Why Maintaining Friendships in Your 30's Is So Hard
During your twenties a good chunk of your time is spent hanging out with your friends. Mine certainly was. Going to concerts, out to dinner, house parties...the whole shebang. But then one friends gets married...and then another...and then another...And then someone has a child, and another friend has a child. Or they move out of the city to the suburbs where they can afford bigger houses with bigger backyards and cheaper taxes. Or maybe you are that friend that moved to the suburbs with your family. Either way you slice it, suddenly you are seeing your friends less and less. And it's not because of anything major other than life.
Then there are the friendships that you simply outgrow. You look at one another and realize that you simply don't have anything in common anymore. And the friendship dies a slow death. I have experienced both of these "friendship phenomenons" . I've spoken before about how much you change in your 30's and how your outlook on not only life but your various relationships can change as well. As I've gotten older friendship has felt somehow less essential and more essential at the same time. That sounds like a complete contradiction but what I mean is that as you enter your 30's, you begin to move away from frivolous relationships and hone in on the more enduring. Which inevitable means your circle grows smaller. Mine certainly has.
And while that can feel a bit sad at the beginning I have come to realize that the friendships that have endured have been with people who value my time as much as their own. People who care enough to check in on me as much as I check in on them. I am a very private person. And I am finding that the people that I do not feel comfortable sharing personal thoughts and feelings with have fallen by the way side. As we as women navigate the complexities of motherhood, careers, marriages and partnerships, the reciprocity of friendship becomes more valuable.
The irony of this is that, at the same time we find ourselves with less and less time and energy to invest in our friendships. Given the option of hanging out with a friend after work or going to bed early? For me, the early bedtime will almost always win out. Trying to pin down a date that works with everyone's schedule becomes a logistical nightmare (mainly because if your friend has kids her schedule revolves around theirs, naturally). And if your friend has just had a baby? Forget it. I have watched countless friends become mothers. I understand the monumental shift in a woman's life that happens when she becomes a mother and I now just block out the first year of new motherhood as a kind of "no-fly" zone for activities. I don't want my friends to feel guilty about not hanging out. That shouldn't be their focus. I put the ball in their court when it comes to making plans.
But what if the biggest hurdle aren't lifestyle changes but a fundamental shift in how you view your relationship with that friend? What if you no longer see the friendship as healthy or valuable? I wrote a post about toxic friendships earlier in the year and I want to touch on that again. When we have less and less time to spend with our friends in general, we instinctively began to take stock of those relationships. They began to get categorized and prioritized. Is there a friend who you keep cancelling plans with? That you actually dread talking to? That can mean that you need to have a frank and open conversation with that friend about what is bothering you. And let's be real - is you are going out of your way to avoid spending time with someone - something is bothering you. Or maybe that conversation has been had in the past and the friendship has not been repaired. I am a firm believer in friendship divorce. I am not one of those people who thinks that because you were friends with someone in the past that means you should be friends forever. People change and grow apart. And if the friendship is not benefiting both parties then it's time to cut your losses. I have never regretted cutting ties with someone. When I have done it there were valid reasons that with time were reconfirmed for me. It can be hard to let go of the friendships we had when we were in our 20's. We inevitably look at those times through rose-colored glasses and it can be hard to come to terms with the shift not only in ourselves but in others as well.
One of my favorite examples of this is Shoshanna on Girls. I am not a Lena Dunham fan by any stretch, but I hate-watched Girls for most of it's run. And the thing that rang true for me time and again was the idea that these were girls whose friendship should have ended with college. One of the most real moments in the series is the beach house episode in season three, where Shoshanna drunkenly lets all of her grievances out about each one of the girls. It's written off as Shoshanna being drunk and dramatic...until it's circled back to years later in the final season of the show when Shoshanna calls off her friendships with all of the girls at her engagement party. I know a lot of people saw that scene as cold. I saw it as open and honest and real. I saw it as only one of them (the youngest ironically) having the maturity and insight to let go of their toxic friendship and move on. We have to allow ourselves permission to let go.
Making friends in your 30's is hard. But cultivating and maintaining is just hard. Focusing on the relationships that truly matter can make all the difference.