Losing touch with friends after high school or college is a pretty common occurrence, even with the best of intentions. You get a new job, in a new city. They do too. You get married, have kiddos, or decide to travel, and before you know it, you haven’t talked to your bestie in years.
When you start to reconnect with old friends, it can feel awkward at first. Both parties have no doubt gone through significant life changes, and the thought of rekindling the relationship comes with some serious concerns. Will they have the same fond memories you do? Do you even have anything in common anymore? These are pretty common thought processes, but if you find yourself repeatedly thinking of an old friend, it’s likely they’re doing the same, and everyone is just leery of making the first move. Let’s dive into some quick and easy ways to jump that fence of doubt and rebuild those lost friendships.
Reconnect With an Adventure Book
At Adventures From Scratch, we’re pretty passionate about friendships, and that’s why our newest scratch-off adventure book is loaded with exciting excursions specifically geared toward deepening your relationships with friends. Just consult the key, pick an adventure, scratch off the details, and enjoy! On top of excellent adventures, our books include tear-out challenges, conversation starters, and journal space to document the fun. Now you have the perfect way to reconnect with old friends!
Benefits of Reconnecting With Former Friends
For some of you, life is going great, and reconnecting with old friends may seem like a futile endeavor. You’ve moved on with new friends. So have they. Why bother? However, old friends are the only people in the world who experienced the same childhood as you. They’re the only ones who share the memories of some of your most formative moments. Keeping a few old friends around can help you build a healthy connectedness with your past and keep you grounded as you move forward. Here are just a few of the benefits of reconnecting with your childhood buds.
Takes You Back to a Simpler Time
Life starts to get crazy in your late twenties, often keeping the chaos up into your thirties. Jobs are getting serious. You might be buying a home or growing a family, and it can all get very stressful. Taking some time, even if you feel like you don’t have much to devote, to talk about old times with a good friend can really be a boost to your mental health. You’ll laugh about silly antics, pull out memories you didn’t even know you had, and revel in the simple times of your youth.
Reminds You of Your Roots
While your current friends might know you better than anyone from high school did, they don’t share the same roots and heritage as you do. Like it or not, the way in which you were raised (and even the area you were raised in, to some extent) helps shape your worldview. There’s something special about sitting down with an old friend and discussing the intricacies of your past. While you may have chosen to move on from the negative aspects of your childhood, there are likely some very positive bits that make you who you are today. Exploring old memories is one of the best ways to connect to your roots and stay grounded in the good parts of your upbringing.
Expands Your Community
While you may have one or two best friends that live a similar lifestyle to you, it never hurts to have a larger community of friends to bounce ideas off of. They might be surface-level buds, and that’s fine, but a wide community of friends keeps you connected with many spheres. This gives you access to information and resources that you may not have within your closest friend group. It pays to know and have cordial relationships with a vast group of people.
Reshapes Your Perspectives
When talking with an old friend, you may quickly find out that their perspective of your joint past is very different than your own. They’ll remember things through their own personal filter, their feelings about the event. Reminiscing with an old friend can be hard in this area, as you might find out things about yourself or your friend group that you didn’t previously perceive. Learning to view your past through someone else’s lens has the potential to change the way you approach others in the future.
Allows You to Heal Old Wounds
If you’ve had a falling out with an old friend or you just have difficult memories in your past pertaining to that person, reconnecting is a way to heal old wounds. You have changed and matured. They most likely have too. Harboring bitterness and unforgiveness is not good for your overall well-being. According to an article by Harley Therapy, bitterness can have the same effects on the body as serious trauma, resulting in fatigue, decreased libido, and interrupted sleep patterns. In the long haul, it can affect self-confidence and the ability to formulate new healthy relationships.
Provides a Healthy Dose of Laughter
We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine, and you don’t need any fancy medical research to prove that. We’ve all had one of those laugh-until-we-cry sessions. You know there’s nothing that relieves stress better or busts through awkward or difficult circumstances more effectively than a hearty laugh. Reminiscing with old friends is bound to produce some funny moments as you remind each other of your teenage antics.
