On Adult Friendships & Losing Your Connections

As a child I always imagined making life long friendships during those important parts of my life, cemented by shared experiences that ensured our #GirlSquad would be as strong as ever in twenty, thirty or forty years time. I assumed friends I had at school, university and in my twenties would last forever – that these relationships would continue to be as important in the future as they were in the moment. I’ve always been incredibly sociable and pride myself on being able to make friends easily, having always being surrounded by awesome people that I can laugh and experience life with; I was the girl that could go out alone and know ten or twenty people in every bar, the girl who could get us in without having to queue and the girl who everyone wanted to buy a drink. I was the one that was always up for a weekend away, or an impromptu night out, or even the one everyone called upon when they’d fancy trying out street dance or learning how to make sushi. Living in London I was always busy and had a diary so rammed I’d be thankful of a night to myself, but in recent years that’s all changed.

As I hit 30 my friendship groups started to dwindle. People started to get married, buy houses, have babies and move into more sensible surroundings; diaries became full of family commitments and Christenings, rather than boozy nights dancing to The Spice Girls in a dirty Angel bar. Even though I quickly met my now-fiance, I started to feel more and more distanced from my friendship groups and like I was on a very different page to most of them. I was (understandably) no longer a priority when they had small people to look after, mortgages to pay or dinner parties to throw; weekly catch-ups moved to monthly catch-ups, and monthly catch-ups quickly merged into a couple of times a year catch-ups. Many of my friendships fell by the wayside, both as a result of me realising we no longer had anything in common and no longer being an important part of some of my favourite people’s lives.

I can count on my hand how many friendships I’ve maintained from school, university and previous jobs. I was pretty devastated when I found out about one of my longest friend’s marriage on Facebook (and the fact she was pregnant!) and gutted when my best uni mate didn’t invite me to his wedding, despite continually checking in with both and trying to arrange dates on so many occasions it started to get a bit awkward. Was it me? Was I just not worth the effort?

Over the last year or so I’ve started to realise that despite the picture perfect friendships we see in the movies, real life friendships are a lot more complex and a lot harder to maintain. As we get older our friendship circles become smaller as our time becomes more precious; we have to weigh up the benefit of spending time with X over Y, and attending Y over Z more often than we’d probably like. I’ve come to understand that despite my best efforts, some friendships aren’t meant to last – they’re meant to offer support and comradery during certain periods, but then often the commonality that drew you together disappears as quickly as it materialised. There’s no shame in deciding a friendship has run its course, but it also doesn’t necessarily make it easy to digest. There needn’t be a big falling out or a big drama, just life getting in the way.

I’ve had a really tough year and it’s the ones that acknowledge, try to help and offer a glass of wine when you need it most that I’ve been so appreciative of – but equally those that are anything but present have gone down in my estimations most rapidly. The clarity of time and distance has lead me to actually decide certain friendships are no longer for me, leaving me free to concentrate on those connections that enrich my life (even if infrequently.) As an adult there’s an expectation that you’ve got your shit together and that you have a circle of people around you that can help celebrate every milestone or success, when actually a cup of coffee every once in a while may be all that you need.

Working from home and being alone most of the time leaves me craving human interaction more than most; even though I’m absolutely happy in my own company, it doesn’t stop me counting down the hours until Josh gets home so I have someone to talk to for longer than it takes to order a soy latte. My immediate family live over two hours away and some of the most important gals in my life live the other side of the country (and even my best mate is currently looking into emigrating to the other side of the world,) so it’s not as simple as ringing up someone and asking them if they want to pop out for a glass of wine. My online friendships are incredibly important, but there’s nothing like sitting across from an actual person and communicating without the need for an iPhone screen. I’m strong and independent, but I also crave socialisation. It’s hard when you realise something you took for granted has evolved almost beyond recognition.

