Why Friendship is Hard as an Adult: My Struggle to Find Quality Friends

Friends laughing

Maybe it’s just me, but finding the time to nurture friendships as an adult feels exhausting sometimes (and doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of a friendship?) 

For so long, I’ve wondered if my lack of deep, meaningful adult friendships (outside my marriage) is just the people I have chosen over the years. But lately, I’ve started to question what it takes to find those meaningful friendships that I crave and have traveled down a path of curiosity, trying to make sense of it all. 

Allow me to take you on that journey with me. This is what I’ve learned.

Friendships are vital to our emotional well-being, physical health, and overall happiness for both men and women. In fact, “friends make us happier than any other relationship,” says Eric Barker. Interesting, right?! 

Most people are searching the depths of the internet in search of their dream spouse when really what they might need is just a few quality friends.   

I think I’m so fascinated with this topic because my entire mission in life has been to figure out why I’ve struggled so much with finding quality friends. So, while I’ve expanded my knowledge in this area and learned the importance of friendships, I still struggle to understand why most of my friendships have ended in turmoil. (Can anyone else relate?) I’ve tried to cultivate close friendships. I’ve given freely of my time, sacrificing nights with my kids or husband, but I always seem to fall short of their expectations. 

Why Adult Friendships are so hard

Eric Barker explained that “the thirties are the decade where friendships go to die,” and I was like, “oh, maybe that’s it. It’s just ’cause I’m in my thirties.” But the truth is that I’ve always struggled with friendships, so it’s not just a struggle that I can narrow down to this decade of my life. I’ve actually felt lonely most of my life, but that doesn’t minimize the fact that adult friends seem exceptionally hard.

However, the more I contemplated that statement (about the thirties), the more I realized that your thirties are pivotal in that there is often so much other shit going on with family obligations that make it challenging to nurture relationships like they require. (We’re talking kid’s baseball tournaments, doctors visits, date nights with the husband to keep intimacy alive, swim meets on the weekends, family dinner with the in-laws….the list goes on and on) 

Here’s the thing; by definition, any kind of relationship requires an element of upkeep. No matter how much we pretend expectations don’t exist within the confines of friendship, they do. And to make this even more complicated, there isn’t a universal definition of friendship because there is no formal entity that spells out how a friendship should be defined and no societal norm that tells us we’re doing it right…or wrong.

What this Tells us About Adult Relationships

This means two things: 

1. The definition of friendship is subjective 

2. Friendships can be extremely fragile. 

Look at marriage, for example. If you disagree about something, there is a societal expectation that you talk about the problem and work things out rather than divorce when the first argument arises. This societal expectation doesn’t exist for friendships, which is why we see some friendships dissolve to nothing at the onset of a disagreement. Friendship is always a deliberate choice, which makes it both beautiful and tragic at the same time. 

I firmly believe in the statement “clear is kind,” yet many don’t practice this in our friendships. So look, if you have an expectation, even if it’s weird, it’s easier for people to meet your expectations if they know about them first. 

Speaking for myself, I want friends, but only friendships that feel good, are meaningful and don’t carry the weight of unrealistic expectations. I’ve put so much time and energy into relationships that have completely fallen flat that I’m to a point in my life where I’m just scared to take that chance anymore.

So there you have it-why I have no friends.

The Reason Adult Relationships are Hard

But therein lies the problem because I absolutely can see why friendships are so important to our overall happiness. And a part of me is envious when I see a group of girls out for coffee, swapping stories over mimosas, sunshine, and laughter at the new cafe in town. I want that too. Don’t we all want that? And it’s no wonder having a good group of friends would create a healthier, happier version of you.

But what about when all the “friends” you have in your life are quite the opposite of meaningful? Many of the people I have invited into my bubble have not brought the happiness and deep connection I desire. And I’ve recently realized that many of my friendships haven’t been meaningful because they lacked the “deliberate choice” requirement I mentioned earlier. Instead, many of my friendships have been “circumstantial,” meaning we are friends because our kids are friends. 

So this proposes another question. If THAT many people have come into my life, and I still can’t find the connection I’m looking for, this must indicate a personal problem, right? 

What we do know about Adult Relationships

Well, here’s the thing experts DO agree on about friendship: Time and Vulnerability are the two factors that produce deep, meaningful relationships. 

Learning this makes so much more sense why I’ve always struggled with friendships. Not only do I not have the time but also I am terrified of being vulnerable. I’m so afraid to open up that I’m even skeptical if someone else opens up too much. And what’s even worse is that we are often more comfortable sharing our lives with those who aren’t close than those who are because there isn’t as much risk involved. We’re afraid of judgment, embarrassment, and ridicule, and I say “we” because I know that vulnerability is something we could all use a little help with. 

Life is scary, especially when we’ve been jaded in the past. 

I share this realization and my personal story so you can know that you aren’t alone. (And honestly, to help me feel less alone). Because the risk we take by not having friendships and living a life of loneliness is worse for our health than smoking fifteen cigarettes a day, according to Julianne Holt-Lunstad. 

Mind blowing, right? 

That alone has to tell us something about the importance of friendships. So, if we want to start living a happier life, we’ve got to take this friendship thing seriously and start nurturing those relationships with our time and vulnerability. Possibly, this could be the missing key so many people are searching for in life in their quest for happiness.

Interested in learning more about the complexities of friendship?

I wrote a post called “3 reasons you keep losing friends (that you’ve probably never thought about)”. Others must love it because it’s one of my most popular blog posts. Check it out!

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