The pandemic has posed several challenges in many different fields. Among them, our friendships have been greatly impacted. Many new friendships were born, people created more online friends than ever, the way people maintained their existing friendships transformed, and some even approached an impending halt. These experiences have taught us many lessons in the last few months, ranging from gratitude, to communication, and compromise, mental health, self-prioritization and much more. However, among them, there are three very vital lessons that I think we should remember even after this pandemic is over.
People have different love languages.
Before the pandemic, we had several ways to communicate with and express our love and appreciation for our friends. We would talk in person, hang out, text, call, shake hands, or hug. Some would be more inclined to meet, among who not everyone would enjoy physical touch. In contrast, others would communicate more via texts.
This pandemic has forced most friendships into the domain of texts and calls. However, people were quick enough to start utilizing video calling to remain connected. Although, not everyone was a fan of this. Some preferred to stick to text, finding video calls extremely draining, while the opposite was true for others. Some found it difficult to express their emotions over text, while others could seamlessly do so.
The pandemic gave us time to understand our love languages better. We understood better how we like to interact with our friends. For many of us, the pandemic also posed several challenges. These challenges often caused us to take breaks from communication in an already socially distanced scenario. Those around us questioned, “what happened with this person?” Those who distanced also had to reflect on their priorities and how they’d maintain their friendships. Among other things, understanding their love language and shifts in it was an important discovery of oneself.
Another question arises, what happens to two friends among who, let’s say, one wishes to video call while the other prefers texts? Where one is replying fast, but for the other, technology is nauseating? What happens to two friends whose love languages aren’t the same?
Communication is key
One of the most important ways to dealing with differing love languages is to communicate them. For a friend looking forward to hopping on a video call, a rejection of the request can hurt and even make them think that the other person is not putting enough effort into the friendship. However, it may cause such a friendship to accumulate pains unless they communicate their needs and comfort zones. This is not to say that the former should never text and the latter should never pick a call. But whatever they may decide, a healthy decision is likely to follow transparent communication.
Since the pandemic had taken away in-person routines and the hi-hellos of school, university, and office corridors, we’ve mostly been left with seeing our friends on social media. Since social media accounts are not a 24-hour live stream of people’s lives, many people overthink and jump on hasty conclusions from their little observations on social media. When someone’s seen posting stories but not replying to messages, it makes some feel ignored. When there are posts of them hanging out with some friends, it makes them feel alone, having not seen them in a while. For one whose distancing friend may have told them that they’re facing their own issues, new posts where they’re smiling and enjoying with another group can lead to hasty conclusions.
In the end, contemplating these thoughts alone does more harm than good. Unless someone can effectively comfort themselves through journaling and introspection, communicating these thoughts with the friend(s) in question has yields beneficial outcomes. Of course, beneficial does not always mean that the friendship strengthens immediately, and everything is gardens and bliss. It may turn out that way, but it can also be a process that takes multiple rounds of conversations for things to settle. On the other hand, it may even pave the way for personal growth and new friendships, which brings us to our final point.
Realizing that some friends aren’t compatible: not all friends lost is a loss.
Communicating your needs to your friends is not a guarantee that they will fulfill them. Sometimes, it may cause them to distance over realizing that you two are not compatible, which may also be seen as non-reconcilable. While this may initially hurt, it is also beneficial because it gives more space for people who are better for you to enter your life.
Situations like these don’t need to have binary labels where one person is ‘good’, and the other is ‘bad, but can be objectively tackled as neutral, termed as two’ incompatibles.’ In fact, these situations don’t even always have to end up in two people getting hurt. Although it’s a friendship breaking apart, it can result in both people still being happy, if not happier.
My friend and colleague, Pooja Maniyeri, talked about one of her experiences. She felt like she was inevitably drifting away from a friend. She noted that this experience was accompanied by a lot of overthinking but ultimately ended in them separating. Yet, she mentions that both were able to find friends and groups after that incident with whom they felt more connected, understood, and cared for.
Interested in the topic? Don’t forget to listen to this Podcast on ‘Pandemic Friendships’ to listen to the stories of some of my friends at the American University of Sharjah!
What are some lessons you’ve learned about friendships in this pandemic that you want to carry on even after the pandemic ends?