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The Realities of Adult Friendships

Heidi Shenk daily life

Adulting is hard. Even harder? Finding and keeping good friends as an adult. When I read DESIGNLOVEFEST's recent Real Talk series about adult friendships the other day, there were so many points that I could relate to. And one of the biggest takeaways was that I'm not the only one that thinks adult friendships are ridiculously difficult.

When Andrew and I moved to Baltimore, we knew no one in this city except for a friend that we went to Syracuse with and grew up in the area and had moved back after college. Making friends took a little bit of time, but we got to know some people through work and started spending time with them. We'd meet up for happy hours, have get togethers at each others' houses and slowly we found a group of people that we were comfortable with, spent a lot of time with, but were never super close with on a one on one basis. Then things changed.

A lot of the people we got to know were older than us. Many of them moved out of the city and had kids. Several of them moved to completely different cities as they were ready for a new phase in their lives. Only a few of those friendships remained and we found ourselves spending most of our time with a few couples that we'd known the longest.

After I quit my teaching job, things changed even more. A lot of the people that I had previously spent time with were no longer a part of my daily life and so those friendships slowly slipped away. I made an effort in the first year to invite as many of them as I could to various functions, but over time it became obvious that our lives were headed in very different directions and that those friendships had never been close ones to begin with. I learned the hard way that co-workers and friends are not always one in the same.

And still in the last couple of years things have changed. Close friends have moved. Some have had babies. As these closer friendships have drifted apart, some have felt like sudden breakups while others have left us feeling as though we've been forgotten. And we've found ourselves almost back at square one of a process that took nearly seven years.

We've come to realize that things were always different from the beginning when we first moved to Baltimore. Neither of us have those best friends that we had while in high school or college, you know, the ones that you can talk to about anything under the sun or call up in a moment's notice to grab coffee. We don't have the types of friends that you'd have a girls or guys night with. We don't have a core group of people who feel like brothers or sisters. Even though we had these kinds of friendships at earlier points in our lives, they're now mostly non-existent as we grow older.

For the most part, we're ok with it all. We're pretty low key individuals and we tend to like to be in our own little bubble. But there's also a part of us that often wonders why friendships are so hard. We've noticed that a lot of social situations in which we could meet new people often revolve around alcohol and partying, which is another hugely mystifying thing. It almost feels as if nothing is genuine anymore. People don't want to take the time to sit down and have meaningful conversation.

On the other hand, we're inundated by how things are "supposed" to be. Society and media tells us that women are supposed to have their "squad" of friends, the women that are like sisters, the Sex in the City group that doesn't hold back about any detail in their daily lives. But let's be real for a moment. I've read articles that show photos of women huddled together on a bed having a sleepover in their pajamas. Photos of women arm in arm having a picture perfect picnic in the park. Or women dressed to the nines, hugging each other, and toasting champagne over brunch like it's a totally normal daily occurrence.

And then I think about the reality and ridiculousness of it all. Isn't it a bit absurd and maybe even immature? In reality, how authentic are these types of friendships? And for those in real life that portray their friendships in this way, is it reality or is it presented that way only because we've been taught by society to do so? On one hand, I'd love to have a group of girlfriends that was close enough that we could jet off together and stay at some Caribbean resort for a week with not a care in the world. On the other, why is it that these are the ideals and almost expectations of friendship that we've been handed by society?

When I think of all of those implications, I begin to wonder if friendships aren't all that they're cracked up to be. Maybe it's ok that I'm in my bubble with Andrew, managing to spend time here and there with the few friends that we have left between our time spent together doing our own thing. Maybe it's ok to be out there in the world by yourself doing your own thing. Adult friendships are hard, and maybe that's ok.

How do you feel about friendships as an adult? Have you found yourself in these in between moments where the dynamics of your friendships have changed? Do you prefer to stay in your own bubble or is having a close knit group of friends important to you?


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