Different Life Tracks
January 26, 2014 6:43 PM   Subscribe

How to deal with friends moving in different directions in life/feeling left behind?

...I don't really feel left behind, like I need to catch up to my friends or anything. But a lot of my friends are on distinctly different life tracks than I am. We're all in our late-20s to early-30s. Most of the friends I spend a lot of time with are either married or in a long-term relationship, prioritizing house renovations/buying property, and preparing to have kids in the near future. Meanwhile, I'm single, intending to rent for the indefinite future, and eager to go out and have adventures/travel. I have my own plans and goals but for the present I don't mind spending a little money to experience new things. I feel like a bit of a kid in that respect, but I know I'm not ready to buy a place or settle down quite yet.

Lately, though, even more of my primary friend group have found significant others so I'm starting to feel that "gap" between our life tracks a little more. I absolutely understand and respect their desire to spend the majority of their time with their SOs, and I understand that my friends who are trying to save for a home can't go out as much, etc etc. But this is just causing me to feel a little adrift. I even considered trying to actively date more so maybe I'll have someone to do things with. I know I'd like to be partnered/married sometime in the future, but I enjoy my single life and am not "desperate" for a relationships...but maybe I should just get out there and date for fun? Also I know there's solo travel, but I feel like experiences are best when they're shared, so I'd prefer not to travel alone.

So I guess the gist of it is, are you or have you been the lone single person in a group of married, baby-minded, settle-down friends? What are some good way to deal with that occasional adrift/left-behind feeling? I know this is pretty much on my end and something I have to learn to deal with. Also, despite increasing differences in life goals and states I really love my friends, and don't want to eventually lose them to these kinds of differences. I know that's not always possible and sometimes people just go in different directions, but if you're a married, settled-down person with a single, less-settled friend, what are things that single friend does that you appreciate & you feel helps you stay connected even when life gets in the way?
posted by sprezzy to Human Relations (12 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Seriously, go live your life. You can always remain friends with these people while hanging with a different crowd who have similar life goals to you right now.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:46 PM on January 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

As we move into our thirties and start families and buy homes and all that stuff, it's pretty natural that the old bonds with friends loosen a bit (or a lot, as the case may be) because we have more commitments and less time.

On the plus side, many of the relationships we made in university or as twentysomethings tend to last for a long time, and you can pick up where you left off, often after years apart.

The challenge for folks like you who want to do your own thing is that you lose that community of friends you needs on a regular (weekly) basis to help decompress and help you be you.

So I guess the best thing to do is to make new friends of people who share you interests and lifestyle (and maybe don't have to worry about wallpapering the spare bedroom next Sunday, or organizing a kids' birthday party).

You might be leaving some old friends behind (temporarily) but think of it as an opportunity to make new friends.

Who knows? You may even wind up getting married yourself (to a fellow adventurer).
posted by KokuRyu at 6:55 PM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

My take has always been that your true life-long friends remain your friends even when you go on different paths, and even when you rarely see them. And that as these inevitable changes take place, you develop new life-long friends as you have new adventures.

I've never understood the impulse to hang onto a particular moment in life, or a particular group of friends - so if you feel that way my advice might not be the best.. That said, I always feel good about moving forward, starting in new places, making new friends - while letting my friends who are settled, married, and raising children do their thing. The truth is, they change SO much when they have kids and buy houses that I wouldn't really want to spend as much time with them as I used to anyway.

Go out, have your adventures, follow your bliss! The connections and friends for new stages of your life will always follow if you're doing that.
posted by jardinier at 7:05 PM on January 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

Yup, you need a new friend circle -- to supplement, not replace, the one you have. You don't have to seek out a romantic connection that you're not really looking for at the moment, just find friends of friends, hiking group buddies, whoever might want to share your adventures.

As a settled-down married person with kids, I treasure my few remaining single and childfree friends, at least the ones who like my kids. I love that if I do have some rare free time to do grown-up things, they're up for doing them with me. I like hearing about their adventures. I like that they want to hear about my kids, but that we mostly talk about other things and I'm not going to spend that rare evening out talking about potty training tips. I think if you just make an effort to keep in touch with your group of friends, and you mutually don't judge each other's choices and are patient when one of you is caught up in something and busy/preoccupied for a while (babies, travel, etc.) you'll be fine. I've been lucky not to lose any friends who are in different life stages and it's because we've always been interested in each other's lives no matter what we're doing.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:42 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I absolutely understand and respect their desire to spend the majority of their time with their SOs, and I understand that my friends who are trying to save for a home can't go out as much, etc etc.

It might help if you became a "friend of the family." Make friends with the SO and the kids. Be willing to come over and be the friend who grills the burgers or helps out when they paint the house. I mean if that's not appealing to you at all, then don't, but if you kind of like the idea then it's definitely a way to help stay involved in your friends' lives, and easier than getting them go to out.

Regardless, make some new friends. Explore your interests. Take some classes, volunteer, meet some new people.

I'm in your boat. My friends are getting married and buying houses and having kids. It's tough, and I can only afford so many classes, and making new friends is a process. I don't suppose you are in Jersey City ...
posted by bunderful at 7:46 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is a whole community of people who are just like you, maybe concentrating on careers and grad school while they use their disposable income on travel and experiences. Gravitate towards that social crowd.
posted by deanc at 8:19 PM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Recently I have come to appreciate the cliche "the test of time." Yeah. This is it.

I feel it from both sides because I am in an LTR, but not married/no kids. I live in a conservative religious community, so many think I am a loser. But yet I have couple demands that my single friends don't have. (Mid-30s.) Also, though I love them dearly, many of my college friends have sold out (they'd be the first to admit) and are now living an Upper East Side rich person lifestyle to which I cannot really relate, though we try.

