How to Make Your Grownup Friendships Better

We take for granted how easy it is to make friends when you’re a kid. Think about where your childhood best friends came from: the bus stop. Social studies class. When you were a little older maybe the person lived in your dorm.

Making friends as an adult is tough, and we don’t talk about that fact enough. It’s hard to find people you actually relate to on a deep level. Once you do, maintaining those connections while balancing a job and a relationship and all the other stuff adult life requires isn’t easy. It was a different ballgame than when your responsibilities included shoveling Easy Mac into your face as you watched TRL and maybe studying for the SATs and learning your lines for the school play.

Here’s the other thing they don’t tell you about making friends as a grownup: when you’re, say, 15 you don’t analyze your friendships all that much. You’ve got hours and hours of free time, and you don’t really care if the people you’re spending it with understand you on a deeper level. You’re just glad to have someone to go to the mall with so you don’t look like a loser. When you’re a grownup, that changes. Having people to pass the time with is cool, but you also want to be selective. If you’re trying to make your adult friendships stronger, here are some things to consider:

  • You don’t have to appear the same from the outside: When you’re a kid, you tend to make your friends based on shared hobbies. While this can still apply in your twenties and thirties (you become friends with the girl you see at yoga every Tuesday) don’t limit yourself to only making friends with people who seem to be just like you. One of my closest friends here is a super runner. I have a tank top that says I HATE RUNNING. We get along great. Is your view on life the same? Are your values the same? Do you have a similar sense of humor? That’s more important than whether you both think running is actually a form of torture instead of a good source of stress relief.
  • Age ain’t nothin’ but a number: Aaliyah said it, and it’s so true.  Most of my closest friends here in Charlotte are either a few years younger or a few years older, and it’s rare that I even stop and think about it. In high school, you’d never be caught dead hanging out with a freshman when you were a senior. When you’re a grownup, that stuff matters less and less. Instead, focus on who you connect with the best.
  • Friendships ebb and flow and that’s okay: One thing I’ve realized as an adult is that friendships come and go a lot more quickly than they do when you’re a kid. When you’re in high school, it’s likely that your freshman year best friend was still your senior year best friend. Now I think back to the people I was closest with when I moved here three years ago, and (with a few exceptions) we’ve sort of drifted apart. It’s not because anything happened, but people’s lives start going in different directions quickly when you’re in your twenties. Priorities and schedules and life events change and you fall out of sync. If you find this happening, don’t question what’s wrong with you or your friend. This ebb and flow is normal. Of course you can work on preserving the friendship, but also know it’s a normal thing when you’re an adult. It’s okay to choose to value the friendship and the memories, but not try to struggle to maintain a relationship that’s no longer working.
  • You’ll change and that’s normal: My view on the world has shifted drastically since I’ve moved to Charlotte and entered into my late twenties, and I’m sure my friends would say the same about themselves. You become a different person when you graduate, move, go through a breakup, live by yourself, and do all of the things we’ve all been doing for the past few years. You shouldn’t expect to stay the same. That would be pretty weird and sad.

The last thing I’ve realized is that quality means so much more than quantity when you’re an adult. In high school you needed to roll 12 deep to every school event so you looked cool. Now that I’m 28, I’d rather have 3 friends I really trust and relate to, and who can be counted on to want to get a little wine-drunk at our monthly Book Club.

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  1. Third bullet is something I’ve been grappling with. When I moved away, my friends would all text me “when you come back, you have to see me!” I made valiant efforts and saw many of them! But I always thought it peculiar that, so many people that used to be friends and lived in the same area (that I’d left) didn’t see much of each other. I SWORE I’d never be THAT guy.

    Now that I’ve moved back to the DC area, I’ve made it a point to have a list of all my friends that I couldn’t see regularly (because of distance), and I try to schedule time with all of them–even if it means MONTHS out. It’s embarrassing, but I ask them, “hey, how many of your other ‘friends’ from college do you actually see every other month?” They quiet down quickly, and acknowledge that I’m the one doing all the planning work anyway.

    I think I need to succumb to the fact that, yeah, friends come and go. Don’t be ashamed that the person you used to LOVE hanging out with almost DAILY is a distant memory–that’s allowed!

    Thanks for sharing this post!

    • ljmlevine says:

      It’s so true, Bryce. I think it’s easy to get caught up in nostalgia and not analyze the relationship for what it really is currently. Just because it’s not a close friendship now, doesn’t mean it was never valuable. It can still hold sentimental value and you can still appreciate the friendship in its new form!

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