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How Friendships Change In Your 30s, According To 15 Women

I thought my friendships in my thirties would look like an episode of Girlfriendsor Living Single. That we’d be meeting up, getting drinks at a sexy local bar, having dinner together in each other's homes, and taking trips like the Housewives shows we’d watched since we were teenagers. My reality has been the polar opposite of that. My friendships have changed drastically and for a while, I felt like I was on my own.


In my mid-twenties, I started going to therapy, started a business that took off, and I started setting boundaries about how I wanted to be treated as a person. From there some friendships changed drastically, for better and worse. Friends who couldn’t understand or accept the new me were removed, and drifted off, and then there were beautiful changes that put distance between my friends and me. My best friend married and had children young, college friends moved away, job offers took other friends across the country, and I found myself face to face with a form of loneliness that I’d never experienced.

In my thirties, I started asking myself questions about what my friendships would look like, if these changes in dynamics would just be my new normal, or if I would find a new set of girlfriends that I could do life with.

Don’t get me wrong, do my friends call me? Yes. Do they check on me? Yes. Are they cheering the loudest for me with every win? Absolutely, but I also can’t tell you the last time we met up for drinks or if we’ve ever taken the girls' trip we’ve been talking about for the past decade. For some time, I thought perhaps this was the trade-off for choosing a different path, not being able to have friends in this phase of life, or that at some point I’d create a new friend group, and while I pray for the latter, discussions with women who were experiencing similar shifts showed me that we all are no longer relatable in some way to your friends.

Whether you’re the friend who got married early, embarked on a healing journey, started a thriving business, moved away from your small town, or are at a low point in life and can’t relate because you’re the friend struggling - we’re all experiencing some form of a shift in our friendships. Digger deeper into this subject matter with women from all across the country, I’ve discovered that we are not alone and we are all experiencing loneliness and transition.

1.There is a need for friends who get that life is a juggling act. 

"I've always been obsessed with the idea of sisterhood. My mom is one of 10 children five boys, five girls so I had a lot of aunts that were around growing up. My mom had the same two best friends since she was like in high school in her early 20s, so I just thought like oh I'm gonna go to college and you know I'm gonna find these lifelong friends. I joined a sorority and other organizations where friendship and companionship was at the helm of that and I think you know fast forward to me graduating college, and starting life as an adult away from a lot of those friendships that I created, I realized adulthood is extremely lonely.

"Navigating friendships in your 20s versus your 30s is like comparing apples and oranges, seriously. In my 20s, it was all about exploration – career, relationships, you name it. We were all on different paths, some searching for love, others for adventure, and a few just figuring out what they wanted. I was right there with them, soaking up every moment of freedom and self-discovery. I don’t think that exploration stops in your 30’s but the tools you need and the paths you need to take are a lot clearer.

"Personally, things shifted fast for me in my 30s. I welcomed a child, got engaged, and suddenly, priorities were rearranged quicker than you can say 'adulting.' Self-awareness kicked in, and I realized I needed friends who were on the same page – willing to grow, heal, and understand the complexities of life. Nowadays, it's all about quality over quantity. I've trimmed down my circle to those who bring joy, understanding, and, most importantly, reciprocity. Yeah, it was tough saying goodbye to some old friends, but it had to be done for my own peace of mind.

"In this crazy world where time is the most precious commodity, I'm all about spending it with those who uplift and support me – friends who get that life's a juggling act and offer grace when needed."

- Leticia Owens, 34, Las Vegas, Nevada

2.There is a maturity that either brings friends together or takes them apart. 

"As someone who has traversed most of my thirties now, what I’ve really seen from 30 to almost 38 is the cycling of friendships that can sometimes happen when people have different commitments to their own personal growth. I think some of the friendships that I have chosen to leave behind in my earlier thirties were a result of that person not pulling their weight in the relationship from the perspective of not even seeing how their behavior plays a role in the dynamic and how hurtful it might be.

"Some people come to that at a young age and even in their twenties, but some people take longer. There’s an emotional and relational maturity that either brings people together or brings about separation. Your thirties can bring about a lot of changes to friendships, marriage, children, helping your parents if they’re older and now need assistance financially, all of the other relationships have an impact on our relationships."

- Allie, 38, California

3.There's a knowing that motherhood changes how you maintain and make connections.

"I was a new mother at 21, trying to figure out my relationship, navigate a career, and figure out my life so I had to adjust quickly. In my twenties, I partied hard and at one point with the clothes that I had on the day before to make sure I got dressed up at work. I enjoyed my life and when I decided I was gonna be a mom and wife, I didn’t think about if I was gonna miss this life, it was like time to shift gears. I was clubbing because I was tryna run from shit. I don’t have a life that I have to run from anymore.

