Adulthood is complex in many ways, and one thing that becomes more apparent as we navigate our 20s and 30s is that it can become difficult to maintain friendships with people who may be in different stages of life. Maybe you don’t see your college friend group as often as you did after you graduated, or your best friend is getting married and you’re still living the single life.
As you move through adulthood and new responsibilities arise, it can feel like you have less in common with your peers and you may start to outgrow friendships. However, this doesn’t mean the end of these friendships. If you’re feeling the weight of your friendships changing, here are a few ways to maintain—and even continue to build—connections.
Remember what connected you in the first place
You probably became best friends with the people closest to you when you were in similar phases of life. Perhaps you had the same favorite band and met at a concert, or you were in the same college classes and struggled over homework assignments together. Whatever brought you together in the first place led to a deeper bond, such as a shared outlook on life or similar passions.
Try to remind yourself of what brought you together in the first place. It can be rewarding to go back down memory lane and laugh about your favorite memories and stories together. Reminiscing on inside jokes and past experiences can help you feel closer again especially when you’re at different stages of your lives. Even though the seasons of life may change, our cores are still the same which can be a huge comfort.
Make time for new memories
Although reminiscing about the past has its benefits, it’s hard to maintain a relationship without making new memories. Give your friend you haven’t spoken to in a while a call to see how they’re doing, and make plans to get together to catch up. Try a new hobby or activity together that you’ve never done before to ensure you get that quality time while also having fun.
While quality time is important for maintaining relationships, having meaningful conversations is essential in bringing you closer together. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and honest about the struggles in your life, while also celebrating your successes and goals for the future. This type of authenticity will not only allow you to understand each other on a deeper level, but will also bridge the gap between the different life stages you are going through.
Don’t take things personally
When you start to notice changes in a friendship, it can be difficult to avoid feeling that you may have done something wrong or that you could have done more to mend the distance in the relationship. Remind yourself that you and your friends have different schedules and different priorities (and change is okay!) It doesn’t mean you love each other any less. It’s likely that your friend is feeling just as distraught about the distance as you are, even if they don’t communicate that. Do your best not to perceive the text message that went unanswered or any subtle differences as a personal blow.
With each new phase of life comes different stressors, and we’re all guilty of not maintaining that closeness or checking in on our friends as much as we would like. Be gracious towards yourself (and others) when new changes in your life arise.
Avoid social comparisons
As humans, we tend to compare ourselves to others, especially our friends and loved ones. It’s completely normal to feel jealous of our friends when they get a new promotion at work or get engaged to their significant other. When you are in different stages of life, sometimes it can feel as though you’re “behind” or not making as much progress as someone else.
Instead of focusing on how you measure upl, remind yourself that everyone has their fair share of ups and downs. Everyone has their own personal struggles that they deal with even if it seems like they have it all figured out. Be proud of your own progress and don’t compare yourself to your friends. Instead, show them the same love and support in their endeavors as you would want them to show you.
Be open to making new friends
It is inevitable that at least a few friendships in your life will change or drift apart. Instead of dwelling in any sadness you may feel, try to venture out and make new friends! Whether it’s your coworker you’ve been wanting to get to know better or a new gym partner, surround yourself with people who have a similar schedule or routine. If you’re a new parent and you don’t have any mom friends, sign up for a class and surround yourself with others who may be experiencing some of the same parenting situations you are.
Making connections with people whose lives overlap with yours can be exciting and refreshing. But keep in mind that this doesn’t require neglecting your older friendships! The reality of being “best friends forever” isn’t easy – strong communication, a little patience, and some gracious understanding are essential.