It isn’t uncommon—to find yourself at a different life stage than your friends. They go the career route, while you take the mom route. They shun singlehood; you embrace independence. Different life stages can be difficult on friendships. So what’s a gal to do when she is out of synch with her friends?
For most of my adult life, I have been at a different “life stage” than my friends. While they were finishing college and starting their careers, I was having a baby and making things work as a single parent. While they were living up their 20’s trying to find a man to marry, I was focused on raising the two little men in my life. Then, when they began to settle down, get married, and have kids, my kids were old enough that I was ready to have a life. Needless to say, this has always made friendships with my peers a little challenging.
This left me with three options, figure out how to make existing friendships work despite the differences in life stage, find new friends of different ages who were at similar life stages, or make new friends who were in the same boat as me. Never one to underachieve, I tried to do all three. Sometimes I was very successful, other times I wasn’t and I am hoping that, as kind of an expert on feeling out of synch with your friends, my experience can be your guide and you can learn from what worked, and didn’t work for me to make your own journey a little easier.
Life Stage Matters Less With Some than with Others
The simple fact is that some of your friends will be able to handle the differences in your lives better than others. For example, let’s pretend you are fast-tracking your career while most of your friends are looking at Bride Magazine or picking out baby names. Amongst those friends there will be some who can’t understand why you are valuing work over family. They will do things like set you up with their boyfriend/husband’s friends in the hope that you will fall in love and change your mind so that you can all live happily ever after. Unfortunately, they are the current friends who are the least likely to be able to maintain close ties as the paths your lives are taking drift farther and farther apart.
You will also have friends who can handle the difference. You will know who they are because they will be open to visiting your world once in awhile rather than always expecting you to exist in theirs. It won’t always be easy to maintain the connection you used to have as your interests and priorities change, but as long as you are both willing to put in the work, you can make a friendship at different life stages work.
If you are feeling out of synch with your current friends, take a close look at who seems to be supportive of what you are doing and who seems to be fighting to keep you on their path with them. Then put your energy into the friendships that are likely to stand the test of time.
Sometimes Age is Just a Number, But Sometimes It’s Not
You can absolutely develop amazing, supportive friendships with women who are older than you and women who are younger than you but it is easier if you share something significant in common. Unlike friends who are your age, friends who are from a different generation will have a different set of pop culture references, different ideas about everything from work to dating, and different expectations about what it means to be friends. While these generational differences can be as challenging to overcome as different life stages, they can also help create friendships that expand and invigorate your world. The key is to find women with whom you have something special in common, like a hobby, interest, or life experience. This will give you a foundation on which to build your friendship from the ground up.
If you are feeling out of synch with the friends you have now, maybe it is time to start looking for new friendships. Start by looking at your interests and hobbies to find potential new friends. It might be the right time to join a group related to something you are passionate about or to increase your involvement in a favorite activity as way to meet new people. Joining online forums or using SocialJane.com’s search by interest feature can help you find other women who are involved or interested in the same things as you.
Desperately Seeking … Someone Like Me
Another way to build a social support system that is tailored to the life you are living now is to find other women like you. For me, this meant seeking out other single parents. For you, it might mean seeking out other women who are focused on their career or who have new babies or who have school-aged children. Building new friendships with women based solely on situation helped me make some wonderful friends who understood my challenges because they were living them too. These new friends were instrumental in helping me navigate the new path I had chosen when it diverged completely from all of my existing friends simply because it was their path too. For me, these friendships were the most fleeting, often drifting away as our lives took different paths, but that’s okay, not every friendship needs to last forever.
If you are feeling out of synch with your friends, seek out some other women who are in similar circumstances to you. Try support groups, networking events, or simply striking up a conversation with the mom standing next to you at school.
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Have you ever felt out of synch with your friends? If so, how did you handle it or what did you do to correct / change the situation?
We'd love to hear from you (and so would other gals in the same boat).