• Keeping Friends

Friendship Over 40: As Women Age, Are They Less Tolerant of Friends?

Published: November 1, 2015 | Last Updated: February 24, 2022 By | 56 Replies Continue Reading
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A reader I’ll call “Annie” recently asked a question about friendship over 40.

Specifically, she asked: As women age, are they more discriminating about keeping friends than they were when they were younger?

Her note (edited ever so lightly) is reprinted below.

Both Annie and I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic of friendship over 40 in the comment section below.


Dear Friendship Doctor,

I would like to know, do we women tolerate less from friends as we age than we did when we were younger?

I’m in my mid 40s now, and I find I have way less tolerance for friends’ dramas now than I did when I was in my 20s and younger. I have school-aged kids and a husband so I’m busy really. I find that as time and birthdays pass, I just can’t deal with other people’s complex needs, or the troubles that complicate friendships.

I admit I’m a people pleaser, and I know that has got me into trouble in the past, sometimes allowing the wrong people to attach themselves to me. I always seem to attract the wrong ones but that’s because I’m quite chatty and friendly.

Even when I’ve liked them in the beginning, it begins to feel a bit much after a while. Slowly, I’ve found I prefer having fewer friends afford me the peace, quiet and simplicity that I like way more.

I enjoy keeping to myself, have a couple of friends I have known for a long time, and just stick to them. I find those relationships work because we are not in each other lives too much.

I have actually off-loaded a few people in the past few years that I had known, when I realized I was being taken for a fool or a ride, for example. I just don’t want to know anymore about their lives if they become a burden, want too much from me, try to drag me into their complex marriage/relationship problems, or have proven to be straight out opportunists. I know these are good reasons to say goodbye.

Annie and I would love to know your thoughts: Do you feel differently about friendships after 40 than you did when you were younger?

Tags: , , , ,


Comments (56)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Marci says:

    I too tend to be a people pleaser and am seen as a friendly and approachable person. However, I have found that some people think they can take advantage of that. If a friendship feels wrong or feels one-sided, it likely is. Trust your instincts. As we get older, we don’t want to waste time on friendships that don’t seem genuine or don’t bring us joy. I’d rather have a few really good friends than a lot of so-called friends. So don’t let people treat you poorly or drain the life out of you. A few years back I reunited with a friend I’ve known since Grade 5. We lost touch while raising children etc., but our friendship was strong enough to re-emerge when our children grew up and we once again had more time for each other. We still don’t see each other a lot due to distance, but when we do, the day flies by and it’s a warm fuzzy and I realize how blessed I am to have her as a friend. Those friendships are perhaps few and far between and if you have one, be sure to nurture it.

  2. L says:

    My whole life I have tried to be a good friend and treat people they way I would want to be treated. But I had long term friend for over 15 years I met when our children were both younger. She has always been very opinionated and felt her way was always the right way. She has always told me how perfect her children were but continually picked my children apart. I had an issue with one of my daughters recently where this friend got overly involved and spent a lot of time speaking with my daughter on the phone and shared with my daughter about private conversations we had she even showed her screen shots of our text conversations.and broke my confidence. She then tried to turn my daughter against me, Needless to say my daughter and I are now on great terms and I have cut that friend out of my life ( something that should have been done years ago) I feel since this situation happened I do not alow myself to get that close to friends anymore its just easier and more peaceful.

