Friendship in Your 30’s: Choosing Quality over Quantity

By Leah Campbell

Drifting apart from past acquaintances is just par for the course as we mature and recognize the value of a few great friends over a gaggle of mediocre ones. But as your focus shifts to quality over quantity, what friends should be at the top of the chopping block?

As kids, we collected friends. Everyone we met was automatically put into our social circle, and throughout our teen years and early twenties—it wasn’t uncommon to hop from one group to the next.

Something happens as we move into our 30’s, though. Perhaps it’s that life gets more complicated, or maybe it’s that it actually gets more balanced. Either way, people start to settle down and refine their tastes, both for activities and those with whom they choose to surround themselves. Slowly but surely, those friendship circles become more defined. We weed out the excess and put our focus into the relationships that promise enduring connections. Drifting apart from past acquaintances is just par for the course as we mature and recognize the value of a few great friends over a gaggle of mediocre ones.

But as your focus shifts to quality over quantity, what friends should be at the top of the chopping block?

Toxic Influences
Part of the beauty of growing up is realizing that we don’t have to be friends with everyone. In fact, there are plenty of people who simply aren’t deserving of our friendship at all. That starts with anyone who brings more negativity into your life than good.

When we’re younger, we are incredibly talented at making excuses for people. We pretend the friend who we’ve known since high school is simply going through a rough time when she treats us poorly, even though some of her bad friendship behavior has been going on for years. We tell ourselves that "the gossip" in the group talks badly about everyone, so it isn’t personal when her venom is directed at us. And we maintain that while a certain friend has let us down again and again, she is always up for a good time – making her worthy of keeping around.

We just aren’t as great at cutting the fat. But entering your 30’s brings this clarity and realization that you don’t need to surround yourself with toxic people, no matter how long they have been a part of your inner circle. And once you realize that, cutting them out and moving on can bring so much more clarity and peace to your life.

The Peter Pan’s

Everyone has to grow up eventually, and most of us actually want to by the time we reach our 30’s. But there will always be a select few desperate to hang on to their youth, still hitting up the clubs every weekend and living as though responsibilities are overrated and commitment is for the birds. These will be the friends who roll their eyes when you make your engagement and pregnancy announcements, singing under their breath, “another one bites the dust.” As you strive to grow up, they will be maintain a certainty that you are making the biggest mistake of your life—while they throw back another shot and take home another random love interest.

Look, everyone matures at different stages, and people also have different dreams for their future. Just because a friend isn’t at the same stage as you in life doesn’t mean they can’t still be a great and supportive friend. But Peter Pan’s are the ones who will never grow up, and who will forever chastise you for wanting to. At some point, you’ll realize that you just aren’t on the same page anymore, and you haven’t been for a long time. Once that happens, you can let them go and stop pretending you still have anything at all in common.

Superficial Connections

When we were younger and collecting all those friends, we typically put them into groups—designating what purpose each friendship served, sometimes without even realizing we were doing so. You had your friends with whom you drank. You friends with whom you shopped. Your work friends. Your friends equally as obsessed with Twilight as you. Your travel friends. And your friends you could count on to act as a wing-woman when you were looking to meet someone new.

Obviously, most of those friends weren’t deep connections—they served a purpose on some superficial level, and that was what your friendship revolved around. Most were probably great people, but for whatever reasons, your friendships never scratched beyond the surface. And because of that, these are the friends you will likely find yourself drifting away from in your 30’s—usually without intention or drama. It’s not that you don’t like these people anymore, just that you would rather spend your time with the friends who fulfill multiple roles for you and know you beyond those superficial connections.

Who to Keep
Which brings us to the friends you should hold on to, no matter what. Your soul sisters. The women who know you at your core, and love you despite any flaws they have surely known about for years. These are the women you can laugh with, cry to, and rely on when things get tough. They have your back, and even if you bicker just like sisters sometimes, you always know there is a love there deep enough that allows you to sometimes disagree and still be friends.

We only get so many of these in our lives, but it is as we enter our 30’s that we fully begin to recognize their value. Why would you want to spend time with a Toxic Influence or a Peter Pan, when you could instead be spending that time with one of your soul sisters?

There’s no contest. Never was. It’s just that in our 30’s, we are finally able to understand how much more valuable quality friendships are – and we are willing to put the time into nurturing those true connections, even at the expense of the friendships we are probably better off without.

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