How I’ve Lost Friends as an Adult

December 7, 2018

After you leave college, life will literally never be the same again; never in your life – yes, even if you go back to grad school – will you be surrounded by a group of people from different backgrounds who are not only open to developing new friendships but in fact have the time to make it happen. It’s not as though making friends in or outside of your adult job is impossible, but as you get older, your standards get higher… sometimes I think it would be easier to have a large number of friends with just 0-2 common interests than hold out for a few with whom I would really get along.

Even once these friendships develop, there’s no guarantee they’ll last. You’re going through different phases of life at different times, and can’t always work through the changes together. Here are some of the reasons I’ve lost friends.

1. Breakups

This way is fairly straightforward. Unlike in high school, where you may have no choice but to associate with some of the same people regardless of your feelings, from university and beyond it’s far easier to just cut someone out of your life completely. If you grow close to a group of friends with your SO, one of you may get them in the divorce.

I arrived in San Francisco with a few thousand dollars, a schedule for a few gigs, and no contacts aside from a woman I had with speaking with on a dating app. When things got more serious and she and I started hanging out with her friends regularly, I expanded my social circle and was better for it. However, when we both decided to move on I wasn’t even thinking I would never get to see her friends again.

2. Morality

If you read the stories on some of my worst travel experiences, you’d know I cut ties with a friend over her decision to ride elephants in Thailand for the sake of having a cool picture on Instagram. This isn’t so much based on how shallow I think she was, but a difference in morals and how we act upon them.

For example, last year in Japan I spent a lot of my time in the company of a young American lady having a less-than-desirable work experience abroad. Most of the time, her complaints were warranted based on sketchy behavior from her boss and a small salary. However, the conversations started shifting to “Japanese people do this…” and “…this is all because of Japanese people”, and I wisely chose to let her rant alone.

Needless to say, anyone in my life who supports – not voted for – the current idiot in the White House has a skewed sense of morality and is undeserving of friendship.

3. Priorities

What’s that saying – 80% of success is just showing up? Be there when it counts. Be on time. It’s so simple, right? I know life gets in the way a lot, but if someone is enough of a priority for you, you’re going to find a way to be there when it counts. No excuses, no putting another friend ahead of you. If you have a good friend, he’ll find a way.

I invited six people to a get-together in Dolores Park for my 30th birthday. One showed. We don’t hang out anymore.

4. Distance

Sometimes, desire can only go far when there’s several thousand kilometers between you and your friend. The cost of a plane ticket isn’t to be taken lightly either; even if you live in the same country as someone, or the same city, a long commute can literally kill some friendships.

Unfortunately, you have to think about it logistically: how many hours do you have when you finish work, and how long will it take you to reach a meeting spot? The difference between walking down to the neighborhood pub and driving for the better part of an hour is weighed against the time you need to sleep and do anything else like buy groceries, veg out, clean clothes, etc.

This is not to say that distance is always a dealbreaker. Just as with long-distance relationships, it is possible to maintain friendships for a limited time with enough video chats, postcards, gift deliveries, and the occasional meetup. In my experience though, this will only work with a fixed date you plan on returning to their area and being a part of their day-to-day lives again.

5. Babies

It’s no one’s fault (unless you conceived out of spite – that’s on you). Kids change the equation. Even if you have kids the same time as your friend, you’re not necessarily going to be able to have the same kind of friendship as before; nights out over beers become “take turns watching one of them so I can use the bathroom by myself”. In any case, all your time and your life as you know it is gone. I’m lucky to get my Aussie friends together at the same time for a video chat when they need to make sure their toddler doesn’t toss their baby into the wall.

Generally, by doing the exact opposite of these things – not having kids, staying in the same area, prioritizing someone, being a decent person, and not breaking up with someone (or winning the friends in the divorce) – I believe you have better chances for hanging on to the friends you make as an adult. It sounds a bit morbid, but there really is only so much time to make things happen; people grow up and become comfortable with the friends they have – they don’t really want to expand their circle. You have to be the one proving to them that you’re worth their time with extra effort and more flexibility.

What do you think of this list? Anything to add?

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