Why Friends You Haven’t Heard From Are Reaching Out Now

James Barrett
Photo credit: James Barrett
Photo credit: James Barrett

From Redbook

The year is 2020 and no one ever thought hanging out in the park with friends, going out to dinner at a restaurant, grabbing drinks at a bar or seeing the newest movie in theaters would be taken for granted -- but here we are. Self isolation is new for all of us and without these leisure activities, we're left to our own devices.

I fell deep in my thoughts during quarantine, and it made me ask myself, do I still want to show up the way I showed up before? Am I happy with the way friendships and other relationships have drifted, even if it was over something insignificant? What spurred these thoughts was long lost friends reaching out to me as well as my own desire to reach out to people who I had lost touch with.

Dr. Joanna Petrides, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, offered me an explanation. Together we discussed social oddities we may be experiencing during the pandemic and reasons why those friends you haven’t heard from in a while are reaching out now...

Being too busy isn’t a valid excuse anymore.

Life gets busy, I get it. Work gets crazy. We put things off...but I’ve learned to not take it personally. However, during quarantine, there aren’t any awkward run-ins with friends or acquaintances where you act super surprised to see each other and insist on making plans (knowing you’ll never make them). A little extra effort is required.

Photo credit: James Barrett
Photo credit: James Barrett

Dr. Petrides says, "We all have things we've been putting off due to other more 'in-your-face' demands and this includes catching up with friends. With everyone physically distancing due to the restrictions, we are answering more calls and texts while at home because we no longer have the excuse that we're on-the-go. We're also calling or texting more people because we may feel more confident we will get a response from them."

Old friends eventually find their way back.

Dr. Petrides explains, "In the course of our regular, on-the-go lifestyles, we tend to apply the 'out of sight, out of mind' principle with our social connections. Now that we are physically disconnected, we start to assess past relationships of quality and are easily reminded of the qualities that attracted us to these people in the first place. This is what makes it easy to pick up where we left off with old friends."

Photo credit: Westend61 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Westend61 - Getty Images

Old friends, even if you aren't as close now, have a bond that can't easily be dismantled. Don't let the good ones go. An example of this for me are my floormates from freshman year of college. They were the first people I spent time with after I moved away from home. We navigated our new lives together; from first college parties to the first day of classes. As we each grew into different paths and friend groups, our admiration and care for each other never stopped. One of them called me last week, and while I can't remember the last time I spoke to her on the phone, we picked up like no time had passed.

They want to reignite an old flame.

'Hey, how's quarantine?' is the new 'You up?' late night text. But unlike the latter, immediate physical contact isn’t in the cards. Time spent in self isolation allows for reflection on past relationships. You have time to revisit mistakes made, and maybe what was once considered a deal breaker may not be such an issue now that you have grown and matured. It's deeper than simply hooking up and giving someone another chance when at one point in time, the sparks were there but maybe the timing wasn’t right.

Dr. Petrides adds, "It's not unusual to venture down memory lane from time to time. However, people might be experiencing this in higher frequency now and be more willing to explore the 'what ifs' left behind from a break up. Chances are good we are evaluating the ways we have changed over the years and are curious to know if our exes have also changed and if the timing is now right to reconnect with them."

Priorities are shifted during hard times.

This time has allowed us to involuntarily evaluate our lives. We’re not running to bars or going on lavish vacations -- the materialism that once brought us joy is now on pause. "Our increased downtime gives us more time to examine our past and assess changes we want to make for our future. What was once a high priority may not have the same importance in light of a global pandemic. As a result, some may make decisions for how differently they want to show up in their relationships and other areas of their life after the pandemic is over so as to act in ways that are more in line with their values." Dr. Petrides explains.

Photo credit: Carlina Teteris - Getty Images
Photo credit: Carlina Teteris - Getty Images

We will come out of this pandemic different people...whether you try to or not. Maybe it’s not about who you want to spend Friday night out getting drunk with, but rather who you want to spend Saturday eating brunch and watching movies all day with.

They’re checking in or might be asking for help too.

Dr. Petrides says, "Asking for help doesn’t come easily to many of us. One way we ease into the process is by asking others how they are doing and allow the attention of conversation to naturally flow back to ourselves." Change is hard for most people, especially with high risk triggers like loneliness and boredom, which can lead to depressive symptoms and restlessness. "We are not solo creatures; humans work better in teams or groups, especially in unique and challenging situations like a global pandemic. In order to better make sense of what is going on and how to best manage the situation, we need to lean on each other. Knowing we are truly not alone makes such a significant difference in how we endure and overcome crisis," she adds.

Photo credit: Alistair Berg - Getty Images
Photo credit: Alistair Berg - Getty Images

Dr. Petrides offers an example from her own life when she recently received a call from her third-grade teacher, an elderly woman. "Prior to COVID-19, our usual communication centered on occasional letters and holiday cards -- she holds a special place in my heart. When she called me the other day, I instantly felt surprise, worry, and relief all together at just hearing her voice. This call forced me to reflect on the value of this relationship for me, and it served as a reminder that I should check in on some of the most vulnerable people in my life who may be struggling with physical distancing more than others."

Whatever the reason may be for receiving a call or text that you didn’t expect from a friend, take it with open arms. This pandemic is new territory for all of us and people cope with the effects of it different ways. You don't need to become best friends again, but human interaction and an inviting conversation won't hurt anybody. The best thing you could do during this uncertain time is be a friend -- we could all use one right about now.

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