I know I’m not alone when I say I’ve lost quite a fair amount of friends over the years. In my wiser years, I’ve realized it’s really nothing personal. The shrinking friend circle is a fact of life. Life simply just happens.
I’ve always seen my life as chapters of a book, which is fitting due to my love of the written word. Losing friends really started during the college chapter of my life, as I realized it was difficult to stay in touch with most of my friends from high school. We had all made new friends at our respective universities and focused our time and energies on those friendships. Similarly, in the post-college years chapter, I lost even more friends. People moved across the country, people started new jobs and met new friends. Especially after we graduated, it was disheartening and confusing to realize that many people I thought I’d be friends with for life had just been in my life temporarily. I had to accept that sometimes, a chapter just ends.
The shrinking friend circle begins to hit after year 25, according to CNN. Around this age, we begin to realize who our people are and who we want to keep close. We work to maintain and grow those friendships at the expense of leaving some friendships in the past. It makes sense. As we get older, we have less and less time to dedicate to handfuls of friends. It’s also worth noting that friendships are a two-way street. Even if there’s one person on one end doing everything they can to make the friendship work, if the other person doesn’t make an effort, that friendship is doomed to fail.
Not only that, but sometimes you come to a realization that as you get older, you just outgrow some friendships. For me, I really try to remain positive in all aspects of my life so when I’m around people who carry negativity, it really affects me. Unfortunately, I’ve had to make hard decisions to slowly close chapters of friendships because for me personally, I don’t want negative people in my life. Quality, positive friendships mean more to me than the number of friends I have at this point in my life.
I think it goes without saying too that as we begin to enter different life stages than our friends, it becomes harder and harder to relate to situations. This is also why some friendships dissipate. I may be married, but I’m not ready to have kids for a long time, as I mentioned in this post. So, as my friends begin to have children before me, it’s inevitable that I’m going to have no idea what they’re going through. Now, I’m not saying that our friendship won’t work, but it goes back to the idea of the two-way street. If both parties aren’t actively trying and communicating (especially about things other than just children), it could be a difficult chapter to get through.
I could go on and on about the reasons we lose friends. So what do we do once we recognize it’s happening? Stay cool. I’ve put together three things we can do.
We lose friends for a variety of reasons. We have less time, interests change over time, some friendships are one-sided or people’s priorities change. As I mentioned already, it’s a way of life so most times, we just need to accept it and move forward. Obviously, if it’s a friend you really care about, meet him/her more than halfway and see if they reciprocate. Have a heart to heart about the direction you want your friendship to go. This way, you know that you were at least tried to salvage the friendship. If nothing comes out of it, accept it. There may be hard feelings involved, but at least you have clarity that it’s better to leave the friendship in the past and end that chapter.
Make An Effort
This goes along with that idea of not wanting to lose those near and dear friendships. As we get older, we have more of a chance to evaluate our friendships and understand who our true friends are no matter what and no matter how circumstances change. Naturally, these are the friendships that are going to grow more in our mid to late 20s and beyond. These are the friends who love you for you and you love them just the same. These are the types of friends to prioritize now. Invest your time into those close relationships. And I don’t mean just texting and Snapchatting each other. Make an effort. Make plans to see each other and spend quality time together. When you do, put the phones away.
Discover New Friendships
As we get older and enter different life stages, we’re bound to meet new people. These could be new work friends, parents of our kids’ friends, or those we meet at the gym. The key when meeting these new people is to be vulnerable and open. If you’re willing to be open about yourself and who you are and what you’re looking for in a friendship, it’s only going to blossom. Otherwise, relationships that don’t incorporate that kind of emotional bonding tend to feel very superficial and meaningless. Then, we’re back to the cycle of losing friends again. When discovering these new friendships, make sure they are worth your time and they are actually people you want to befriend.
What are your thoughts on the shrinking friend circle? Are you okay with it? Does it make you sad? How do you handle it?
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Success Manager at Salesforce and has over 10 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.