Coping With Disappointment When Your Friends Let You Down

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated May 2, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

When you trust your friends and loved ones, it can seem like a betrayal when they let you down. However, looking at the potential causes behind their behavior might be helpful. When a friend lets you down, investigate their response and try to find healthy ways to communicate. After you explore the situation further, you may better understand whether you want to reconcile or part ways.

Disappointment can be difficult to manage

How to use communication to understand

Resolving disappointment and hurt when a friend lets you down may be difficult without a conversation if you hope to reconcile the friendship. In these cases, it can be helpful to understand the circumstances behind what led your friend to behave in this way. In addition, your friend might not know how upset you are, so communicating your feelings to them directly may open the conversation to a more honest resolution. 

Discuss the concern in person 

Talking face-to-face with your friend may minimize the opportunity for misinterpretation and misunderstanding. Trying to resolve these situations in a text might not be effective because it could come off as too brief, impulsive, or lacking tone. 

If distance is a problem, try talking to your friend via video, phone, or email. An email can be written and saved for a few hours before you edit and send it. However, if you live near your friends, try to talk to them in person about how their behavior impacted you. They might misinterpret your intentions online or ignore you if they don't want to respond. 

Check in with yourself 

Before reaching out, ask yourself if you're prepared to try to understand your friend's perspective. If you're unwilling to sway from your own interpretation, it might cause conflict. If you are ready to understand their perspective, ask them if they've been feeling well with your relationship and why they might have acted the way they did. 

Be prepared to listen, as you might find that their intentions were positive, but their actions did not reflect how they meant to come off. 

Maintain respect 

During the conversation, try to maintain your composure and avoid speaking from a place of hurt or anger. Passive-aggressive or sarcastic behavior might worsen your situation. Instead, be open and honest about your feelings regarding your friendship. Labeling your emotions instead of blaming them on your friend might also be beneficial. You can say, "I'm angry right now, and I'm coming to you to understand the situation better so we can move forward healthily." 

Consider fairness 

Treat your friend how you would want to be treated if the tables were turned. For example, if your friend betrayed you by going behind your back to tell another friend about a secret you trusted them with, consider how you'd feel if you did the same and why you might do so. Even if you'd never tell a secret to someone else, you can try to understand your friend's point of view. Perhaps they misunderstood your request for them not to tell the information to others or didn't know it was a secret. If you asked them not to tell anyone, maybe they felt some people were left out of that, such as their partner or another close friend they trusted. 

While talking to them, you can reiterate your boundary about having secrets and let them know you're upset. However, try to be as fair as possible and understand that the situation might not be black-and-white for them. 

Practice deep breathing 

If at any point you feel that you are struggling to listen effectively or can't move past the anger you may feel, try to use your breathing. Breathing exercises have been associated with lower anxiety levels, which may prompt you to slow down your thinking. You could ask your friend if you can take a break and return to the conversation later. 

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Respect your feelings

As you've extended the willingness to listen to your friend's perspective, it can be vital to listen to your own. Unresolved feelings can cause conflict within a relationship but can also cause mental and physical side effects. 

2019 paper from the International Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research Studies reviewed multiple published studies on the effects of repressed emotions. It noted that individuals who repress their emotions also suppress their body's immunity, making them more vulnerable to various illnesses. 

If a friend lets you down, acknowledge the feelings that follow. Feelings may be difficult to label because they often overlap. For instance, feelings of anger may also include resentment, jealousy, envy, sadness, disgust, or fear. Try to isolate your feelings individually and identify the principal cause for each.  

Make a decision 

If you have gone through a conversation with your friend and reflected on your own feelings, there are a few decisions you can make. Note that your friend might also have a conflicting idea of what the resolution looks like for them, so keep that in mind as you make your choice. 

Making amends

After taking some time to communicate about the situation, you might choose to forgive your friend and make efforts to reconcile. You may find that your friendship has grown stronger because of this conflict or that you understand each other more deeply. 

