I Love My Low-Maintenance Friendships, but I’m Now Starting to Feel Lonely

By now, I’ve gotten used to working in the new normal setting even though—and I’m certain many of you would agree with me on this—my energy is draining more rapidly than it used to. Back then, Friday nights out with friends were the well-deserved treat for a hard week and it didn’t matter to us if we got even more tired (and hungover) afterward.

Nowadays, being able to clock out of work, silencing our phones, and nestling into the covers of our warm bed is how we like to spend our evenings and weekends. We take our “Me Time” seriously, unperturbed that our social meter has hit zero for days on end.

With this new routine, I’ve found that I often neglect to read online chats or reach out to friends now. (I say this as if it’s something I can’t avoid when it’s really my choice to begin with.) I only hear from my friends these days when something big has happened in someone’s life that they want to talk about, or when it’s been so long since we all last talked that we need a second to update each other before going radio silent once again for six months.

But I don’t mind and neither do they. And it’s this kind of low-maintenance friendship that I’m so grateful for.

girl lonely window city night nightlife lights hotel travelPhoto from Unsplash

Stability amid the chaos

Low-maintenance friendships have provided me relief since the pandemic began. In a time when face-to-face meet-ups are no longer possible or are now heavily clouded with health-related fear and anxiety, I find comfort in knowing that my friends are still there for me, going through the same struggles as I am, waiting patiently for me to reach out when I need someone to talk to.

I’ve started to appreciate it when a friend doesn’t mind if I’ve left them on read for a few days because I didn’t have the energy to keep a conversation going. My mind rests easy in knowing that they understand why and that I would give them my full, undivided attention once I’ve found the time to.

It’s the same vice versa. It rarely bothers me if my message is unopened or if me saying “Kamusta?” is met with cricket sounds.

We know that when we truly, urgently need each other, we’ll answer each other’s calls instantly.

But what would you do if in these moments of quiet and solitude, you start to feel lonely?

Alone but not lonely, until you are

There was a time when I had felt that I was at my lowest and needed someone to talk to about it. My long-term relationship was suddenly in the rocks, a beloved family member had become gravely ill, and I was generally not in a good state mentally and emotionally. Keeping it all in made it worse.

When I had messaged a close friend, I knew that it wasn’t going to be opened for a while. After all, that was our dynamic—we knew we were there for each other when times got tough; we just had to be patient.

But my patience for anything was wearing thin. For once, I felt completely alone, buckling under the weight of my heavy heart and deafening thoughts. And yet I still couldn’t bring myself to demand my friend’s attention, not when I know that they, too, may be fighting their own battles. Yes, I was in pain, but even that wasn’t enough to override my guilt.

Then, there were days when I couldn’t help but feel jealous of people sharing their pictures with friends.

All of them on staycations or meeting up on a weekend or attending each other’s weddings. I’d find myself annoyed at my partner having random dinners with friends every month because someone had invited them out on a whim. Meanwhile, my friends are struggling to find a schedule that everyone can agree on for the next few months.

Then I laugh to myself at the irony of it all. I thrive in low-maintenance friendships…until I don’t.

When the sadness sets in, when the heartbreak becomes too much to bear in silence, when days turn to weeks and weeks turn to months that I’m just at home with nowhere to go, safe but bored and restless and isolated, I start to crave the noise and warm companionship of my people. And I wish they could feel that same desperation.

The importance of communication

If I’m starting to feel neglected by a “low-maintenance” friend, can I still call it that? Or am I to blame for suddenly becoming someone who requires *extra* maintaining?

Over time, I’ve realized that it’s not so black and white.

There’s a difference between being low-maintenance and being cast aside and ignored. It’s a fine line but it’s one we can see, and we realize it by how often someone apologizes to you for “replying so late” weeks since you sent them a text, or by how actively a person posts on their social media without acknowledging your message, or by how every invitation to hang out never pushes through.

A low-maintenance friend, however, will never ghost you. They’ll never purposely miss a call from you. They’ll find ways to connect with you, whether it’s commenting on your post or replying to a tweet. And they’ll never leave you hanging when you’re pouring out your heart and tears to them.

It’s normal to feel like you have no one to confide in. But it shouldn’t cast doubt on your friendships. Just because a close friend hasn’t contacted you to invite you out to dinner in a while, it doesn’t mean you’re the least of their priorities.

Often, what you really need to do is to let them know that you need a bit more care and attention and not fear their judgement.

Open communication is still heavily a part of what makes and breaks any relationship, even if it’s a platonic one, and you aren’t going to be seen as “selfish” or “needy” for requesting quality time and instant replies from the people you love especially when you are in need of it. Because it’s not every day that you do. You just want somebody to check on you from time to time to make sure you’re still okay. And you know you’ll be okay because you realize that you’re never truly alone.

I love my low-maintenance friendships even if it can get lonely sometimes. Because it’s not lonely all the time. Not when your bond is real and unwavering. They’ll be there when I need them just as I’m here when they need me. All we really have to do is to reach out our hands and let them know.

(ALSO READ: An Open Letter to All the Friends I’ve Lost in 2020 (and All the Friends I’ve Gained, Too))

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