Why is it so hard to keep friends as you get older?

As we get older, it often feels like it becomes harder and harder to maintain close friendships. There are many reasons why this happens, even when we don’t intend for it to. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common causes of losing touch with friends as adulthood progresses.

Getting busier with life responsibilities

One of the biggest reasons we tend to lose friends as adults is that our lives simply become busier. As we take on more responsibilities like careers, romantic relationships, marriages, owning a home, and having children, our free time diminishes drastically. Whereas in youth we may have had ample time to spend with friends, as adults we find ourselves constantly juggling commitments. It becomes difficult to carve out time in busy schedules to connect with friends like we used to.

Having less free time means having to carefully prioritize how we spend it. Often, time with friends becomes secondary to responsibilities. We may have to cancel plans last minute because of work demands or family obligations. Or, we may no longer have time for spontaneous activities with friends. Planning time together requires advance notice. With packed calendars, weeks or months can go by without an opportunity to get together. Even close friendships can start to feel distant when actual face time is infrequent.

Changing priorities and interests

In addition to having busier lives, as we age our priorities and interests tend to change. What we valued and enjoyed in our youth evolves over time. For example, some friends may get heavily invested in their careers, while others start families. Some may continue a partying lifestyle well into adulthood, while others settle down. The things that initially connected us to some friends are no longer as relevant. The temptation is to gravitate towards others who share our current station in life.

Likewise, our interests tend to change as we get older. The activities we once enjoyed together may not hold the same appeal. For instance, friends who used to love going to concerts together may find their musical tastes diverging. Or, friends who bonded over sports in their 20s may find that work and family now take precedence over attending games. When connections are centered around specific activities that change in priority, it can be difficult to find new ways to relate.


Another common friendship disruptor as we get older is relocation. Early adulthood is a time when moves are frequent, whether for school, new jobs, military service, or other opportunities. The more places we live, the more we leave friendships behind. Sure, we may stay in touch remotely for a while, but physical distance strains relationships over time. Out of sight can mean out of mind if life in a new place becomes consuming.

Even when friends start families in the same hometown, moves to different neighborhoods or schools can divide. Busy parents tend to socialize with those who live nearby and share similar schedules. Running into each other regularly makes it easier to coordinate get togethers. Once living farther apart, extra effort is required to maintain closeness.

Relationships changing friend dynamics

For many, entering serious romantic relationships also complicates friendships. Integrating existing friends and a new partner can be challenging. Tensions may arise if friends disapprove of a significant other. Alternatively, a partner may demand more time and attention, leaving less for friends. Marriages and kids further shift priorities.

As couples align schedules and befriend other couples, getting together with unmarried or single friends proves difficult. Formerly close pals can feel left out when family becomes the primary focus. Diverging paths create natural distance. Additionally, some partners prohibit friendships with exes or opposite gender friends, further limiting social circles.

Jobs and careers diverging

The career paths we end up on can also separate once-close friends. Those that studied or entered the same fields may stay well-connected if they wind up working in proximity. But when careers diverge, relates levels of success, fulfillment, and stress make it harder to identify with old friends. Competitiveness or jealousy around career advancement can breed resentment. Different professional schedules or workplace demands get in the way of regular meetups.

Likewise, some friends may wind up in lucrative careers, while others struggle in lower paying jobs. The ensuing differences in lifestyle and disposable income change social dynamics. Common ground is lost when friends spend money and vacation vastly differently. Relating over shared working class struggles versus complaining about affording a second home requires empathy and effort.

Falling out of touch

With so many factors working against friendship maintenance as adults, it’s easy to slowly fall out of touch. Busy schedules mean more last minute cancelations and postponed plans. When get togethers become infrequent enough, bonding becomes less natural. Having less in common makes conversation more difficult. Recreating the old magic requires vulnerability that wanes when you haven’t stayed up to date on each other’s lives.

