College friendships can be some of the most fulfilling friendships you make throughout your life, enhanced by the ease of being together constantly and embarking on similar life journeys. College friendships can feel very natural, as if your friends are like extensions of your arms. Your lives feel effortlessly entwined by the commonality of university and emerging adulthood.
Your Saturday nights probably involves a party or two, stumbling back to your shared apartment and regaling over brunch the next morning. You are all in the same phase of going to classes and working on a major and hoping for that perfect internship, and it is likely that none of your friends are engaged or married yet, leaving loads of time to hang out together. Friendships at this stage of life feel easy and natural and probably pretty awesome. Your friends are there at the drop of a hat if a boy makes you cry, or you failed an exam, or if you simply want someone to go out and get tacos with. During college your friends can feel a lot more like your family. And it rocks.
And then it all changes. After college real life pops the bubble of squad goals and girl tribes. Someone moves away for a job. Someone moves in with their parents in suberbia. Someone ends up with a 60 hour work week job. Someone gets a boyfriend and falls off the face of the earth. Life happens and the perfect storm of obligations, expectations, and change begin to chip away at the once impenetrable forces of friendship.
Everyone handles these changes differently, some friend groups thrive and other dwindle under the new pressures of life. But just because life has a pesky way of changing the dynamic of our once unstoppable girl squads doesn’t mean that our friendships are lost. Our friends do indeed change over time, but it is a natural part of life and not something to fear. Rather than mourning the end of an era it is important that our friendships evolve and shift over time as life does. Friends are really more like fine wine, they get better with age.
So how can our friendships age with grace?
1. Make time for them!
If you want your friendships to survive after college you are simply going to have to make time for them! Call them up and make plans! Consistently schedule in special friendship time, say yes to plans, invite them to do things! Don’t let life get too much in the way that months go by and you wonder what happened to your friends. Don’t merely subsist on social media to recharge your friendship either, in-person interaction and meaningful quality time is the key to healthy, successful relationships.
2. Don’t hold them to impossible standards of devotion and loyalty
Some of us really don’t want to let go of the ease of college friendships, and I totally get it. We dont want to admit that our BFFs might not live with us anymore or might have made new friends at their new jobs, or in some way moved on without us and so we hold on tightly to old rituals. Maybe you and your BFF use to stay up late talking until 2am in college, but now you both have to get up at 6am for work and that is no longer an option. Maybe now your BFF has a demanding job and a new boyfriend and she cant hang out as often. It is important to accept that we might not always be our best friend’s number ones and that life changes our priorities. Therefore, don’t get angry or demanding with your friends when things end up not being “like they use to.” It is important to move on and let go of the past and instead enjoy the present for what it is. It doesn’t mean your BFF doesn’t love you anymore if you dont hang out every day, it just means that the friendship is evolving and that is okay. Remember that people will come and go from your life, but the true friends stick around through thick and thin.
3. Don’t drop your friends when you get into a relationship
This is the number one rule of girl code, and yet it gets harder over time. As you transition into your mid to late twenties seemingly everyone is getting engaged and married and it can seem natural and even normal for you to start making your man number one at all times. And sure your significant other is going to play a huge role in your life, yet it is imperative that you dont let your relationship take over your life while your friends fall to the wayside. Carve out special time for your friends and be sure to not bail on them when bae wants to makes plans. Make sure your friends know how valuable they are to you whether that be with a weekly coffee date or routinely checking in via text. Not only is it important to maintain friendships in case of a breakup, but also because of how grounding and supportive friendships can be at all stages of life. just because you have a boyfriend, fiancé or spouse does not mean that you don’t need friends. You certainly cannot expect your bae to meet all of your needs, but your friends can often be that dose of reality that keeps you centered and encourages you to be the best version of yourself.
4. When your life changes make room for your friends in your new life
After college is often a time for big changes, maybe a new job across the country or a Masters degree abroad, or maybe someone is getting married or expecting a child. These huge changes can put us in profoundly different phases and spaces of life from our friends, and yet it is important to make room for them in whatever new phase of life you have entered because no matter what you are going to want and need your friends by your side. if you move far away make sure to keep in touch and plan visits between you and your friends, invite them to come stay in your cool new pad in London or out to dinner with your new work friends. If you have a baby or get married make room for your friend in your new world. Invite them over for dinner with your spouse or keep a weekly date to hang out like old times. Set up a play date with the baby and your friends, or ask them to babysit, little things like that can help your friends to feel more involved with your new life.
