It’s Not Just You, Adult Friendships Are Difficult

Posted March 31, 2023 by Prairie Wife - 2 comments

The hard truth about adult friendships is that they are difficult!

Complicated, tricky, and tough to maintain.

But they are also incredibly rewarding, fulfilling, and at times…life-saving.

Over the last month, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about WHY maintaining adult friendships is difficult, and I thought I would share a few of my thoughts with you in this post.

One challenge of adult friendships is finding people who TRULY support you and your growth.

While many people find friends that grow and change along with them, a major challenge of adult friendships is learning to let some of your friendships go.

I have some friendships that have lasted decades, while other friendships that were incredibly important to me for years have shifted and changed. I wouldn’t say that they ended…we still care about each other, but we don’t have the same intimacy we had in the past.

We had a change in priorities and focus, making it hard to be friends.

Often this happens gradually, and no one person can be blamed for the change… nor should they be.

I’ve learned that some people show up in your life exactly when you need them, and then room is made for someone else to come in. As I reflected on the adult friendships I’ve had in the past, there are times when I have been the one that has shifted and changed. And I’ve had to own that there were exits that I made that were less than graceful.

I’ve also had friendships loop back around years after I thought they were over, and that’s a pretty fabulous and unexpected joy!

Some friendships turn out to be toxic.

Some examples of this are friends that encourage you to make poor choices, friends that use you, or friends that actively work against your success because they feel it limits their own.

While instigating a “friendship breakup” can be painful, I find that, in the end, it offers me a sense of freedom and relief that allows me to know I made the right choice.

How do you know when a friendship has become toxic?

If you dread spending time together, second-guess every comment or text, or generally leave their presence feeling worse than you did at first…it’s time to think about creating some distance.

In your 20s, I think maintaining adult friendships comes down to finding people who like to do the same things.

You find your “gang” and tend to do the same things repeatedly. Heading out to the bar or club, sitting at home in your comfy clothes eating food, attending sporting events, even running errands together…other than navigating a work schedule, it’s fairly easy to find time to connect.

Even with the addition of serious relationships in your 20s, there doesn’t seem to be the time crunch and lack of connection that sneaks up on you in your 30s.

Adult friendships seem the hardest to maintain in your 30s and 40s.

I think the main reason for this is a lack of time.

Most people are dedicated to building their careers in these decades; we all know this can take incredible amounts of time and energy.

If you add marriage and/or kids to this mix, finding even a few hours to connect with friends can be exhausting.

Even if you choose to leave your career to care for your family full-time, the emotional toil of being a full-time caregiver can leave you too depleted to reach out to others.

The spontaneity of being able to text or call friends to get together with only an hour’s notice is gone.

Maintaining relationships in your 30s and 40s takes thought and planning.

Rather than frequently connecting in person, I find that now my friendships involve quick moments of touching base just to let friends know I’m thinking of them. I often do this with a quick text whenever someone crosses my mind. And yes, sending funny videos to a friend you know they’ll love absolutely counts! When you see a social media post on their feed that causes concern or leaves you wanting to know more…text them or call instead of just scrolling by or leaving an emoji in the comments.

By this age you’ve probably had several good friends move away. While going on a trip together is a great way to reconnect, it’s not feasible for everyone. So, instead, schedule a time to video chat and catch up!

Remember, just because you have to plan your time together weeks ahead doesn’t make it any less valuable.

Meeting spontaneously for a quick play date, lunch, or cocktail is a thing of the past. So let go of the idea that true friends don’t need to plan their time together. Instead, realize that friends make time for each other, even if that means planning a daytime movie date a month ahead! It’s amazing how these times together become something you look forward to and how just a few hours of chatting can keep you connected.

Don’t get lulled into thinking that time together at sporting events or school/work functions is enough to maintain a friendship. While the hours spent next to each other on a bench is the perfect time to catch up, it’s important to make an effort to have time together where you’re focused only on each other.

It’s okay to share with those around you that you’re going through a busy/hard season and to ask them to give you grace…but it’s also not fair to insist that they do all the work.

I’ve had moments in my life where I’ve HAD to pull in and focus solely on myself and my immediate family. I can look back at some of these times and see how lack of communication about what I was going through caused hurt to those I love…and I’ve been on the other side and felt abandoned and frustrated.

In my experience, while you can expect a certain level of compassion from people who care about you, a “Thanks for being here during this hard time. I know I haven’t been able to be the friend I want to be.” message can go a long way towards maintaining friendships.

Friendship in your 50s returns to the same challenges as your 20s, finding people with your interests.

While I’m only in my 40s, I have friends and family in the 50-plus category, and they’ve all agreed. While you tend to have a bit more time, connecting out and about in the real world is still hard.

If you love to hike, why not set up a few days a month to meet with friends and chat while exercising? Because you already have the time set aside, plan to have coffee or walk in the mall if the weather isn’t behaving.

Joining local groups that meet regularly and are focused on something that interests you is a wonderful way to maintain friendships and allow you to make new ones! Book Clubs at your local library, a rec sports league, gardening groups, weightlifting classes, or a monthly craft-based activity can help you create new connections that may lead to incredible adult friendships.

Yes, adult friendships are hard!

And friendships in adulthood may not look the way you thought…after all, “Sex and the City” is a fictional TV show, not real life.

But with thought, effort, planning, and open communication, you CAN find a way to create meaningful adult friendships that bring out the best in you!

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Have you found that adult friendships are hard?

Do you have anything you have done that helps make it easier to maintain adult friendships in your life?

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Photo Credit: Skyla Lee Photography

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2 thoughts on "It’s Not Just You, Adult Friendships Are Difficult"

  1. Donna says:

    I think friendships are really important. I’m having a hard time finding new friend were i live. I still have my older friendships. but need new one and it seems everyone is to busy even being in my late 50’s. I kind of have friend but she in her 50’s and still works a lot and never answers calls or calls you back. it really frustrates me some days. So yes friendships are very hard!

    1. Prairie Wife says:

      It really can be hard! You’re not alone in the struggle, perhaps think about making friends that are older or younger?

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