  3. kath says:

    Oh my goodness, I feel exactly the same with all of you. I will be 45 soon and yet I have only a couple of good friends. I used to be on Facebook but I deleted my account as I got so fed up with the boasting, the dramas with certain friends, it all got too much as I was always ready to help my friends, be there for them. But what I suddenly realised was that not one of them was there for me when I went through a tough time. My good friend now, has never been on Facebook, and she always texts me back, we are there for each other, we see each other. I have a great husband and family and I work part-time, which is good for me. I do feel that in the past, I have been used, and that the friendships I made were one-sided. Now, I live my own life and don’t get caught up in everyone else’s life, I need to live my life. Yes at times I feel, why hasn’t this friend called etc….but I can’t always be the one reaching out, they need to make an effort too, mostly they don’t. I am human so it has been hard, but I must think, they don’t seem to worry about me. So I live my life and do what makes me happy. Friendships do change, but we must do what makes us happy. With most of these friendships, I was the one putting the effort into them, and when I was with them, at times it didn’t even feel right. True friendship is hard to find, if you have it, keep hold of it as it is a special thing, only if both of you are truly and honestly there for each other. Otherwise do things that make yourself happy without them. Don’t be fooled into their nonsense and drama, it is not worth it. Friendship shouldn’t be hard work, if it is, something is wrong. Take care of yourselves out there, I know what its like, just be true and happy to yourself.

  4. Arlene says:

    At 40 you are at a different stage of life. Call it mid life, or living on the inside (looking for life beyond)or if you have kids, teens, you are so knee deep in drama who needs those kind of women on reality t.v. for friends. I think as we age, and now know life is much harder than we thought, we look for supportive women, women with substance and often women further along the journey, the wise women. I believe quality becomes more important than quantity and a wedding process begins. Like seeks like.

  5. Melissa says:

    I am 35 and I am going thru this right now.
    I have always thought in the back of my head that most friendships were a total waste of time.
    Lets be real, most friendships start in our teenage or 20’s years of life.
    Those times of our lives are filled with drama whether by chance, choice or circumstance.
    Therefore these friendships are born into drama so that is what they know.
    As we get older our patience for this nonsense runs thin because some of us grow up. The reality is, not all people do.
    People sitting on social media in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s suffer from sever arrested development and instead of BETTERING their lives they just wallow in the drama and put it on blast on social media.
    This in itself is so immature, I could not even be friends with someone like that.
    The sad truth of life is that most people will never amount to anything. They will have kids who will never amount to anything and the cycle will continue.
    The successful people in this world are not surrounded by tons of ‘friends’ and as I get older I realize how much others have not and do not contribute to my successes.
    I would much rather be alone at a museum or an old film or continuing my education than being with my ‘friends’.
    At age 35, I would have to say that after the age of 30, if you are a ‘normal’ level headed, wise individual you will see less need for so many ‘friendships’.
    You are better off investing your energy into yourself.

    • Ariane says:

      OMG Melissa………..You said exactly what I was thinking. Totally agree.

      People act surprised when I tell them I don’t sit on FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. I tell them REAL life is better and that they should get one.

  6. Sally says:

    Annie’s story resonates with my own at this time in my life. I’m also in my mid forties now and seem to have the same attitude. I thought I had developed an uncaring attitude. I have loved spending time with my friends over the years and we have ridden rocky paths together, or so I thought. I like to please, I’ll admit that, but I hadn’t realised that until my divorce a few years ago, my friends thought I had no problems because I was so focused on helping them. As I get older, I realise that wanting to please myself first causes a lot of problems with people who think you should be there for them. Their dramas are aired daily on social media and the mark of a good friend, it would seem, is to respond by getting involved online too! I cannot bear it and prefer to call friends directly if I’m troubled. Unfortunately, my woes are not heard, but if I announced them to the world via media, I would no doubt receive caring comments from the comfort of their laptops.
    I like a quiet life these days. My stepdaughters have their own lives and of course, my life could never be as dramatic as those with their own kids! I find that I do indeed have little tolerance for those that scream from the rooftops about the difficulties of life, when I have faced the same and much worse, quietly and alone. Maybe that’s why I am now intolerant, because I’ve heard it all before and if you get involved in others’ dramas, you get dragged in and lose sight of what is important to you.
    My needs have changed, I want quality, not quantity. I would love a sincere and trusting catch up with someone once a month, rather than be socially busy and dragged down by the games people play.


