The pandemic and social distancing forced many people to narrow their circle of friends or limit interactions to those in their immediate family or their “pod.”
But now that mask mandates are being relaxed and people are moving closer toward normal social interaction, it might be time to reconnect. Think about broadening your social circle and reestablishing contact with people you may not have seen since COVID-19 put lives on lockdown.
While it’s exciting to think about gathering with friends again, it can be unnerving to reach out. If years have passed since you’ve been in contact, it takes courage and a willingness to be vulnerable enough to do so. And, after all this time, will the other person still want to be friends?
“The act of reconnecting means putting yourself out there, putting yourself at a bit of a risk,” says Geoffrey Greif, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. “You may need to be open to how things may have changed in the friendship over the last two years. You may have missed important stuff that's happened in that person's life.”
The act of “catching up” can almost feel like meeting someone for the first time, notes psychologist and friendship expert Irene S. Levine. So be prepared for some awkward moments.
Levine recommends tempering your expectations and taking things slowly. You’re exercising “friendship muscles” that haven’t been used for a long time, and the fear of rejection may mean it takes more patience and effort to return to that comfortable, familiar vibe you enjoyed prepandemic.
That said, the effort should be mutual, so be prepared to consider how hard you’re working to reestablish a connection.
Levine puts it this way: “If your friend isn't sympathetic and understanding of the hiatus in your friendship, you have to wonder about whether that person is really a friend, and whether your friendship had a strong foundation to begin with.”
Take the first step
What if you sincerely want to resuscitate a once-cherished connection?
“You have to take the first step, especially if you've pushed them away like I did,” advises Peggy Mazeikas, 51, from Mesa, Arizona. “I have had to force myself to bring my friends back into my life.”
Mazeikas, a project manager for a forensic investigation company, enjoyed the solitude that came with pandemic-induced isolation. When friends asked to get together, she typically used her high-maintenance, cancer-stricken dog as an excuse for choosing to stay close to home.
Until, she says, she started feeling lonely and depressed, and realized she needed to make a change before seeking professional help.