Lifestyle

How to revive a friendship that fell apart in the pandemic


Let’s reconnect (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

While some bonds were strengthened by Zoom-ed pub quizzes and paired up walks in the park, others faltered amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The struggles started when you couldn’t meet up. Then you kept meaning to message them back, but never did. The group chat went quiet.

Sooner than you expected, it had been months of silence. You missed your pal dearly, but now there was an unspoken tension – and a lot of questions.

Should you be the first to broach the gap? Do you need to acknowledge the lull? Do you need to apologise for not getting in touch… or do they?

What if you’ve unknowingly done something awful? What if they don’t want to be your mate anymore? What if you have to deal with that wasp’s sting of rejection?

Have you left it too late?

With that swirling around your head, it’s tempting to just keep putting the topic off, to pretend you’re not bothered or tell yourself you’ll just sort things out later (even though that’s how you got into this place in the first place).

Here’s your shoulder shake to stop delaying and start doing. We chatted with some friendship experts for their guide to rekindling a friendship that drifted apart in months of lockdowns and pandemic stress.

Make sure this is a friendship you want to revive

Here’s a big question: do you actually want this person in your life? Did you perhaps stop hanging out for a reason?

Don’t feel like like you have to rekindle a relationship out of guilt. Don’t ‘should’ yourself. Take a moment to really reflect on whether this is a friend you want around.

‘It is worth taking a moment to consider what it means to you by reflecting on the past,’ says psychologist Lee Chambers. ‘Consider shared interests and values, and if you enjoyed spending time in their presence.

‘When you are together, do you feel a connection and feel valued?

‘Reflect on your friendship journey, and look at both the good and bad times you’ve navigated together. Consider if this friend is respectful and doesn’t discredit you.

‘Are they honest and do they improve your quality of life? Do they ever turn you into a extra in the set of their life, or close the space down when you need some? Do they take much more than they give or steal your energy?

‘By taking a minute to answer these questions, you will get a fair idea of how much value the friendship provides, and if you’re willing to put the energy in to make it what it needs to become.’

Some friendships end and that’s ok,’ says Kate Leaver, author of The Friendship Cure. ‘It can be painful, but sometimes it’s just inevitable or even right.’

Don’t keep delaying (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Work out what you want

The pandemic might have made you reassess what you need from a friendship. You might want to reestablish what the relationship looks like.

‘The important thing to consider is what you are looking to achieve by reconnecting, and what you might have learned by drifting apart,’ says Lee.

Manage your expectations and be patient

‘Just know that it’s up to the other person how they react, whether they’re ready and willing to accept your efforts,’ Kate tells us.

Friendship is a two-way street, and you need to prepare for the possibility that while you’re keen to bring things back, your friend might not be so keen.

Or, they will be, but your time spent together won’t feel like it used to. Or it might take you a while to settle back into your pre-pandemic ways.

Don’t go into this expecting it to be like no time has passed and everything is peachy. That might happen, sure, but let that be a happy surprise rather than pinning all your hopes on this one outcome.

Give your friend the space to respond however feels comfortable and be prepared for the relationship recovery to take time.

‘One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to prepare and plan for anything to happen, as friendship will always be a two-way relationship and it always takes effort to bring friendships back together,’ adds Lee.

Take small steps

In part because of that possibility that things just won’t be the same, avoid rushing straight into a massive commitment.

Perhaps booking a holiday together after months of not really speaking isn’t the smartest idea.

‘Gradually reconnect and catch up in small steps,’ recommends Lee. ‘Get connected to their favourite methods of contact, and share your intentions so you can start singing from the same hymnsheet.’

Take small steps (Picture@ Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Get honest

Look, we’ve all been through something rubbish. Let’s own up to the fact that this may have made us sh*t at staying in touch.

Don’t dismiss that, or pretend nothing happened, or just brush off the reason for your friend fallout as being too busy.

Get real about what happened – now’s the time to be a little vulnerable to really bring back that connection.

Kate suggests: ‘Lead with honesty. We’ve all been through a collective trauma and I think we should treat each other very gently.

‘I think you can absolutely say, things have been really hard, I’m so sorry if I’ve been absent, I feel like we’ve drifted recently, I miss you.

‘Like any category of human relationship, friendship relies on open communication, so just tell people how you feel.’

Connect through nostalgia

A way to click back into place: relate back to old threads of your friendship fabric.

‘The shared memories and experiences you and your friend have will provide foundations for rekindling a bond,’ says Lee.

If you used to love to eat large amounts of food together, invite your pal to a street food festival or order in and have an at-home catchup. If you were pub regulars, try going back to that place or find a new local that works for your lockdown-induced cycling habit.

‘Set up friendship dates, if you’re feeling comfortable seeing people,’ suggests Kate. ‘Do something familiar that’ll trigger your nostalgia for your old friendship.’

Do it now

One thing is for certain: your friendship won’t fuse back together with no initial effort from either side. If you value your friend and want to reconnect, make it happen.

I don’t think it’s ever too late to try and rekindle a friendship,’ Kate tells us. ‘It’s never too late for an apology. It’s never too late to reach out.

‘Over the past 18 months, there have been so many variables and such instability,’ adds Lee. ‘One thing that has become clear is how valuable social connection.

‘Ultimately in the turbulent times we faced, we were left with the cold reality that friendships require investment.

‘If you are honest and take it slow, a friendship that fell apart has a chance of blossoming to become better than it previously was.’

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


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