Why Is Having Friends As an Adult So Hard?

How friendships evolve over time.

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.

Friendships go through seasons. And just because things change doesn’t mean they have to be bad.

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 AskRELEVANT@relevantmagazine.com. All identifying information will be kept anonymous.

Top Comments

John M. Kirton II

21

John M. Kirton II commented…

The last 11 years have been challenging for me in my friendships. I am a 51 year old bachelor who enjoyed the friendships that I developed during my years at Bible College. I have learned over the years that true genuine friendship requires 100% mutual initiative which is almost impossible with those who have married and begun families. Despite what many churches promise with their “community ministries”, they simply cannot deliver the level of friendship they suggest is required for true community. I have concluded that maintaining the few close friends I have developed over the years through occasional dinners together is the only venue possible in this season of my life.

Bug Me Not

2

Bug Me Not commented…

Agree with the above poster. If you are attempting to befriend a married person you generally have to befriend the couple or at minimum the other party has to sign off on the relationship.

I also think it's not healthy how friendships take such a back seat in people's lives when they couple. I mainly say this because of how prevalent divorce is. Suddenly the bottom drops out and you need friends but don't have any because the few people you had knew you as a fraction of a couple.

5 Comments

John M. Kirton II

21

John M. Kirton II commented…

The last 11 years have been challenging for me in my friendships. I am a 51 year old bachelor who enjoyed the friendships that I developed during my years at Bible College. I have learned over the years that true genuine friendship requires 100% mutual initiative which is almost impossible with those who have married and begun families. Despite what many churches promise with their “community ministries”, they simply cannot deliver the level of friendship they suggest is required for true community. I have concluded that maintaining the few close friends I have developed over the years through occasional dinners together is the only venue possible in this season of my life.

Bug Me Not

2

Bug Me Not commented…

Agree with the above poster. If you are attempting to befriend a married person you generally have to befriend the couple or at minimum the other party has to sign off on the relationship.

I also think it's not healthy how friendships take such a back seat in people's lives when they couple. I mainly say this because of how prevalent divorce is. Suddenly the bottom drops out and you need friends but don't have any because the few people you had knew you as a fraction of a couple.

Amy

2

Amy commented…

Making friends was so easy when we were kids. Or at least that’s how my nostalgia remembers it (successful counseling sessions blocking my freshman and sophomore years of high school).
You tackled a kid at recess. Partnered with someone for Bio Lab. Played a pick up basketball game at the park. Got cast in a play. Moved into a dorm.Then bam, you had a friend.Lots of them.
Like the kid who’s dad worked for Nintendo — friends just waiting at your doorstep.
And then college happened — the height of friend-mania.And then college ended.
You sang “…friends are friends forever…” arm to arm with your best friend for life you swore you’d never forget right there beside you her name coming to you shortly…All those friends-are-friends-forever friends, gone – the apparent expiration date on “forever” lasting about two and half years.So after a couple back-and- forths on voicemail, then a couple texts, then a couple Facebook messages — next thing you know your friendship has been reduced to throwing out the once-a-year “Happy B-Day!!!!” Facebook wall post, giving it four “!!!!” to show just how really excited you are about your “friend.” (Without of course spending the time to actually write out the entire word “birthday“, let alone give them a call).And the only thing harder than finding new friends post-college? Finding new couple friends post-college – now four people to toss into the Compatibility-Blender.
Elison, writer from do my essay for cheap

Chris Ong

16

Chris Ong commented…

Man, this is as depressing as it is true but somewhat encouraging too. I can appreciate this article so much for the encouragement and counsel it gives, and it's a genuine, well, heart-warmer. But at the same time it's true. I'm one who had to finally open up to my friends, my primary/high-school friends after years of telling not telling them that I was struggling... struggling to find closure after my parents' divorce, struggling to find forgiveness, peace... struggling with anger... struggling with my first ever break-up, whom many barely even knew anything about... and now I can definitely say that we are all in a much better place, that's for sure, but the sad reality of moving on in life - I've held three jobs in this year alone - I've had to watch my friends move on, I've myself had to move on, and I've been fortunate to have the occasional bump-in to a friend here-and-there, or to have an opportunity to visit some, but the reality is, you do have to move on, and sometimes it's hard to not catch up with that friend you've always wanted to see or you used to be best-friends with...but that's life I guess! At least nobody is alone in experiencing it.

Nicholas Vafiades

1

Nicholas Vafiades commented…

For men to make friends with other men is practically impossible! Married men work full-time and then have obligations with their families. Besides, it is not on most men's radar, so those of us with no friends are virtually doomed to go through life friendless.

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