends should hold a little more value to one another than that. Believe me when I say this, LIFE IS SHORT!! I once saw a sad, heartbreaking situation where someone chose to end a friendship over something that could have been worked out. Yet, one side refused forgiveness. What happened next is horrifying. The distraught person to whom forgiveness was denied went home and took their own life over it. The individual who withheld forgiveness now lives with EXTREME regret. They have said time and again “oh, why did I not just forgive?”. And there is no going back. Not then, not now, not EVER. They will live with that forever.

    I say, don’t wait until it’s too late. Unless a person has gone and done something so over the top and malicious to you, then let whatever it is just be water under the bridge. Life is too short to keep on staring back at the past. There is a saying about forgiveness. It goes like this: Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past. The past is already gone and the future is not here yet.

  2. A.H. says:

    Boy, I needed this article long ago. I had a fast friendship developing, it was good stuff.

    One night I had tons on my shoulders and ended up not making it into service. I said I was gonna go home and pray there. She presented a good argument of why I should have gone inside anyway instead of turning around, and I said I was already about home and yes I understand the importance of the spoken Word just I didn’t want to be seen like that.

    It ended up really upsetting her. She has trust issues from her past and I think I hit them right there. She ended up staying up real late over it and everything.

    The next morning I said hey sorry about last night. The response was that she felt like a burden and thinks she is leading me on, and I should focus on church and we shouldn’t talk anymore or at least not in person (the Saturday before we hung out the whole day at her request).

    I wrote a long novel that I thought was an apology, well I did at least explain myself but it wasn’t really considering her feelings.

    Tuesday we small talked a bit leading into Wednesday morning.

    Thursday I again shot my mouth off thinking I apologized but did it all wrong.

    Friday we didn’t talk.

    Saturday I started by asking hey what’s up. We end up talking fairly consistently the whole day; eventually the topic comes up and she tells me some reasons and I say I understand. She thanks me for understanding. She says it’s fine and done and over with. She had mentioned before her dad asked why she didn’t bring me to their church, I ask if it is okay for me to attend I won’t sit by them I just don’t like turning down invitations to church. She says it’s not a good idea and that it wasn’t really an invitation, I don’t push it. Her dad lectured her the following day about not letting me come to church and about how she has let exes stomp on her and all that (we are platonic, I had asked her out got denied and we both identified as platonic).

    The conversation still goes on strong up through Thursday, things actually seem to be almost normal again. She says she has to go clean, I say alright have fun. No more contact the rest of the night.

    Friday we talk a little bit. Mostly a cold treatment.

    Saturday seemed a bit slow to start but then she became quite talkative, I had been getting plenty of lols from her and all that, seems to be okay. She mentions she just has a lot of things on her mind at one point. I ask if she wants to talk about it and she says no. I ask if she might at least tell me if it’s about us and she says she doesn’t want to talk about it. I say if she needs an ear I am here, she thanks me then we continue our conversation just fine.

    And now today. I know she is grumpy from not getting hardly any sleep last night, so I expected short messages. She initiated contact responding to a question from last night. We kinda talk here and there. At noon we were talking about her phone acting up she said it was aggravating her, I told her I looked up possible solutions and what to try. I ask how the church breakfast was. Solid cold treatment again.

    And so here I am. I upset her, I think I hit some trust issues, screwed up my apology but offered to do it the right way when I realized what I had done, got told it’s fine it’s over with, got some good warm treatment and now hot-and-cold.

    At this point I’m leaving the ball in her court. My last thing I had said to her was a question, about the breakfast. I’m leaving it at that and considering just dropping it all. We went from good friends to acquaintances, and I thought we had a foundation laid again on rebuilding and then the hot-and-cold stuff happens.

    The best part, her dad this last Wednesday invited me personally to the church. He said he is talking to her about it and even if she doesn’t agree the invite is still open. I really want to but I don’t want to push boundaries.

    I’m just tired of this text-only friendship already. We used to hang every weekend for a while there.

    Sorry for the tirade; it just is not a fun situation. I know and admitted my fault in upsetting her. Just gotta wait and see now I guess.

    • A.H. says:

      I should add I do realize I haven’t given much breathing space. So here is my admittance of that, and I am going to do just that going forward.

  3. fabulous says:

    I had a similar issue but then after getting our two families involved, and she still was cooled towards me, I mourned! Trying to get over was not so easy but I got myself engaged in busy schedules that I don’t have to think about her. It went on for two years… And she finally was the one that called. Am really glad we are getting along now even better! So dear give her time to breathe… Avoid repeating apologies, if she really wants to be with you, the break up won’t last… I WISH YOU LUCK

  4. lua says:

    That stinks. However, if you have been sincere with your apology, which I imagine you would be, then it’s her issue whether or not she accepts it. If not, just process your feelings, mourn that loss, and move on. People come and go. As the saying goes, friends come into your life for a season, reason, or lifetime. I have a handful of long term friends. Most have moved on. Just how things ebb and flow. Good luck.

  5. Melissa says:

    Maya,

    I have experienced this loss too. My piano teacher and I had a close friendship for 12 years. When things ended, it was devastating. She told me she wasn’t strong enough to deal with my issues. It felt like being kicked in the stomach. I cried much more than I care to admit on a public forum. I understand how terrible the emotions feel and how they can take over your life.

    The experience I had led me to seek counseling. This changed my life for the better because it awakened me to my codependency. I learned through sharing my memories with my therapist that my ex friend/piano teacher is a covert narcissist.

    Our friendship ended because I decided it was no longer best to continue lessons with her. To summarize briefly, it had to do with her frequently cancelling my arranged lesson time. I was not comfortable being assertive with her about this. I felt it would be easier to deal with a teacher who was not my friend too. It also was due to me outgrowing what she had the ability to teach.