  7. Anna says:

    In my experience, those who are always referring to drama, whether it’s posting it on Facebook, or in person, are the ones who bring drama to situations. I’ve seen passive aggressive Facebook posts where women post pics of their “fabulous” nights out. Undoubtedly, you’ll see the one woman post about what a great time it was, mostly because there was no drama. What does that mean in your 40s? It’s meant to send a message, which is pretty much drama in my book. I’m just a busy mom these days, so my free time is very little. I have to choose wisely what I do with it. I’m not worrying about so called drama. If a friend is having trouble, it’s trouble, not drama. Again, almost every social media friend in Facebook who posts quotes or memes about drama, are guilty of it. If people are truly bringing negativity to a friendship, there’s no need to go on social media. I’m not sure of the psychology of it, but it seems it’s always a woman who was traumatized as a child. Loss of a parent, abuse, etc. They claim to have a live and let live attitude, and their lives are far from what they post, but I have to remember they’re hurt souls. If I let their drama get to me, I’m being like them. That’s what the unfollow button is all about.

    • Juanita says:

      oh my gosh you are SOOO right. I always say, the people who bring up the “drama” word are CAUSING drama!!! A woman said this to me once out of the blue “I don’t want any drama” while I was having a private conversation with a male friend. THAT is intended to cause drama. It still hurts to this day that my friend laughed when she said that instead of having my back. Women can be the most helpful, supportive friends ever or the most evil, back-stabbing witches ever. anyway, i just wanted to say I agree about the drama word. 🙂 I listen to several friends and their problems and I really don’t mind, in fact it keeps life interesting unless they go overboard and never learn from their mistakes. Yes, I agree also that many have been hurt as children and are seeking attention in ways we can’t understand. This also falls under the category of narcissist/sociopath, etc in extreme forms. Anyway, thanks for your insightful post!

  8. Jo says:

    I was really sad to read this post for a number of reasons. I know we are all different and need different amounts of social support -however I find the writers views on friendship to be very disheartening. In my view every relationship will have its challenges and part of being a good friend is to be there even when our friends are going through the tough times. The problem with focusing everything on husband and family is that we can one day turn around and realise that our lives have become isolated.

    In the UK a recent campaign for loneliness spoke to an elderly lady whose husband had now died. Thi couple had been inseparable -just the two of them -so much so that now the woman was alone -had no close friends and spent days alone -sometimes she would pretend to speak to her husband.

    Watching that ad gave me a huge jolt -with our increasingly technological world people are losing their real life social networks buying into the illusion that real life relationships are too much effort.

    Rather then being so critical of friends I’d say a more realistic and compassionate attitude is needed.

  9. Nancy says:

    I’m concerned about the terms “toxic friendships” or “toxic relationships,” and here’s why: all relationships are two-way streets, created by the magnetic attraction of two people. So many times (and I’ve done this) we see only our own integrity and intent in these relationships as if we have no “fault” or “blame” in the interaction. So many times: “I’m friendly and a good listener” and “they’re just toxic and draining of me.” We do not see the importance of our contribution to a dissatisfying relationship. People pleasers call themselves that, almost as if they are “good” people, and the opposing friend the “bad” or “toxic” friend. I see it this way and I’d love some feedback to see if what I say makes any sense: those of us who describe ourselves this way and start to lose friends because “they” are just too insecure, needy, narcissistic, etc. and we are deliberately choosing better people, and therefore, fewer people as friends” are really the ones who are needy and insecure. That’s the make-up of the “people pleaser.” We do what we do, out of a conscious intent, to be good people, to be a good friend, to be right in the relationship, yet what happens is we don’t get our needs met and so start to criticize the friend and find fault with them. What would really be illuminating is to notice our criticism of the other person and apply it to ourselves. Am I being needy? (“Well, I want them to call me, why do I have to call all the time.”) Are we being insecure? (“If I want someone to listen to me, they just interrupt; my concerns don’t matter.”) I have spent a lifetime trying to figure this out. Probably way too much time in thinking! 🙂

