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Renewing Old Friendships

Renewing Old Friendships
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It’s a simple fact of life and time, many old friendships are lost but you might want to think about renewing that friendship.

It happens to everyone and we can all relate. Close friends from our childhood are long gone and that great bunch of friends that we knew in high school or college are lost. Some of us also have had friendships dissolve due to disagreements or misunderstandings. Either way, we often find ourselves remembering a friend from the past and wondering how they’re doing. The fact of the matter is most friendships never die, they just fade away.

Two critical aspects of any friendship 

Psychologists often refer to “propinquity” and “proximity” as critical factors for human friendships. Here’s how it works:

  • Propinquity is the frequency or the number of times we encounter someone. When we were younger our friendships were often formed at school where we saw certain people on a daily basis. This frequency of encounters often builds fundamental familiarity and trust. Eventually you might introduce yourself and as you get to know each other a bond will often develop.
  • Proximity is the physical distance between two people. Quite often we’ll become friends with the person at work who sits in the office next to us or shares our workspace. Many of us became friends with the boy or girl who lived next door to our house for the simple reason that they were close by. To a large degree, proximity leads to propinquity but there’s a catch.

Why old friendships fade away

If you understand the factors of propinquity and proximity you can start to see how some situations will cause a friendship to fade. When we all graduated from high school or college many of our friends returned to their homes which could have been hundreds of miles away. We try to stay in touch but over time the frequency of those connections decreases.

Also, whenever we change jobs the friendships at our old place of employment can also fade. We may try to stay in touch but certain other factors begin to affect our ability to maintain the friendship.

How age and change of life affects friendships 

As we grow and mature, our lives change. We move to new places, get married, have kids and pursue careers all of which demand more and more of our time. It also forces us to prioritize and that includes our relationships. What’s obvious is that our families come first and as we allocate increasingly precious time to spouses, kids and aging parents it becomes more difficult to manage casual or platonic friendships.   The result is that the number of friends we once had begins to decline.

There are also factors related to those friends that affect the quality of the friendship. If our old college friend moves a thousand miles away it may decrease the level of interaction we have with them on a regular basis. Once again, propinquity and proximity come into play. We may keep in touch on Facebook or the occasional phone call, but it’s not the same.

Steps to renewing a friendship 

There are steps to renewing a friendship but a lot of it has to do with why the friendship faded in the first place.

  • Was it as simple as changing jobs or moving far away?
  • Was it due to a disagreement or misunderstanding?
  • Was it because of time constraints due to family or work-related issues?
  • Did the other just fall off the face of the Earth and not try to reconnect?

Regardless of the reason, there are ways to renew the friendship but the nature of the past relationship is important to keep in mind. Here are some key steps to reconnecting and renewing a friendship with someone:

  1. Locate them. This can be simple or very complicated. It all depends on their location and their last name. When many women get married they change their last names to their husband’s surname. If you type “ne” on a search it indicates you are looking for a maiden name. You can also use Facebook, LinkedIn and Google to find someone. There are also services that can help you find someone but be careful, some are scams and some will charge you for the search. And don’t forget friends of friends. Your personal network might produce a friend you still have connections to who will  know the whereabouts of someone you’re looking for.
  2. Contact them. How you contact them is directly related to why the friendship faded. If it was a contentious end to the relationship, walk and talk softly. If it was the result of time, distance and a busy lifestyle let them know how you’re doing and ask if they’d like to reconnect.
  3. Call them. Talking with an old friend is better than random Facebook posts and occasional emails. Let them hear your voice and enjoy hearing their voice again.
  4. Remember old times. One of the keys to reconnecting with an old friend is the laughter and fun of remembering shared experiences from the past.
  5. Ask about new times. Tell them your story first, briefly and then ask what they are up to these days. This is why most of us want to reconnect with old friends and rekindle the relationship.
  6. Make an agreement. This could be as simple as agreeing to call each other once a month or if you are in close proximity, meeting for coffee, lunch or a cocktail.   The idea is to keep the connection going.
  7. Don’t be disappointed. You may find the relationship fades away again in spite of your best efforts. Hopefully you have had the time to understand your friend’s situation and you can better manage your expectations with regards to the friendship.

This whole process can be easy and renewing or challenging. You never know. But if there’s one resolution we might all want to make this year it’s to try and rekindle at least one old friendship. Who knows, it can turn into a whole new friendship that will last us all for the rest of our lives.


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