The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of Adult Friendships

by Sarah Cunningham

No one talks about the mysterious social stage that arrives the instant you score a college diploma and an actual, real world job.

Well, hit pause on the secret adulting rules for a second because I'm spilling.

Listen early 20-something socialites, you may have magically coasted through the relational mine zone called middle school.

You may have scaled your high school social ladder, and you may have been that college A-lister who racked up hundreds of story-worthy memories and showed up to your 8 am fully accessorized, flipping your perfect hair.

But here's the thing: Everything you know about the way friendships have worked up until this point is about to be hurled through the glass ceiling of adulthood. And some of it is going to land in barely recognizable pieces on the other side.

Sorry, but I don't want to sugar-coat it.

Thanks to the rise in adult responsibilities, the way you manage your energy is about to change. But it'll all be OK.

You'll first notice the change when one day, after haggling your way through leases and job interviews you'll crash onto your pillow, completely and utterly spent, and it'll hit you that you had exactly 13 seconds of energy left to invest in your social life and you spent them on Instagram.

At this point, your energy levels, your availability and your choice of weeknight activities may break from past social norms.

And, yes, you can expect a few insanely-weird, am-I-on-a-different-planet vibes to commence at first.

But never fear, your social life isn't over.

There are a few mental adjustments to be made as you transition into adult life, and eventually you'll settle into a new expression of social life.

Just remember: You haven't suddenly become less socially desirable, the path to social success has just changed.

If you were used to hanging out with your friends every, single day, it may be perplexing to discover it's been days or weeks since you last got together with them.

But don't let yourself feel insecure, or like you're losing friends. What you're experiencing is the consequence of a calendar no longer predominantly spent in a built-in community of peers.

Think about it: Making friends during your school days often happened by default. You didn't have to work out schedule conflicts or job responsibilities.

At the time, you were all young enough to have some major, baseline things in common -- you were growing up in the same town, going to the same school, all in the same stage of life.

You had to find your way through the same gauntlet of algebra tests, required gym runs and awkward dances where there were as many people sitting against the wall as there were actually dancing.

Even if you went to college, the social playing field -- though different -- was still somewhat built-in.

You were assigned a dorm and class schedule that surrounded you with peers in the same stage of life. You all had the same goals: graduation, employability, fun.

Through familiarity and consistency, and often without having to be too intentional, friendships were forged.

But when adult life begins, the rules change.

The people you spent your time around all these years have suddenly dispersed all over the planet. They work different careers, different shifts and meet different people.

And the people you work with are the same -- they didn't grow up with you or go to college with you. In fact, some might not even be near your age.

Let's say you have three co-workers within 10 years of your age, one might never leave the office, one might be a mom of six who drives a minivan and one might be an ex-marine who can do 106 push ups with the copy machine on their back.

All I'm saying is this: If your social life goes on the fritz for a second, it's not you, it's life.

The social landscape of adulthood is dramatically different than childhood. Your old pattern of just “showing up” for life no longer yields the same rewards.

Unlike prior stages of life, there are less rules and less gatekeepers to direct how you spend your time. You get to figure out what feels right for you, make choices accordingly and enter into the adventure of adult friendship.