The longer you go without talking, the more awkward reconnecting can feel. Days can slip into weeks, months, or even years without contact. Rekindling dormant relationships may seem too hard, especially if you’ve drifted apart significantly. The inertia of daily responsibilities keeps friendships on the back burner until they eventually burn out.

Making new friends replaces old ones

Finally, making new friends in the natural course of life often leads to old ones falling away. New neighbors, playmates for the kids, happy hour buddies, fellow volunteers, or church congregants offer built-in social connections. We tend to invest in friendships that are convenient, so new ones with geographic or lifestyle proximity are prized. When you’re surrounded by fresh faces, rekindling old friendships may drop in priority.

The charm of novelty means new friends get our limited free time and attention. Established relationships fizzle out unless we’re intentional about maintaining them. That said, effort should be equal from both sides. If you’re always the one initiating contact, you may feel compelled to eventually move on. Shared history alone may not be enough without mutual interest in staying connected.

How to Keep Friends as You Get Older

While keeping friends for life gets increasingly challenging with age, it’s certainly not impossible. Here are some tips for maintaining meaningful friendships as responsibilities and interests change:

  • Make the time – Even if it’s not as much time as you used to spend together, carve out some dedicated one-on-one time. Don’t always default to group gatherings.
  • Schedule it – Don’t let the busyness of life push friend time off the calendar. Schedule dates to ensure they happen.
  • Communicate openly – Discuss how things have changed honestly. Don’t rely on your friendship’s past; invest in its present.
  • Find meeting points – Look for shared interests or life stages, not just history, to bond over now.
  • Accept changes – Don’t expect friendships to stay the same. People grow and evolve. Meet them where they are now.
  • Make compromises – Accommodate friends’ limitations and differences. Don’t bail when things get imperfect.
  • Make visits – If someone moves, make the effort to visit them in their new place when possible.
  • Stay in touch – Make an effort to text, call, send cards, etc. consistently. Don’t just wait for them to reach out.
  • Extend invites – Keep inviting friends to events or activities even if schedules don’t allow it. They’ll appreciate being thought of.
  • Put the work in – It takes active investment to maintain any relationship over decades. Don’t let bonds break passively.
  • Offer support – Be there for friends during major life events or transitions. Your presence can reinforce bonds.
  • Allow flexibility – Understand friendships may ebb and flow over the years. Don’t force things unnaturally.

The Benefits of Keeping Long-Term Friends

Despite the challenges, preserving longtime friendships into adulthood can be extremely rewarding. Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Increased life satisfaction – Long-standing friends bring continuity and comfort. They know and accept you for who you are.
  • Personal growth – Friends who journey with you encourage development. But they also appreciate where you started.
  • Shared memories – Friends who’ve been present at different life stages can reminisce fondly about the past with you.
  • Backup support system – Longtime friends provide a safety net and unconditional support that new friends may not.
  • Non-judgmental space – Old friends have seen you at your best and worst. You can be yourself without fear of rejection.
  • Nostalgia – Spending time with old friends often provides a nostalgic sense of youth, innocence, and possibility.
  • Resilience – Preserving childhood or adolescent friendships shows an ability to adapt relationships to changing circumstances.
  • Perspective – Friends who have known you for decades can provide helpful perspective on current challenges.
  • Comfort – Even if you lead very different lives now, shared history brings an intangible comfort.
  • Stability – Longtime friends remind you of who you truly are at the core, despite life changes.


As the obligations and priorities of adult life consume time and energy, keeping friends for life undoubtedly becomes more difficult. But for those able to preserve some childhood and adolescent friendships despite geographical, lifestyle, and personality changes, the benefits are plentiful. Longtime friends provide continuity, non-judgment, perspective, resilience, comfort, stability and shared memories that new friends simply cannot. By staying purposefully invested through life’s transitions, we can maintain some of those relationships that ground us, inspire us, and remind us of who we used to be, who we are today, and who we want to become.

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