Broken Friendships: Willie or Louise, Elizabeth and Irene?

Elizabeth Spelman, the author of the novel Repair, wrote a lot about repairing material objects. I took her repairs of material objects as a way to also repair human relationships. Of the two examples from Repair that I connected to human repairs, I believe the best way of fixing human relationships is that of Willie, the bricoleur. One particular reason that can lead to a broken friendship, that can be mended with a Willie approach, could be from being used and then finally breaking off from that person. The damage from the breaks that occur could lead to one party developing depression or self-confidence problems or even trust issues. These effects could stick around for years, even changing the person effected for the rest of their life. As Thelma Duffey says in a Psychology Today post, “it can feel — and it generally is — life-changing.” These losses happen continually; sometimes you can see the end coming closer and other times they have an abrupt end. For some, the breaks have a possibility of being fixed as long as both parties are interested. Should the victim of this relationship decide to mend it, there are ways to go about doing so.

The mend in these broken friendships could have an attempt of being fixed based off which approach is decided to act on; the “bricoleur” approach, like Rachel and Sadie could, or the “conservator” approach, like Kenna and Misty. But in the end, both approaches have something in common. An apology awaits every attempt of fixing a broken friendship.

Although Willie can mend a material object, they still won’t be the same as before the accident; like with these super-glued plates.

Within chapter two, Spelman mentions her character Willie. He is said to be a “bricoleur,” or a person that is “constrained by the contingency of what happens to be at hand.” (Spelman, 12) The work that Willie does still happens to be decent work, however that does not mean that it was restored to the items full glory. It will not look how it did prior to the work that Willie did or even how it looked when it was first created. Now, it should not be said that mending a relationship as Willie does with material objects is a bad idea. In fact, Spelman goes on to say how “constraints become opportunities for ingenious design.” (12) I viewed this as saying that this way of mending not only objects, but relationships as well, can open eyes to new ways on how to address problems and fix them in a way that would typically not be seen. I saw a chance of mending a relationship the way that Willie does with his material objects which I would not have seen prior to reading Spelman’s Repair. The story from the source does not use the same approach but could if Rachel and her friend Sadie* decide to mend their two-year friendship.

The two had been very close within this friendship and it slowly started to fizzle out. Rachel had been told that Sadie wanted to hang out before she started college and got her first job. Rachel would reach out to Sadie in an attempt to meet up and do different activities, however every time she reached out, Sadie would reply with answers similar to: “Sorry, I have family stuff today.” At first, Rachel thought nothing of the reply, but as time went on and that reply became a star component in their conversations, Rachel took a step back. They went from talking every single day to only when Rachel would ask to hang out or ask how things are. Unfortunately, Rachel continued to only get the same replies as before; “sorry, family stuff,” and “fine.” Sadie continued to be a little distant but would randomly reach out saying how she missed Rachel and then continued not to make any effort to fix that problem. All of this wound up leading to a big fight between the two friends. Rachel told me how “after the fight, I sort of saw this person’s true colors after the things they said to me out of nowhere.” Things that were said by Sadie were along the lines of the friendship being “all pretend on her end.”

When Rachel was asked about whether she would attempt to mend the friendship, she was quick to say no. Not because she didn’t think the friendship was worth it but because before the fight and difficulty meeting up, she felt Sadie pulling away as if the friendship was just fading on its own. However, when asked if she would mend the friendship had things ended differently, she replied with a maybe. She again brought up how she felt Sadie was avoiding her for unknown reasons and not talking to her about the distancing but she believed the fight was a major tipping point as to whether the friendship could have been mended or not. Unfortunately, this story ends with this relationship staying unfixed, even though there could be an attempt to fix it.

Had Rachel and Sadie decided to mend their broken friendship, they could have attempted a similar approach as Willie and his material objects. The two could look at what they already had and what they could do to mend the friendship in ways that are not going out of their way. With this attempt, the friendship will still show that it had been broken at one point but it would also show how both parties had put efforts in to repair it. As Willie did with his projects, they would be leaving a mark on the work they had done. The friendship may no longer function the same way that it had prior to the argument and the break, but it would be in working order yet again, which if that was the goal, would be a good thing. However, Willie’s approach is not the only option towards mending a friendship.

Further along in Spelman’s Repair, she mentions a trio of ladies. Louise, Elizabeth and Irene are thought of as conservators, meaning that prior to their work, they had to “stabilize the painting to prevent any further damage.” (Spelman, 15) It can now be seen that the ladies typically worked with artistic pieces, but the way they repair can be used in a way to mend a broken

The trio would do a better job at their repair projects but essentially, you wouldn’t be able to tell a difference.

friendship as well. Where Spelman’s trio of conservators stabilized their paintings, people with broken relationships need to start to talk and mention that the conversation they are about to have should not be meant to insult but to stabilize the friendship on its journey to being repaired.

Spelman’s trio then goes on to say that before they can actually do their repairs they need to “find out what materials Newman himself had worked with and how he applied them.” (Spelman, 15) Once again, this logic can fit in and be a way to repair a broken friendship. However, this piece still ties into the previous action of sitting down and talking. As with Louise, Elizabeth and Irene; this is just another step in the process. Where they need to find out what materials he used and how. People trying to fix a relationship could find out what activities brought them together and how they went about doing those activities.

