Adulting is hard – fulfilling, no doubt, but it definitely brings a new perspective to life. And making, maintaining and holding onto our adult friendships are no less difficult. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that friendships have a whole new meaning in our adult life – making the little extra effort in time and understanding in order for our interpersonal relationships to thrive and flourish.
But why are our adult friendships so difficult? Is it our conditioned expectations in friendships from our younger years? Many will say that friendships are one of the main aspects of a healthy life. And I agree, but many can act on the perception that friendships are needed in order for our lives to be completely fulfilled. I’d like to think that friendships are supposed to “compliment” your life, not “complete” it. Yet we sometimes deprive ourselves of a lasting friendship as an adult due to predisposed conditions we forget to evolve into our adulthood, leaving us in more heartbreak than is intended.
The Heartbreak Of Adult Friendships – Why They Are So Difficult
We can take distance too literal
Both in time, and miles between. I had mentioned in a previous post that time and distance should be no indicator – but that a friendship is also built on emotional investment. Some may find that going 2 weeks without talking to a friend has them thinking less of that person, or going 2 months without getting together creates this perception that they need to retract from the friendship. When that isn’t how we should define any friendship – otherwise, honestly, we wouldn’t have many friendships at all.
I have a friend, that I met from my previous job, who had to move multiple states away due to her husband’s job in the military. She’s been gone 2 years – 2 years this month, actually – and though I have seen her a couple times since, I can honestly say (in my eyes) our friendship is no less than it was before she left.
And she is now a mom. Yet, we talk constantly – whether you count SnapChat as a way of communicating or not – but if we go a week or two in silence, our friendship remains unchanged. I would say it’s because we have more of an understanding of one another’s lives – aside from living far away – but it’s that we don’t allow distance to dictate our way of being in each other’s life.
Can you remember a time in grade school when one of your friends got a new boyfriend – what usually happened then? More than likely you saw them far less, or ceased interaction altogether.
As an adult – this is now obvious, and inevitable. And that goes for everyone.
When you’re on different paths in life, your commonality changes within the friendship. Whether one is single and one taken, one married and one just in a relationship, or one married with kids and one just married – interchangeably, each of those categories of people have different priorities in their lives. Some having a taller tier of priorities over others.
But just because people are in different phases of their life doesn’t mean we should automatically write them off as friends. As a married woman, I still enjoy the night out every now and then. Maybe not as much as when I was single, or just in a relationship. But I have felt a brutal change since getting married – that suddenly because I attained a husband, I have felt as if I no longer fit in to some of my friend’s lives (all within what seems like overnight!). Ouch.
And I’ve felt the ouch from both directions: not fitting in with my single friends because they didn’t want someone who was “attached” to drag down their fun, party scene, and shoo’ed from being included in the established “older, wiser, married” crowd – before I got married myself. Because, you know, they’re at a different place than I, and me having less of an understanding of the side of the fence they live on. I know I look at it all in such an over-analytic way, but that’s how the ouch always truly felt.
And commonality made an impact on many of my former friendships that had nothing to do with relationships at all. Leaving my job, graduating from school, having or not having a job, and even my changes in interests and personality as I grew older affected my friendships. There are those who I never or hardly speak to today – for really no reason or cause whatsoever.
Nowadays, on the flip side, most of my husband’s friends now have children – who he interacts with far less than before they had any. Understandable – really! Maybe it’s men who have a better ability to see friendship in more of an “in spirit” kind of way, because according to my husband it’s a matter of enduring the changes and accepting the difference in priorities in each other’s lives – without letting them alter the way you perceive the friendship. But the fact that many see it as, “If you’re not first, you’re last,” that is what people allow to get in the way of our adult friendships. And being first, or even second, third or fourth isn’t what a friendship is about. The grade school days are over.
Failed reciprocation (keeping the flame alive)
Just as much as we have to make the initiative, and reciprocate, in our relationships – same goes for our friendships. But just as much as reciprocation can go a little flat from time to time in our relationships – same goes for our friendships. I know there are periods where it feels as though my friends can be slacking off (I call it that, though it has a less harsh meaning), but have learned not to hold it against them. I am just as guilty of doing the same. I know they don’t mean it, just as I don’t.