The issue of adult friendships has been weighing on my mind so much in recent months, but what surprised me was the reaction I got when I started discussing it on Twitter; so many of you told me you too have been struggling with forging and maintaining friendships, and so many more of you told me you’d love to know how to meet new people in adulthood. It’s not as simple as being put in the same class anymore! Friendship isn’t something we really discuss as I guess we all assume we’ve got it nailed, that everyone has their own little squad they can call upon at the drop of a hat. But that’s not realistic. Sex And The City had us fooled.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that adult friendships are hard and complex. They change, evolve and even disappear altogether – and not necessarily through the fault of either party. If you’re feeling lonely or isolated, I can promise you you’re not alone; most of us are probably feeling the same, worrying about whether to text that long lost friend or bother putting ourselves out there. Unless you have a sociable hobby or can pretty much walk up to anyone in the street and start a conversation, it’s hard to make new connections and even harder to maintain them. So what can we do to make a difference? Text that friend, say hi to that work colleague, invite your old school mate out for dinner; arrange a night out or a small gathering at home, take up a new hobby or even start having conversations with people in Starbucks: I guarantee you it will make you feel better.

And me? I’m off to download Bumble… Apparently the app helps you to find your new BFF.

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24 Comments

  1. Danish Pastry
    September 6, 2017 / 2:14 pm

    Thank you for sharing, I can confirm you are not alone! In my case moving abroad knocked several friendships on the head, and nest building/ families haven't helped either. One friendship in particular I decided to let go, as the friend in particular couldn't seem to move on otherwise. He'd told me in our late teens that he was attracted to me, which made me felt awkward for ages, especially as I was dating a mutual friend, and he knew nothing would come of it. I thought we'd moved one, and we'd go out whenever I was home, I did notice that contact from him did get slightly less if I was seeing someone. I suppose the last straw for me came when he was noticeably irritated when I met my future husband, I realised he'd never given up hope. So the kindest thing I could do was let that friendship fizzle out, all on its own. I hope he's moved on, and is happy.On the positive, now that some of my friends kids are getting older, they are now a bigger part of my social life, so it seems a bit like swings and roundabouts. You may lose some a long the way, but you win others.

    • Hayley Carr
      September 6, 2017 / 3:03 pm

      I think the quality of friendships gets better, even if the quantity dwindles. You're right – it's swings and roundabouts and some are best left in the past.

  2. Retro Bombshell
    September 6, 2017 / 3:14 pm

    This is so true over the past few years, the people I was friends with at school have now separated and gone their own ways in life, getting married or having kids, I think i'm the only one out of that group that doesn't have a baby yet. I now have my lovely partner who i'd be lost without, looking to move out to be with him and 2 of my best friends are three times my age, I think I just get on better with the older generation, than mine.Thanks for sharing Diana | Travel & Lifestyle Blog | http://www.aretrobombshellsloves.blogspot.co.uk/

    • Hayley Carr
      September 7, 2017 / 8:08 am

      I've found it hard in certain friendship groups where I've been the only one not married/with kid etc and conversation becomes so dull – it makes you think that you have nothing in common anymore.

  3. Frankly Flawless -
    September 6, 2017 / 7:15 pm

    Great post and I loved reading this. I think we make friends at different stages of our life and as heartless as it may sound some friends serve a purpose for that period of your life but it may not be necessary that they are their with every stage.That said I do think it's important to just make the effort and maintain contact now and then even if it is after a while. When you meet people after a while it can be really nice or it can cement the reason why you hardly meet in the first place! The right people will come and find you.franklyflawless.com

    • Hayley Carr
      September 7, 2017 / 8:08 am

      That's a great mantra – the right people will come and find you!

  4. Anonymous
    September 6, 2017 / 9:24 pm

    I feel as though I've written this – you've reached into my head and plucked out exactly how I've been feeling. I'm getting close to 30 but this year have realised I could count my true friends on one hand.One particular moment this year stands out for me; the day I received devastating news about the health of a family member, I also found out a group of my closest friends had gone away for the weekend together and deliberately kept their plans from me. I've still not got over it, but I have realised that I'm better off without those sort of friends in my life.Thank you for writing this. I feel a lot better about my own friendship situation.

    • Hayley Carr
      September 7, 2017 / 8:10 am

      You really are better off without them. I had a similar situation – within a matter of months my mum had a hip replacement, my cousin had a stroke and my nan had a major operation. Most friends didn't even check if I was ok managing it all single-handedly, and it ended a few relationships that's for sure.

