Nearing midlife seems to hold so many changes; changes I know I wasn’t ready for the same way I was ready to start my career, get married, and have kids.
To me, those changes felt inviting, they’d sucked me in and had a way of leading me blindly down the path. For the most part I didn’t know what to expect but deep down I was able to go with it because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. So, I just went.
At least that was my experience.
I wasn’t afraid of things; of life, I was ready and anxious to go and I had a lot of friends to share it with.
But many of those women aren’t in my life today. I used to wonder why, but now I think I know.
Friendships change as life changes. As we get older we break out of our kids depending on us as they did when they were younger. They now depend on us in different ways, they screw up, we screw up, our marriages feel hard, and we wonder where the chunk of time went that looked so full of promise.
Some mornings I look at my teenagers and it feels like the bubble that was so full of promise popped and life got a little harder.
As women enter their 40s and 50s we still want friends– good friends– because that desire never changes.
But we need different things out of our friendships because life is different. We want someone we can trust with the deepest of secrets and can be there without judgment if we find out our kids are experimenting with drugs, failing a class or have an eating disorder.
We want our friends to be transparent about the parenting choices they’ve made and tell us what they’d do if we ask them. We are over being lectured to or given unsolicited advice. We want raw honesty that is helpful.
Women want loyalty and safe people to talk to when their marriage feels off and is crumbling, or if they are starting out on their own for the first time in two decades and are scared to death of the future.
We want to surround ourselves with those who support us and talk us through it and remind us what we are capable of without backing away because they were friends with our ex and it’s awkward for them.
At this point, we’ve grown out of our friends who are there for convenience, or who only call when they are having a problem. We want to be there for our girlfriends and want to feel that warmth in return. We’ve gotten really good at detecting a one-sided friendship and well, it doesn’t fit into our lifestyle any longer.
Our head space is taken up by focusing on our kids’ well-being and taking them to practices and games while balancing our career or just getting back into the workforce after taking time away.
In the back of our minds we know the time with our children is going to be cut down dramatically so when we step out to get a reprieve from family time, it needs to be with someone who sees us, really sees us, or we are left feeling lonely. Women entering mid-life don’t want to feel lonely.
We have a stronger sense of self and need someone who matches that energy– things like gossiping about other friends or being petty are the exact things we teach out kids not to do so when that happens, we want to run the other way and spend our time with those who uplift us, not people who bring us down.
We can now detect bullshit coming at us a mile away. We can smell false promises and empty invitations. We wish to spend our time with women who mean what they say and expect us to stay true to what we say.
We all understand if someone has to break plans, but when we have that friend who cancels four times in a row, we finally realize it’s okay to stop asking.
I think what happens on the cusp of sending kids to college, deciding to make your marriage work, or let it all fall apart, going back to work or continuing on your career path during all the other changes is, we realize something.
We realize we have people, like our parents or sisters, that we did not chose. And we realize we have friends that we can choose. We can choose to welcome them in our life, or we can ask them to leave.
It’s a time when life seems to be unraveling fast. We often feel like we are running behind a ball that’s rolling downhill and no matter how fast we run, there’s no catching it.
The changes happening now are good, great even, but it’s a time of deep soul- searching and change. I know the women I’ve stayed in touch with through the decades aren’t the same as they were when I met them.
I’ve grown with some, let go of some, and some have let go of me. We don’t wear the same style of underwear we wore back in our college days and we probably don’t nourish our bodies the same way we used to either.
We’ve become more aware, comfortable, and self-loving. And at this age, that’s what women do with their friendships too. We now know it’s more than okay to say so long to a relationship that’s no longer serving us in order to make room for the new.