    Maya, I want you to know by sharing this stuff that you are not alone. I don’t know what happened between you and your friend, but I know this is a difficult time for you. Stepping back isn’t easy, but it is the way to go, and if you can do therapy, it will help.

  6. Susan M. says:

    I have been on both sides of this particular coin.

    I lost my closest friend of 20 years, about 12 years ago. It took me three or four years to accept that, I had in fact, lost her as a close friend. It was due a very unfortunate chain of events, but there was no going back. Since that time, she has been writing me, long, hand written letters about what is going on in her life, future plans, etc. she always starts out with, “I hope you don’t mind reading this…” I guess a part of her misses what once was, but she never responded to any of my replies, etc. I just open the mail box, and after quite a few months, there is another letter. I read them, and toss them. We are done.

    I recently decided that a friend I have known for three years, can no longer be my friend. I tolerated some horribly selfish behaviors, ones that most people would have immediately and permanently put off any number of people. In fact, the way we got to be friends was because she was so devastated by the loss of a friend! There were many values and interests we shared in common, so I focused on in enjoying her company. However,she absolutely went too far one day. I see her at least once a week, because she works at the location where I volunteer. I am polite and generally friendly to her, but that is all. She does not “get it”, and I am hoping that she will, sooner than later. In the mean time, she is critical of how I do my volunteer job there, and yet, expects to to put aside store items that I think might benefit her with regard to her hobby, so she can purchase them. She gave me an unsolicited, tutoring, about the kinds of things she needs…

    Maya…let this go! You will eventually, get over it.

    Susan M.

  7. marinakis says:

    wow!..i”m suprised how all u people have so many friends and relatives here, i”m wondering what most of u are doing in a blog like this?…almost saying don”t forgive someone or forget, is for people that have a lot of other options (friends), and therefore the “damage” is not that big!..but u have to remember that not all people are that lucky, and a lot of times have to turn a “blind eye” on certain things, cause having nobody is one of the worst things in the world!…obviously if things are really that bad and u have no choice,i understand,but sometimes u have to forgive cause noone is perfect!

    • Salstarat says:

      No matter how flat the pancake, there is ALWAYS two sides to every story. As you go through life, people come and go. In retrospect you will find that everyone who has EVER been in your life, has been there for a reason: to love you, there for you to love and cherish, to teach you, to support you at a bad time in your life, people who need YOUR support and empathy, people who will give you a much needed WAKE UP call, to warn you or just to experience a part of your life with you. Some people stay, many people will move on and disappear from your life … that’s life! Most people cross paths with countless people and we know that not all of them have good intentions. I have had numerous people come and go in my life … most of them wonderful people, some of whom became life long friends, others moved on and others made me sad but taught me valuable lessons in life. Don’t allow the exit of this person from your life depress you … it’s her time to move on and you never know who you will meet tomorrow or the next day. Stay connected, stay optimistic and positive, keep smiling, be kind and generous and people will always be drawn to you. Good luck!

  8. Amy F says:

    Maya, in my opinion, your friend letter sounds like you feel like she owes you forgiveness or listening to your reasons. Your letter doesn’t read to me like you understand that she is angry or hurt, but that your apology is about what you want/need to do, rather than what she wants/needs to hear. A true apology is more meaningful when it’s about the receiver’s needs, not what the giver want to do to feel better or to get the desired result from the apology. If you care about your former friend, you’ll respect her boundaries and move on.

    • DCFem says:

      Totally agree. My sister said one nasty thing too many to me at the end of 2014 and that was the last straw. Her meaningless apologies have been all about her and what she wants and how horrible and unforgiving I am. I haven’t heard one word from her about how wrong it is to say hateful things to people just because they had the audacity to say no to your request. She thinks she “just got mad” and that’s what people do. But she’s “just gotten mad” and said hateful things to me since the 80’s. Enough is enough. Think about your friends feelings and work from there. And understand if she still doesn’t want anything to do with you — that is her right.

      • Amy F says:

        The worst are those apologies that go. “I’m sorry but __________” followed by: but it’s not my fault, but it’s really your fault, but I couldn’t help it,

  9. Salstarat says:

    Sadly, it is heartbreaking when you lose a close friendship. You have done everything you can: you have apologised, perhaps more than once. Now it is time to move on. The only other thing you could do is to put your feelings down in a letter (NOT an email), an old fashioned letter that you post – this will provide your friend with a TANGIBLE document that she can look at now and again and think over. Tell her that you truly regret what you did, how much you value your friendship and remind her, perhaps, of the good times you both shared. If she does not respond or responds negatively, you will then need to face facts that the friendship is over and you must move on. You cannot FORCE people to be friends with you and if your friend has decided to cut you out of her life, there is nothing you can do about it.

  10. Jared says:

    If someone doesn’t forgive you, it means they don’t want you in their life. It’s not hard too understand.

    • Amy F says:

      Yes, people don’t owe us a place in their lives and they don’t owe us forgiveness.

    • jane says:

      i agree.

      sometimes people latch on to an offense as an excuse to end the relationship, when this is what they wanted to happen. but they don’t want to feel guilty about dumping you, so they take great offense at something and thereby get you to carry the guilt.

      • Mary says:

        I think you’re right.

      • Liz says:

        I agree also. Sometimes I’ve found that people want to move on without you because they have a new group of people that you wouldn’t fit in with – or they fear would like you better than themselves. There may not be anything you can say or do to change it, and the offense was just the catalyst for them to go.

    • Kelly says:

      I totally agree. If they don’t forgive you it is likely the friendship ended a while ago for them. And you didn’t notice….and your unforgivable action is just the excuse they needed to finally bin the friendship, and walk away guilt free.

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