If you have ever wondered why making friends seems get progressively more difficult with age, you are not alone. Apparently it is very common for adults to face a steady decline in their number of close friends, beginning from their mid-20s. This is understandable, as adults change locations, jobs, and lifestyles, which aren’t always compatible with all of their friendships, especially since maintaining friendships takes a lot of effort. But why is it so difficult to cultivate new friendships, especially when it came so easily to us when we were younger? The answer is actually rather simple.
The most important part of friendship is proximity. When we were in school and college, we spent every day with the same group of people. Within these groups, we were able to find others with similar interests to our own – and by being around them on a daily basis, we were able to develop strong friendships. As adults, we spend the most time around our co-workers, and navigating friendships within this space can be trickier, especially with increased levels of individual competition and the transactional aspects of these relationships. As adults living highly individualistic lives, it becomes harder to find people with similar interests, which is why we are often encouraged to join groups and clubs to help us in this regard.
But even after finding said people, there are still more barriers preventing us from solidifying our friendships, i.e. time, energy and a lack of spontaneity. When we were younger, it was very easy to spend time with our friends, as seeing them at school or college was a given part of our day. As adults, this becomes a lot harder. Living our separate, usually busy lifestyles means we have to make time for our friends – seeing them every day is not something we can take for granted anymore.
In addition to time, friendships require a lot of energy. We have to actively invest in them, which can be difficult, especially in combination with the third barrier, i.e. lack of spontaneity. And all of this comes back to our lifestyles. Our jobs take up most of our time, in addition to which we have our own personal lives to manage. Spontaneity becomes increasingly rare, and we find ourselves having to plan most of our social interactions. Many of us find that as we grow older, we seem to have less time and energy for said interactions, especially for people we do not know well.
As we grow older, we also develop a more fatalistic view of friendships. Having experienced a fair amount of failed friendships, we have become more realistic in our expectations, which tends to dampen our enthusiasm about making new friends. As children, we had a more absolute view of friendship – our friends were our closest companions, who we trusted deeply. As adults, we have all been betrayed in some form by people we considered to be our close friends, which naturally lowered our expectations of future friendships. We are also acutely aware of the main elements (proximity, time, energy and spontaneity) that are required to develop and maintain new friendships, and how changes in any of these factors will immediately affect said relationships. So essentially, we stop trying.
Considering the key factors required to develop and sustain friendships, it comes as no surprise that we meet most of our lifelong friends in college. As we grow older, we select a few of our closest friends and actively spend time and effort in maintaining those relationships – which often results in a reduced interest in making new friends. It is still very possible to make new friends as you get older, but the process will be different. We need to be able to adapt; our lifestyles will prevent us from making friends in the same ways we did when we were younger, so we will need to find newer ways to develop friendships. The dynamics of our new friendships will naturally be different, and we need to be realistic about what to expect from them. Our friends from school and college will continue to be the closest to us, but we can still explore new friends, and develop unique relationships.
Lambert, Laura. “6 Reasons It’s Hard To Make Friends When You’re Older” Mom.com. May 22nd, 2019. Web. < https://mom.com/momlife/reasons-its-hard-to-make-friends-when-youre-older > as seen on July 1st, 2020.
Leatherman, James. “Why It’s Harder to Make Friends After 40 (and How to Combat the Odds)” Lifehack. Web. < https://www.lifehack.org/794127/make-friends#:~:text=1.,require%20a%20lot%20of%20time. > as seen on July 1st, 2020.
Lusinski, Natalia. “Why Do We Lose Friends As We Get Older? 7 Reasons Your Friendships Are Changing”. Bustle. September 16th, 2019. Web. <https://www.bustle.com/p/why-do-we-lose-friends-as-we-get-older-7-reasons-your-friendships-are-changing-7733195 > as seen on July 1st, 2020.
Muradov, Roamn. “Why Is It Hard To Make Friends Over 30?”. The New York Times. July 13th, 2012. Web. < https://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/fashion/the-challenge-of-making-friends-as-an-adult.html > as seen on July 1st, 2020.