Longtime friends, Kenna* and Misty*, also had a falling out. After being friends for over six years, Kenna had started to feel as though she was being used by Misty continuously. She started feeling this way after noticing how Misty only ever wanted to hang out when the people she would rather hang out with were not available and only ever truly making attempts at communications with Kenna when she needed something. When Misty needed something, it was clear that she had no intent on doing something similar to even out the deeds the friends had done for each other.

Misty had even been going to Kenna’s house for Christmas for the previous 3 years and was receiving gifts not only from Kenna, but from Kenna’s parents as well. Yet, Misty still continued her acts of using Kenna. They both broke apart from each other for some time and eventually Kenna gave in and decided to give Misty another chance; this process occurred multiple times throughout their friendship. Their final span of friendship took part in their senior year of high school, Kenna had started to see Misty for who she was after such a long period of time and made the decision to slowly ease her way out of Misty’s life. She didn’t plan to be hostile but to just not push for a friendship that wasn’t in a healthy state. Since their senior year has ended, they haven’t talked much. Misty has contacted Kenna twice and both times were asking for something right off the bat.

Kenna claimed that if given the chance, she would most likely not try to rekindle this friendship due to the amount of times she has already attempted. She claimed that “nothing changed in Misty in the previous times that I have tried to fix the relationship so there is no reason for me to believe that anything would be different if I gave her even more chances.”

Kenna even told me about the different ways that she tried to rekindle the relationship. She tried to talk to Misty about the issues she thought the friendship was having, similar to the Willie approach but yet in its own subcategory. Those conversations helped the relationship for a small period of time but then things turned back to the way it was. Kenna tried reaching out and making plans with Misty herself, but cut back a bit on how much material objects she gave to Misty, partially as a test to see if that was the true reason behind whether Misty was there for real friendship or because of what Kenna was giving her. Misty had seemed as if she hadn’t noticed the change but things were still not right.

To end their relationship on a good note, they talked about the issues once more and slowly eased their way out of each other’s lives. They’re still there for each other if it’s needed but they don’t go to each other right off the bat if they need something, they’re there as a sort of safety net or a last resort type of helper. Although the friendship wasn’t mended, Kenna even mentioned other ways that the two had attempted to mend the relationship. As mentioned, they had a Willie-inspired approach as well as an approach that can now be classified as another one of Spelman’s repair techniques.

This approach helps look further into the fine details than the way Willie would have attempted. However, the trio of ladies try their hardest to make it seem like no work was done to the project, as if there was nothing that needed to be fixed. That is the only real flaw with this approach, human-to-human relationships should not have problems that are just forgotten. Actions build and should be remembered, so acting as though nothing happened could be a step in the wrong direction.

However, in the end, it always ends with talking. With talking comes apologies and with apologies comes “raw exposure of the apologizer.” (Spelman, 82) The apologies not only show that they are truly hurt about what happened but also that they are willing to agree that there are no other “extenuating circumstances that could relieve them of the blame.” (Spelman, 82–83) When one is not trying to blame others for an action that they had done and are willing to take responsibility for it to be able to work towards better relationships show that the person truly cares and that the friendship could truly be mended as long as the minor problems are touched on and fixed as well.

These two separate approaches could help prevent severe depression as well as trust and self-confidence issues because of the honesty that was circulating between the two parties about the issues that could have been worrying one side about their own ethics than the other. Out of the two options listed within this piece, Willie’s approach appears to be the better option mainly since the people involved are not just acting as though nothing had been broken. The parties should be able to realize that something was broken to continuously mend and care for the bond they pushed for. However, there could become a blend of Willie and the trio’s approaches where they mend as Willie does but just go further into detail of the friendship, prior to the break, as the trio does.

*Names are changed to keep the story anonymous.


I would like to thank my group — Jameila, Dara, Luke and Dean — for their critique of the work I put forward and giving me useful ideas. Thank you to Dara, Kate, Jameila, Daniel and Sarah for looking over my essay and helping me edit not only parts that I had written, but for helping me make the piece more visually appealing. I must give a special thanks to my Professor Harris for all the insight that he gave on each piece of the process and pushing for me to do my best. I would also like to thank my friends Rachel and Kristin for giving their own life experiences for me to use and giving advice on how I told their story. I must also give sincere thanks to the authors of the works that I had used — Spelman, Bent, Padykula, Duffey and Sanders. Without the help from these people, my essay wouldn’t be what it is now. The essay would have been half the length it is now and full of overly descriptive, and repetitive thoughts.


Bent, R. How to Fix a Friendship… And Why It’s Worth It! Huffington Post. 2011. Web. (

Carlson, Rachel. Personal Interview. October 23, 2016.

Duffey, T. When You Lose a Friend. Psychology Today. 2015. Web. (


Hunter, Kristin. Personal Interview. October 23, 2016.

Padykula, J. 5 Signs You’re Being Used in a Friendship. Canadian Living. Web. (

Sanders, A. How to Restore a Broken Friendship. 2015. Web. (

Spelman, E. Repair: The Impulse to Restore in a Fragile World. 2002. Print.

Unknown. Broken Friendship. Picture. (

Werman, M. Amateur Restoration Botches Jesus Fresco in Spain. 2012. Picture. (

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