What’s So Hard About Making, Being, and Keeping Friends as Adults?

I think I watched too many episodes of Friends and Golden Girls in my formative years.

I grew up with this idea that when I was an adult, I’d have this amazing, core group of friends. Maybe we wouldn’t live in the Village in New York or in a swanky 50+ community outside Miami, but we’d be ride or die. There’d be the quirky one, the funny one, and the one who’s everybody’s mom (that’s me). We’d always be there for each other through life’s ups and downs, eating cheesecake and drinking copious amounts of coffee.

Well, besides the copious amounts of coffee, the friendships I’ve formed in my adulthood don’t look much like my younger self envisioned.

Why is that? What exactly is so hard about making, being, and keeping friends as adult women?

Is It Just Me?

I was curious if other women felt like I do. So I created a series of questions on my Instagram Stories. Most of my followers are women in their 30s and 40s, so I thought it would be a good place to start.

Here are the questions I asked and the answers I found:

  • Would you say you have “a lot” of friends? // 24% of women responded that they had a ton of friends, while 76% said they didn’t have many.
  • Do you have more acquaintances or real, true “heart friends?” // 74% of women said that they had more acquaintances.  Only 26% said they considered the majority of their friendships to be “heart friends.” (Aha! Maybe it isn’t just me after all.)
  • Do you have a woman you would consider to be your “best friend?” // The results were pretty split with 60% saying yes, they did have a best friend, and 40% saying they did not.

Digging Deeper

The next questions I asked were a little more freestyle. What amazed me, though, were the similarities I found among the answers.

What do you find difficult about making and keeping friends as adults?

Over and over again, one word was repeated: time. There’s not enough of it, scheduling is a nightmare, and we all have so many other obligations filling our calendars. How is it possible to give enough time to our families, our significant others, our jobs, and our friends? It can be so difficult to invest enough time to really get to know people.

Another difficulty mentioned was in actually meeting people. Whether because of the military lifestyle, living in a rural area, or the more online-orientation of our current lifestyles, it’s harder to actually meet people face-to-face.

Some said that it’s difficult to make and keep friends when we fear rejection, especially if we’ve been hurt in previous friend relationships. Others noted that our lives change so much in our 20s and 30s (getting married, having babies, moving, etc.), it can be hard to stay attached to friends we had in other seasons of life.

Some pointed out that it might be challenging to find friends as adults with similar values and commitment to faith that we have.

But it’s not all doom and gloom!

What makes you happiest about your adult friendships?

Authenticity and transparency were the key focus here. We have such a desire to be seen, known, and loved in all areas of our life, but certainly with those women with whom we choose to share our time and truth. We love being able to share the silly along with the serious. And we want to encounter women just as they are, accept and love them, and have that gift returned to us.

We have realized that we don’t only need to be friends with women our own ages! In fact, when we widen our circles, we gain so much from the wisdom of our older friends and the outlook of our younger friends.

We love praying with and for one another. We feel more comfortable with increased vulnerability and an overall lack of drama. And we are blessed by those friends who have become more like family over the years.

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The Influence of Social Media on Having Friends as Adults

We live in a world where we can be “friends” with people we’ve never actually met and total strangers can “follow” us online. Whether we want to admit it or not, we use “likes” to validate us and measure our worth against others we don’t even know.

In decades past, our grandmothers wrote letters and our moms paid for long-distance phone calls. But us? We write pithy Facebook statuses, make videos for Instagram stories, and try to present the best of ourselves to the world by filling square upon square of curated images for the ‘gram. We tweet and re-tweet, pop into each other’s DM boxes, and tag in statuses and pictures, being real-life encouragers in a very virtual world.

That’s not to say we can’t form excellent relationships through the internet. I mean, welcome to Blessed is She, right? What a hypocrite I’d be if I said that wonderful relationships couldn’t be formed in an online ministry. Even here, though, what is the purpose? To draw us closer in our relationship with God and with each other in real life!

So, Now What?

This is all well and good, but what are we supposed to do now? How can we take this reassurance that our experience of friendship—whatever that may be—is totally normal? How can we deepen our friendships?

Regardless of whether or not we are currently satisfied with our experience of friendship, one thing is certain. Just as women grow and change through ages and stages, so do our friendships. As we move forward from here, let’s ask ourselves a couple questions and really, honestly, think about our answers with no judgment, only grace.

  1. Am I praying for my friends? The ones I have, and the ones I desire? The ones I know well and those I’d like to know better?
  2. Am I being the friend I would like to have? Do I make my friends a priority? Am I open to friendship with women in different seasons of life? Do I treat people as acquaintances or truly let them into my heart?

In the Company of Good People

“What a great favor God does to those He places in the company of good people.” -St. Teresa of Avila.


So whether you are a Rachel, a Monica, or a Phoebe…

Whether you view the world like a Sophia, a Rose, a Dorothy, or a Blanche (well, maybe not a Blanche)…

Or if, instead, we model ourselves after the saintly friendships of Mary and Elizabeth, Perpetua and Felicity, Basil and Gregory, Louis and Zelie, John Paul and Teresa…

My dearest hope for all of us in our friendships is that we find people with whom we can be ourselves. May we be seen, known, and loved for who we truly are. Authentically, transparently, without fear of rejection, and full of love for those of all ages and stages.

May we find (or make) the time to invest in real and true friendships of the heart. And wherever we are, may we continue to find ourselves in the company of good people.

What’s been your experience of making and keepings friends as adults?

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Beth Williby is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She is a mom of four pretty amazing humans and has been married to her college sweetheart for twenty years. She does her best praying through singing and feeding the people she loves. Having grown up in the Midwest, she now calls Northeast Florida home. You can find out more about her here.

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