The NEW Friendship Normal

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If you’re feeling bummed about a friend who no longer talks to you, or if you find you have a smaller social circle than you did pre-pandemic, you’re not alone. COVID-19 had a major impact on our ability to socialize and maintain friendships. Many women are now adjusting and reevaluating their friendships post-pandemic. 

Author Jessica Speer has published several books about friendship and social-emotional topics, including BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)? A Girls Guide to Happy Friendships. Her work primarily focuses on how to cultivate healthy relationships. “It is helpful for women to know that friendship transitions are common and normal throughout life, especially during times of change,” Speer tells CircleAround. “For adults, friendship circles tend to change about every seven years.” 

Speer adds that there are different types of friendships: close friends, work friends, childhood friends, casual friends, and more. We spoke to Speer and other women about how the pandemic may have impacted those bonds.  

Strength in Hard Times

For some, female friendships became stronger than ever before. Circumstances provided the chance for women to really see who was there for them, despite social distance measures and limited access. “Since the pandemic began, my female friends and I have become closer,” says Emma Gordon, the founder at USSalvageYards. “It was tough, at first. But we have been able to get the hang of it now.”

During lockdown, Gordon and her friends found themselves communicating more using social media. It helped her stay connected to close friends when they weren’t able to socialize outside of their homes as much. “Social media has helped my friends and I bond more, talk more, and relate better with each other,” she explains.

Friends Vs. ‘Close Friends’

Gordon discovered that being physically distant from her friends didn’t negatively impact their bond. “The pandemic helped me to understand that friends who are there for you will make time to speak to you, and stay in touch with you despite the distance or circumstances,” she tells CircleAround

Speer adds, “Most people have between 2-5 ‘close’ friends that make up the people they would go to in times of need. These relationships take more time and energy to develop, so it makes sense that people have fewer friends that fall into the ‘close’ category.” 

She developed a handy Friendship Pyramid to visually explore the way these friendship categories work. You may be surprised to find people you considered to be “close” actually fall into a different category.

Some Friendships Falter

“I have experienced isolation and loneliness due to the loss of many close friends,” says Dr. Renetta Weaver of Total Transitions Ministry. “Initially, losing these friendships has left me feeling sad, hurt, and confused. Then I became bitter and irritable because I couldn't understand what I said or did wrong.” 

When those who are part of our usual routine are no longer present, it’s natural to experience those hurt feelings. But, on the flip side, the time apart can also provide clarity. “Eventually I realized I was grieving the way things used to be, and that my friendships were simply transitioning,” Weaver says. “I stopped trying to make things work with people who didn't want me in their life anymore.”

When to Move On

“My advice to women going through friendship transitions is to think about the qualities they are drawn to in friendship and what activities they might get involved in to meet people with these qualities,” Speer tells CircleAround. “Friendships take time, connection and energy to develop, so start by putting yourself out there.”

It’s also completely ok to keep your new social circle much smaller than it once was. “I now define my values and examine how people earn the right to be my friend as well as how I earn the right to be their friend,” Weaver adds. “If there aren't mutual benefits I now categorize those people as associates.”

The Bottom Line

The pandemic may have forced us to re-examine our friendships, but that may be a wonderful thing. Looking back on the way your friendships were impacted, hopefully you have more clarity on the bonds you’d like to maintain, strengthen, or let go. If you’re unsure of where you stand with someone, think about the qualities you value in a friend, and go from there. You might be surprised where it leads you.

Tags: Friends, Self Care, Navigating the Pandemic

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Written By

Katka Lapelosová

Katka is a writer from New York City, currently living in Belgrade, Serbia. See Full Bio

CircleAround is owned by One GS Media, a subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA, and we make financial distributions to benefit the next generation of Girl Scouts. We strive to make the world a better place by supporting each other today and emboldening the women leaders of tomorrow.

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