Dealing With Disappointment When Friends Let You Down
Updated June 19, 2020
Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC
Over time, you established a trusting friendship with someone. You spent time together, shared experiences and memories and maybe even personal issues and secrets. You truly believed that your friend had your best interests at heart and you trusted them with things that were important to you. When you've encountered a situation where friends let you down when you really believed they would have your back, you're left feeling shocked, sad, and disheartened. You're likely to spend time mulling over questions like, "How could my friend do this to me?" or "How could I have so badly misjudged their character?"
My Friend Let Me Down, Now What?
It's hard to understand the actions of another person; it is even harder to understand the hurtful actions of someone close to you. But, before you allow yourself to react quickly to the situation, you'll want to take a minute to think straight. Here are some steps to take if you find yourself in this situation:
- Manage your feelings
- Consider your friend's perspective
- Offer grace (if warranted)
More details on each of these will be provided along with help on how to determine if you want to continue the friendship.
The Scope of Friendship Over a Lifetime
There's an old saying that says, "Friends come into your life for a season, a reason, or a lifetime." When you have been hurt by someone close to you, you need to ask yourself the following questions: Where do these friends fit into the scope of your life? What did you learn from the experience? Is this a friendship worth saving? The answers to these questions should guide your next steps. Some friendships are deeper than others, so while you may share your deepest feelings with one friend, you may only share lunch with another. In these situations, you need to determine the level of your friendship and how much you value it.
Be aware that it takes time to work through the disappointment when friends let you down. You may have to consider the events for some time and make a tough choice. Realize, if you decide to end the relationship, some friends may let you back if you change your mind, while others won't. So proceed with caution, and try not to make an impulsive decision based on your initial feelings. Give yourself the necessary time that you need to assess things. Don't dwell on it for too long, and don't hang on to hard feelings forever.
How To Process The Disappointment
The following steps can help you learn how to deal with disappointment without making a rash decision.
Managing Your Feelings When Friends Let You Down
It's normal to feel sad and disappointed for a short time when friends let you down, but it's unhealthy to let those feelings consume your thoughts for long periods of time. When a friend does something that hurts you, the first thing you need to do is allow yourself some time to process all of the emotions you currently feel. Try to breathe deeply and slowly and consider what has happened. Allow yourself to grieve for what you have lost, and while it may not be the relationship completely, it may be the level of trust you had or the vision of what you believed you had.
"Sometimes when you're too close to the situation it's hard to separate the facts from your emotions. If you're struggling to sort through your feelings, talking to a licensed therapist can help you see things more clearly."
Occasionally, you may run into a friendship that begins well and ends up toxic. But, in most cases, when friends let you down, it's not a complete disaster. Sometimes it is even less about what your friends did and more about how you perceive what they did. While they may have made a mistake or acted impulsively, it may not have been intentional. You will have to try to be objective in order to determine what actually happened and why.
Considering Your Friend's Perspective
After you have taken time to assess your feelings and objectively looked at what happened, it is time to move forward and discuss the situation with the other person. It may be useful to talk to the person that harmed you and learn more about their perspective. They might not even know how much they hurt you, so this is your opportunity to explain your feelings and ask them about theirs. As hurt as you may be, do not go into this discussion believing you are right in your assessment of the situation or go into it planning only to attack the other person and make them feel bad. The type of approach that you use can make all the difference in whether it goes sour or turns out well. Discussion can help, and it may allow your friend to explain their actions in a way that mends the relationship.
Rules for Talking It Out
- Make time to have a discussion about it in person. Never try to resolve these situations in a text because they are often too brief, impulsive, and misinterpreted. If the distance is a problem, try to communicate in video or chat or at the very least email. At least an email can be written and saved for a few hours before you edit it and finally send it out. These types of discussions don't usually go as well in emails or phone calls, which should be used only if you are very far from one another. There is simply too much room for something to be misinterpreted and the situation to escalate.
- Before you reach out, ask yourself if you are ready to see things from a different perspective? If so, ask your friend if something is going on with them that caused them to act so out of character. Be prepared to listen to their explanation. You may find that their intentions were not mean-spirited after all.
- Make a point to maintain your composure, and avoid saying anything out of hurt or anger. This isn't the time to be passive-aggressive or use sarcasm. Rather, be open and honest about your feelings.
- Remember to treat your friend the way that you would want to be treated if the tables were turned.
- If at any point to feel that you are unable to listen effectively or have recurring resentments, try to use slow deep breaths to calm down and even take a break and ask to call back later if needed.
Offering Grace When Friends Let You Down
After allowing yourself some time to get over the initial disappointment of feeling let down, make an attempt to offer grace. When you do this, however, refrain from retelling the story with other friends or continuing to act like the victim in front of your friend. Forgive your friend and move on.
While this is difficult to do, sometimes, after an attempt to reconcile, you may need to decide to move on. If you can't forgive them, accept the situation for what it is, and offer them grace. Giving them some dignity in spite of the situation allows you the opportunity to get rid of your bitterness. More importantly, be cognizant that your response to the situation is a reflection of your character. Each opportunity is an opportunity for you to rise above the fray.
Getting an Outside Perspective
Sometimes when you're too close to the situation it's hard to separate the facts from your emotions. If you're struggling to sort through your feelings, talking to an online therapist can help you see things more clearly. Use of online platforms such as the credentialed counselors at BetterHelp.com can help you sort through your feelings and gain a healthier perspective. BetterHelp has online therapists that are available whenever and wherever to help you process difficult times and learn how to move forward in a healthy and positive way. Here you are able to make use of just one consultation or as many as you feel are needed. Below are some reviews of the counseling services provided by BetterHelp, from people experiencing similar issues.
"I have only been working with Danielle a short time, but her help has been invaluable to me as I have been through one of the most difficult times and transitions of my life. As a trauma survivor who struggles at times to make sense of life, Danielle has been a beacon of light, hope and encouragement. I have found the online platform to be, surprisingly, a very workable avenue for receiving professional support. Danielle has a true gift for compassionate listening and offers wonderful support and suggestions for moving through painful life situations."
"Mike had a fantastic approach with me. He was always straightforward with me, but quick to notice small improvements, and acknowledge them. He helped me work through my complicated family relationships, adjust to my new very stressful job, and change the way I approach not only my romantic relationships, but also relationships with my friends... After 7 months I feel incredibly emotionally strong and well equipped with new tools to face future challenges."
When a friend lets you down, it can be difficult to understand the situation and navigate your feelings. Using the strategies mentioned above can help you learn how to move forward in a positive way. Whether you choose to continue the relationship or not, you can move forward in a way that you can feel good about. Take the first step today.