By Rori Boyce
When life's priorities leave little time to maintain, let alone nurture your friendships, one often finds that re-establishing these connections requires a bit more than a simple phone call. Here is how to reconnect when you've been out of the social scene for a while.
About four years ago, my life took a bit of a left turn. I had decided to leave my long-term, stable job and start my own business … in the middle of the Great Recession. Not that we were calling it that back then, but still, it was a risky move at a risky time. Shortly after I made this move, a serious family situation arose that required a significant amount of my time to deal with for almost a year. These two factors combined to make what would already have been a challenging endeavor feel almost impossible at times. But I did what I have always done, dug deep, worked hard, and did whatever I had to do to make things work.
Unfortunately, as any entrepreneur or small business owner can tell you, building a business takes a lot of time and a lot of energy, and building mine was no exception. But when you add difficult family issues and day-to-day things like taking care of my family and home, there was very little time left for me, for my friends, or really for anything that wasn’t about making money or taking care of the people in my life. It was a sacrifice, although I didn’t really see that at the time, but when I look back now, being able to do something I love while being available for my family at a difficult time made it worth each and every sacrifice I made.
Thankfully, things eventually got better. But it took time, and even the most incredible friendships will wither and fade if they are left unattended for too long. This meant that upon emerging from my mostly self-induced exile, ready to reconnect and jump back into the life I had put on hold three years before, I looked around and realized no one was there. I had emerged where I disappeared only to realize that everyone else had kept moving on, without me.
Don’t get me wrong, the friends I had before are still my friends and if I were to call or text and say “Hey, let’s have lunch!” most of them would say “Great! Can’t wait to see you!” But the subtle interconnectedness we had shared was gone. I was no longer involved in their lives enough to be get texted when something important happened or to be invited to their events, and when big things happened to me, most of them were noticeably absent.
Unfortunately, you can only de-prioritize other people for so long before they stop prioritizing you. This is true no matter what circumstances cause this change in priorities or how good our reasons are for doing it. For some of us this happens when we move to a new stage of life like marriage or motherhood that is different from the other people in our lives. For others, it might be a divorce, a move to another city, or some other major life change that disrupts the important friendships in our lives.
If you find yourself standing alone, like I did, wondering what happened to all of your friends, here are some things you can do.
1. Avoid Finding Fault
The most important thing is to focus on the fact that the state of our friendships isn’t anyone’s fault. I know from personal experience that this can be very challenging. There were times when I felt abandoned, even though I was the one who had retreated. I begrudged my friends making new friends and having fun without me, even though I was the one who stopped showing up. It was easier to be hurt and angry at others than it was to accept the loss as the cost of my willing sacrifice. But all this does is put more distance between you and those with whom you used to be closest.
2. Reach Out
Although it seems silly to me to write this down, reaching out was and still is hard for me to do. I think the difficulty comes from unwillingness or awkwardness at having to go backward in a relationship. When you have been friends with someone for more than a decade, it can be difficult to go back to the beginning, to start over almost from scratch. But if you want to re-establish these friendships, the first, second, third, and more moves have to be yours.
3. Make New Friends
Don’t spend so much time mourning the loss of what you had that you fail to see the opportunities for new friendships that are right in front of you. No matter what caused the distance, there is a good chance that there are new people in your life and that there you have options to invite new people into your life regardless of whether or not you seek to reconnect with friends from before. Don’t be afraid to reach out and meet new people.
There is one more thing you need to consider, I know, because it was something I struggled with and continue to struggle with even as I work to re-establish the relationships I used to take for granted. If you have been distant for a while because of major changes to your life, there is a good chance that the new life you are living is not designed to include your friends. This means you will need to make an extra effort and consciously prioritize your friendships to make sure there is room for them in the life you are living right now. Don’t expect them to just fit back in like lost puzzle pieces, because they belong to a different puzzle.