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The Friend Who Got Away 

How to rekindle that relationship — if you want to.

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Forget me not, flower, using phone, illustration, elizabeth Brockway
Elizabeth Brockway
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We all have one. The bestie who got away thanks to that terrible argument or that boyfriend who snatched her or the move that took her to the other end of the world. “As humans, we are going through tons of learning experiences where we are all starting at different stages and with different skills,” says Brandi Jackson, a holistic mental health therapist and wellness coach in California and New Mexico. “It’s normal to have a friend who got away.” But if you’re still thinking about your former BFF, then maybe it’s time to rekindle that friendship. We spoke with therapists about when it’s worth it to reboot — and how to restart.

Look at the breakup

“There are a lot of clues in how the relationship was interrupted in the first place,” says Nick Bognar, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Pasadena, California. If it was a circumstantial reason — maybe she got a job in another state — then you may be able to resume that relationship easily. If it was a negative reason, such as an explosive argument, it may be more difficult, Bognar says. 

Did one person change?

Since friendship is built on common interests and similar life attitudes, it may not work if one person changes her worldview, habits or priorities — while the other remains at the same level of development, says Natalie Maximets, a certified life transformation coach. Still, Maximets says, it’s possible to start a new friendship with a former bestie. It just might be a little different this time. But if your friend is totally different, you may not be able to maintain the friendship.

Are you still thinking about her?

If you continue to think of the friend who got away, this is a strong sign that you should rekindle that friendship, Jackson says. Perhaps you outgrew the issue or behavior that caused the separation. Are you ready to talk through the past to heal the relationship? Jackson asks. Maybe you learned the skills of setting boundaries and expressing your feelings, so you feel more prepared to reconnect. But first, make sure you’re returning to the friendship from a space of abundance and forgiveness rather than fear or loneliness. Also ask yourself what you want the friendship to look like now, and how you can use what you learned to make your friendship better this time, Jackson says. 

If you want to restart

Consider the timing first, says April Maccario, founder at AskApril. Find your friend on social media, and see if this is a difficult time in her life (if it is, this may not be the best time to reach out). Proceed via social media based on her response, Maccario says. “If they seem eager to hear from you, they might want to meet up or rekindle the friendship, but if they seem unresponsive or passive, it may be better to let that friendship go,” she says.

Rethink rekindling

There are a few signs to stay away from your former BFF, says Kimberly Ann Perlin, a psychotherapist in Towson, Maryland. Consider this: If your friend is volatile or if you fear her response, if your friend has a tendency to strike back or to post negatively about you on social media, or if you are unsure you’re able to handle your friend’s most likely reaction — or the rejection of your friend, then it’s best to avoid restarting the friendship, Perlin says.

Breaking the ice

Start by mentioning the reason you were thinking of her in the first place, Bognar suggests. For example, he says, "I was remembering your amazing sense of humor,’ or ‘Work hasn’t been the same without you’ — whatever the thing was that was bringing fond thoughts of them into your mind.” Then, ask about her life now, as in, “Are you still playing competitive darts?” Lastly, close with an invitation: “Maybe we could catch up on the phone.” Then follow her lead. If she responds affirmatively, you may have your friendship back. If she ignores you or gives a faint “yes,” then you may need to let this friendship go for good.