The most unexpected part of navigating life in my early 30s has been the changing friendships, and the social scene in general. I definitely wasn’t given adequate warning about this aspect of growing up. Or maybe, like all respectable young people, I was and I just didn’t listen.
For the duration of my 20s, life was a social whirlwind and friends were readily available. Cut to my 30s, and two things started happening – I began to change and my friends began to change. So much so that I looked around one day and thought ‘where’s everyone gone?’. What had once been a dense, lush field of friendships, suddenly looked a bit more like an arid desert. Ok ok, it wasn’t that bad. But my friendships had changed and it threw me for a loop.
I thought it was just me who was experiencing changing friendships (main character energy) but I’ve discussed it with many people and everyone has been through a similar shift. Through these conversations, some clear trends emerged about what causes these changing friendships in your 30s. Read on to find out what these trends are.
Babies! Babies everywhere!
Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest causes of changing friendships in your 30s is that loads of your friends will start having babies. The arrival of a tiny person that literally requires your friend’s full attention to keep them alive does somewhat change things.
When my besties had babies, there was an initial bit of an adjustment period where I felt a bit lost as to where I fitted in now that I’d slid down the priorities list. It’s always tricky when your best friend gets a new best friend, especially when it’s one that they grew from scratch. However, once I leaned in to the new dynamic, some of these friendships actually deepened. It’s charming to see women you love become such natural mums and you get a tiny new bestie out of it too. Sure, they’re no longer available for spontaneous social outings, but there are other friends for that.
Friends fall into different categories
Much like new-mum friends and spontaneous-social-outing friends, not everyone can fulfill every need and that’s OK. You’ll start to learn which friends play which roles in your life. (These categories can change over time). I’m sorry to say that most of us will probably have to go through a few let downs to find out which category some people fit into. The fun party friend isn’t necessarily the deep chats friend who isn’t necessarily the shared hobby friend. Every friend you have will have something different to offer. Consciously tune in to your friendships and you’ll see that people are showing you how much you can expect from them. Once your expectations are managed there’s a lot less chance for disappointment.
Depth over width
Ahem, that would be the depth of your friendship circle over the width of it. When we’re younger we often think that having the most friends is the goal. I used to collect friends like they were Pokemon cards and had a ‘gotta catch em all’ approach to friendship. I wasn’t discerning when it came to who I would give my energy to or spend my time with. As long as my social calendar was chockablock and I was invited to all the parties, I felt like I was succeeding.
Eventually, I realised that it wasn’t the number of friends I had that mattered, it was the quality of those friendships. Quality over quantity, who knew?!
I took stock of my friendships and had to get really honest about where they all fitted in to the bigger picture. I realised I was spreading myself too thin so I stopped investing my energy into being an OK friend to many, and started focusing on being a better friend to few. This inevitably meant that some of those on the wider fringes of my circle dropped off, which just left me with greater capacity to nurture the friendships that remained.
These days we all seem to fall somewhere on the scale somewhere between tired and exhausted. The mere thought of my former social calendar makes me want to take a nap. 6-7 nights a week! Alongside a full time job! Astonishing scenes.
This descent into exhaustion is a prominent trigger for changing friendships in your 30s. Life is busy, and most of us are too tired to maintain a packed social agenda. Fewer social engagements means that you see your friends less often than you used to. This is where group chats and social media step up and shine. You can keep up with everyone without having to put on a bra and leave the house. Where you once saw most of your friends on a weekly basis, nowadays whole months can pass between face to face catch ups. And nobody is offended.
Shedding toxic friends
As we mature and grow, we lose people along the way. I say ‘lose’, but oftentimes this can be a good thing. With reduced capacity for socialising, it becomes clearer who you look forward to spending time with, and who you don’t. You’ll naturally start to prioritise those whose company you actually enjoy, leaving no time for anything less.
Where toxic friendships may have flown under the radar in the past, diluted by everything else going on, they’ll become harder to overlook. Now that we’re all very tired – who’s got the energy to endure a toxic friendship anymore? We’re just out here protecting our mental and emotional energy, and willing to cut anyone that disrupts that.
Read more about ending toxic friendships in this article. (Opens in a new tab)
Changing friendships in your 30s can be very disconcerting, but know that you’re not alone. Seemingly, this is an inevitable part of life and ageing. There will be further seasons of changed friendships ahead. Let’s have a nap and then embrace them with a peaceful acceptance.
- READ MORE: Single at 31? Here’s Why It’s OK.
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