Lifestyle

If Your Friend Doesn’t Respect Your COVID Boundaries, It’s Time To Reevaluate The Friendship

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I have a small core group of friends who make my life livable. They’ve seen me fall apart, celebrated my successes and loved my kids as their own. Before the pandemic, I had so many plans for this year with this little cluster of women who keep me going.

And then COVID rushed in with a vengeance in March, and my family went into lockdown. Almost six months on, and we are still being highly cautious whenever we can. My husband works, and our child with special needs attends preschool so he can receive his necessary services. Because of those two unavoidable risks, we don’t take any avoidable ones.

No parties. No crowded indoor spaces. Very limited social interaction.

We are still home most of the time, doing what we can to avoid the virus, and trying to set the example we want our children to see. We have talked about it, and they know that when all of the world’s scientists ask you to stay home to protect the most vulnerable members of the population, you do it. For as long as it takes. Even if it means making sacrifices. In our home, we make it clear that’s what it means to be a good citizen and a good neighbor.

We want our kids to know that when it comes to a deadly novel virus, safe is better than sorry. They know this is not forever. We are careful to make sure they aren’t terrified and don’t feel like we are in hiding. We are just being cautious and responsible.

In the beginning, we had a lot of support. Everyone was in this together.

But we are alone now.

Every last one of my close friends has returned to a much more typical life than I have.

They’re all making choices that work for their families. One of my girlfriends owns multiple businesses and has had to be front and center for the entire pandemic. A couple others work in real estate, including one single mom who can’t feed her kids if she doesn’t work.

Their lives make staying home less feasible, and their level of comfort in public places is different than mine. It’s hard for me to be the odd man out, but I will say this: My friends are not the ones making it hard for me.

Not one single time has any one of them disrespected my COVID boundaries.

They make sure I know when they miss me. They invite me to things even if they know I won’t go. My very best friend of 26 years has lightly teased me a few times, but she knows me like the back of her hand. She never, ever takes it too far. We both laugh.

They make sure I know they still care about me. I’m not comfortable participating in girl’s nights or hanging out, even in a small group, and they respect my right to make that choice.

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One afternoon when I was really struggling with the feeling of being stuck at home and lonely, I vented in our group chat. One of my closest girlfriends texted me privately to check in. Without being judgmental or making assumptions, she asked me if it might be possible that being home so much for so long has created a fear of COVID that was becoming unmanageable for me. I could tell she was genuinely concerned for my well-being. I have a history of anxiety, and she wanted to make sure I was mentally well.

Her question did not offend me. She was concerned, and asking was reasonable. I explained that when I go out, I don’t feel a sense of danger; I feel a strong feeling of irresponsibility. To me, staying in feels like the morally correct thing for my family to do right now. I want to be true to that.

That was all she needed to know.

My friends know that I am making the choices that feel safest for the family in my care, and they respect my desire to do that. They will wear masks when I ask. They understand that I am not hugging right now. My friends are happy to just stand in the driveway and chat if that is all I feel comfortable doing.

This is what real friendship looks like during a pandemic.

It looks like respecting one another even if you don’t see eye to eye, and working to stay connected even through physical distance.

It’s a pretty good snapshot of what friendship should always look like, to be honest.

As adults, we need more from friends than a few laughs and a good time. Sure, the ideal friend is a person you can grab a latte or a margarita with and know you’re going to leave with sore stomach muscles from laughing. But our grown-up friends are also supposed to be “our people.” The family we choose. Great friends can fill in where your relatives fall short. Sometimes, they’re there with the glue to repair your broken pieces. They love your kids. They love you.

Our friends should love us and respect our choices, and that includes respecting the boundaries we set for ourselves and our families, during COVID and beyond.

If your friends won’t respect your pandemic boundaries, it’s time to start evaluating the whole friendship. People who love you should want you to feel comfortable and supported.

People who refuse to acknowledge your limits are not your friends, and you deserve better.