Friendship is fascinating. Think about it: it’s a relationship created completely by choice – unlike family – and it doesn’t have all of the black and white rules of a romantic relationship. You’re not bound to friends by blood or monogamy, but that doesn’t make friendship any less important to your happiness. So, what does it mean when your friend group starts dwindling? When it comes to friends, is the more the merrier?
When you’re young, anyone within play date distance is a friend. Often, our first friends are neighbors, pre-school classmates, or the children of our parents’ friends. We’re really not that picky – if someone enjoys the same games as we do, the friendship is good to go.
Throughout middle school and high school, we’re figuring out who we are and what kinds of friends we want. We’re in school and on sports teams, and we’re surrounded by potential friends. Our friend groups are usually pretty large, and we’re growing up together. A lot of those friendships are short-lived, just like the hairstyles and clothing choices we were convinced would be cool forever.
Then comes college and young adulthood. If you’re lucky enough to go to college, you’re once again surrounded by potential friends. I was fortunate enough to live on campus and join a sorority, which means 99% of the people I interacted with on a daily basis were my age, studying the same things, AND pretty like-minded. Isn’t that nuts? It’s like living in a mini-city with only people in your age bracket.
Spoiler alert: you’ll never get to experience something so cool again (unless you one day end up in a senior living community… which might actually be a blast. Maybe I’m onto something).
That being said, it’s not uncommon for your friend group to get smaller as you grow up. I am bolding and underlining that statement because I had a tough time understanding and accepting that at first. In high school, I had dozens of girlfriends. Freshman year of college, I had a solid crew of about ten. By senior year, I had a handful of ride-or-dies. Now, post-college, I have a select two or three girls I can depend on unconditionally. Isn’t losing friends a bad thing? Does a smaller social circle mean you’re morphing from lovable social butterfly to antisocial hermit?
Not at all. A dwindling friend group as you age is normal, and it’s actually a good thing. I’ll tell you the two main reasons why:
As you get older, you figure out exactly who you are, what your values are, and what you want in a friend.
As you get older, you have increased responsibility and less time for friendship.
I had incredible friends in middle school and high school, and I am so grateful for those years of friendship. However, I’m not the same person I was at 16 – and neither are you!
Those years of growth – the celebrations, tears, break-ups, graduations, and overall soul-searching – have changed you. Those years have changed your high school pals as well! Not everyone grows up in the same direction, and quite frankly the world would be boring if we did.
Your standards for friends raise as you get older. Have you ever heard that quote, “It’s better to have four quarters than one hundred pennies”? You don’t need dozens of playmates or a cafeteria table full of “pennies.” You need those few dependable, trustworthy, genuine “quarters” to lean on, talk to, and cherish.
Having increased responsibility (aka “adulting”) naturally makes you prioritize. When you embark on your career, fall in love, and eventually start a family, you’re inevitably going to have less time to hang out with friends. You may even move to a new city or state where you don’t know a soul. While it’s so important to invest in friendships and develop a support system wherever you are, your time and energy will naturally be poured mostly into your job, your spouse, and your children – and your friends will be doing the same.
Long story short: a dwindling friend group is not a sign that you’re an unlikable person. It doesn’t mean you’re destined to one day be friendless and alone. Quite the contrary, a dwindling friend group means you know who you are, and you know who you want to befriend. It means you’re opting for quarters instead of pennies. It means that you’re growing up, and you’re taking your most loyal ride-or-dies with you.