"As you start to evolve in your life and then your relationships shift, you wanna still keep the connection but at some point, for different friends, you don’t evolve with them. But at times making new friends is just as hard so you’d rather stay stagnant with the people that are already there. It’s not as easy. Then you’re making friends with moms because your kids want to have playdates so you’re entering into a dynamic with this person for your kids, not because it’s a genuine connection.

"I also think that it’s ironic because the same feelings that your single friends are having about not being able to have fun with you, that feeling of emptiness there is twofold. I’m a mom but I’m a person first. I’m now married with three kids and now my friends are having children too so I’m watching my friends struggle with motherhood and they don’t always come to me for advice. But as they evolve as mothers they have a level of understanding for the shit that I went through.

"Granted I sacrificed to be a young mother, but I was also able to excel in my career and go back to school with the help of my husband. He's an amazing dad and partner and with him, I know I know if I drop the ball, he’s catching it."

- Tania, 31, New Jersey

4.There is a coming into yourself that causes you to release what no longer aligns.

"Friendships change because you begin to come into yourself. You begin to understand that you're an individual that has your own needs, values, likes, wants, etc. and those friendships that were cultivated in high school and college are often no longer aligned with who you want to be. And unfortunately what happens is that we start to break away from the old versions of ourselves and what the people who love us expected us to be.

"My relationships started to change when I stopped pleasing people and I asked myself if was I still friends with this person based on the length of time that we’ve been friends, rather than was this person in alignment with what I wanted out of life."

- Brittany, 31, New York City

5.There is a need for more grace as you grow and evolve.

"We don’t extend enough grace to our friends and I feel we need to remember to. Sometimes we extend more grace to a toxic person we are 'dating' than the friend who is there to pick the pieces up after that person exits stage left. It has been great for me thus far and that’s only because my friends and I respect each other and I mean respect where we are in life i.e. marriage, kids careers, etc, and respect that our time and what we dedicate our time to may not always be to each other physically but we show up mentally and spiritually through prayer and sometimes FaceTime or phone calls.

'If you are expecting your friendships to be the same [as] they were when you were in your 20s or teenagers it shows that you're not pushing each other to grow and evolve."

- Dasia Brown, 34, New Jersey

6.There is a change in how and when you connect due to availability and changes in priorities.

"Just this weekend I shared a post that said I am not the club friend anymore I am the spa friend, the brunch friend, the travel friend. Overall I know that part of friendships is connecting on social outings and when those no longer align if there isn’t real substance to the friendship it can start to fade. Another thing is how in our 30s, life starts really life-ing and our availability and priorities change, making it a little more challenging in how and when we connect.

"I’m grateful for friends who give each other grace but [I] will add [that] my immediate friend group no one is a mom yet. My mom friends are way more limited and it’s understandable but I’ve noticed the change from once becoming a mom and how things become one-sided in willingness to understand their needs. I think the solid friends try their best to show up or at least be fully present in the 15 minutes they do have to spare."

- Delila, 37, New York City

7.There is less hanging out and the concept of what makes a good friend shifts.

"Friendships change in your thirties for many reasons. Priorities, time, money, comparing lives, extremely different lifestyles. I’m a great friend so all mine love me… but I’m also not hanging out like I did 5-10 years ago."

- Destiny, 35, Delaware

8.There are challenges when no one is on the same journey at the same time.

"One of the biggest challenges is when people are settling into their careers, getting married, having kids, and no one is going to be on the same journey at the same time. You might have a friend that’s already married with kids, and you might be career-driven and single. You want to go out to happy hour and your friend with kids gotta see if your friend with the husband and the kids is available.

"In that same vein, that friend might also have mom friends that want to go on playdates and are more available to hang out with each other because they are able to do stuff together with the kids, but if you’re on two different paths it’s definitely a challenge."

- Quadira, 30, New Jersey

9.There is a release of friendships that might be holding you back.

"Based on my personal experience the lives of friends - Black women; either verge or diverge based on a major event. For example, your bestie becomes a teen mom in college, someone’s career takes off drastically compared to the others, someone couples or marries younger, or someone adopts a new faith or becomes stronger in their faith. Someone starts to heal generational trauma via therapy. A friend picks up an alcohol or drug abuse problem. Someone suffers a profound loss. I mean the list goes on. And depending on where each friend is in their life those things can make or break a friendship.

