Ask Anahit: Friends Disunited

In this month’s agony aunt column, one person asks how to navigate the awkwardness of friendship transitions

Feature by Anahit Behrooz | 05 Oct 2023
  • Ask Anahit

Do you have any advice for early 20s friendship malaise? As my group of long-time pals have reached adulthood, our interests have increasingly diverged and I fear we have nothing really in common anymore. It's an awkward reality that I’m sure they feel too but it’s still this big elephant in the room :(

I think there is a strange kind of idealisation we have when it comes to friendships at this age that we don’t, necessarily, have with other relationships. It’s the reverse of how the rest of your life will go: hit your mid-20s and your romantic relationships are expected to last forever but your friendships become this childish thing you put away. But in your late teens and early 20s, you expect your silly little high school boyfriend (non-derogatory, I’m sure he’s nice) to eventually peter out but it feels like a failure if your friendships do the same.

All of which is to say that we need to start thinking about friendships as proper relationships, that bear exactly the same hallmarks as our romantic and familial ones: their intimacy is monumental and structural, they cannot be replaced by another kind of form of relation, but they also move with the ebb and flow of your life. Transition phases are always awkward, but discomfort isn’t necessarily a sign that something has gone wrong, or that it’s not salvageable.

I suppose what I’m saying is that maybe this is just an awkward phase, and that’s OK, or maybe it is a sign that things are ending, which is also OK. I think clinging on with all your might is only going to make things harder; you need to let yourself relax against the tide and see who else and what else you move towards. You may find the tension eases when these friendships aren’t trying to be everything (the people you have history with, the people you have things in common with, the people you build your life around). Things lasting forever exactly how they once were can seem so dreamy (and what I spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy trying to enact) but I have slowly come to learn (kicking and screaming) that stasis, however comfortable, is not the one wild and precious life Tumblr keeps telling me about.