Why Do We Lose Friends As We Get Older? 7 Reasons Your Friendships Are Changing
You may notice that your friendships change from year-to-year — the best friend you had last year may not even be in your inner circle anymore. It happens more often than you may think, and studies have been done that prove the theory that the older you get, the fewer friends you have. For instance, a study titled, "Sex differences in social focus across the life cycle in humans" was published in the Royal Society Open Science journal last year and found that many people start decreasing their friend pool around the age of 25.
However, around the age of 25 is the age, scientists from Aalto University in Finland and the University of Oxford in England found. They analyzed data from three million mobile phone users to determine frequency and patterns of those they contacted and when. They also looked at overall activity within those users' networks. Fascinating, right? If you think about it, you could do your own test and see who your top contacts are in your social media and text messages, as well as your phone call log. Chances are, you'll be surprised to see what people you talk to most now versus if you take a look at your top contacts from even a year ago, not to mention several years ago.
"I know that the decline in friendships continues as we get older," Dr. Suzana E. Flores, clinical psychologist and author of Facehooked: How Facebook Affects Our Emotions, Relationships, and Our Lives, tells Bustle. "When we are in high school and college, it is easier to make friends because we are surrounded by groups of people with similar interests. However, as we get older, we lose this access and have to decide whether or not to befriend co-workers, which may come with its own complications. As we get older, we also prioritize the type of individuals we want around us — we hold onto our main group of friends versus maintaining associates."
According to the study's findings, the average 25-year-old woman contacts about 17.5 people per month, while a man contacts 19 people. Just to be clear, this is IRL friends, not online-only ones. This decline continues, the study found, up until retirement. "People become more focused on certain relationships and maintain those relationships," said Kunal Bhattacharya, a postdoctoral researcher at Aalto University who co-authored the study. "You have new family contacts developing, but your casual circle shrinks." Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford who co-authored the paper, also weighed in on this theory. "Women have this idea of a best friend, who is similar to a romantic partner ... and women work hard at these relationships," he said. "Particularly with friendships, if you don't invest in them or see those friends, they will decay and quite rapidly drop."
All that said, here are seven reasons that the older you get, the fewer friends you have, according to experts. And, TBH, the reasons make sense, so you're def not alone!
1. You're Not In College Anymore
College is one of the easiest places to make friends, as you and 99 percent of the other new students can all use new friends since you're no longer in high school, possibly living away from home, have things in common (from classes to after-school activities), you name it. So once you're out of college and you and your friends get jobs across the country from one another, it's natural to lose some of your very best, day-to-day friends. "If you're a young person, and losing high school or college friends, that's a natural progression," Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka "Dr. Romance") psychotherapist, and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working it Out Together, tells Bustle. "One needs only a few friends to live a happy life, especially in the early years."
2. Your Friends May Couple-Up
You and I have probably both been there — you and your BFF hang out all the time... but then they start dating someone and, poof, they're gone! Not gone for good, but you see them less and less as they become closer to their significant other and start to focus more on a future with them. "Once people partner up, they will naturally focus more of their attention on their partners and less on people who they deem distant friends," Dr. Flores says.
3. *You* May Couple Up
Just as your friends may go MIA when they couple-up, you may do the same when you meet someone you're into. Though you hate to be that person, it happens sometimes, especially when you and your partner get more serious, possibly change cities, etc. "As one's family continues to grow, family commitments and responsibilities take priority," Dr. Flores says. "Therefore, our 'social' needs will naturally take a back seat to our primary and personal relationships."
4. You May Have A Remote Job
As technology continues to advance, more and more people have remote jobs and/or work from home, which means you may lose one primary place to meet people and make friends: the office. To create a balance between being alone all day working and still having a solid friend base, there are all kinds of ways to make friends, from joining Meetup groups to volunteering.
5. You Moved, Leaving Many Of Your Friends Behind
Another way your friend pool may decrease is if you change cities, leaving your primary circle of friends behind. Although there are still ways you can make friends in your new city, you may choose to focus on making a select few and put your friend energy into those versus meeting as many people as you can. "In our mobile society, keeping friends is not always possible," Dr. Tessina says. "Long‑term friendships are wonderful and valuable, but if you don't make new connections as you get older, your group of friends may diminish due to relocation.
If you're shy about making new friends, then join a community — whether it's an organization you volunteer with or a book club, become part of groups, and create a social network. If you haven't made new friends in a while, updating your definition of friendship and increasing your skills at meeting people will be worth your while."
6. Your Interests Have Changed
You often hear of friends drifting apart because their interests have changed. Whether this means they are now focusing more on their partner and kids, have become closer to other friends, or you prefer nights in while they prefer party nights out, whatever the reasons are, it's OK if you two no longer have the same interests.
7. You End One-Sided Friendships
You may know what it's like to be the friend who seems to put in more effort than the other person: you contact your friend more than they contact you, you initiate plans more, and you just feel that the friendship is unbalanced or one-sided. One way to test this is by *not* contacting the friend-in-question and seeing how long it takes for them to contact you. Or, you can talk to them about your friendship — what's changed? "When I was younger, I loved my friends," Jeffrey Sumber, Psychotherapist, and Author of Renew Your Wows: Seven Powerful Tools to Ignite the Spark and Transform Your Relationship, tells Bustle. "I had fun with them, I felt good with them, I even felt myself with some of them. As I have aged, I tend to cherish my dear friends because they are the ones who give as much as they receive from the relationship. Friends who I might have classified earlier in life as 'besties' might not be in the picture much any longer if I got to the point of realization that I had to be the one to pursue the connection a disproportionate amount of the time. I have less tolerance for excuses now, and I have very little tolerance for friends who don't show up on all levels. Life is too short for half-assed friendships!"
As you can see, friendships evolve over time for all kinds of reasons. The important thing is to focus on the friends you do have and make sure the friendships are reciprocal, so no resentment builds on anyone's end.