Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I came across a post from a high school classmate questioning maintaining friendships as an adult. Later that week, on Instagram, I noticed a post from “The Jesuit Post” on the same theme. Why are adult friendships so difficult?
It’s a question that has plagued my marriage as well. Throughout the past six years of marriage, I’ve been in school – whether as a graduate student or as a faculty member.
In my job, I’ve had a sort of built-in community. A cohort of graduate students – plowing through the same courses and exams. Faculty gathering after meetings and in the hallways, de-stressing, venting or relaxing. In my line of work, it just seems natural to maintain a community of friends.
But my husband’s workplace seems to be the complete opposite. There’s no friendly discussion of grabbing a drink or bite to eat after work. At the end of the day, they leave the office and return home. Occasionally, there’s talk of getting families together. It’s only happened once.
I realize my experience is insulated. In many ways, I’ve not left the college “bubble” because I’m still located in the same university where I received my graduate degrees. So, when my husband expressed some frustration over his lack of friends, it didn’t seem like he was being quite fair. After all, we have a group of friends. Granted, most of them are from my profession, but there’s a good mix of married couples with partners outside of academia.
It wasn’t until the theme of maintaining friendships came up among people our age that I truly reflected and saw the difficulty my husband had been facing.
As The Jesuit Post’s Damian Torres-Botello, S.J., put it: “I work 40 hours a week with people who have their own lives and built-in friends, not eager to add to their circle. Simply put, I don’t know how to ask someone to be my friend. I never had to ask until now.”
It’s a poignant realization. I’ve never been the popular person – the kid in school with all the friends. I’ve always had my small circle. When I look back at college, I realize that I had a number of acquaintances – people in my major, people I took courses with – but I only had two or three close friends. Even in graduate school, I entered with a cohort of eight. Of those, I kept four close friendships during my master’s degree; as I embarked on my doctorate, that number dwindled to one.
I’ve realized that it’s not about quantity; it’s about the quality of the friendship.
I share everything with that one person – she’s seen me at my best and my worst. Despite social media emphasizing our large network of “friends,” what I’ve come to realize is that adults generally have smaller circles. A handful of people they can count on, no matter what. As responsibilities grow – 40-hour work weeks, marriage, kids – time devoted to maintaining relationships dwindles. All relationships take work, and priorities change as we move from social friendships to life-long family commitments.
One of my favorite friendships is my college roommate. Even though we don’t talk as frequently as we used to, when we do catch up, it seems as though no time has passed at all. It’s easy. It’s comfortable. It’s quality.
Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.