When you decide to forgive, try to commit to moving on. Be mindful of your words and actions regarding the situation, as you may behave in ways that indicate you haven't let go of what occurred. You might keep their actions in mind to be cautious for the future but try not to partake in passive-aggressive conversation or blame them for the past if you have another unrelated disagreement. 

Making amends can take as much time as you need. If you want to start slowly or redefine the level of closeness in your relationship, that can be a healthy way to ensure your boundaries are met moving forward. 

Deciding to walk away

If your friend doesn't try to listen to you and acknowledge your feelings, you might decide to move on. The behavior of others may not line up with your expectations. However, isolation or rejection can be painful, and if your friend makes a mistake, you might expect an apology or attempt to repair the relationship. If these aren't offered, it could mean your friend isn't ready to take responsibility for their behavior.  

If your friend does try to apologize, but you can't forgive them, accept the situation for what it is and offer them grace. Giving them some dignity despite the situation allows you the opportunity to move beyond unwanted feelings. In addition, be mindful to ensure your response to the situation reflects your character. 

Be aware that it could take time to work through the feelings you experience after being betrayed. If you decide to end the relationship, proceed with caution. Some friends may accept reconciliation in the future, whereas others might also move on or feel hostile toward you for your choice.  

How to cope with disappointment after hurt 

Even if you've obtained closure from a friendship or situation, you might experience a range of emotions. You may feel betrayed, abandoned, rejected, or hurt. However, letting those feelings consume your thoughts for extended periods could be unhealthy. Below are a few steps to take to cope with disappointment and other unwanted emotions.  

Recognize that friendships often end

Like romantic relationships, friendships may end for a healthy reason. Parting with friends can leave you questioning, "Why don't my friends like me anymore?" However, if you and your friend have parted ways, it might be a regular part of growth. Remind yourself of why the friendship ended and try to reassure yourself that you don't need the approval of your past friend, as your relationship has ended, and not everyone will feel the way your ex-friend did about your friendship.  

Take time to acknowledge disappointment

Relationships that end might not end cleanly or comfortably. You may experience feelings of loss after you and your friend "break up," so recognize those feelings and give them space to exist. If your friend did not apologize or offer closure, you might also work on accepting that fact and giving yourself the time to acknowledge that they couldn't meet you where you were. 

Take time to adjust 

When you're used to having a friend in your life, you might not be able to predict how their absence will impact daily life. Take time to assess how your life might change without your friend. Then, structure a new agenda to cope with their absence. 

Respect your other friends  

If you and your friend have a relationship with your other friends, they might "pick sides" or feel uncomfortable deciding who to invite to functions. Check in with them about how they feel and let them know you're comfortable with them taking space from conversations about your friend if needed. 

Focus on your healthy connections

Once you've communicated openly with your remaining friends, take time to let them know you value their friendship and appreciate what makes it unique. If you have multiple healthy relationships in your life, focus on improving your connection with these people, and try not to let what happened with your ex-friend make you avoid other connections.  

Disappointment can be difficult to manage

Talk to a therapist

There are several ways for friends to act in betrayal or let someone down. It can be normal for these situations to result in complicated feelings that impact multiple areas of life. When a friend lets you down, it may negatively affect your self-esteem, create trust issues with others, and prompt existing or new mental health challenges.

If this is the case for you, consider seeking support from someone objective and experienced. If you aren't feeling up to making appointments or attending in-person appointments, you can also try online therapy. Online therapy provides a safe space to discuss these challenges and receive support. In addition, studies show that people feel more comfortable, adaptable, and relaxed in their homes. As online therapy can be done from home, you may notice that talking to a therapist through phone, video, or live chat sessions can feel safer and more supportive than meeting someone in person. 

If you're ready to start improving your mental health or discussing this situation further, a platform like BetterHelp can match you with a therapist on your time from anywhere with an internet connection. 

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Feeling disappointed with a friend can be challenging and confusing. Having open conversations may be beneficial if you want to reconcile this relationship. If not, there are a few ways you can try to cope with the feelings that result from this situation. However, if coping feels difficult or you're still unsure how to proceed, consider contacting a counselor for therapeutic guidance. 
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