How to Reconnect With an Old Friend
1. Assess your motivation.
An important aspect of rekindling an old relationship is to first take a deep dive into why you feel compelled to do so. Are you just curious about how their life is going? Do you miss them? Are you just feeling lonely, longing for companionship? Is there an unsolved conflict between the two of you that is weighing on you?
There are many reasons you may choose to reach out to an old friend, but make sure your reasons are healthy ones. If you’re just lonely, you might be setting yourself up for more disappointment when you reach out for companionship and they don’t have the time or will to meet your expectations. You also don’t want to reenter unhealthy relationships just because you’re desperate for companionship. If you’re suffering from extreme loneliness, it’s probably time to touch base with a counselor and begin doing some inner work to find the cause.
2. Assess the nature of the friendship.
Is this person someone who adds value to your life, or are your memories of them loaded with hurt and baggage? While a nagging conflict with an old friend may need to be resolved for you to move forward, there are other friendships that may not be worth pursuing. Maybe you didn’t have a falling out or a major conflict but that person fell away from your life for normal reasons. You need to decide if rekindling this relationship would add positive companionship and mutual benefit to you both or if entering into a relationship with this person would likely bring stress. While a large friend group can be extremely rewarding, choose who you let in your inner circle wisely. A person who brings drama and toxicity is better left alone.
3. Set reasonable expectations.
Don’t go into your first conversation with someone you haven’t seen in years expecting to pick up right where you left off and be best friends forever. That could happen, but it also is not guaranteed. Set reasonable expectations for your first conversation. The goal is to make contact, possibly set up an in-person meeting, and explore surface-level info about their current situation. It’s better to be pleasantly surprised by a wonderful encounter than to be let down if it’s just so-so.
4. Start easy with social media.
The easiest way to initiate contact is via text message or social media. If you don’t have their phone number, you can likely find them on Linkedin, Facebook, or Instagram. Send a simple message or bring up a funny memory. It doesn’t have to be a well-thought-out dissertation, just something like, “Hey, was just thinking of you today and laughing about that time we ran your mom’s car off in the ditch. How are you doing?” Something easy like this will start the flow of conversation.
Making contact in the first place is generally the hardest part. It gets easier from there. So, jump the hurdle, and send the text.
5. Pick up the phone.
If it was a close friend, pick up the phone and hear their voice. Don’t wait for a time when you have hours to talk. That won’t happen. Just call. They might pick up, or they might be busy, but they’ll likely call back when they get a minute. If you’re nervous, have a few notes of things to talk about, including some of your favorite memories.
A phone call might feel too formal or old-fashioned for you, but remember that emotions are difficult to display over text messages. They can easily be read with the wrong inflection, and your words may be misconstrued. Sometimes, hearing the tone of voice is necessary for proper communication, and actually talking to the person is best!
6. Meet up for a short while.
Once you’ve made initial contact, arrange to meet for coffee, grocery shopping, or a dog walk in the park. Make sure it isn’t too formal and doesn’t require a lot of time or planning. Make it casual and easy. Any of these activities will give you the perfect backdrop for conversation and a relaxed vibe.
When you decide to meet up, don’t just say, “We should get together sometime.” Again, that will never happen. Instead, say something like, “I have some time next Saturday morning, would you like to meet at Joe’s for a coffee at 9?” Set a date and a time that works for both of you, and get it on the calendar.
7. Bring along a mutual friend.
If you had a falling out with a friend or you have reason to believe that the meetup might be awkward, bring in a moderator. Group hangouts are easier than one-on-ones, and you might find that bringing along mutual friends eases the tension for everyone.
8. Plan an outing with your families.
If you got married or had children since the last time you saw your friend, suggest a meetup that includes your families. Your spouses can get to know one another, and they will glean insight about you that they never knew before, which can be fun for everyone… if a little embarrassing. Having the people you’re closest to and most proud of around for the meetup can help ease any nerves, as long as they’re on their best behavior, of course.