But as adults, we should learn by now to give one another a break. It was high school and college when I would get upset from not hearing back from a friend for a week, or having plans cancelled on me for the 2nd time in a row. Now it’s the running joke between me and many of my friends due to our different, busy lives. If we cancel on each other, we know it’s within good reason (or we’re not ashamed to say it’s because we’re tired and want time to ourselves). Those are things we are entitled to as adults, you know – putting ourselves first sometimes.
I look at it like this: reciprocation isn’t always something over the top. If I know I have to turn down or cancel plans – I always try to hint or reschedule on a different day, rather than leaving the initiation of plans hanging in the dark. If I haven’t heard back from a friend, I assume they have been busy, or simply forgot – not that they are out to tantalize our friendship. Many of my husband’s friendships contain the game of phone tag – yes, phone tag. Yet it’s a game that continues until they do finally get to speak. So sometimes a simple text, tagging each other in funny, relatable memes or SnapChats can honestly do more than enough as far as making an effort. It’s letting the other know, “You’re on my mind!”, or “Hey, just letting you know I still value us!”
Granted, there’s always the fine line drawn between getting taken advantage of or completely being derailed from feeling as a part of someone’s life – it’s important to know that line and establish it. I know I have had a couple friendships over the years cease simply for the fact that I became the sole initiator or investor emotionally. I always made contact and initiated plans. But for the time in between, all would be dead, dark and silent. Yet I would try and give them the benefit of the doubt, and reinstate all that is mentioned in this post – knowing it always ends the same way. In time, I’m left feeling drained and emotionally empty as far as what I have left to give in the friendship. And when you have reached the point of simply running out of juice in order to keep the flame going, you will know it’s best to just let that friendship go.
We’re less understanding
This year was a very difficult one for me, as much as it should have been a great one. It was my first year of marriage, yet just as they say – the first year can test you. And it sure did, in all avenues. Not exactly in a good way, either. Overall, this first year tested my marriage, my friendships and family relationships, and my overall health (physically and mentally) due to multiple occurrences throughout the year.
And with going through tough times, the one thing you hope to be able to cling onto or have present in your life are friendships. As for me, during tough times, I become distant. I excuse myself from outside my world until I can manage to piece together the “wrong” in my life back to “right” – however long that takes. Basically, I shut down emotionally and psychologically. I think I do this because I don’t want to burden those with my problems who don’t belong in it, or more or less, I assume those in my life don’t really care. Which is an awful mindset to have, by the way, but I guess it’s because I have never truly felt what it means to have that friend who sticks it out with you through thick and thin.
But when I come out of my emotional coma, and finally pull it together and go back Live, I’d expect that my friends would be there at the finish line – clapping, waving and cheering me on – not having done the complete opposite by abandoning the friendship altogether. There are times where I feel as though my friendships “retract” emotionally at the sign of struggles that entered my life. When I needed friends the most, I felt as if they were implying, “Let me know when you’re life is back on track – until then, good luck – I’m out.”
It can be difficult to go through rough times in life and feel as though your struggles are treated as less important than others and weighed heavily upon the outcome of the friendship. With that, having more of an understanding in your friendships is crucial – as they are not just a friend, but a person with feelings, opinions, choices, uncertainties, milestones, difficulties, hardships and challenges outside the friendship. Whether any of those things fit the shape of friendship in your eyes – we, as adults, need to be more understanding and emotionally available for one another in and outside of it. More understanding that there are reasons for why they can’t commit to plans on the weekends, don’t call back after a certain time, are always late to outings due to rallying up multiple kids, have been distant due to marital or family issues, adjusting to a new life with a baby, or having been stressed out with being so caught up in work.
We’re imperfect creatures – our job is not to aim to please everyone, every time, all the time. It’s to learn how to love, care and understand one another for their imperfections.