A wise little girl told me recently:
"A good friend is someone you share a pizza with"
Could it be that easy?
The simplicity of this statement struck me. It made me think of several clients who have told me they don't feel like a good friend lately.
In fact, let me ask you, dear readers: How many of you have started a text or a conversation with something like this:
"I'm sorry I've been so M.I.A lately"
"I know I haven't been a great friend for a while now"
"I should have messaged you a long time ago. I've been through a lot lately but it's no excuse for being a bad friend"
It seems that many of us are feeling like we have dropped the ball on our friendships over the last 15 months or so. If you resonate with that sentiment, this post is for you.
Friendships Change As An Adult
No one tells us that adult friendships look nothing like childhood ones.
In general, friendships are unlike any other close relationship we have. According to an article by The Atlantic, friendships are the most unstructured of all the voluntary relationships we enter.
What does this mean? Well, think of the other voluntary relationships we embark on in life (voluntary meaning we CHOOSE to be in them).
Romantic relationships, for example, tend to have a structured path. It would be unusual if we went for weeks and months without talking to our romantic partner. With friendships, however, this is not unheard of- usually good friends can pick up right where they left off.
The unstructured nature of friendship means that when life is all over the place, it's often our friendships that take a hit.
The last 16 months have DEFINITELY been all over the place. Here is the thing: friendships require effort and intentionality to flourish- just like another relationship.
Effort + intentionality is something that is difficult to prioritize these days. When the initial social uptick in the early days of the pandemic wore down, we felt mentally and emotionally depleted.
The unstructured nature of friendships becomes apparent in this situation: when asked to prioritize between nurturing a friendship or managing challenging family dynamics, many of us chose to focus on family and romantic partners.
And we are here to tell you...that is okay.
In fact, just because you were not able to nurture or prioritize friendships during the pandemic does not make you a bad friend!
The nature of our friendships changes as we move through life. Sometimes these changes are easy and intuitive. Other times they involve tough conversations and clear communication.
So maybe it's time we re-define what it means to be a good friend these days.
Redefining A 'Good Friend'
"A good friend is someone you share a pizza with".
Remember this? It's so simple and wholesome. Long-lasting friendships require evolution, so why are we holding ourselves to pre-pandemic standards of communication and involvement?
Let's cut ourselves and each other some slack, especially during a pandemic.
A Good Friend Is Someone You Can Grow (And Stretch) With
What if a good friend is someone you can stretch with? This means that as life changes, our friendships stretch with us. When. we are in different stages of life, living in different cities and experiencing wildly opposite routines...we stretch alongside each other.
By this definition, a good friendship is not defined by how often we spend time with someone. Instead, it is built around a foundation of having good intentions and good will towards one another and offering what we can, when we can.
So if you are being hard on yourself about not being a good friend, ask yourself what standards you are holding yourself to, and whether it may be good time to redefine them 💛
When you feel guilty for prolonged silence or not responding to a text or lacking the energy to return a call, remember that we are all doing the best we can. More likely than not, your friend is feeling the same way!
It's always possible to pick up the phone, send a quick text (i.e. My energy is low right now, but I'm thinking of you and I hope you're doing well), and pick up where you left off.
Let's challenge this idea that a good friend is someone you speak to all the time- quality matters, and so does capacity.
How are you maintaining friendships through the pandemic? We would love to hear your perspective!
Until next time!
Mental Health Content Specialist