9. Show interest in their life and passions.
Once you meet up, direct the conversation to their new passions and the current events of their life. Make sure you take time to really listen and ask pertinent questions. Try not to monopolize the conversation with all things going on in your own life, but also be vulnerable and willing to talk about your life when it is your turn. Try to find a time when you don’t have other distractions and you can devote your attention to your friend.
10. Bring up funny memories.
You might consider having a few notes and points of conversation thought out before arriving. Think of a couple of your favorite memories together and bust out a funny one within the first few minutes of conversation. It’ll break the ice and get the conversation moving. After a good laugh, things will flow more freely, and you’ll easily glide into current-day conversations.
11. Don’t be afraid to address the hard stuff.
In-person communication with an old friend isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. There may be old slights that you need to address in order to move forward with a healthy friendship. After some time, don’t be afraid to just address the elephant in the room. Do it with grace, and try to avoid placing blame, but don’t just avoid it.
Talking through these situations is difficult, but you might find your old friend has a totally different perspective on the situation than you do. There may be information you didn’t know, or it’s possible they’ve been carrying the burden and want to apologize for their part in the hurt. Be willing to apologize for yours as well. Remember that you are not the same person you were at 16, and it’s likely they’re not either.
12. Look for positive changes.
As stated, you have changed, and your friend has too, but that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Often, people change for the better as they age and mature. Instead of focusing on the fact that your friend isn’t the person you remember, look for fun new things about them that you can relate to. Good friendships are always evolving, and you might find that you love them even more now than you did then.
13. Seek a shared passion.
Look for one thing in your conversation that you can move forward with! Do you both love rock climbing, work in accounting, or have a child with a disability? You may have several shared interests but focus on one thing you have in common that can be fuel for your next meetup.
14. Make future plans.
Once you’ve gotten through the initial meeting and you’re sure that pursuing a relationship is a good idea, go ahead and make plans! Maybe you schedule a hike in the nearest national park, take your son to see their son play baseball, or meet up at a local winery for a wine tasting. Whatever your shared passion is, focus on that as you rebuild your relationship.
Go ahead and get out your calendars and schedule it before you leave. You may still have to change it later, but you’re both much more likely to make it happen if it’s in writing, with a date and time. Once you’ve set a date, be faithful to it. Integrity is important in any friendship but especially in one that is in the rebuilding phase.
15. Consult your partner or closest friends.
As you reconnect with your old friend, ask your besties or your spouse to help watch for red flags, especially if you have a history of turbulence with this person. They know you well, and they’ll be able to spot areas where you’re feeling stressed or letting negativity slip in on you. It never hurts to have a few people you trust help keep you accountable for your own well-being.
If you’re considering seeking out an old friend, take the necessary precautions to protect your mental health and your current relationship. But if there’s no risk in those arenas, go for it! Take the chance and make the move to initiate contact. Just remember to control your expectations.
The goal initially is to check in on your friend, see how their life is going, and let them know you have fond memories of your friendship. Let it move naturally from there. It might be that you retain a friendship through social media only, or it might progress to weekly in-person hangouts; who knows? Either way, keep it light at first and wade the waters gently as you reconnect with old friends. It probably won’t be as awkward as you imagine.
Have you had success reconnecting with a childhood friend? Tell us how you did it in the comments!
For more ideas to nurture your friendships, check out “Friendship Goals for the New Year.” It’s full of fantastic ideas to ensure that 2023 has plenty of healthy moments with your crew.
Have you decided to have your old friends over for dinner and a few games? Great idea! Busting out our nostalgic games is a wonderful way to reminisce. Check out our list of “40 Fun Board Games to Play With Friends” for a little inspiration.
Jacobson, S. (2022, October 26). 12 steps to overcome feeling bitter. Harley Therapy™ Blog. Retrieved January 16, 2023, from https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/12-steps-to-overcoming-bitterness.htm#:~:text=Bitterness%20not%20only%20causes%20symptoms,to%20have%20a%20healthy%20relationship.
Frequently Asked Questions
While the initial contact can be a bit awkward, friendships that were healthy often pick right back up where they left off, and reuniting with an old friend can have many mutual benefits!