For many, making and keeping friends in your teenage and college years can be a breeze. Due to school schedules and social calendars, consistent time to invest in these relationships comes easily and you seem to have a plethora of pals. However, as you get older and your priorities and life changes and evolves, these relationships do as well. In fact, the types of friendships you have as you approach your 30s, 40s and beyond will probably change dramatically. And experts say that’s not only OK, but also necessary.
Yes, the things that commonly bond you in your teens and 20s — school, internships, social calendars, etc. — will most likely shift or dissipate completely. In turn, the common threads connecting you to some (not all) people will go away and, if you have nothing else in common, that friendship will have little fuel to keep going. Moreover, the personal evolution one experiences as they enter their 30s and 40s will probably result in a change in your friendship needs. “We have less free time and don't want to waste it on friends who aren't reliable or able to provide us with what we need or want,” says Nicole Sbordone, therapist and author of Surviving Female Friendships: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. “We get more selective with our friends and want deeper connections rather than superficial ones. I also believe we prefer quality over quantity in our friendships as we age.”
As you mature, your free time and energy becomes more limited thanks to demanding life and work schedules. You’ll most like find your need and patience for unreliable friends will lessen as well. At this point, one’s need for a two-way friendship is crucial. “I find that women in their 20s and early 30s put up a bit more with friends who are not there for them consistently and aren’t showing up for them as they need,” says Carolyn Birsky, certified life and career coach and owner of Compass Maven.
As you evolve and grow in your career and life, your patience for unreliable individuals will most likely decrease. “[You should avoid] the flaky friends,” says Sbordone. “The ones that aren't reliable and don't provide you with what you need or want in a friendship. Also, the ones where you both stop putting in effort to maintain the friendship.”
Friends Of Substance
As you get older, your pool of close friendships will most likely get smaller, mainly due to the fact that you don’t have time for “surface” or “strictly social” friendships. “I think as your life circumstances start to change you connect with people on a different level, “says Birsky. “Those social friendships you had in your college will start to drop off, as you need a deeper connection.”
Birsky is quick to note that these lighter, social friendships can still serve their purpose in your 30s and 40s, but the frequency in which you need them will decrease. “I think those social friends are great to blow off some steam and have fun,” says Birsky. “Every time you see these types of friends, you kind of pick up where you left off. There’s just not as much time or energy to put into them.”
As you enter your third, fourth, and fifth decades of life (and beyond!), milestones, triumphs, and setbacks will not only occur but intensify. It’s important to surround yourself with thoughtful friends that will encourage and comfort you in these moments — even if you don’t ask them to.
“You start to care more about people who are more dependable and actively show they care,” says Birsky. “When I started my business, I had a girlfriend who sent me a book that targeted new business owners in their first couple years of launching. I thought that was so thoughtful and kind of her and showed she paid attention and cared about what was happening in my life.”
Conversely, your need and tolerance for “frenemies” or individuals who do not lift you up should diminish. “I also think people who make you feel bad about yourself or are overly critical should start to drop off,” says Birsky. “You start to let go of those, mainly because you are probably more confident as you get older. You don’t need to be connected to people who make you question yourself.”