5. Show up for them when it matters, not just when it is convenient
It can be so easy to bail on plans when you don’t live with your friends, all you have to do is say you are too busy or too tired and bam off the hook. if your friends live farther away you might not feel driving, or it might just feel more comfortable to stay home rather than make plans in the first place, but friendship is not about convenience. Sure we all have nights where we just dont have it in us to go out and socialize, but part of being a good friend is showing up when it matters, not just when we feel like it.
When something is really important to our friends, no matter how inconvenient, we need to do our best to make it and them a priority. It can be easy to get into a routine of only saying yes to the things we want to say yes to, or flaking on plans in favor of a better option, and yet this is counter-intuitive to what it takes to be a good friend. The problem with this is that once we get in the habit of flaking and bailing on plans when it suits us, it is easy for your friends to grow distant or to feel like you are rejecting them. That is not to say that you have to always rework your schedule to suit your friends or you must say yes to everything, but rather shift your focus to make an effort to show up for your friends when they need you. It is okay to say no, but just be careful about saying no too often and be sure to always make follow up plans when something falls through.
6. Hold on to some traditions and make news ones
Traditions are a wonderful way to create shared memories and experiences with loved ones, and yet as time ticks by and life evolves some traditions are going to change. Perhaps a college ritual was to go to a certain college bar and dance until 3am on a friend’s birthday, but as time passes that no longer feel fun or appropriate. It is important to create new traditions that match where we are at in life, but to also hold on to certain ones that remind us of where we have come from and create sensory bonds between the past and present. Maybe every fall you and friends decorate cookies or you plan to spend every Fourth of July at someone’s lake house. While yes things are going to change and we may have to loosen our iron grips on certain rituals of the past, we should also make active efforts to keep certain memories and traditions alive, not just as an act of preserving our memories, but as a cherished act of creating new memories with those we love.
7. recognize who your true friends are and who was just there out of convenience
Time is going to not only solidify some bonds but it will also break down others as a telltale sign of who your true friends are. Part of why college feels so awesome is the sheer amount of “friends” you might have, but as time passes that number is sure to dwindle. This can feel disheartening or even depressing, and yet there is a true benefit to the passing of time and evolving of relationships, which is that it helps to clarify who your dearest friends are. During college you will have many friends out of convenience, those whom you have classes with, or live near to, or those whom you see at a lot of the same parties. But after those conveniences go away you are left with the friends whom you truly connect with on a multitude of levels, these are the people to keep investing in and which relationships to nurture.
8. never stop making friends!
The older we get the less comfortable we get with making new friends or cultivating new relationships. Usually around age 22 we hit a wall where we stubbornly refuse to make any new friends, those we have are just fine thank you very much. We have long forsaken the playground rituals of playing with anyone and anything and declaring them our new Bff ten minutes later, and after college it can feel foreign and awkward trying to forge new friendships. And yet this attitude can keep us from some of the most rewarding relationships in our life.
There is no law that says we must have all our friends by age 23! Friendship is a timeless experience that transendes age or period of life. No matter how awkward we might feel approaching a new co-worker or saying hi to the new girl in yoga class these little steps can help push us outside of our comfort zones and to cultivate new, fulfilling relationships. If we are too comfortable with the same people, the same circumstances, the same social circle all the time we aren’t being challenged, and if we arent being challenged we aren’t growing. By going out and meeting new people and trying new things we are sure to encounter diverse people who differ from ourselves and can push us to experience new ways of thinking and living and expand our horizons.
Friendship aren’t always easy, and the ones worth having are certainly going to pose challenges over the course of our lives, and yet true friendships are an investment worth making. While circumstances shift and contexts evolve, our friendships are going to require more effort and more upkeep than perhaps they required in college, and yet the friendships that you can nurture into your late twenties and beyond are the friendships that are the most meaningful. The best things in life never come easy, but that is why they are worth it.
good luck out there,