I Don’t Have Time or Energy For Friends Right Now
Life, as you may have noticed, is not always easy.
There are stretches when juggling all our responsibilities and relationships are nearly impossible.
Work delivers a demanding busy season or a consuming project. We become sick, injured or depressed. We experience some kind of big life change–a move, marriage problems, a death. And for a while, our social calendar is sidelined. And our friends are put on hold…temporarily, we hope.
5 Ideas To Keep In Mind On How To Decline Invitations
1. Dismiss your urge to decline and hang out anyways.
Sometimes we feel we have to get things fully figured out, and move beyond whatever consuming task or emotional burden is weighing on us before we can plug-in socially and “be normal” again. But consider that being around friends–even if it is in much smaller doses–may be one of the things that provides you refreshment and relief, a needed break in your crushing load of responsibilities. Or in times of emotional stress or depression, time with friends–especially long term ones–may be one of the things that best helps you best recover your real self. Familiar people, shared stories and predictable interactions, even if they’re casual and social, can breathe stability on an otherwise up-ended life.
2. If you have to decline occasional gatherings or invites, try to keep traditions.
You may be tempted to opt out of the “usual” ways you interact (going for coffee, taking morning walks, having a bi-weekly lunch, renting or catching an occasional movie etc.) since they seem like superficial, expendable social events that don’t carry much meaning. But, if those ordinary life events are the channel your friendship has used for communication, they carry more meaning than the simple acts of having coffee or going to a movie do by themselves. When possible, then, it may make sense to skip the big party or an otherwise unique outing and stay committed to the ordinary elements that helped forge your friendship–even if you have to reduce the number of them. Because these casual interactions have built your friendship, it will be more noticeable if you suddenly opt out of them, than if you decline an occasional party or other unique event.
3. Don’t just decline and decline and decline. Explain.
If you can’t keep traditions, acknowledge it. Sometimes you just can’t physically, emotionally or practically make much investment in friendship. When this is the case, make your circumstances clear, express that you value the relationship and apologize, promising to re-instate connection as soon as possible. If you leave this unsaid, friends are forced to try to figure out what has created distance between you and their imagination may misread the distance as dismissal or lack of interest in the friendship.
4. When you have to decline, offer an alternative way to connect.
If that insurmountable stage has come, and you simply can’t keep up with normal interactions, then offer your friends some alternative. If you can’t have coffee every week, try once a month. If you can’t afford to go out, invite them over for board games or a movie and popcorn. If you can’t make their invitations, Skype, make a phone call, write an email, send a letter, text every couple days. Find some regular way to touch base and express your continued interest in having friends in your life during a stage where you’re unable to connect as usual.
5. Don’t allow yourself to claim you don’t have time for friends.
That’s way too general of a statement. We don’t have time–like any time? ever?–for friends. What we really mean is not that it is impossible to make time, but that we feel overwhelmed because of some other stress or responsibility on our plate. So say that. Express your anxiety or workload, explain that you can’t keep up the normal social rhythms because of it but be willing to pick a time–even one time–where you choose or take the initiative to get friends together in spite of it.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the concept of “continuing to be social” and “maintaining friendships” during difficult stretches of life. Both of those are too general and all-encompassing. They seem like they require constant energy we don’t have. But most of us can suck it up and find a way if our goal is more manageable: just hang out one time. Don’t try to think beyond that one time. Just hang out once. And then if it goes okay, if the world is still spinning, the sun is still shining and we still have an ounce of sanity left, maybe we’ll be inspired to try to pick one more time to hang out. Eventually, one by one, you may just coax yourself back into relational rhythms you need.
Photo source: hereiscribble.blogspot.com
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