Low-Maintenance Friendships Are More Necessary Than You Think

Photographed by Ashley Armitage.
My new year’s resolution a few years back was to become a better friend. I get a bit embarrassed admitting that because being a good friend seems like something that should be intrinsic to someone, especially women. 
Even though I had and have a close-knit circle of friends around me, people who I knew I could depend on and vice versa, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. According to romcoms, we weren’t making enough brash decisions and pulling all-nighters. According to TikTok, we weren’t documenting our friendship enough.
But after encountering the term ‘low-maintenance friendships’, I figured that my way of engaging and maintaining friendships might just be low touch. A fulfilling friendship might look like four-hour phone calls and the non-stop rallying of blue bubble messages, but for me, that sounds exhausting.
Low-maintenance friendships exist with the mutual understanding that a relationship can thrive with minimal contact. Is there a fine line between this and ghosting? Perhaps — just because your friendship is low maintenance, doesn’t mean that it’s a healthy one.

Signs you’re in a positive low-maintenance friendship

You pick up where you left off

Even if six months or a couple of years have passed, time doesn't affect the closeness of your bond. There's none of that awkwardness that clouds acquaintance catch-ups, none of that small talk that you have to wade through. If you're in a healthy low-maintenance friendship, there will be ease when you finally do catch up.

You understand each other’s boundaries and schedules 

Low-maintenance friendships aren't always a choice, sometimes out of circumstance, your relationships evolve because of conflicting schedules and the busyness of life. When there is mutual understanding and respect of each other's changing lifestyles, a low-maintenance friendship can not only be healthy, but alleviate pressure that arises from the expectations that come from these relationships.
"Me and my friends, we might talk every other month... when we don't talk... we know what the fuck is up, we [all] get busy. You know people have lives outside of a friend's," says TikTokker @honeychante.

Signs you’re in a negative low-maintenance friendship

Your friendship expectations aren’t met

Don't confuse a low-touch friendship for a 'friend' who negates your needs — there's a big difference here. Low-maintenance friendships aren't about one-sided effort and energy, instead, they depend on each member of the party contributing fairly.
"A lot of people have been disappointed by the way people show up for them. At one point in life, you probably did expect something out of friendships [and] you were disappointed," says TikTokker @jaz.watt. "And now you've learned to just take whatever, or not expect much, [from] people."
"Yes, part of being in relationships is controlling your expectations. But there also are bare minimum things that people should do that indicate that they want to be friends with you. And if those things aren't in place, you absolutely need to question the relationship."

You aren’t there for each other in times of need 

Despite the fact that these low-effort friendships allow for slack communication and time apart, when push comes to shove, your low-maintenance friend should be someone you can rely on in times of need. Sure, they usually take a week to reply to a message, but as soon as crisis hits, you know they'll be there in a heartbeat.
"I think we do ourselves a disservice when we ignore our needs in relationships," says @jaz.watt. "It's okay to have standards and want people to treat you a certain way. It doesn't make you high maintenance."

More from Relationships

R29 Original Series