    • T says:

      This maybe true for yourself,but its not the same for everyone. Annie sounds like she has come to a point in her life where she has done some friendship stocktaking and has put careful thought into how her friendships have originated and how they have progressed.She sounds like she knows what she wants from a friendship and has been courageous in her decisions to let some people go. Friendships dont stay the same forever, so its insightful to be able to look outside of yourself and see exactly what is going on, as you view your situations. I dont see vital decision making as insecure or needy in any way, it means you are mature enough to identify problem people that are causing problems and move on. There is no point in just hanging onto a friendship just because you have known someone a long time, or because you are too afraid to make that decision to move on. There is nothing wrong with editing people out of your life, you only get one. I commend Annie for her ability to stand up and decide a better life for herself. She sounds like shes met a few loser friends that have taken advantage of her because she is friendly. Unfortunately that can be seen as weakness of by some people who seek to use a friendship as a commodity. Some people who dont have the necessary life skills tend to gravitate towards nice friendly people, who are well grounded.They do it because they are seeking what the stable person has. But because they are actually a poor match personality wise in the first place, the friendship is not going to last no matter how long.That is no fault of the well grounded person.I have met people who have had ulterior motives to be friends, like what you can do for them, what they can get from you without putting any effort themselves, unfortunately they are out there. Contrats to Annie for making some very good life choices.

      • GraceW says:

        I agree with you, “T” — well said!

      • Ariane says:

        Well said T!

      • Juanita says:

        you’re so wise, T! I wish I had been so wise to realize why life suckers gravitate toward me, it’s the stability factor! I guess I never thought of being stable because my friends always thought of me as irresponsible but gee, those were my friends since elementary school! I was just a good time girl then! 🙂 Anyway, I guess I AM stable compared to a lot of people. thanks for those words, I’m copying in case I forget and need to reread.

      • Tonya says:

        Thank you T,
        Your wise words have helped me immensely. I am also a “people please”, but I am the type that completely forgets about “me” and does everything possible to make others happy and content. This might be why am working on my Psychology degree in hopes to be a great therapist. At least bybthen I will get paid for helping others Lol. All jokes aside, it hurts when a friend leaves our sides by either their choice or mine. I have always had many many friends and it was satisfying but took its course over time. Today I focus on myself (to better myself), my Lil’s and my wonderful hubby. The friends i have today have similar lives and goals and its liberating to conversate with people who are like minded. Take care of our souls in order to be able to be better for the people and loved ones who deserve us in their lives. Also a “give and take” relationship always has worked better for me and the people in my life.
        It’s nice to see that we’re all not alone in this and able to get the advice needed.
        Thank you all for your help and wisdom 😉

    • ReMai says:


      In the past I may have written about this but I worry about the use of the word toxic too.

      For 29 years I am certain I lived with a man that was very toxic indeed; but it was not a subtle toxicity that you had to analyze, it was just extremely toxic, straight up in your face.

      His core rants were always central to how I was everything bad, in other words his accusations to me were that I WAS TOXIC. In those years I I spent countless hours in deep in thought over my every utterance and interaction with hm. If I was a toxic person to others I wanted to understand how, and I wanted to carry that knowledge forward into our relationship and any relationship, friendship I might someday have. I hated the label, the accusations, the lies. The half stories.

      No one wants to be toxic? I sure never do .

      I fear the word toxic too, anyone is free to judge one a toxic person and just throw you away for it. This is NOT to diminish the idea that one should escape toxicity in any relationship, ultimately it is how one feels about themselves that is of the utmost importance. I applaud people who have had to make incredibly difficult decisions to leave people they once loved or might still love. It is painful.

      • Juanita says:

        I hope you know by now this man probably had narcissistic personality disorder and all blame is always shifted to everyone else. The fact that you actually contemplated whether or not you were indeed toxic shows that you are NOT.
        I hope you have gotten some closure and clarity by now. I suggest you read up on narcissists if you haven’t already.

