Examining Adult Friendship: Can You Go From Friendly to Friends as a Grown-up?

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I’m delightful at parties, I give great relationship advice, and I can go to a lunch like it’s my job, but in my sea of acquaintances, sometimes it seems like I could die of thirst before I make a new friend.   

As I prepare to trade one coast for another, I’ve been thinking a lot about what my life will look like when I arrive in my new home. If everything goes well, I’ll still have all my furniture, my dog, and (hopefully) my boyfriend. What won’t be coming with me are my friends. It’s a great loss, perhaps in ways I don’t even realize yet. Even more so because, the more I think about it, the more I’m painfully aware that I’m not sure I know how to make new friends. 

It used to be so easy, didn’t it? My childhood friends have gone the distance, even though our lives continue to drift further and further apart. College friends are still in the picture, although obviously we can’t maintain the intensity of our college bonds.  And since living in Los Angeles, I’ve maintained many close friendships that I treasure. But nonetheless, the older I get, the more difficult it is to both initiate and maintain a new friendship.  

It makes sense. As a child and young adult I wasn’t a fully formed person, so I was open to everything and everyone. As I’ve zeroed in on who I am, and let go of what doesn’t work for me, I’ve also narrowed the number of people who blend with my personality. Add to that my increasingly limited leisure time, now that I have actual grown-up responsibilities, and the sheer awkwardness of asking another adult if they want to “hang out sometime,” and is it any wonder our social circles are dwindling?

And even when I do hit it off with someone, it’s not always a last-forever relationship. I’ve lost plenty of friends — people I was close to for a period of time, perhaps while we worked a job together, or shared a beach house — but ultimately those friendships didn’t stick. It turned out our relationship was one of convenience and couldn’t weather less-than-ideal conditions once those initial shared experiences ended. Nothing happened, we just lost touch. That’s fine, some people are in your life while you need them to be, and then the relationship runs its course. It doesn’t change the fact that making a lifelong friend as an adult is a rare (and I mean unicorn rare) occurrence. 

As I tell each of my friends, one-by-one, that my days on the West Coast are numbered, we have the same conversation — they’ll visit, we’ll email and it won’t be that bad. And we will…until we don’t. The truth is, I’m close to these particular people because we have things in common, and I’m removing one of those things by leaving the city. I’ve had boyfriends that didn’t last because of the commute across LA, so what makes me so sure I can maintain closeness with someone who’ll be turning on their air conditioning while I’m still wearing snow boots?   

When two lives are running parallel to each other and one adjusts its course a few degrees, over time, those lives grow farther and farther apart. And while that sounds depressing, it's a part of life. Priorities shift and friendships are no longer the main relationships in peoples’ lives. 

It's a harsh realization, but the harder it gets to beat the odds, the more I appreciate the friends in my life that have weathered the storm. Who knows why some people just stick with you? Maybe it's because we have too much dirt on each other to ever be just "friendly" again.  

(Image: Shutterstock)

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