I used to watch a television show called Cougar Town starring Courtney Cox. What I liked about the show was that it featured a close group friendship. While some friendships within the group seemed closer at times, the general premise of the show seemed to be that there were really no secrets between the characters. In a perfect world, we could all be 100% honest and open with everyone like the characters of the show, but in reality that just doesn’t work. The closer you are with someone, it seems the more secrets you share with them.
Having people to trust, turn to and confide in is a really important aspect of humanity, and it all helps us feel really seen, heard, and loved somewhat unconditionally, by the people we let in emotionally. It’s a wonderful feeling when you can finally confess your true heart and mind, even more so if your friend shares the same vulnerabilities with you. Sometimes, secrets are actually the glue that hold friendships together.
So what happens when you share a secret with a friend, with trust and confidence that it will stay between you, but you later find out that confidence has been betrayed? When the pieces start falling apart in this way, the glue suddenly creates a very sticky situation! Is it a deal breaker? Can you ever learn to trust that person again? Can you forgive them? Can you still be close?
Honestly I think it depends on a few different things. Firstly, did you specify that this was private information, or were you working on the assumption that all your conversations were private? That seems to be a common misunderstanding between friends. When you are regularly open and vulnerable with a friend during your time and communications with them, you sometimes forget to be specific about what things are especially confidential. I know sometimes it seems pretty obvious, or you think they know everything you discuss is private. That said, you probably wouldn’t have minded if they mentioned to a friend that you recommended the Italian restaurant down the road, the reason you are upset is because they shared something deeper. What may seem terribly private to you, such as your menstrual cramps and what you use to treat them, may seem like shareable information to your friend. That probably depends on what values you grew up with or something, but I’m not going to delve into that now.
Secondly, was this information secondhand to you before you shared it with her? If you repeated a rumour, or something you overheard that you shouldn’t have etc…. do you really have the right to get upset with your friend for doing exactly as you did and passing the information along?? Perhaps it has made you look bad now that it is out in the open, however if you shouldn’t have been blabbing, I suggest you go easy on your friend for the same faux pas!
Next, did the information in any way burden your friend? Did you share something that made her feel a moral or legal obligation to share? Loyalty does not come before personal safety or the law. You take a risk when you share information that burdens someone else, and if they felt obligated to act on said information, you probably wont have a leg to stand on, as your friend will feel morally she has acted in line with her values and beliefs.
If you were clear that it was confidential, it was your personal news to share and did not compromise your friends values by sharing, the next question you have to ask yourself was, why do you think she shared the information. I know you are thinking it doesn’t matter why, and you might be right. But to give your friend the benefit of the doubt, can you see any way she may have accidentally shared the information? Was she under a lot of stress at the time and needed to offload to someone else? Who did she share the information with?
Again, you may think it is irrelevant, but if she shared with another friend with whom she feels close, and that friend has no ties to yourself, she may have felt there was no harm in sharing. Although a confidence was betrayed, it may have felt inconsequential to your friend when she shared.
The last thing you need to consider was how did your friend react when you confronted her about the issue? Did she admit her mistake and genuinely apologise? Sometimes all we really need is to feel like our friend heard us, cared that they made a mistake and wanted to fix the issue between you. Regardless of her reasons, I think there may be hope if she was able to be accountable for her mistake and you had a genuine conversation about it. Hopefully that conversation led to you being much clearer about your boundaries around privacy.
The next thing to touch on is rebuilding trust. Your friend does not get to dictate the speed at which you recover from this and trust her again. It is your responsibility to jointly navigate this, and she needs to understand if you need some time and space, or if the closeness between you weakens, even temporarily. It would be wise to be more cautious about what you want to share with this friend for a while, and although she would feel better if you just dropped it and instantly moved on, you now have to do what makes yourself feel better. If no harm was really done, it may be easier to forgive and forget, or even if something positive came from it in the end, however if there were adverse consequences for you as a result of this incident, you may take time to recover, or decide you cannot continue the friendship. Only you can decide that.
My best advice, if you want to continue and repair the friendship, is to concentrate on building positive vibes with your friend again. Fun things not necessarily intimate things. The more positive time you spend together, the safer you will ultimately feel to start sharing again at your own pace. It should happen naturally and should not feel forced.
Remember, whatever happens, keep your dignity and don’t drop to her level in revealing her secrets.
Have you ever recovered from a betrayed confidence? Don’t forget to share!
Your Best Friend ForNever