”Today is pretty bad, sorry. But I’ll get back to you later… so soon… See you very soon!” she writes to me on Whatsapp. For at least the fifth time in a row, after she let a planned date slip again. How to keep in touch with friends is not always easy.
She, that’s a friend from the past – it’s been a few years now, we were colleagues and saw each other every day at work, became friends and also spent a lot of our free time together. Then we moved to different cities. We kept in touch, of course, and visited each other at first, but for a long time we never heard from each other again. Not because something had suddenly come between us, no. It just happened the way it often does: each of us was completely absorbed by our everyday stress, our current life situation, our environment.
I know that others feel the same way about some of their friends. Nobody means any harm – no hard feelings, as they say – but at some point you just don’t get in touch any more. On your birthday, you post something on each other’s Facebook wall like: ”All the best, my love!!! We haven’t seen each other for ages!!!”
Yes, that’s right – ages not seen! Also not heard for ages. The other person is just far away, and very concretely spatially: in another city. But although this friend and I have been living in the same city for a few years now, and not that far apart, we have only managed to see each other two or three times. Why is that?
Well, I’ll be honest: I’m not the kind of person who checks in with friends every day or even every week. Not even with my best friends, who are really close to my heart. I admit that right away.
Many of my friends live in other cities in Germany, some of them abroad. I myself have moved many times in my life, and I’ve met great people everywhere. But it’s impossible to have as much contact with everyone as you did when you saw each other almost every day. When you went to school together, studied together, did internships together, worked together, travelled together…. And shared the same problems and worries for a while. When you knew the same people and went to the same parties….
At the end of school at the latest, almost everyone has this experience: friends with whom you used to hang out all the time suddenly you hardly see them any more. Because whether it’s training, studying, a year abroad or straight into professional life – everyone now pursues their own path, and many move elsewhere sooner or later.
And the same applies just as much to any further transition from one life situation to another: End of training/studies, change of employer, moving house, entering another phase of life, marriage, family….
On top of that: even with friends who still live in the same city, the common everyday context often falls away. People simply no longer share the same experiences, no longer move in the same environment. And even many a supposedly inseparable friendship then runs its course in this way over the years.
However, all this does not have to lead to a friendship breaking up or running out of steam! They do exist: best friends who have known each other since kindergarten and talk on the phone, Skype or at least chat intensively every day, even if they are on the other side of the world. I myself know such examples from my circle of friends. But this is rare, a beautiful and special exceptional case.Whoever has such a friendship should be aware of how special this friendship is!
It is not a must for a good friendship to be in constant contact. Just recently, I met up with some of my school friends again, whom I now only see two or three times a year. We also rarely talk on the phone otherwise. Nevertheless, the degree of our friendship has not diminished one bit. When we see each other, it’s as if it was last just yesterday. We get along just as well as before, even though we all live somewhere else now and have other jobs.
But at least we see each other from time to time. We talk on the phone from time to time. Because then there’s also the group of invisible friends. These are the ones I actually think about just as often. Because they are important to me, because they were very close friends in an important phase of my life, because I would like to stay in touch with them, at least to see or talk to them from time to time. These friends come to mind almost regularly and I usually take the initiative: I write to them, call them, ask when we will meet again after ages…? Or at least talk on the phone?
It was the same with the friend I mentioned at the beginning. I wrote her several times that it would be nice to see each other again. She always wrote back, at the latest a day or two later. The answer was always similar. Something like: ”Super gladly!!! We should definitely do it soon. It’s just quite stressful for me at the moment. But how about Thursday the week after next?”
I always have a lot of understanding for not being able to do it right away, because I know work and leisure stress well enough. Who doesn’t? Sometimes I couldn’t make it myself on the date she suggested, then we found another one when we were both likely to be free. I would then put the date of the meeting in my diary. I assume she did the same.
When the time came, however, she always cancelled shortly beforehand: it had unexpectedly become very stressful at work, something had come up, please don’t be angry!
No, I’m not. Of course I’m not angry, I just think it’s a shame. But the meeting is only postponed, not cancelled, she writes. She’ll get in touch with me very soon, she writes. We’ll make up for it very soon, very soon, she writes. As soon as possible. Asap.
Then I don’t hear from her again for weeks and don’t even think about it for a while. At some point, I happen to remember something from the past, from exactly this phase of our lives when we had so much to do with each other, and I think: I should write to her and ask when we’re finally going to meet. And so the loop starts again…
She is not the only one of my Invisible Friends, as I now call them. They are the friends I really like to see again sometime. Or who I would at least like to talk to on the phone again sometime. But I don’t see them. With whom I don’t speak on the phone. And who always write that they would get back to me and then never do.
The crazy thing is: I even believe that they mean it when they write: ”I’ll get in touch with you as soon as possible!” I really believe that they honestly intend to do so. The moment they write it, they mean it. But they forget it.
Out of sight, out of mind. I am no longer part of their everyday life and if I don’t force myself into their lives in the form of a Facebook or Whatsapp message or sometimes a ringing phone, then I don’t exist in it. That may sound harsh now, but that’s how it is. But fortunately I don’t feel it quite that harsh. Because I still see them as friends, invisible friends. Some people had invisible friends in childhood, but my invisible friends are real! That reminds me, I should get in touch with them again. I’m going to send a message to each of them: ”Hey you, I haven’t seen you for ages, when will we meet again?”
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