Life is hard, and friendships (usually) make it better. That was true in middle school, but it’s truer than ever now that I’m in my mid-30s. My collection of true-blue girlfriends — some from childhood, many from high school and college, and still others who I met at various jobs — have sustained me through the highs and lows of this challenging decade better than any husband or family member ever could.
And though these relationships ebb and flow, and were important to me back when I was younger and life was easier, they’re absolutely crucial to my life today. And they’re just… different. So what is it about friendship in your 30s that’s unlike the earlier years in your life?
The conversations change
My high school friends and I talk about so much now, and on such a different level, that I can’t even remember what the heck we used to talk about back then. Was it boys, school, clothes, gossip? These days, we see each other far less, but there’s usually one (or seven) group texts running concurrently throughout our busy weeks. We answer when we can, we ignore it when we can’t (this is pretty much the reason for your phone’s Do Not Disturb mode), and we stay up-to-date on each other’s lives that way. But the topics have changed; it’s not that we’re more serious people now, but our conversations do turn that way at times, especially when we do see each other in person. While clothes and general gossip are both still on the menu, we also cover important things like marriage, our kids, our health, what we want out of life and whether we’re truly happy or not.
You can let your guard down
In your 30s, you have less time for everything — especially if you have children — so the friends who you do make time for are, with any luck, people who really like you for who you are and care about your wellbeing. And with so much else in your in life that feels like work, be it your actual job or your family responsibilities, your social circle is not just a way to let go of some of that stress, but a highly anticipated chance to hash it out among people who care about you and who might be able to relate. Keeping up a bright, positive facade when things aren’t going well isn’t necessary, the way it may have felt when you were younger; friends who have made it this far into your life will love you no matter how things are going.
Your circle may grow
One of the most beautiful things about my longtime group of girlfriends is how we’ve genuinely befriended each other’s significant others in our 30s. Not only are our hubbies and boyfriends happy to join in on the fun when we gather for big, casual family-style parties, we’ve been blessed enough to add a new generation to our group in the past few years. Our kids treat each other like cousins, and even our parents have started feel like family to each other’s families.
To be able to glance around when we’re all in one place — and to take a second to realize how we’re all starting to embrace the truly important parts of life, and still doing it together — is a blessing that never gets old.