How To Maintain Your Friendships Throughout Your 20s
Work, partners, study and hobbies can all put pressure on your friendships during your 20s, but there are ways to ensure you keep your best buds as you head into adulthood.
It can be easy to let life get in the way of friendships during your 20s. You’re busy and work, hobbies and relationships can all create conflicting priorities that don’t seem to leave you time to catch up with friends let alone have a minute to yourself.
Maintaining strong friendships is important for your mental health and wellbeing during this time of change, and luckily, there are some strategies you can put in place to make sure you don’t wake up at the end of your 20s and find you have no friends.
Figure out who’s worth investing your time and energy into
Now that school lunchtimes don’t dictate when you see your friends, you get to decide who you spend your time with, for how long and how often. It’s up to you to decide how often you hang out with your friends, who is worth more of your time and what terms you want your friendships to operate on.
You might make a commitment to see your closest friends once a week, and friends you know you’ll have a great time with but tire you out once every few months. Actively deciding to spend time with positive people who encourage and support you will make the time you spend with friends valuable.
It’s important to keep in mind that your friends are probably feeling just as busy as you are and that there might be periods when you can’t see them as often as you’d like. Be flexible with friends who need to make a different area of their life a priority for a little while, and check in to let them know you’re thinking of them. If they’re having a hard time, ask if they’re OK or want to talk and let them know you’re there for them if needed.
Friends who play together, stay together
Finding an activity that you and your friends can do together is a great way to build stimulating adult friendships and create memories. You might decide to try a beginner painting class together, head to yoga or attend the local film festival or theatre season.
Whatever you do, you’ll create material for interesting conversation, a regular schedule to see each other and maybe even the opportunity to catch up over a drink or meal afterwards. It could be as simple as trying all the different coffee shops in your suburb, or as daring as learning to rock climb, but an activity that leads you away from everyday gossip will boost your friendships to the next level.
Don’t waste the time when you actually do catch up
When you make a commitment to see a friend, priortise that commitment. Show you care by turning up on time, putting your phone away and really listening when they speak.
Friends who cancel at the last minute, show up with a tagalong partners who weren’t invited, spend their time chatting to others or scrolling Instagram are likely to wear thin the patience of their mates. If you ever find that invitations to hang out are coming your way less frequently than they used to, do an audit of your friendship behaviour and make sure you’ve been spending quality time with your friends when they share their time with you.
Make an effort to keep in touch
With all the technology we have available, it’s easy to keep in touch with friends between in-person hangouts. It is important, though, not to let Facebook do all the heavy lifting when it comes to keeping up-to-date with your friends.
To keep your friendships solid, you might set diary reminders to send an unprompted text to your friend wishing them a nice day or happy weekend, or schedule in a phone call or Skype date for a long distance chat. Emails can be filled with longer missives than a text or IM, and nothing goes as far as a hand written letter or mailed care package.
It might feel weird to be ‘scheduling’ in friend time, but honestly, if you don’t carve out chunks of time and set reminders when you’re super busy, you’re pretty unlikely to see them.
Back off when necessary
As you and your friends grow older, you’ll find that some friends want to socialise more than others. Some of your friends might want to text every day, where others will make it clear that they want some distance. Being sensitive to your friends’ needs will allow you set your expectations for your friendships, and will make your friends feel valued and understood.
As you enter into adulthood, you’ll find that you and your friends take different paths in life and your values might begin to differ from each other. Rather than expecting all your friends to be your clones, celebrate the diversity of thinking and opinion that your friends bring to your world, and do your best to support them as they reach for their goals.
Don’t be selfish
Life is changing; big stuff is happening to everyone, so make sure when you catch up with mates you don’t make it all about you. Ask them what’s the latest, what’s going on in their lives and genuinely listen. And if you find a certain friend draining your energy because you constantly need to give them all your attention, then that is exactly the type of friend you might want to take a step back from. People are busy, ain’t nobody got time for that.
Understand that sometimes it’s best to let it go
As hard as it might be, you’ll find that as you grow up you also grow apart from some friends. You might find that you don’t really have much in common with old classmates or colleagues outside of school or work; that conversations become slightly awkward and the time between meetings stretches out longer and longer.
If you’re finding a friendship is fading, sometimes it’s best to let the drift happen naturally. With social media, you’re never truly cutoff from someone unless you want to be, and can always rekindle a friendship later down the track.
Friendships should be judged by quality, not quantity. There’s no prize for finishing your 20s with hundreds of friends, just like winding up friendless isn’t a great outcome. Take time to really invest in quality friendships during this time, and you’ll find that you and your relationships thrive.
Lauren Sherritt is a playwright and freelance writer based in Brisbane. Lauren’s work has been featured online at Junkee, The Financial Diet, Birdee, LifeMusicMedia, lip magazine and Australian Stage.