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Maintaining Your Friendships As You Get Older

one year wedding anniversary

Experiencing the transition of friendships is rough. I’ve gotten a handful of questions about this topic for Coffee with Liz and I thought it deserved its own blog post. Personally, this is something that I’ve struggled with as my life has transitioned the past few years. 

My closest friends are my best friends from high school. After college we all moved back to the city, we all lived together or within blocks of each other in Lincoln Park (for 8 years!) and we have always been each other’s sounding boards, sisters and partners in everything. Over the past 10 years, some of us have gotten married, some have moved away to chase their dream jobs, some are dating and working in the city and some have had kids and moved to the suburbs. Any transition can cause a strain on relationships but it wasn’t until I had kids that I noticed a change. 

I was one of the first of my friends to have a baby. When I was pregnant I always said “motherhood isn’t going to change me! this baby is just going to become an accessory to lives we already live!” I thought I would own motherhood and Dave and I would find a seamless way to introduce Charlie into our lives. When I had Charlie I was a mess. I was sad and I felt lost in the new life I was trying to navigate. When I didn’t own my roll as a mom right away, I felt discouraged and I kept those feelings to myself instead of asking for help. My friends would come to meet Charlie and I would put on a happy face and everything seemed fine! I think this isolated me a little bit in those first three months. I didn’t make plans, I just sort of went through my days to check them off the calendar. Charlie was born in September and I feel like I didn’t come up for air until February/March. Dave would go out with our friends and I would stay home with Charlie. I was comfortable and I started to feel better as a mom. When we finally started exploring the city together, I was drawn to other moms! I wanted to talk about motherhood, babies, emotions—everything (I love talking about being a mom, it’s my favorite). My conversations shifted, my priorities shifted and suddenly the time I had left to spend on a social life was slim to none. 

The less I reached out, the less I heard from my friends. My friend Alex and I both had little boys within 8 weeks of one another and kind of clung to each other. On weekends we grabbed an early bird dinner at 5pm to be home for 6:30pm bedtime, it was rare that we got a babysitter because hungover mornings were not worth the $$ and all of a sudden a year went by and I had only seen my friends a handful of times. There was a point where my feelings were hurt that they didn’t really know Charlie, that this huge life change had happened for me and I felt like they weren’t a part of it. Do I wish they would have asked how I was doing more? Yes. Should I have been more proactive in reaching out to them? Yes. Because we’ve all been friends for so long, I think the sudden change (the biggest life change!) kind of threw everyone for a loop. I also believe that you don’t know what you don’t know. I had no idea having a baby would totally shift my life in an unexpected but wonderful way. I welcomed the change but it was also isolating at times. The same for my girlfriends without kids—how could they relate to my life now when they still have the freedom to do whatever they want? My girlfriends and I have had numerous conversations about the transition since then and I think we’ve all accepted that things have changed. It is no one’s fault, it’s just the progression of life and it takes time to accept. But having the conversation has strengthened our relationships even more. Although socially our lives may look a little different, my girls from high school are my most trusted advisors. There is no one else I would call. 

Dedicate and put in the time for the friendships that are important to you. My time is valuable and between family life and work life, I don’t have a ton of time to dedicate to half-ass friendships (I’m just going to lay it all out there). If you are a good friend then I’m going to dedicate the time to nurturing our relationship. If that isn’t the case, that’s ok, too! I’m not saying it has to be black or white but my time is precious, my relationships are precious and unless you’re going to be a positive in my life then I’ve realized it’s okay to let some friendships go. I think this is the biggest thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older. I was always the one to keep the peace, keep connections and so on but the truth is we change! We grow and we change and our priorities and lives change too. Certain people are instrumental during specific stages of our lives and then they are not. I’m forever grateful for those friendships but when I think about who I was in high school, in college, even the first few years after college—I’m the same but I’m also different. I think it’s okay to accept the change for what it is and let go of relationships that don’t make you happy. It doesn’t have to mean that those people won’t come back into your life later on but you just have to do what is best for you in the moment. Whether you’re a new mom, single and living it up in the city, dating, living in the suburbs with grown kids—whatever it may be—I think this concept is important for everyone. Do what makes you happy, listen to your gut, nurture the relationships that are important to you, voice your concerns, stick up for yourself. This is important from all sides! The best kind of friendships are the ones that make your heart happy, support you, and make you want to give that same feeling back to them. We all know how important our relationships are with our girlfriends so make sure you treat them well. 

5 Tips for Maintaining Your Friendships 

  1. Keep communication open. I think it is easy to place blame when no one is really taking accountability for the situation. Voice your concerns! Your friends are your friends for a reason. 
  2. Don’t put so much pressure on the relationship. If you have to work for it, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate.
  3. Accept the stage of life that you’re in. A major issue with our friends was ignoring the fact that change was happening at all. Once we welcomed the next phase we were all so much more supportive of each other!
  4. Don’t feel guilty. I spent a lot of time feeling guilty. Like I wasn’t doing enough to nurture my friendships but the truth is I barely had time to take a breath. Accept the stage of life that you’re in, give yourself grace and do what is best for yourself. You have to be your own best friend first!
  5. Make an effort. If the friendship is important to you then do whatever you can to make sure that person knows!

Have you experienced this? How do you deal with it? I’d love to get some conversation going in the comments!

Photos of my beautiful bridesmaids and best friends from our wedding day!

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