Yeah. Gotta recruit some new friends. It's like dating.

Bunderful's suggestion re: barbecues (so to speak) is also good if hanging with people's family agrees with you.

My SO (of many years) is sort of the classic refuses-to-go-to-parties guy, and I am no debutante myself. So if you like nerdy people, you would probably be a welcome guest of That Couple...surely not ALL of your couple friends are square and kid-oriented? ;-)

By the same token, though, try to expand your vision when it comes to people's partners. I wish I could say otherwise, but I have only so much energy for friends. Over the years, the people I've stayed close to are the ones who keep an open mind about my SO. (Who is not a giant asshole, too mild-mannered for that, just weird.) Again, I wish it were different, but I just don't have time for old friends who border on patronizing when it comes to him. I chose him, duh...so make it easy for me to choose you, so to speak.

Think of the long game. Your real friends will come back to you again and again through various life stages. Even those who don't or can't are certainly thinking good thoughts about your time together.

Try to get psyched about the new life stage. Bildungsroman and all that. I think a solo trip sounds great at this point. I traveled solo for months in college. I loved it! Time to reboot.
posted by skbw at 8:54 PM on January 26, 2014

Clarification: I don't mean that you are currently closed-minded about SOs of friends...I just mean cast as wide a net as possible there.
posted by skbw at 9:00 PM on January 26, 2014

Something I heard in an interview this morning with Snoop Dogg, of all people, may be something for you to think about here -

"If you aren't losing friends, that's a sign you're not growing up."

I know that you think this means they're growing up and leaving you behind. But you're growing up too - just in a different direction. And that is okay, and as it should be, and happens a lot.

You just gotta find your tribe. Which changes a fuck of a lot over your life - someone I was REALLY tight with right after college, and on through the next ten years, is someone I never talk to any more; and right about the time he started fading from my life is when I met someone who I trust even more than that first guy, which I didn't even think was humanly possible. And who knows who I could meet ten years from now and what that person will be to me.

You will change repeatedly over the course of your whole life. And sometimes the person you become will lose some friends in the process. And that is okay - it's a sign you are an evolving person rather than just a static entity.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:44 PM on January 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Try to view it as an opportunity. This is perfect timing- you can go out and do something adventurous without feeling like you're abandoning your friends or that you're going to be missing out on much. I've wanted to move somewhere new for a while now, but a couple years ago I was having so much fun going out with my friends all the time, I could barely imagine leaving. Now, though, things are more like they are for you- people are coupled up, settling down, doing their own thing and it's just not like it was a few years ago. I don't see any of them nearly as much as I used to. I miss the way things were, but I guess that's kinda how your twenties end- it's never going to be exactly like that again. I feel like a new chapter in my life is starting as I enter my 30's, where I get to move somewhere new for my career and be single and have adventures while my wonderful friends who I love do other stuff like get married and have babies. They'll still be my friends when I come home to visit. Maybe you're ready to start the same chapter. I think this late 20's/early 30's fork in the road where people are either settling down or going off to do something else is pretty common. Seize the opportunity!
posted by GastrocNemesis at 10:15 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm married with two kids in my mid thirties and i have one single friend in particular who is always traveling and going to concerts and going skiing and doing all the other stuff I used to do a ton of when I was single and do a lot less of now.

One thing that I really appreciate is that she often invites me to join her, and keeps inviting me even though 19 times out of 20 I have to say no. That she thinks of asking me means a lot to me and makes it clear that she still values my friendship even though we don't see each other as often as we used to. Plus, the invites keep me informed about all the cool things she's getting up to.

And the odd time when the stars align and I can take her up on her invitation, it's wonderful.
posted by 256 at 8:22 AM on January 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've got the opposite problem, I'm married with a kid in a circle of single, kidless friends.

Our life tracks are different, yeah, and we might not see each other as much as we used to, when we could do brunch every weekend morning and party all night and take spur-of-the-moment trips to far-off cities. But we keep in touch, and we always enjoy each other when we do get together.

I also have made a bunch of new friends who are closer to my current lifestyle, and with those friends we do early dinners, and playdates with the children, and work parties to help each other with large yardwork tasks or small home remodeling projects.

So: diversify. Keep your current friends, but also find new ones to fill the gap that they're leaving in your social life. Dating for fun sounds like an excellent idea, especially if you would eventually like to settle down yourself.

Also, advice for staying friends with people who will have kids soon: welcome their kids into your plans! And be prepared to adjust your idea of a social event; it's a lot easier for parents of babies and toddlers to have friends over to their house for a low-key dinner than it is to go out to restaurants (and bars obv). Your friends are soon going to be totally focused on their kids, and if you understand that you might not see them that much, and that when you do, they'll have their kid with them, you'll be less disappointed than if your expectations of them don't change. Some of our friends are not fans of little kids, so we see them less than we see the friends who totally don't mind having a 3-year-old at the dinner table. And it's cool, friendships change and we all understand that we're not as compatible as we were 5 years ago, but we still like each other.

(Sidenote: I also have made some new kidless friends kind of accidentally, it can be hard to pick friends based on their family situation! So be prepard to accidentally make friends with more people who are also on a different track than you! I think the key thing is to just keep meeting people, and keep the ones that either fit with your current lifestyle, or the ones that you connect with on a deep enough level that the house+kids thing doesn't matter that much, because even people with kids will want to grab a drink or watch a movie with you from time to time, if you have a large enough set of friends you'll almost always be able to find someone who wants to do somthing with you.)

This is a nice opportunity for you to expand your social circle. You're not losing the friends you have, you're just going to see them less, which makes room for excellent new friends.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:14 AM on January 27, 2014

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