Ever wondered why it's hard to find good friends as an adult?
We have all heard it said that you'll never form friendships as strong and enduring as those you made growing up, but why is this so?
Here's my theory.
Growing up is difficult. Even if, like me, you had it pretty good, being a teenager was hard work. At high school, we were growing and changing, disembedding from our families, and most likely dealing with some form of anxiety, depression, bullying or conflict daily. Although friendships could sometimes be the cause of this angst, they were also our safe haven. These friends were our comrades in arms as we battled through each day. This might sound dramatic - high school wasn't that bad, right? I agree, I loved my high school, my teachers and my friends, but being a teenager is inherently tough, and it is this shared experience that forms the fertile ground for a rich and lasting friendship.
The other part of this is that we established the boundaries of our friendships at a time when we were all establishing all kinds of boundaries. We argued as teenagers, when arguing was something we accepted as a matter of course. It may have shaken us, but everything was pretty shaky back then.
I recently had a disagreement with a "new" friend. I was aghast "I haven't fallen out with anyone since high school!" I had seen a new side of her and it shocked me. I'm sure she would say the same about me. We had crossed one another's boundaries and there wasn't enough shared history and trust for the friendship to survive it.
Some of my dearest and most trusted friends are people that I might not click with if I met them today. But I KNOW them. Twenty years since we met, I know that I can trust one friend to always be late. I can trust one to always cancel. I can trust one to hold a grudge. I can trust one to speak harsh truths that hurt me. I have long since accepted these traits, so I can always let them go easily. I can also trust all of them to meet me in my darkest moments and not shy away when I'm at my most vulnerable. On a recent night out, four of five of us had cried within an hour. Being together and feeling supported, brought all that we had been holding in in our busy lives flooding out.
Maybe sometimes we expect our new friends to be as reliable as our old ones, and maybe, in time, they will be.
With my oldest friends, there's no side of them that I haven't seen. Even as we grow and change, we are still deeply known by one another. They have seen me at my most insecure and horrible and they are still here. That's a love and acceptance like no other.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Are you best friends your oldest friends, or have you forged new and strong friendships? Comment below.
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Laura is a Gestalt counsellor and psychotherapist in Melbourne's inner North.