"You may even stray and try to come back and strengthen the bond but ultimately what happens to us is often a feeling of 'this happened to me and such and such wasn’t even there forreal.' Or after you/they have a major event see some unhealthy traits that have always existed and you ignored for the sake of friendship but where you are going in life won’t allow you to ignore it any longer.

"I just turned 38 and about 3/4 years ago I had a nagging feeling that it was time to shed a 20-plus-year friendship. I avoided it so long, we fell out twice in a huge way and I, being avoidant, put off the difficult conversation and ignored so much until I couldn’t. We were like sisters and the aftermath was much more than I could have expected but I’ve never felt lighter and more free and I think in your thirties you realize time is of the essence and the things you’ve accepted no longer suit you. Initially, we think of romantic relationships but sometimes it’s the platonic friendship that is what’s holding you back."

- Sydney, 38, Ohio

10.There is a realization that no investment to the friendship is too big or too small.

"I think friendships and relationships change in our thirties because most of us enter an elevated era of prioritization and a different style of communication. This is especially true if you have a partner. Even more so with children. Marriage is an investment. Children are an investment. Friendships are too and it’s easier to invest into people who get that sometimes you can only deposit a penny… sometimes you might be in the red and other times it’s emotional payday. So you hang out with more moms or parents. More married friends, etc.

"Your single friends also stop checking in as much and inviting you places. So you feel like you can relate less, as I’m sure they feel the same. You can’t communicate as often and at length because of work or family or life. And not everyone gets that. As your life evolves, your expectations change, and what you’re able to give changes too. When friends are in different places, they can’t always understand those changes and those relationships become unsustainable. There are so many things, but mostly life happens."

- ​Denisse, 34, Mississippi

11.There is a hyperfocus on family, career, and love.

"I think the dynamics do change even before you hit 30. I would say late 20s, even maybe early if people went through anything like I did with my friend group from high school. Think about it: we are trying to navigate what we want to do with our lives concerning career, and love, and discover who we are, and what God put us on this Earth for, and a lot of us really aren’t taught what friendships look like as adults because some of our parents don’t have friends who come over all the time, who feel like a part of the community.

"It’s a hyper-focus on family and career and love. School doesn’t help either cause nothing really prepares you for how you nurture friendships long distance, what happens when you realize you and a friend are no longer aligned (they were a season vs. forever), or envy jumps out when you start doing what they perceive as better than some of them."

- Cydney, 33, North Carolina

12.There is a change in how you prioritize friendships that is dictated by major life shifts.

"I’m like one of the last in my friend group in Copenhagen to have kids - and I feel like that just shifted so much for us/our group when everybody started having kids. More difficult to make plans, weekends are very different. But now that I have Naya [my child] it obviously makes sense.

"I feel like there is just so much that’s shifting in our thirties, whether career, serious boyfriends or marriage, kids, moving out of town, etc. Like life gets serious somehow lol and it’s challenging to prioritize your friendships in the same way you could in your twenties! I have a girlfriend back home who used to live just a block away and we’d always like go grocery shopping together and watch movies in bed and have sleepovers etc, and I honestly miss that so much."

- Caroline, 33, Denmark

13.There is acceptance that everyone can't maintain a long-distance friendship.

"For me, one friendship dynamic changed by me moving and the person I was tight with was unable to support a long-distance friendship. It went from twice a week at least two hours of calls to 10-minute check-ins every few weeks."

- ​Januarie, 34, Michigan

14.There is a tendency for hesitation when making new friends.

"I experienced a friendship breakup when I turned 30 after 12 years. It has caused me to be hesitant with making new friends and categorize people for being in my life for specific reasons instead of being 'deep connections' kind of friend."

- Kiara, 33, Ohio

15.There is knowledge that friendships are inconvenient and that the right friends will show up and show out for you.

"As a disclaimer, I’m antisocial. In my thirties I’ve noticed I’ve changed some random hard rules I’ve always had for the sake of maintaining my friendships. I’ve been taking more trips, I’ve been driving distances of up to two hours to grab lunch if they’re near. Like a light randomly clicked like these people are very important to me my silly 'boundaries' will cause more harm than good. I can look up and we’re so distant or I’m attending a funeral. Like if nothing is physically stopping me from showing up then it’s up!

"Also, I have realized and been practicing the appreciation aspect for them. I’m a married mom of two. The people have taken planes and trains to celebrate me. Their accomplishments aren’t always marriage and kids and I'm gonna appreciate it too even if they don’t make a big deal of it."

- Lala, 31, New York City

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Featured image by enigma_images/Getty Images

 

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