Among the list of myriad things that get more difficult as you get older–like sitting up from a low chair or touching your toes–is making and maintaining friendships. I know my own relationship dynamics have gotten a bit more difficult than just sharing a juice box at recess.
So in the interest of starting a discussion here, I wanted to make a short list of the things that make adult friendships so very difficult from my own experience, and hopefully offer a few suggestions for how to overcome these barriers.
Adult Friendship Barrier #1: Distance
There was once a time when all of my friends lived in the same neighborhood. That time was high school, and it was mostly mandated by school district boundaries. Now, those friends (plus new ones from college and beyond) are spread out all over the country and the world.
Facebook and group texts make keeping in touch easy, but it's harder to spend quality time together from hundreds of miles away. There's really only one solution: travel. Make time to visit each other, especially for important events like weddings and baby showers. Speaking of babies...
Adult Friendship Barrier #2: Parents vs. Non-Parents
It's still a mystery to me why there's so much tension in friendships between parents and non-parents. Most of it stems from availability, it seems. I'm not a parent, but I know having kids make it more difficult to drop everything and hang out like you did in your child-free days.
So to non-parents: Cut your parent friends some slack. Understand that they still love coming to your parties, but they might have to bring their kids (and you should put your fragile crap away).
To parents: Realize that your child-free friends have their own stuff going on (jobs, friends, relationships), and can't always plan around your family's schedule. As long as there's open communication and mutual respect, you can still make quality time for each other–it'll just be a little less frequent than before.
Adult Friendship Barrier #3: Breakups
When you're a couple, you likely have some friends that are couples. And when one of those couples breaks up, it forces people to choose sides and provides ample opportunity to gossip and generally open things up to negativity. Breakups and divorces are toxic to friendships that way.
My husband and I have a bit of a reputation for being "Switzerland" among our friend circle whenever there's tension from a breakup, and it's thanks to one thing: being impartial and quiet. Make equal time for both of the former parties in the broken up couple, letting them vent but never feeding into it. And the number one bit of advice for maintaining friendships after a breakup: Get away from gossip. Like, run away to another room. Literally.
While I like to think I'm a decent friend to the people I care about, a relationship expert I am not. So I turn it over to you guys to give your best advice, too:
How do you maintain friendships through hardships?