Critical Circumstances: The Real Reasons Your Friendships Are Flailing

Friendships are bound to change over time, and the nature of them now probably looks a bit different than it did a couple years ago. While some friends are fleeting, others stick around until the end of time. You’ve known some since kindergarten, and others for just a couple of months. Whatever the case may be, adult friendships are typically much different than the ones you had growing up. When it comes to grown-up friendships, some people know these struggles all too well.

1. Your relationship with friends post-kids will change

happy couple holding their adopted baby

If you have friends with kids, you understand this sentiment all too well. | iStock.com

It happens all the time — your friend has a baby, and you’re suddenly cut right out of the picture. Well, at least it can seem that way. “Having a baby can be vastly wonderful, but it can be devastating to friendships,” Marla Paul, author of The Friendship Crisistold Parents. “If you have a child and a lot of your friends don’t, you’ll feel like you don’t have much in common anymore.” Similarly, childless folks may not easily understand just how chaotic life with a baby can be. But hope is not lost; there’s a way you and your friends with children can continue to nurture the relationship.

How to handle it

happy family father and child on meadow

Catching up with friends will just look a little different from now on. | iStock.com/evgenyatamanenko

There’s no need to throw your friendship out the window as soon as that baby comes along. Whether you’re the one who’s just given birth, or it’s your friend who’s a new parent, a little extra attention and flexibility will need to happen on both ends.

If you’re the friend who didn’t have the child, Paul tells Parents you’re going to have to be a bit more flexible. “On the flip side, the new mom has to be sensitive, too,” she says. “Even though the baby is the center of your life, realize that everyone is not interested in every minute detail of your baby’s life.” So, make sure you’re putting in enough effort to let your friends know you’re still interested in their lives, despite the fact you’re a new parent.

2. Priorities change as you get older

woman working on laptop at home

Between family and career, your life is far busier than it used to be. | iStock.com

When you were a kid, swinging by your friend’s house across the street was the norm. But then, you both took your respective paths, moved away, and gained other responsibilities. Perhaps you’re now a plane ride away. And just as you’ve changed over the years, so too have your priorities.

Fostering the relationship with your significant other, staying in touch with your elderly family members, and working toward that big promotion typically take precedence. And before you know it, your friendships are floundering. So, how can you get back on track?

How to keep your friendship alive

The cast of Friends stands in a line

There’s a reason you became friends in the first place. | NBC

Change is inevitable, but keeping meaningful friendships alive well into adulthood is very possible. According to one expert, the secret to long friendships is the absence of pride. “Too many [friendships] falter on stubbornness or the determination to hold on to offence,” Tim Lott writes in The Guardian. “Successful ones rely on humility and the recognition of human fallibility. These are not merely useful attributes. They are the heart and soul of friendship.”

So, the next time you’re about to throw in the towel on a friend who’s been MIA, remind yourself why you became friends in the first place. Don’t let their inability to spend time with you, or anything else that’s been bothering you about them, cast a shadow on all the good they have brought to your life.

3. Friends IRL vs. Facebook friends

woman using Facebook app on phone

Facebook friends can’t give you everything you need from a friendship. | Saed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

We realize we’re not sharing anything new when we say social media has changed the way people communicate. But still, it needs to be addressed. What exactly is the difference between friends in real life and those who are no more than friends on Facebook?

Think about how many people you follow online, and how many of those people you’d actually pick up the phone to call. The numbers likely don’t match up. As The Atlantic puts it, “Saying ‘Happy Birthday’ on Facebook, faving a friend’s tweet — these are the life support machines of friendship. They keep it breathing, but mechanically.” So, how do we reverse what we’ve already done to our friendships in the world of cyberspace?

You need a digital detox

Four Healthy Young Women Jogging

Reconnecting with good friends is the best thing you can do. | iStock.com/LarsZahnerPhotography

You’ve probably heard of this before, usually in regards to escaping technology and getting a dose of good old fashioned fresh air. To really nourish a friendship, getting together and having meaningful conversation is invaluable, and can really help you return to the things that matter in life. By doing this you can help ensure your relationships continue to blossom.

Quite simply, put down your phone and actually interact with others. If you’re not there for the people you care about, and those who’ve been there for you, that relationship will slip away. “Friendship is a relationship with no strings attached except the ones you choose to tie, one that’s just about being there, as best as you can,” Julie Beck writes in The Atlantic. Don’t let a good thing disappear because you couldn’t be bothered to make the time.

4. Not all friendships are meant to last

gossip among co-workers

Ditch the friends who aren’t worth keeping. | iStock.com

Making friends as an adult can be much more difficult than doing so as a kid. At this point in your life, you’re no longer searching for someone to play flashlight tag with on a summer night. You are, however, on the hunt for quality folks with values you share, a personality you can relate to, and a lifestyle that’s somewhat similar to your own. Finding these people, however, isn’t always that easy.

In Psychology Today, Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., says it’s not uncommon to have false starts with potential friends. “Would you expect to marry the first person you ever dated? Not every friendship you attempt will get off the ground, either,” Bonior writes. “It’s not something to take personally; building friendships is a process that takes time, and is in many ways a numbers game.” So, take some time and do some inventory; some of your friendships may be better left behind.

Why you need to let them go

Happy confident young woman

You need to do what’s best for you. | iStock.com/UberImages

There are some friendships you’ll make during your adult years that just aren’t meant to stick around. This is completely normal, you just have to know which ones to keep, and which ones to ditch. Is keeping a toxic friend around really the healthiest move you could make? Definitely not. And in the case of friendships, letting go of those who aren’t good for you is certainly in your best interest.

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