  5. Nital Shah
    September 7, 2017 / 7:45 am

    Great post! I can relate so well to this post. A lot of my friendships have changed over the years. Some have been natural drifts and some have chosen to grow apart. Like you said there are many reasons. Everyone is a different points in their life, single, married, kids etc and everybody’s time is precious. One thing I will say though, regardless of what point people are in there lives, effort is a two way street. I spent too much of my time accommodating other people and am no longer prepared to do that. I would love to meet new people and make new friends!

    • Hayley Carr
      September 7, 2017 / 8:11 am

      Effort is absolutely a two way street – and when it gets embarrassing when that effort is not reciprocated, it's often time to move on. x

  6. Zita
    September 7, 2017 / 11:46 am

    This is such a great post and thanks for bringing the topic up on social media. I think that in a way we do live more lonely lives than generations before us (and before social media). In my case, I moved across the globe (to Australia) after uni, so in addition to the distance, there was also a 10-hour time difference which made it hard to maintain friendships. This also served as a sort-of filter, as people who couldn't be bothered to spend a few minutes checking in or responding to my messages started disappearing. And in a way I can't blame them, there are people who are just not comfortable maintaining a friendship online. Also, it is a very different experience when you don't actually create memories and share moments together, and instead the friendship is mostly a recount of what's happening in our independent lives… And even though I got used to skype and messenger conversations, I would have killed to have an in-person coffee chat with my friends :(I then moved to the UK, where making friends was even harder (in Australia I was doing a uni course so had classmates etc.). By this time I could only maintain a relationship with my 3-4 closest friends, and making new ones is not easy in a corporate environment, when your life mostly comprises of commute-work-commute-eat-sleep-repeat.Another thing that complicates things is that moving abroad changed me a lot, and the friends who stayed 'at home' have had very different experiences and some of my problems simply don't resonate with them, as for obvious reasons they haven't been through the same thing. This makes me feel like I'm an outsider at home, as well as abroad, and sometimes it's hard to decide whether I have two homes, or zero :)Also, I completely agree with you about the technicalities of maintaining relationships… With a job, a boyfriend and a home to look after, I simply can't imagine having extra time to spend with acquaintances (whereas at uni I had a similar experience to you – so many friends, so many nights out). It's kinda sad to admit, but there isn't room in my life for casual friends… And this process of narrowing down the circle can be painful at times, because I had friends who deemed me expendable, and vice versa – point is, it's not always a mutual decision whether you make the cut or not.

  7. lizziep
    September 7, 2017 / 1:38 pm

    Someone once told me that friends come into your life for 'a reason, a season or a lifetime' and it's so completely true x

  8. marie munday
    September 8, 2017 / 7:48 am

    You are definitely not alone here. It's sad this happens. But it does. I lost my 'best' friends (ones I grew up with) when I had a miscarriage (one close friend was a single mum-I thought she'd be a little more understanding when I needed the shoulder the cry on for a change), then I met the man of my dreams and now we have a baby boy. So it's fair to say, I've lost All of my friends because I'm happy, in a happy relationship and we have a beautiful son. It makes me sad, I grew up believing in friendship. It was all a lie really. My best friend is my boyfriend and our son. I refuse to let anyone else into my world because I no longer allow myself to trust anyone else.

  9. Victoria Pease
    September 8, 2017 / 8:45 am

    This is incredibly relatable. I think in the Facebook era, its harder to completely cut ties with a friendship that has either fizzled out or no longer serves you well. You still see the updates of how life is progressing for other people and while you can be happy for them, its hard when you feel a little left out. A lot of friends from school and university have fallen by the wayside and while it would be amazing to still be cultivating four different friendship groups, the reality is that its so much more manageable when you have just a few close friends! I think it makes it far more special to have someone close to confide in, drink wine with and get daft or simply call in a disaster and know they will be there for you in a heartbeat. Growing up is still baffling me though – how am I old enough to have friends who are married and expecting babies?!Victoria | Victoria Sponge Pease Pudding

