There was a time when I knew every single detail of my friends’ lives: who they liked, who they thought they loved, what their home life was like. I knew every detail about them and they knew every detail about me. The consistency of these relationships is what made them work – it’s what kept them going.
Becoming adults robbed us of this consistency. Now we have jobs that take up the majority of our days allowing only for a few texts here and there, with a meme or two sprinkled in between. We have schedules that have gaps but they never line up long enough to go for a coffee or a quick chat.
We have kids that have busier social lives than us, with birthday parties or extracurricular activities that somehow have to fit into two days of the weekend. Any spare time is spent catching up on cleaning, preparing for the week ahead or just trying to switch off because we are absolutely burnt out. Too exhausted to even think about leaving our homes.
Friendships have no formal structure, so it’s easy to go weeks without talking, but you wouldn’t go weeks without talking to your partner, would you? Most friendships formed in adulthood are either based on work relationships or finding a shared interest such as a mommy-and-me class you forced yourself to go to.
I started to ask the people around me how they felt about friendships. Is it just me who feels this lack of motivation to build and maintain them now that I’m older?
I spoke with Nadeen, who is single and in her 30s, about the friends she currently has in her life. As an avid traveler, she finds it easier to make friends while traveling, in sharing the joy of exploring new places. She finds value in the freedom traveling gives you to be completely yourself and engage with people outside of your usual surroundings.
“I think in the country you live in people aren’t as open to meeting new energies because they are comfortable with their own circle,” she says. This got me thinking if it was simply that I know everyone in my current environment and we’re already friends on some level and I’ve just become comfortable with where we are, knowing they’re always right there if i were to reach out? Am I just settling in my comfort zone?
I do miss belonging to a bigger group, but staying connected to people is difficult when you’re barely connected to yourself. For some people, along with age comes the wonderful phenomenon of becoming parents. For myself and other parents I’ve spoken to, the friend groups we had pre-babies have evolved into now-and-then friends or dissolved into “happy birthdays” on social media. Whether it’s because every night is now a school night or the guilt we feel doing things that aren’t child-friendly, we have to take a step back even when we don’t really want to.
I feel this sentiment especially strongly when it comes to making plans with my friends and family who are either single, child-free or both. Every now and then they want to spend an afternoon at the beach just relaxing, without a hyperactive child running around wanting to play, or go out to a club, both of these meaning I can’t always take my daughter with me. Which on occasion is great, to be childfree for a few hours and enjoy adult conversations but sometimes it’s not ideal as there are only two days in a weekend.
This leaves me in a predicament of having to choose between a fun time with my friends or waiting for a day when my child can be around. This extends wider to girl’s nights or sometimes just going out to watch soccer in a bar rather than a child-friendly restaurant. It often leaves me having to choose but this is part of the course when we are all in different stages of our lives leading to a further divide of how we choose to spend our time.
I spoke with Alexia, a fairly new mom who is going through this shift. She says that although she has managed to keep the same friends, their dynamic has shifted especially with those without children. When asked what her ideal night with friends is now she said, “An evening on the sofa, a glass of wine and a crappy movie that you don’t really watch and chat crap through instead.” Frankly, nothing sounds better.
There is an element of communicating needs to friends here, where making your closest and dearest understand that a night at the club is not how you want to connect because your routine and schedule does not permit it, but you are down for a 7 pm movie and maybe dinner after.
In the socially constructed hierarchy of relationships, friendship often fall at the bottom – romantic relationships, family and children often come first. Over time I have begun to feel less guilt surrounding leaving friendships behind if we no longer fit on the same spectrum of how we choose to spend our time. It’s not personal, just simply riding on different wavelengths and who’s to say one day we won’t get back together?
An element of putting ourselves first should also include maintaining the relationships that matter to us. We need to be intentional in our communication. We can’t rely on sending a few memes a week. We have to listen, show compassion, and engage, and all the things we expect to get back from our friends, not just in a time of crisis but consistently to nurture our friendships. Even though these friendships may look very different than they did 10 years ago, we have to make the time.
We have to use the last bits of energy we have to re-energize because these relationships won’t build themselves, we have to put in the work. We don’t have to relive the days of staying out until 5 am, some of us are not built for that anymore but we can catch a movie at 7 pm. Even as adults in romantic relationships and busy day jobs, we need to make time to cultivate our support system, a place separate from our day-to-day, a place to just relax, vent or laugh.
Our circles might be smaller now but that doesn’t mean they have to be any less fulfilling. So, let’s go out, have all the coffees, go to all the brunches, and take the kids to the beach. Let’s do it before we’re reminiscing about the people we used to know.
**This is not an advice column, this is simply my experiences in my life from my point of view.