I used to think that having fewer friends as I’ve gotten older meant there was something wrong with me.
In my mind, I figured I must be inherently flawed and unlovable, because I’ve managed to lose touch with literally everyone that I graduated high school with, my college friends have scattered and dropped off the group chats years ago, and I’ve forgotten what girls night is like because all “my girls” (including me) are working, parenting, or just plain too exhausted to whoop it up anymore.
Surely, I thought, I have totally messed up somewhere—because I couldn’t understand how others were still best friends with the same people they hung out with when they were kids. And how are people even finding the time and energy for friendships when adulting takes so much of it?
But the truth is, they’re actually not still all hanging out. And people make time for what matters; sometimes friends are not at the top of the list and I (and you) have done nothing wrong.
Sure, there are the rare few “besties from birth, friends forever” types out there, and if you have one, that’s amazing! I hope you nurture that relationship forever (see how below).
But for most of us, friendships begin, change, grow, shift, and then they dissolve, or they just plain don’t work out. And this happens over and over again until you’re left with a small, core group of true friends.
After so many years of believing I was destined to never have a true ride-or-die bestie like in the movies, I finally understood that intentionally building stronger, more evolved relationships with other people—who are willing to meet you on the same level of growth and healing you’re on—takes a lot of time, effort, and patience with yourself and the other person. I may never have a small town, “Now and Then,” Roberta-Teeny-Chrissy-Samantha crew, and that’s okay! (I was obsessed with that movie! I wanted those best friends and their awesome treehouse—who remembers?!)
It’s extremely rare and beautiful when you find yourself in an open, no-holds-barred, deeply satisfying, give-and-take, reciprocal friendship with someone who just gets you, especially as an adult, when life in general makes it difficult to connect as we’re all on our different paths.
I remember speaking to this woman I know who has three close friends of 20 years. They all ditch their husbands to do girls’ lunches and birthdays, work out and hang out, and go on vacations together. They even rented an Airbnb and took their journals to write about all the fun times they’ve had together, which I thought was so cool and instantly made me want my own lunching-vacaying-journaling-girl-gang of 20 years, too. I asked her what has made them so close over the years. She said they just respect each other, make time for each other, and talk a lot.
Seems simple enough, right? I have always aspired to have this level of closeness with friends. I would try to picture myself and my best friend 20 years from now, and for a long time, she didn’t have a face because I didn’t have that friend.
Finally, in my 30s, I have cultivated my own very small, intimate circle of friends, and each one of those relationships is super sacred to me because it’s taken me so long to find and build them.
I know who to call when I’m having a bad day. I know who needs a little extra support from time to time. I know each of their texting styles, when to emoji, and when a tough love voice note is better. I know when to celebrate their wins, sympathize on the lows, and when they mean something other than what they’re saying.
They know when I need solitude and space and don’t get offended when I choose to recharge instead of socialize. They keep my secrets just as I hold theirs. They know to call me when they have a crazy idea because I’ll either hype them up to do it, or gently talk some sense into them. They get me.
A connection like that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes so much nurturing and self-awareness and healing to build the kind of friendships you want in your life. And we carry so much trauma and wounding from early on that needs healing before we can really understand what a healthy friendship even looks and feels like.
Remember that one time in second grade when all your friends excluded you from the playground “clubhouse”? Or the time your best friend didn’t invite you to her sleepover in eighth grade? No? Well, your subconscious does, and loves to trigger your anxiety and distrust of others as an adult by triggering that feeling of not safe, not secure, not accepted. Will I get invited or left out? Did I say the right thing? Do they like me? That’s where the inner soul work comes in.
I’ve learned a few things over the years about building and maintaining true friendships.
>> Your oldest friends might not be your best ones. That’s okay.
>> The depth of a relationship is only as far as both parties are willing to go. If both friends aren’t willing to go there, the friendship might feel unbalanced. Meet that person where you can both connect equally.
>> Having a large quantity of friends will never make up for the high quality of a few really good ones. A few real ones wins over a bunch of fake ones, every time.
>> Friends fulfill different needs and roles. You can’t expect one friend to be everything you need—that’s on you to figure out and fulfill yourself.
>> Less comparison, more celebration. Jealously, competition, judgment…yes, they’re gonna happen in your friendships. How you handle it is what makes the difference.
>> Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you mess up, own up. A true friend will be willing to hear you out.
>> Some friendships will die out, fade away, or become misaligned or toxic. That’s normal. You can work to revive them (mutually, with effort from both parties) or let the dead leaves drop. Both are okay.
If you’re still searching for your adult “bestie,” don’t give up hope. There’s nothing wrong with you. Remember that they are most likely already looking for you, too.
And if you’ve got one already, cherish them. We all need connection, and while many friends will come and go in your lifetime, you will always be supported if you always give support.
Nurture your friendships like you’d nurture any relationships—with love, respect, and communication—and you can’t go wrong.