By Ryan McKee and Ann Worth
Any of these sound familiar?
It didn’t happen all at once, but it happened: We looked around and we didn’t see very many friends. We had never been busier, never been happier in our relationship with one another, and our calendars were all booked up, yet we still felt lonely.
It was our own fault. We got lazy, and stopped putting the time into nurturing our friendships. After realising this, we reached out to a few of our old pals to see if they could relate, and surprisingly, so many of them said that they too felt lonelier than they did in their 20s. Some of them have started families and that takes up all of their time, or others are more focused on their careers, but no matter the circumstance – they all reported having similar feelings.
Even though we aren’t in school together anymore, or living with each other in a crappy old flat, we assumed we would always stay close. But like any relationship, it takes compromise and work, and not just hope.
Here are some of the mistakes we’ve made as a couple that have inadvertently eroded our best friendships – and have kept us from making new ones.
1. The money trap
When you’re in your 20s, the earning potential for your friends doesn’t vary much. Everyone still agrees that cheap beer and a balcony off of a rented flat makes for great parties. No one is feeling left out. But as we age, so do our job prospects. And with this comes more successes (i.e. money). Without realising it, people start to hang out mainly in their “social classes” and do activities that match their incomes. Or worse, only hang out with work friends. This can unintentionally alienate longtime buddies.
2. Moving to the ‘burbs
It was fun to live small house when we had roommates and stayed up all night, but now we need more privacy. We need leeway for our habits, our relationships our mid-century modern furniture, our dogs and/or our kids. The problem is, space costs a lot of money, so we have to go look for it on the perimeter of town. Years ago we would have never lived somewhere that didn’t have a bar around the block. Now everyone is all spread out on a map. The motivation to meet up for a quick conversation and beer has waned.
3. Couple lockdown
This is the worst, and a personal pet peeve of ours – even though we are probably the guiltiest of it. Yes, you are with someone who loves (almost) everything you do. Yes, it is comfortable to hang out on a couch together and watch movies. Yes, the conversation flows naturally. BUT, you are turning into that couple that becomes one unit, one thought, one plan. Get out there with the same passion as before you met. Being part of a team is not a free pass to become a hermit.
4. Work-life balance
There are many articles out there about how people regret all the long hours they worked in their youth. They missed the good years with those they love. We think about that often and kick ourselves for those times we kept breaking plans with friends because of work or because we were simply too tired (because of work). It should serve as a reminder to reevaluate life goals. If your job puts you in a mindset where your nose is to a grindstone, when you look up, everyone will be gone.
5. Unwilling to compromise
Single, Married or Family? Why is our current station in life such a determining factor of who we can hang out with in our 30s? We are all guilty of this. Our single friends don’t want to hang out with us because we are married. Can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard, “I only get a couple of good nights a week to meet someone, I’m not losing that opportunity.” And we don’t hang out with our friends with kids because we assume they are at Spur, while they assume we are either out of town or eating overpriced sushi. It shouldn’t be such an issue taking turns doing what the other wants to do.
6. Lack of enthusiasm
When did we become so negative? When someone suggests a concert that starts at 9pm down the street, we’re like, “Naw, too late for these old bones.” How did this happen? We refuse to believe it’s just because we’re older and therefore more tired. It must be our outlook. It’s time to think about the greater experience and not about that fact that it’s standing room only.
7. Stricter friend guidelines
People are woven with intricacies. They are flawed and complex. That is what we loved about those we grew up with. And now? “Can you believe he likes Trump?” “She smokes too much.” “He’s doing that fasting diet again.” “I think they are in an open relationship.” It’s weird that as we age we look for those more like us. When did we become close-minded? This should be the time when we look for those with great insight, stories, and different perspectives. We shouldn’t lose our child-like inquisitiveness, and should constantly seek to understand new things.
8. Trying to “be good”
The 20s were a period of exploration and we learned what we are good at, bad at, and what we need to avoid. This information is valuable, until it dictates how you relate to others. Some situations are unavoidable, like a friend just out of A.A. not wanting to go to a drink-focused event. What we’re talking about is the inflexibility of lifestyle changes. You can still meet up for a pizza if you’re on a gluten-free diet. Have a salad. It’s okay that you are training for the next Tough Mudder, just stop talking about it and veg out with us. Your kids must be in bed by 8pm, fine, doesn’t mean you have to be. Just relax, we can all get through this together.
9. No new friends
It’s hard to create a new circle of camaraderie – everyone (including us) seems so set in their ways and not always accepting applications for friends. It’s easy to blow off the challenge of putting yourself out there, but really, why don’t you just call that person who said they would like to hang out sometime? Why not meet that third cousin your mother swears you would hit it off with? You don’t have a good answer. Wonderful people are out there at every stage of our lives. Let’s go meet them.
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