This Is Why It Can Be So Difficult to Make (and Keep) New Friends in Your 30s

Updated 08/08/17
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Your 30s usher in a slew of life changes just like any other age, but what you choose to spend your time and energy on is what arguably changes the most. As your priorities shift away from socializing and going out to “settling down” and for some, starting a family, friendships old and new tend to get the short end of the stick.

“After 30, people often experience internal shifts in how they approach friendship,” said Marla Paul, author of The Friendship Crisis, to the New York Times. Not only do long-term relationships and children tend to take priority, but “self-discovery gives way to self-knowledge, so you become pickier about whom you surround yourself with … the bar is higher than when we were younger and were willing to meet almost anyone for a margarita.”

As Rebecca G. Adams, professor of sociology and gerontology, points out, three crucial conditions must be met in order to make and keep close friends: proximity, repeated unplanned interactions, and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down (like college, for example). Of course, external factors like marriage, kids, and working full-time complicate these conditions even further.

The professional world, for example, complicates the “proximity” part of this equation, as colleagues are regularly switching departments, moving desks, or getting new jobs altogether. If you do make a good work friend, chances are maintaining that proximity in the long term will become complicated at some point.

Marriage and kids, on the other hand, complicate friendships because of the sheer number of people and personalities at play. Making friends with other couples “is like matchmaking for two,” said Kara Baskin, a Boston-based journalist, to the Times. “Not only are you worrying about whether the other woman likes you, you’re also worrying if her husband likes you, if your husband likes her, if your husband likes him.”

Similarly, friendships with other parents are often at the whims of the children themselves, and they can wither as the kids’ friendship changes with age. As comedian Louis C.K. puts it, “I spend whole days with people, I’m like, I never would have hung out with you, I didn’t choose you. Our children chose each other. Based on no criteria, by the way. They’re the same size.”

Of course, if you want to make new friends during this life stage, you shouldn’t let these factors stand in your way. One 30-something, Lisa Degliantoni, an educational fundraising executive, has simply changed her expectations of what friendship looks like. “I take an extremely efficient approach and seek out like-minded folks to fill very specific needs,” she told the Times. “I have a cocktail friend and a book friend and a parenting friend and several basketball friends and a neighbor friend and a workout friend.”

Complications aside, how have you managed to make and maintain friendships in your 30s, 40s, and beyond? Share your thoughts below.

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