Your Shrinking Friend Circle and Why It’s Okay

by | Mar 28, 2018 | life, life changes, real talk | 8 comments

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.

Your Shrinking Friend Circle and Why It's Okay Pinterest Pin

Accept It

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?

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  1. This is so relatable for me! As the years have gone on, I can feel my circle getting smaller and smaller. I’ve always been used to having “a million” friends esp when I was single. When I started dating Steve, I definitely had to make more tough choices about how I spent my time bc I was also trying to devote time to our relationship. It was a weird shift for me but i really value the friendships that I’ve kept going and I just try my best to see the people that I care about when I can, even if it’s a quick brunch or dinner, its meaningful to have those little moments to show we still care, even if I don’t see them every weekend!

    • Totally agree, Cal! Thanks for leaving your thoughts. It’s definitely hard making the shift from singledom to starting a relationship! I think you said it right though – even if it’s something quick to see friends, it’s at least putting in the effort. That’s one of the main things a friendship needs! Glad to hear this was relatable 🙂

  2. 100% agree. The thing is the ones who are still around are the closet and most meaningful. Hope all is well 🙂

    • You got that right! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  3. Whoa! Good read…..yes…even for the men in the world. Very well written and INCREDIBLY true. I’m 45 (46 on Monday…made it!) and have been blown away at my shrinking circle. Mostly my situation is/was due to me being unable to chase lifelong passions (MMA (yes a ring or cage, Climbing, Mountaineering) due to some very serious life changing injuries. I suffered a series of strokes over 2 years (2014-2016) and the discovery of an aneurysm in my carotid artery. Inoperable at this point. And yes I do realize the injuries are a byproduct of the life I’ve chosen and the passions I’ve chased….and I wouldn’t trade any of it. I have the most incredible memories from all of my adventures. From climbing in the Himalayas and far off Canadian ranges…to riding my Harley on some epic trips and sleeping under a tarp next to my bike….to all my training partners over the years. I thought when my condition(s) forced me to walk away (I resisted for another 2 years…not listening to my docs…and causing more damage) that we’d all still be friends and hang out. It’s just not the case. I still work with quite a few of my “friends” from those arenas and it’s just hard to sit and listen to all the climbing stories or stories about their bouts. It just rips the scab off everytime and what I’ve come to realize is that I’ve already lived that life. I’m happy for them and excited…but that’s not my life anymore. As much as I want it…it’s gone! I am learning to accept it but I’ve always been one of the most social people around.
    The after affects of a stroke certainly don’t help. You feel anxious…misunderstood…unheard…and frankly just like you don’t fit anywhere. NO SYMPATHY necessary. I’m lucky to be here and I still hear the conversations, see their faces, and smile at some of the epic crap we got ourselves into. While maybe they’re no longer “A list” friends….they’re still beautiful memories and I’ll never feel anything but love for all the friends and memories over the years. I finally had to just accept and move FORWARD. Yes that chapter is over but there’re so many more to come. I’m so lucky to still be here and to be able to still be an example for my son (21) and daughter (16). Best of all….I met a gal who’s the most incredible friend I’ve had and in exactly 2 weeks….we’ll make that walk down the aisle. While I still look to nurture relationships and friendships….I’m full of gratitude for all that I do have. My circle may be small….but each person within, and the memories we share whether for a day or a lifetime….are written in indelible ink…right there in my soul.
    Relationships…like many other things in this life sometimes ebb and flow. You just gotta learn to ride the waves in any conditions.

    Thank you for this article!

    Jim (Durango, CO.)

    • Thank you for stopping by and leaving your thoughts, Jim! It’s incredible how much you’ve been through and the lessons you’ve learned. Congratulations on meeting your significant other and making it official – how exciting! Anyways, I’m sorry to hear your circle too has shrunk, but I think you have the right attitude about it – it may be small but those are your people. The people who love and support you no matter what. Those are the people you need to keep close! Have a great day!

  4. I had many friends growing up. We were so close it felt like we were family. I noticed my circle got smaller when I moved away, I tried to make time and would commute to see my old friends as much as possible. This is when I realized that I lost many friends. I would have then change plans last minute after I already traveled to see them. I had friends prioritize going on dates instead of making plans with me or my friends would go out to places with each other and not even think to invite me like they always used to when I lived closer. I ended up losing my best friend. It still upsets me but during the falling out I learned she had been talking about me behind my back. I lost another close friend because of this which I still don’t know the details. Good riddance. I refuse to go out of my way for friends who can’t even meet me half way. If I commute three hours to see you and you refuse to see me because some guy asked you to hang out how can you even say you value our friendship? I’m still hurt. I feel betrayed. But I’ve made new friends since then. I just don’t think I could ever put myself out there again to be hurt like that.

    • Hi Heather,

      First off – thank you for reading and leaving your thoughts. I can feel your hurt in your words. I’m sorry that happened to you. Unfortunately what I’ve learned is you really just start to learn who your true friends are as you age. And on top of that, as you age, you start valuing your time and friendships more and what friends are worthy of your love and friendship. It sounds like you are starting to realize that, which is great! You’re right in that you shouldn’t go out of your way to meet or spend time with friends if they’re not willing to meet you halfway. There are certain circumstances where maybe you would have to on occasion, but if it’s a constant, then those are just not the type of friends you want in your life. I’m glad you’re making new friends and putting yourself out there. It’s all a learning process!


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