Here’s How to Maintain Friendships Through Different Stages of Life
posted on August 20, 2019 | by Kelley Matney
As we grow older and are saddled with more and more responsibilities, one thing that really takes a hit is our friendships. Our other relationships, like partners and family, typically get top billing and our friendships may fall by the wayside.
All of my friends were made during specific periods of my life. I have my college friends, the friends I made during my years in the Peace Corps, and my Washington DC professional life friends. These relationships were forged through shared environments and common experiences.
Maintaining my friendships was easy in college. I lived two doors down from my best friends. If I need to talk to them or wanted to hang out, I walked the 30 seconds to their door and went in without knocking; it was similar with my other groups of friends.
Now many of my friends are no longer in the same place; literally and figuratively. Many of us are spread all over the country (and the world!), but many of us are also in different stages of life. I have been married for almost four years, no kids, and I recently finished grad school and am thinking about the next step. However, some of my friends already have a kid (a few are even on their second and third), others are still single, some are very focused on their work and climbing their respective career ladders, while others are still unsure of what they want to “be when they grow up”.
When you are not sharing that same physical or metaphorical space with a friend, the relationship takes more work. When people are already exhausted and busy with other things going on in their lives, they are not able to put in that work. However, studies have shown that friendships are important for both your mental and physical health. Having a wide social circle can lead to better heart health, lower rates of depression and anxiety, and more. Therefore, it’s important to maintain the relationships – here’s how:
Be Open to Change
It can be hard when a friend doesn’t have as much time for you as they used to, or when you don’t seem to have as much in common as you once did. It is especially hard not to take any of those things personally. But, it is important to keep an open mind because just as you yourself are evolving and changing throughout your life, your friendships will do the same. The friendship may not be exactly what it was a couple years ago but if you are open to new possibilities, your relationship may evolve into something different and possibly better than you ever expected.
Put Away the Scorecard
You know that well known phrase, “comparison is the thief of joy;” it is especially true when it comes to maintaining friendships. It is common practice for everyone in life to compare themselves to others, but when it comes to doing it with your friends, there can be a tendency to tally up “life points” to see who is doing better or who is further ahead in the path that society says we should be taking. It is important to remember that no one’s life is perfect, and we all have things we can learn from each other.
Take a Stroll Down Memory Lane
Some of my favorite nights recently have been when I get together with some of my friends who I did Peace Corps with and we talk about stories from our time serving in Paraguay. Most of these stories have been told a million times before, but there is something refreshing and rejuvenating about going through your shared history with a friend. Those memorable moments are what brought you together in the first place!
Maintaining friendships through the transitions of life can be difficult, which is why there are those people you were so close with at one point in your life that you don’t even talk to anymore. But if you put in the work to make it through these milestones with your friends, you will have friendships that are so enriching and rewarding because you have been through it all…together.
Have been able to maintain your friendships through different life stages? How do you deal with the changes in your relationship?