8 Unrealistic Expectations We May Have About Friendships As Adults
Have you felt overwhelmed or let down in your adult friendships?
Just when you thought that things should get better and easier when you are older, you feel that it now takes more effort and it becomes less motivating to keep in touch with your friends. You feel that things are no longer the same with them.
Instead of connecting with them, you are spending more time browsing past photos and reminiscing on the good old days. Having said that, your current state of dissatisfaction and disappointment is a reflection of unrealistic expectations that you may have put on yourself or your friend(s) with time.
Here are some unrealistic expectations that you may have on friendships as an adult.
1. On Friendship Flexibility and Diversity
- I can easily make new friends by using the ways I have adopted in the past with my long-time friends.
- There is only one person/ or a certain group of people that I could see myself being best friends with.
As an introvert, I used to think that my social circle would revolve around people who are quiet and bookish (aka nerdy squad) like me. When it comes to meeting new people, the old me would usually try to initiate conversations about what I like and see how the other side responds. If I feel that the conversation is getting dryer, then I will just go back to my best friends in school. This has been the case until I moved to Sarawak for my undergraduate studies.
As fate would have it, I found myself being “actively befriended” by two loud extroverts during my first year of study in university. I was taken aback by their proactiveness and it took me some time to open up to them. With time, I realised that we complement each other pretty well too. I am forever grateful that they made my university days more colourful. We remained best friends until today.
It dawns on me that we should never say never to new friendships and embrace diversity in friendship flexibility. New friendships can be as rewarding as your old friendships and they can evolve to something deeper in time.
2. On Friendship Boundaries and Closeness
- I need to be always “available” for my friends and vice versa.
- My friends and I should stick close to one another physically and share everything.
Some of us grew up watching the famous sitcom, Friends and we could probably memorise the theme song, I’ll Be There for You by heart. We may have fantasies of staying in the same house with our long-time buddies and vow to be for one another through each other’s ups and downs.
The truth is, even close friends (and family members) cannot escape from the topic of establishing healthy boundaries. As adults, it is important to know in advance the definition of each other’s notion of “availability”. Being there for one another can take place in any form and most importantly, it must be done intentionally and reciprocally (give and take).
When it comes to sharing thoughts or secrets, remember that none of you is obligated to talk about it if you are not prepared to. Some of your friends might not be ready to tell you certain things yet because it may involve a very private/painful matter. Also, it could be something that they are more comfortable sharing with someone else. Don’t feel burdened to know everything or to “solve” your friends’ problems. Sometimes, all that matters to them is your quiet, comforting presence.
3. On Friendship Conflicts and Disagreements
- I feel that I should never argue with my friends and confront them directly because it would hurt our friendship.
- My best friends and I will always see eye to eye because we have known each other for so long.
As I grew older, I realised that good conflict resolution instead of emotional suppression can cultivate healthy friendships. Silence is not golden in this context because you cannot expect your friends to read your mind when you are not telling them how you truly feel (and vice versa).
Whenever you feel that things are getting suffocating (for whatever reasons), it is best to quickly have a direct conversation with your friend. Then, tell them what makes you uncomfortable. “Argue” sensibly by being specific on the reasons for the conflict. However, please do not launch a personal attack out of heightened emotions. Remember, sweeping things under the rug will only worsen the situation over time.
Sometimes we assume that we know our friends too well and feel disappointed that we hold differing views on certain matters. When this happens, don’t be too fixated on correcting one another and miss the whole point of communicating effectively. It is best to lay your pride aside and use humour to ease the situation instead of insisting you are right to avoid bitter feelings. Recognize the fact that even the closest of friends are not carbon copies of each other.
4. On Friendship Maintenance and Quality
- I should keep in touch with as many people as possible to be a good friend to everyone.
- My best friends and I will never change and we will never grow apart from each other.
It is dangerous to think of friendship as a game of numbers (quantity). In which we tie this number to our identity as a “good friend”. Let’s be honest. Some of us have easily more than 500 friends over the years on Facebook. However, we all know that we won’t and we don’t keep in touch with all of them.
The key is knowing who you should keep as close friends (from childhood buddies, high school besties to recent friendships at work). Remember, there’s nothing wrong to prioritize who to pick. This is because it takes PLENTY OF TIME AND EFFORT to cultivate friendships, especially long-lasting ones.
You should also acknowledge that some of your friendships will not remain the same as they used to be. Like it or not, you and your friends will end up walking different paths. Also, both of you may have different life experiences at different life stages. For instance, single friends may find it challenging to connect with friends that are in a relationship/ married. Different schedules and topics of conversations will set in. So sometimes you may find that it is awkward to be around one another.
Accept that it is an inevitable phase of adulthood, and be open to exploring new common interests together. Sometimes all it takes is just a simple and short encouragement message to keep the friendship going. It may not be the same as before but at least you have done your part. If you feel that it is slowly becoming more one-sided and emotionally exhausting on your side, there is nothing wrong with moving on as well.
I hope that you get to reflect on the above realistic expectations that we may have on friendships as adults. It is not impossible to have fulfilling adult friendships. We can do so by allowing ourselves to grow together where we learn the beauty of staying in touch with old friends, but also the courage of making new friends through changing seasons in our life.
For further reading about friendships, check out these articles that touch on How Do You Maintain Friendships When Everyone Is Busy ‘Adulting’ and Weekend Activity Ideas To Help You Maintain Friendships As Busy Working Adults.