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Why Is Having Friends As an Adult So Hard?

Why Is Having Friends As an Adult So Hard?

I just accepted a great job several hours away from where I currently live. I have a great group of friends here, and I’m really sad to leave them. I want to keep these friendships, but I don’t want to get stuck in the past too much while I’m adjusting to my new life. How do I navigate that?

– Fickle Friend

Dear Fickle,

Yours is a question we all will face at some point in our lives: What the heck happens to friendships as our lives change?

As we get older, genuine friendships just don’t happen as easily or authentically as they once did. It takes longer to build up a close-knit crew after we leave school, and each relationship looks totally different.

It’s so wonderful to find a group of people who really “get” you. People who you can cry with, laugh with and learn from. People who will stay by your side through tragedy and triumph.

But inevitably, even with all the good times and common ground, things will change. Even if you were staying in the same city, friendships shift due to new responsibilities, jobs, marriage and so on. We can get stuck between feeling guilty for not spending as much time with pals and anxiety while adjusting to new places, a new job and new relationships. Changes and awkwardness might displace once-deep conversations. Chats about life turn into apologies for not catching up more often.

You don’t need to feel guilty if you don’t stay super close with all your friends. It’s tough, but normal. You’re not alone in navigating changes to friendships.

Friendships go through seasons. And just because things change doesn’t mean they have to be bad. It’s just reality. A solid friendship at 18 might look like late-night study groups and spending every waking hour together; at 30, married and maybe with kids, it might mean the occasional dinner, text or almost quarterly run-ins where you pick up where you left off (hopefully).

But that doesn’t mean you should just give up on old friendships. You can’t underestimate the power of genuine friendship. There’s immense value in friendships, both old and new. We should relish the times we do get to spend with friends at weddings, showers, small groups and the occasional weekend hangout.

But you’re right in not wanting to cling so tightly to your old friends that you can’t make space for new ones. You’ll need friends living in the day to day with you. Friendships are vital. We need other people, their perspectives, their encouragement. Biblically, it’s also pretty clear that making yourself vulnerable and available to others is huge. Here are just a couple of ways the Bible talks about friends:

Friends make you better.

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

Friends help you in times of need.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”

The reality of change can be difficult to come to terms with, so try to give yourself and your friends grace if things don’t turn out the way you expect. But as you’re getting ready to make a switch, here are a few tips for making sure you and your friends are on the same page with your expectations of how your friendship might change moving forward:

Face Reality

Chances are, you’ll see and talk to your friends less often after you move. You’ll also make new friends. So you can’t expect things to just be business as usual. The nature of your friendships will change, and that’s OK.

Recognize it, consider how you can/should adjust and roll with it. You may have to make some mistakes or have some tough conversations, but that’s reality. It’s better to anticipate this stuff than be blindsided.

Talk It Out

Speaking of tough conversations, if you find yourself experiencing those awkward feels around one of your old friends, or maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed with guilt because of your “poor performance” as a friend, talk it out with whomever you need to.

I know it’s hard. I don’t always go through with it either. But try. Try to tell friends you’re struggling. Tell your pals you value them and how things are changing for you. Chances are, they’re probably experiencing some of the same things. It’s hard to have conflict beyond a vague text on a screen, but it will be worth it.

Don’t Give Up

You know the old saying, “make new friends, but keep the old”? Well, it’s a saying worth following. Even when it’s hard, take advantage of chances to spend time with those friends you hold dear.

So, Fickle, for the few people you seriously consider your “BFFs,” keep trying. Keep getting together when you can, even if not as often as you’d like.

But also take opportunities to meet new people. Go to that small group where you don’t know anyone. Appreciate your new co-workers—you see them more than anyone else, so be their friend, too! Don’t give up, for their sakes and yours.

Have a question? Good! Send an email to [email protected]. All identifying information will be kept anonymous.

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