When you’re a kid, making friends is fun and uncomplicated. You’re mostly interested in who got the new red ball to play with, or who can beat who in a running race. As a teenager, things become more emotional, but there’s still an element of uncomplicated fun. And then, bam! Adulthood comes and brings with a whole new ball game: adult friendships.
Ever felt as if your adult friendship is just far more complicated than friendships you had in your youth? That’s because they are! I’ve recently been thinking about the complexities of adult friendships and have discovered that there are at least 12 common issues that such friendships are faced with.
Let’s take a look at the most common problems adults face in friendship below.
12 common adult friendship challenges:
1. The partners (and kids).
How inconvenient it is when you and your friend get along like a house on fire, but the partners and kids just don’t connect! I have experienced this personally, and it can really be disappointing. There’s nothing you can really do to make both families gel like you and your friend do. The best thing to do would be to organize visits and meetups without your partner and kids. Nothing wrong with a bit of “me time” with a friend. Perhaps the kids and your partner can also spend some time with their respective friends at the same time.
2. Being ditched for “better friends” in high up places.
Some adults are just as unscrupulous as younger friends you might have had when growing up. In adulthood, there are some adults who are looking to get ahead. Certain friends might be looking to connect with people who can help with their networking and career prospects, or mix with rich and well-known people. Some people find themselves being left behind for bigger and better things in their adult friendships.
The last thing you want to do in this kind of situation is to follow suit. Rather let things be. Chances are that those particular friends were never really true friends of yours. Stay true to yourself and continue living your most authentic life. You are far richer in life and more valuable than the richest person and fanciest house and clothing.
3. Friendship rut.
Being friends as an adult is entirely different to being friends as a teenager or young adult. When you were younger, parties, activities, and events undoubtedly kept you busy. When you get older, adult friendships are about bonding, sharing, and talking. Because of this, it is easy to fall into a rut of boredom. Don’t let this happen.
Try to keep your adult friendships interesting and fun. Plan a weekend away, book an event, pay for a fundraising dinner table – do what you can to keep at least one outing or event on the calendar a month. There’s no time for a rut when you have something to plan for and look forward to.
4. Mismatched morals and values.
Adulthood changes people. In fact, everything that leads up to adulthood actually forms your overall morals and values. If you reach adulthood and suddenly your morals and values don’t match up with those of your friends, you might find yourselves bumping heads or being judgmental of your friends. You can’t adjust your morals and values to fit in with someone else’s just like they cannot adjust and change theirs.
The best thing you can do is try to accept that not everyone has the same outlook. Alternatively, you could limit your time spent with friends who have very different morals and values, and seek out new friends with similar life outlooks and views.
5. Distance (and inconvenience).
Adulthood can take friends in a variety of different directions. My best friend currently lives on the other side of the world, and yet we still make it work. It can be hard to maintain a friendship when you never get to see the other person, but try to keep the friendships alive online. With modern technology at our disposal, there is no reason why you should lose contact with a friend who is good to you, just because of distance.
6. Not keeping up with promises.
It doesn’t matter how old we are, we always want to have a friend readily at hand. Friends might promise to attend certain events or be there for you, and then drop you at the last minute or just not show up. Or perhaps a friend promises to make time for you and that time never materializes.
Instead of giving your friend the cold shoulder and being offended or hurt, take the time to ask your friend in a gentle way why they have let you down or dropped you. You might find that the reason warrants the behavior, and then you can respond in a gentler and more understanding manner.
7. Work, life, and relationship envy/jealousy.
Growing older really does shine a spotlight on someone’s success and progress in life, doesn’t it? In adulthood, the different phases of life that people find themselves in could lead to friendship jealousies.
Imagine being a single mom and watching your friend enjoy a rewarding marriage, happy kids, and a comfortable lifestyle. Imagine being a stay-at-home dad who is friends with a high-earning corporate lawyer… there’s plenty of room for envy and jealousy on many levels. The trick is to try not to compare you to anyone else in the group. And if you have a friend that is feeling particularly bad about her place in life, try not to flaunt your success and happiness too much. Rather help them to find theirs if you can.
8. Unbalanced give and take.
As an adult, you probably have a better grasp on the purpose of friendship (and how it works) than the average child or teenager does. Friendships are about having fun, yes, but they are also about providing support and getting support in return.
Many adult friendships experience an unbalance in this particular department where one friend takes far more than he/she gives. You know, the friend that is always calling you for help and support and then is never available when you need a helping hand? We all know those types of friends. The best way to deal with this would be to set some time up to chat with your friend.
Go to lunch, bring up the topic, and merely mention that you would like to do a bit more give and take. Be gentle about it. Try saying something like, “I always like to hear about your challenges and want to help, but I feel like I need to do a bit of the talking recently. Could you hear my problems out today?” You might be surprised that it does the trick and hurtles your relationship back into balance.
9. Not quite fitting in.
As people get older, they might start to feel like they no longer fit in with their peers. Picture the single 30-something-year-old, who is unmarried and without kids, now trying to fit in and hang out with old college friends who are all married with several kids. Chances are that your interests will have changed along with your focuses.
What can you do in this situation?
Don’t ditch your friends just because they are married with kids, but maybe orchestrate meet-ups without the kids, and possibly one on ones so that you don’t feel outnumbered by people you don’t have a thing in common with. Your friendship dynamic has changed, but that doesn’t nullify everything you have been through and all the work you have put in over the years. You might also want to seek out other 30-something-year-olds, who are single and without kids, to hang out with. This might be a whole new chapter for you.
10. Busy schedules that just don’t match up.
With adulthood comes responsibilities and obligations. While you will have good friends that you wish to connect with, your adult schedules just might not match up. Your spouse and kids will need you, you may have a job to juggle, and you have an entire household to run.
Getting together might become a little harder than before. This doesn’t mean that you have to completely give up on your friends. Perhaps have a standing monthly meet-up where you absolutely must meet up with your best friends. Make it a Sunday, so that it’s easier for everyone. Workaround the schedule instead of trying to change it or work through it.
11. Conflict of opinions and interests.
When growing up, people are generally less sure of their ideas, opinions, and feelings than they are when they are older. As an adult, you are bound to feel quite strongly about the things you believe in. For many, this can cause friction and conflict in the adult friendship.
What can you do?
Look into ways of working through differences calmly and respectfully. It’s also healthy to respect another’s opinion without taking it personally. Don’t treat someone badly just because they think differently to you. In fact, listening to other people’s opinions, as well as paying attention to their interests, might just add a whole new element of engagement to your life (and understanding of things).
12. Not enough real-life experiences.
As adults living in the modern age, it might seem “easier” to have a video call or fire off a quick text than it is to actually meet up with someone. Life can make a person tired, and getting older doesn’t help motivate you to get out of the house. Don’t let technology take over your friendships. Promise yourself and your friends that you will never let your friendships become simply about video calls and text messages. Make the effort, and you will feel refreshed and rewarded as a result.
Friendships as an adult can be a little more complicated, but they can be just as rewarding if you are willing to put in the effort. It’s worth getting older together, so don’t neglect the connections that you have been nurturing for years.