Do You Need a Friendship ‘Do-Over’?

A do-over can fix all sorts of sticky social situations — including those involving close friends and family members. Here, how adults with ADHD can restore friendships that really matter by asking for a second chance.

Two older women smiling and laughing after reconnecting from an ADHD friendship 'do-over'

Are you missing old friends — people you once loved to talk to and spend time with, but with whom you’ve lost touch? What went wrong? Maybe they moved away. Maybe your interests diverged. Or maybe you said or did something that drove them away. (That’s not unheard-of for folks with ADHD.)

Wouldn’t it be great if you could resurrect relationships that used to sustain you? Well, I’m here to tell you that you can. All you need is a do-over.

Let me explain. Not long ago, I was walking by a school playground and stopped to watch four girls who were playing kickball. One of the girls, shorter than the others and sporting messy pigtails, gave the ball such a mighty kick that she fell down from the effort…but the ball rolled only a few pitiful feet. She got up and, without missing a beat, said, “I need a do-over.”

The other girls quickly assessed the situation and agreed. And so she got a second chance, this time with better results. The girl certainly looked happy as she ran to first base. So did her playmates.

As I continued on my way, I realized that the do-over is a powerful tool – one with applications that go far beyond childhood games. A do-over can fix all sorts of sticky social situations for adults with attention deficit disorder — including those involving close friends and family members.

Of course, the sad truth is that, as we get older, we are less inclined to ask for, or grant, do-overs. And so a minor misstep — perhaps something as simple as making a careless remark or forgetting a birthday — puts a chill into even our most treasured relationships.

If neither party makes an effort to ask the other what’s wrong, the chill turns into a deep-freeze. No more calls or e-mails, no more getting together. In this way, we get cut off from countless wonderful experiences. What a shame!

It’s no secret that ADHD can complicate relationships. Unfiltered words, missed social cues, forgetfulness, quickness to anger, and other problems can offend others and make them think that you don’t care. Perhaps you could benefit from putting the past behind you and forgiving a friend. Perhaps you need to ask someone else to get over her own bad feelings and give you another chance. Perhaps it’s a little of both.

Whatever the specifics, I invite you to try a do-over. Here’s how:

  • Name three people you used to enjoy spending time with but from whom you are now estranged.
  • Ask yourself, in each case, what caused the estrangement. Did you have a fight? Did you drift apart? Did the other person stop returning your calls or e-mails? Was the other person always “too busy” to get together? You may not even know what happened — that’s OK.
  • Ask yourself how you feel about the demise of each relationship. Do you still miss spending time with the other person? Are you angry? Hurt? Confused?

You may decide that it is not worth the investment of time and energy to reconnect. But even if that’s the case, do your best to let go of any negative emotion you feel when you think about the lost relationships — whether it’s anger, sadness, or simply regret.

Writing in a journal is a great way to let go of negative emotion. So is visual imagery. For example, imagine attaching your feelings to balloons and watching them float up into the sky. Or imagine smashing some dishes.

See if you can reestablish at least one relationship. Consider making a phone call or writing an e-mail or letter telling the person that you miss him or her. Ask if it might be possible to get together to talk about the relationship.

If it’s possible that you did something to hurt the other person, offer an apology. Maybe you’ll be rebuffed — or maybe you’ll find that your old friend is just as eager as you are to reconnect. You never know until you try.