How to Maintain a Friendship When You’re in Different Life Stages

Companionship among humans is a tale told by many throughout our species’ history. From the first-ever platonic sign of affection, originating around 2-3 million years ago, to what we today refer to as besties” – people have always needed other people to survive. 

Whether we’re killing time, loneliness, or have a deeply rooted sense of love for other humans, realistically, we go through friendships and acquaintances all the damn time. 

It’s a rarety to see folks still be incredibly close to the people they were friends with in kindergarten, despite that circle and period being extremely character-defining.  Even toddlers are fully capable of grasping the concept of having a “buddy” to play or just grow up with. 

As we both metaphorically and physically move from one stage and institution to another, our environment, as well as our mentality change. Whether we want it to or not. Some more, some less – but change is inevitableAnd with change, comes loss. “Shedding your snakeskin”, or whatever metaphor you’d like to reference here – you have to leave a piece of you behind for a better part of you to grow.

Sometimes, those pieces are not pieces at all, but people – or friends, in this case. How to maintain friendships has never seemed more possible, given the nature of our dangerously “social” and media-friendly environment. You can snap, iMessage, tweet, SMS, or even Facetime some of your older friends, yet still, we seem to be more apart than ever. 

Which is rather strange given how easy it is to connect” these days.  So, let’s dismantle this modern-day riddle, and see how to keep friendships, or let them go… depending on the friend. 

‘Grow A Pair’ and Say Hello

If you’ve made it to this portion of the blog, you probably already have one drifting friend in mind. You got a new job, they got a new partner – and before you knew it, your weekly dinners at Olive Garden have become monthly, semi-annual, then annual get-togethers f empty talks and head nods…

After a while, that friend who was once your second “I have amazing news” call after mom, has become an occasional “Hey, what’s up?”. You want to reach out and talk about it, but it just doesn’t feel right anymore, does it? 

You two feel and act like different people, so it makes you think – would these improved versions of ourselves even want to be friends today

There’s a very easy way to go about this. If you believe there’s nothing left to build and discover between the two of you, and if the person you are today is not enjoying the person they’ve become either – it’s safe to say your race is sadly run. But if there’s still a spark between you, by all means, initiate the hangout! Meet them from scratch, allow both of you to re-connect and get to know all the new corners of your personalities. 

After all, aren’t beginnings the most memorable times in people’s lives?  How many times have you re-lived a beginning of sorts in your head? Like a movie, you’ve seen a thousand times, yet still have the need to replay?  Give it another go, and give your “drifting” friend, another click on the play button. 

Open Up and Let Go

It’s not easy to be vulnerable, even with the people closest to us. But other than hitting that one emotional spot in your chest, vulnerability brings people togetherIt creates a whole new emotional language and understanding, which by proxy, creates safe, enjoyable, and occasionally sad common grounds. 

When we feel like we’re losing a friend, we tend to gradually stop sharing our concerns and thoughts with them. We are driven by this belief that weare just not as close as we used to be”, so building that bridge of vulnerability is deemed as uncalled for or even uncomfortable. 

In reality, that’s the best thing you can do – open up to your friend and tell them exactly how you feel.

Let go of what you guys used to have. It has passed, and it is in the past. Keep the memories and the laughter, but spare yourself the trouble of carrying this nostalgic wound of sorts every time you hang out.

“It doesn’t feel like it used to”, well, have you ever thought that just maybe, it shouldn’t?

Just think about it, you are approaching a different person, a more mature person with the same mentality you had with them years ago. Yeah, we too would be disappointedIn a perfect world, we would all like to be 17 and just hang out with friends on top of eerie rooftops during those weightless summer nights. 

 So let go of that, and embrace the change. Odds are, you are not even hanging on what you want, but on what nostalgia is making you think you do. 

Maybe It’s Time To Move On

Have you ever sat at a restaurant with one of your friends, and as the vine bottle was getting emptier by the hour, so was the conversationYou would listen to their thoughts and opinions, and as you nod your head into oblivion, the minutes feel like hours, and your understanding for your friend feels like an obligation… And all you can think about is when to give up on this friendship?

You’ve matured, probably faster than they did. And no common ground you’ve once shared can make up for it. Maybe your friend maintained their nightlife and “young adult” lifestyle, all while you were building your resume and chasing career achievements rather than drinks.  And one can spin the “each to their own” bottle as hard as they please, but it will most certainly always land on none other than separation. 

We can also argue that hard-working people are not necessarily more mature than their not so ambitious peers. But whether we want it to or not, working or “hustling” if you will, does have an impact on our mentality.  Once you start working 40 hours a week and paying for your own bills and livelihood, you start to appreciate and see things quite differently.

All those times mothers have endlessly argued about money, responsibility and adulthood are finally starting to make sense.  And just like with any massive change, you won’t know it until you stop to look around. Odds are that life and friendship may not always prosper at the same time. 

If you find yourself counting the seconds and minutes every time you get together with that friend, odds are that maybe it’s time to let them go and move on. And even though we sometimes struggle with knowing which people suit us, we sure as hell know which don’t

Growing Up Is Weird

Getting that first “I’m having a baby” message from one of your friends is really…weird.

And no matter the level of maturity you have, a part of you will always remember your friends as just a group of kids trying to “figure sh*t out”. Remember how stupidly drunk you’ve gotten after finishing high school? Remember your girlfriend crying in the taxi after this douchebag broke her heart, so you watched cartoons and cried for the rest of the night?

Do you remember skipping school just to play Minecraft over Discord, laughing your hearts off at utterly garbage memes? Most of us can’t even imagine these exact people as parents and business or house owners because they are always that youthful, loud, and stupid in our hearts. And one day, you’ll be the one sending that “I’m engaged” or “I’m getting married” message because that’s just life.

You don’t really have time to process all the growing up you did, because it just kind of happens. Accepting that things change and that people leave will never fully prepare you for it.  So don’t be surprised if you end up losing touch with someone who has taken those steps much before or after you. 

Just because we grew up together doesn’t mean we all actually grew up. Be supportive, be graceful, and wish them all the very best, no matter the outcome or status of your relationship. 

Pay Attention to Who Is Listening and How

We’ve talked quite a bit about change and how it’s both necessary and natural for friendships to experience it. However, some people change…for the worse. Or, they never fully conquer their demons all the way through. 

We all have that one face from the past that has made some very bad decisions and made us feel bad one way or another. We tried to reach out and help, but they just wouldn’t listen, nor would they admit the fault. 

Maybe they are immature, jealous, or everything in between – making you really think about their intentions at heart. So how do we differentiate these “friends”? It’s rather easy, actually. 

Forget how they react when you share bad news with them and start paying attention to how they react when you share the good news with them instead.  If they’re having a hard time being happy for you, by all means, get the hell away from that person! They are not your friend!

We’re all for supporting each other and giving people the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes, the best, and the hardest, thing to do is to walk away. Even though we are led to believe that stages of friendships change, they most certainly don’t. The only things that change are the people. Everything else, including friendship, is a mere reaction to who we end up becoming.

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