Are Best Friends A Thing Of The Past After Age 30?

In our teens and 20s, weekends are a whirlwind of activity spent with a group of friends, mainly about something you did together last weekend. This may not be the case in our 30s, 40s and beyond.

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best friends sit on a stucco bench drinking wine

In our teens and 20s, there are few things as important (or integral) to the enjoyment we derive from life as our friendships. When you’re in your 20s, weekends are a whirlwind of activity spent laughing and joking with a group of friends, mainly about something you did together last weekend. This may not be the case in our 30s, 40s and beyond.

By 30, sleep — getting enough — begins to take on far greater importance. The weekend is divided into chores (laundry, groceries, cleaning) with the occasional nap thrown in to make it all feel worthwhile. Suddenly catching up on all those TV shows you’ve been waiting to watch since October seems far more appealing than going to a concert or bar with a pal.

As many of us age, and take on greater work and personal responsibilities, it’s only natural that our circle of friends tightens and becomes more exclusive. Our time is less plentiful and so our circle of friends shrinks to a manageable crew. But do we make new friends after age 30? And should we? An essay in the New York Times by writer Alex Williams suggests that we don’t, and that while natural, it may be something we later regret.
Why You Should Call Your Friend Right Now — Even If You’ve Drifted ApartWhy You Should Call Your Friend Right Now — Even If You’ve Drifted Apart
Writes Williams, “No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now.”

This isn’t all bad. Williams cites research by Stanford psychology professor, Laura L. Carstensen, who found that “people tended to interact with fewer people as they moved toward midlife, but that they grew closer to the friends they already had.”

But it isn’t all that great either. The problem with that natural shift in how we approach our social lives is that you never know how your life is going to turn out. One day, as Williams’s essay makes clear, you might turn around and find yourself with few friends to anchor you in times of unexpected distress. The challenge as we age may be to remain open not only to the possibility of new friendships but also to its joys; to remember how they add to our lives rather than diminish our leisure/Netflix time.

Originally published June 2012; Updated December 2018.