After graduating college and getting married one month later, I really struggled with making and maintaining friendships. I’m finding that being an adult and experiencing difficulty/disappointments in friendship isn’t a coincidence—though it did leave me bitter in the beginning. Here are a few things I’ve learned that have kept me from bitterness and unrealistic expectations in this new territory of developing adult friendships. Perspective changes everything!
1. For me, realizing the difference in the sociocultural climate of Colorado (where I live now) and Florida (where I grew up) was very helpful. After college and as a happy newlywed, I invited women I knew from college, work, or church to coffee or lunch. The typical outcome? I was canceled on… a lot. I’m not perfect at this, but I felt like I was the only one who made an effort to reach out. I also felt like people had a hard time keeping commitments. When I asked a friend for her thoughts on it all she said, “I think there’s a very casual mentality that people in Colorado have in regard to relationships.” I do agree, to some extent, that the Western American view seems to be a bit different than the Southern view. This can be disappointing for those of us who have been spoiled by sweet Southern ways… but since I plan on calling Colorado my home for a long time, there is a point to which I have to accept this difference and discover the sweet things that the people of the West have to offer.
2. I can’t compare the way people interact now, as adults, with my past experiences while growing up. My past and my present are two very different animals. In high school and college, everyone is in the same season of life. Being in the same boat, students understand the depth of one another’s joys and struggles, much like how mothers often relate to one another in special ways about motherhood. I’m not saying it’s impossible for people to be friends when they are in different seasons of life (I know from experience with my best friend), but it does seem that high school and college kids have the benefit of being forced into the same environment as one another, day after day, for a year or more at a time—providing consistent opportunities to make lasting friendships.
3. “Adulting” is hard, friends. We must make important decisions, and therefore our lives are constantly changing. Our decisions produce outcomes, both good and bad, which may in turn create new seasons of life. Adjusting to new seasons—some simultaneously—often takes away from time we would like to spend with friends or family. We must give grace to others as they (and we!) experience these new seasons, whether they are hard or joyous.
4. If someone you pursue is consistently inconsistent, it may be time to stop fighting for something that just isn’t meant to be. I’ve had to realize that sometimes I fight too hard and care too much about people who just aren’t as interested as I was. I even noticed that sometimes I was fighting for some friendships out of selfishness—wanting to prove my own value to myself and others. Friendships don’t prove our worth, ladies! We are each valuable, and there are people out there who will see our worth—just continue to let your true self shine.
5. Maybe it’s time to give more grace while also lessening your expectations for others. There is, of course, a time and a place to talk with your friends about ways they may have hurt you, but disappointment oftentimes stems from unrealistic expectations. Showing grace may look like choosing to be understanding over putting up walls. It’s better to err on the side of grace. You may never know the true “why” behind canceled plans or someone not following through with a commitment.
Even though my circumstances have not changed, my perspective has, and that makes all the difference! So remember: be open-minded, move on when it’s time, and always give grace to yourself and to others.