Adult friendships are hard

adult friendships

A recent tearful breakdown reminded me of the fact that adult friendships are hard. I’m quiet sensitive and often that side gets the better of me. I broke down after I heard of something hurtful that friends were saying about my family and I. I don’t want to focus on what and how it happened but, I definitely used this incident as a learning and reflection moment.

We go through so much personal growth and development in our 20’s and 30’s, that makes it hard to bring everyone along in the journey with you (sadly). We go into relationships, build careers, take care of family, have kids, experience success and failures, establish homes etc. – all of which make it so damn hard to take care of yourself, let alone your friends.

Friendship requires a great amount of mutual hard work and attention, but sometimes our periods of personal growth, require extra doses of self-care or isolation that may take away from our friendships. Your growth process may mean revaluation and redefining who you are. I believe that we can only be accountable for ourselves. A bit of selfishness and retracting from the rest of the world can sometimes be the only way to save and look after ourselves.

There are friendships that will fade out naturally – in these cases, nothing “happens”- no fights or bad vibes, but you just lose the connection and grow in different directions. Then you get the ones that end and hit you harder than some romantic break-ups! It’s truly heart-wrenching and it may take you a long time to get over them. Again, been there!

It’s interesting how almost all my friendships have changed over the years. I’m still friends with most of my childhood friends, but the nature of the friendships have changed. Instead of vibing every weekend, we get together for special occasions such as birthdays, weddings and holidays. I’ve accepted that it’s okay and enough. Everyone has to live their lives. We all have our own things going and that’s the beauty of life and friendship – being able to reconnect, laugh and create new memories after a long time.

The fact that we aren’t “obligated” to keep our friends (in the way we are to raising our children, for example), means that we have to make an effort and contribute towards the friendships that we do want to keep and grow. Here’s how you could do it:


Evaluate your friendships:

Be honest with yourself. Are you contributing to your friendships like you should, or like your friends are investing in you? Should you be making extra effort or cutting ties? Do you feel drained or energized by the friendship? Does your friendship feel like a safe space?

Leverage special occasions to reach out and reconnect:

Make extra (genuine) effort in your text messages and phone calls.

Schedule Play dates:

They’re a good way to keep the kids entertained while you catch up. Oh, and don’t forget about your friends that don’t have children!

Keep perspective:

Don’t take everything personally – (this is more a note-to-self). It’s okay to mourn and let go the friendships that are no longer serving you. Have the conversation, if necessary, and give yourself permission to cut ties if you feel you need to. Also, when a friend doesn’t reach out, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t care – they may be drowning in their own mess.

Leverage social media:

We all do a fair amount of sharing on social media and it can be a great way to connect with friends. It’s not always possible for people to share all news in person, but social media can be a good platform to catch up, engage and live vicariously through our friends!

Through the ups and downs, I know that I definitely can’t live without the tribe of wonderful friends that I have in my life.

How do you maintain your friendships and stay connected to them?


Modern Zulu Mom

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  1. Adult friendships are hard and definitely need more work as time goes on.
    Thank you for this post. I loved it especially since I’m at a point where I feel like friendship is a bit of a myth.

    1. It’s difficult to maintain and get that balance Sini, but it can be done, with patience, love and mutual respect for our individual values and “situations”. Friendships can also work in cycles, where we grow apart and then together again. Thanks for reading and sharing your views Mama.

  2. Thank you for this…personally this stood out for me in your post “friendship requires a great amount of mutual hard work and attention, but sometimes our periods of personal growth, require extra doses of self-care or isolation that may take away from our friendships.”

    Those that want to grow along with you will be there and those who want to stand aside and watch will stand and watch. Take whatever words were spoke of you as a wind passing by, it does not need your energy, be grateful for those hurtful words as they can only lead to your growth as a better woman, mom and wife.

    Someone once said to me “Protect your family” that is your priority before any friendship, true friends must be supportive and equally encouraging you to protect your family.

    Adult friendships are indeed challenging

    1. No, thank YOU for this comment. I honestly did not know where to even begin addressing the matter but you’re right, it doesn’t deserve my energy and I need to prioritise my family above all.

  3. I have to be honest the shock of a friendship I had always believed was for life shook me to my absolute core!
    It wasn’t till allowed myself to mourn it like i’d taken the time to mourn ‘romantic’ relationships or the loss of someone close to me Thato was able to truly move on. Somethings aren’t always supposed to be forever, and I think that’s what makes the ones that are that much more special! People who belong in your life stay and those that don’t stay, never did!

  4. Keep perspective. I love that.
    Life is busy, if one cannot reach out when you need or expect them too it really does not mean they don’t care… I love this.

  5. I can definitely relate to this. Yes adult friendships are hard but what’s even harder is keeping things together on your own side of the fence. And that’s what holds priority in my life, my family and my own sanity. I honestly try maintain as many friendships as I think are worth my while but I do that based on how much I can give. The same applies to with what you let into your life, youare in control. Keep the negativity out.

  6. Aaahhh!!! Words fail me, you have no idea how much I needed to hear a voice of reason about adult friendships. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  7. Growing up is hard and finding loyal and loving people in your circle of friends is harder..Thank you for this very good read.

  8. It’s really hard between work,school and our families haibo kunzima, but i always say if it’s important to you find the time- make time. Last saw my girls (squad) 1st of Jan:-( and before having kids we used to see each other twice a month if not every weekend.

  9. This was such an enjoyable read and really got me thinking. I think self evaluation is so important too. Often I walk away from friendships that never flourished (Not that this is an everyday thing hahahahahaha), but I think going forward I need to evaluate myself, and question whether I actually made the effort from my end. Also this which you said: “A bit of selfishness and retracting from the rest of the world can sometimes be the only way to save and look after ourselves.” That is too true. The friendships which I still have, and are still going strong, is because of the distance we gave ourselves from time to time. Adulting is hard, and sometimes we need to put our friendships aside, give our personal lives attention first, then focus on friendships.

  10. Hey Thando, this post resonated with me so much.
    What I love about reconnecting with friends is that even after months of not seeing each other, it’s like no time has passed at all!
    When you find yourself regularly sharing the same space with a friend – be it a friend you met at gym, a friend from work, a friend from a dance class, a friend from a support group, a friend from university… if you no longer find yourself in the same space, somehow the friendships dissipate, because, well, life happens and as you said, we grow. It’s important to make the effort to stay in touch, especially with the good ones.
    Thanks for writing this post.

  11. This one really hits home. I recently got married and became a new mom, its so difficult to keep up especially because you have a home to take care of. I’ve seen my friends go out and I wasn’t there, I felt left out but then again I realised that my life has changed and that I have new priorities. It is really hard to maintain friendships especially when others are not making an effort.

  12. Thank you for sharing this ,it is still relevant in the year 2021 absolutely agree with you as the years progress it is challenging to maintain real genuine friendships . I think what I have observed in our culture was this idea that honesty breaks friendships, so we are less likely to share when we are not happy in our friendships or when its time to let go

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