  10. emmalcm
    September 8, 2017 / 8:54 am

    You are definitely not alone! I turned 30 this year and I've been thinking that for a few years. There were people who moved away, people who just don't seem willing to make the effort to see us however much we tried so we gave up on them, and those who struggle to see people because of children, their job etc. In turn I also feel like there are certain friends that I've kind of outgrown…people I've known for years and as you grow up your lives take different directions and you end up having very little in common. I also think different levels of maturity are sometimes an issue-I find myself being slightly irritated by a particular friend who is the same age as me but incredibly immature and I wonder how much longer the friendship will last. But at the same time we have some friends who we might only see 3 or 4 times a year because of busy lives but when we do see them it doesn't feel that way. I have fewer friends but we feel closer, even if we don't manage to get together as often as we'd like. Plus as I've met different people through work, I've gained friends with a wider age range too. A few years ago I'd never have pictured myself having friends more than twice my age but actually we know a retired couple who are absolutely hilarious and we get on so well. My friends have definitely changed a lot over the last few years and I think it happens to everyone. The important thing to remember is it's quality over quantity x

  11. Katie
    September 8, 2017 / 12:52 pm

    This is so unbelievably true. Felt like I had written it!I've had a good group of school friends for over 10 years but we aren't as close suddenly now we're nearly 30. Some are married, some moved away, some have children. And we just don't have much in common anymore!I moved abroad for 2 years and now I'm back in the UK I feel like an alien. I feel isolated and that isn't nice!I have had a hard year, being diagnosed with a life long illness and being in and out of hospital. It certainly shows who your true friends are! Everyone knows about it, but some of them have never contacted me. Makes me feel so lonely!Seriously how can nice normal 20 something girls connect and make new friends!

  12. WhatCaraSaid
    September 8, 2017 / 7:20 pm

    Ah things rings so true for me! I am lightyears behind all my friends in the marriage / house buying / baby creating stakes! I've just restarted my career and at almost 28 I've probably left that a little to late! I enjoy my own company but miss the impromptu coffees and having people close by! Glad to see I'm not alone in the dwindling friend numbers xx

  13. Chichi
    September 8, 2017 / 8:26 pm

    This is a very interesting post. For myself, making good friends is something that I've always struggled with, but I've got a small group of fantastic friends and I'm content with that.Chichichichiwrites.com

  14. Lex @ Little Whyte Book
    September 8, 2017 / 8:27 pm

    Wow I relate to this so completely. Every inch of it. When you were describing yourself at the beginning and talking about how you keep reaching out and making an effort with people but sometimes they just let it drop – all of that. Yep yep yep. I'm in my mid-20s and I can already see this happening and it makes me sad to think of these people I thought would be in my life forever… slowly drifting away. I always thought if I put in a lot of effort and worked really hard at maintaining friendships then they'd work out, but somehow that still doesn't matter. That's a hard pill to swallow.

  15. Sally
    September 9, 2017 / 7:13 am

    Thank you so much for writing this. I've been struggling with the fact my uni girl squad seems to be going by the wayside. We used to meet up once a month but then it stopped this year with our last (slightly disastrous) meet up being at new year. And I realise I've stopped making the effort because I have little in common with them anymore but it still upsets me. I think we'll always be distant friends on some level but not the ultimate squad we used to be. Same now true friends I can count on one hand but I've met a lovely new friendship group that I have loads in common with in my local area through a Meetup.com group. Seriously Meetup is the way to make new friends as an adult, so glad I found it.

  16. Girl In Gamba
    September 11, 2017 / 7:21 pm

    Oh I feel this so much! I've had a hard year this past year (too many blog posts to refer to here) but it's the friends that have asked how I'm doing that I appreciate the most. When my dog died a couple of weeks ago and I told my best friend from university, she said, "oh I'm sorry. I didn't know your dog was sick". Although I appreciated that she took time to talk to me, it kind of made me sad that we had a bit of a disconnect. Ultimately, I think a lot of people are so absorbed in their lives that if you're no longer part of their daily life, communication falls through the cracks. My heart goes out to you!-GGwww.girlingamba.com

  17. Rosa Fairfield
    September 12, 2017 / 8:14 pm

    You make some great points here. I've always found it difficult to keep in contact with people. It's extra difficult because I'm always moving around and meeting new people for my job… but I'm starting to see that isn't a bad thing.http://ohduckydarling.com

  18. Sarah + Laura
    September 14, 2017 / 7:29 pm

    Really enjoyable read and oh so true! I went through the London bubble and burst situation with friends too but as you say it's quality over quantity and those that are worth the effort will always make you priority. My Dad always called the other 'friends of convenience' – they are there at a point, when it's convenient for you both but they won't be life-long friends. Sarahhttp://sarahpluslaura.blogspot.com

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