As we are coming up on essentially one year of COVID and the physical distancing it’s required, the pandemic continues to dramatically affect our lives, including our relationships with other people in our communities, our families, romantically and within our friendships.
At the beginning of COVID, during isolation, the lack of social connections made me reminisce about my past friendships. According to Psychology Today, strong friendships are a critical aspect of most people’s emotional wellbeing. Research indicates that close friendships are associated with greater happiness, self-esteem and sense of purpose.
Social distancing increased my loneliness; however, it really exacerbated a problem that was building prior to the pandemic.
A year or two before COVID became a part of my daily life, a few of my friendships were at a halt. With the world in shambles and people dying left and right, I felt the need to fix my relationship with my friends by reconnecting and reconciling. In order to fix a friendship, a person needs to really understand the core issue in every struggling relationship: lack of communication.
Friendships create a foundation through which we can develop social skills, advance our careers and romantic relationships, enjoy compassion and receive support. Although I was pursuing my Juris Doctorate full time, working, and growing my career as an author and blogger, those foundations were things I was lacking in my life, along with effectively communicating with my friends.
In the beginning of the pandemic, I fell into an unexpected romantic relationship that I strongly need my friends around for. I needed their advice and most importantly their support. I had gone most of my 20s without dating so that I could focus solely on my career. But this guy actually made me happy. He was extremely supportive of my goals and the things I want to accomplish.
Still, he was a major distraction. I was head over hills and put everything except him behind me. My energy was focused solely on him seven days a week, 24 hours a day. My friends were knowledgeable about this new dating world so I needed to lean on them. Most had been in several long term relationships, therefore, I knew they wouldn’t lead me in the wrong direction with the advice I needed. Strong friendships are built on a foundation of honesty and trust. As a private person, I knew I could go to them with my emotions and concerns about being in a new relationship.
One day, I decided to plan a girls’ day out – brunch, a visit to a spa, dinner and a comedy show. These were all women who had gone to middle and high school together and at the time, our city had just began to open back up. Although we had to social distance and wear masks, restaurants were allowing advanced reservations for parties up to eight.
I had to find ways to use technology to plan and get us communicating again. I started with Facebook Messenger, then when I began to notice everybody was getting along and willing to reconnect, I created a group chat using our phone numbers. This allowed us to express ourselves daily using more than just words, but also emojis, GIFs and memes. On a day when we’re all available, we would even hop on a group FaceTime.
After weeks of planning over our digital platforms, our official girls day out had finally come and I had all of my friends gathered under one roof. I wouldn’t trade that day for another. That was the start of a new beginning. We laughed, did a lot of catching up, expressed our emotions, and disagreed too. With so many different personalities, disagreements are bound to happen over the course of long relationships, but I approach them by encouraging everyone to express their concerns and look for a solution. Although my reason for not being consistent with communication with my friends over the years was my career chasing, there were other events that took place between us that didn’t sit well with me. Some of those actions caused a little tension amongst me and others within my friend group. But when we got to our girls’ day, I used that time to explain how their actions made me feel, and I allowed them to do the same. We chose openness and honesty to prove that conflict can be resolved and strengthen relationships.
Since June 2020, reconciling with my friends has brought happiness and a sense of purpose to my life, as well as the support I truly needed. My romantic relationship is going well with their help, we have had more outings since our official girls’ outings and they have helped boost my self-esteem.
Communicating with my friends daily has also helped me see my purpose, using my psychology degree and unique writing capabilities to help women discover themselves and hopefully on a path to a better life.
In the midst of the pandemic, I’ve learned to respect personal boundaries while communicating effectively. These can ultimately make your friendships stronger. So if you’ve found yourself spending a lot of time reflecting about your friendships during this pandemic, you are not alone. Psychologists say all of the time we’ve spent cooped up creates space and time for thinking. While COVID has had a negative impact on many relationships, it has left a positive impact on the strength of my friendships.
Nicole S. Daniel is an author, blogger and freelance journalist based in Birmingham, Alabama. Her writing career started about six years ago while attending Miles College. She started Nicolesade.com, a blog that inspires uplift, and encourages young women with relatable content.