    • Laura says:

      Hi Nancy,
      I’m late to this ‘thread’, but really appreciate your comments. I see a lot of ‘projection’ from ppl when attacking & accusing ‘friends’ of the very qualities they posess…or are having trouble dealing with. Just had a falling out with a woman I’ve known through a social group… who once described me as ‘nice/kind/ considerate & ppl seem to like you…”… 2 yrs later & I’m “rude, inconsiderate, dismissive & projecting blame & hostility…” (!!) Like, ‘Hello?!” I’m the exact same person, but I guess my ‘bad habits’ she can no longer tolerate (I have ongoing issues of time-managment & lateness, which were always apparent, not hidden & readily admitted…!) Now, the ‘anger’ towards me in an email exchange when I tried to apologize for a recent event… has left me hurt & discouraged as I considered her a ‘friend’.. @ least in relation to this social group we are both part of and attend things together for the past 4 yrs… Now there doesn’t seem to be any ‘forgiveness’ despite my efforts to apologize , ask to get together for ‘coffee’ & clear the air, etc… so, I’ve taken the advice of someone I know: “Just leave it be… she’s just a very angry person & it’s not about you…” So, I’ve had to ‘forgive’ myself for not being perfect … & move forward in the knowledge that I will keep trying the best I can to be a ‘friend’ & not expect more from others than I can give back myself… Still difficult because it is a ‘loss’ in many ways… Thanks for reading.

  10. Liz says:

    The main way that I’ve changed is to accept that I’m better off with just a few good friends. I’m not so much less tolerant of friends, but much less apt to view someone as a friend as I used to be. What I mean is that many people whom I would have in the past called friends are now considered to be acquaintances.
    A friend that is going through drama which she has brought on herself is going to get a little bit of my time. A friend that is mistreating me will be downgraded to acquaintance and I’ll say hello if our paths cross.
    I respect myself more now, my time and energy go to those more worthy of it.
    Not to say that I won’t forgive and move on – I will and do. But what I mostly dealt with in the past was being only included when I had something that would benefit them. Being on the edges of the in crowd and feeling like the few times I was included were the little bones you might throw to a dog. Good enough when there wasn’t anyone else, but dropped when a better option came about. Etc.
    My inner peace isn’t in peril over if I fit in or am invited to the party. But – I am not so open hearted towards that person or group. If someone doesn’t treat me well, fine, but I’m not going to agonize over it and try to correct it.

    • KH says:

      OMG Liz!! Thank you for this post. You have no idea how much this has helped me. This is exactly where I am with someone I considered a dear friend. My time is valuable and I’m more valuable than to be considered an after thought!! Wow!!

  11. Eve says:

    Thanks for this blog entry and responses. I see a lot of my own experiences reflected here, and it’s good to know I’m not alone. I’ve struggled with feeling the loss/guilt over friendships that I could not continue because we had become such essentially different people, with different values. I’m trying to move on and be open to newer, but more mutually healthy relationships.

  12. ReMai says:

    Good topic!

    A young 60+ year old here.

    For 30 years I was entangled in a life that did not result in friendships for me.
    Myself – I am probably at times insecure. Not proud of that. But, well you know. . .

    Quality of interactions are so important, and it is all very inter-changable. Sometimes ya gotta be introverted and sometimes ya gotta be extroverted, and you always have to find the balance and the tone.

    I like easy going friendships that just feel comfortable and kind and accepting and just full of a listening understanding. I think that by the time we reach the age I am, our years of seasoning will bring us to who are meant to be our friends?

    Who knows. . .


    • Laura says:

      Totally agree with these! Sorry, I’m just reading this email thread @ 2 “yrs” after they were posted(!) =}

  13. caren says:

    Can I just say that this string of conversations has been so helpful for me. Just this morning I was feeling bad about some of my friendships. I am hard on myself because I want to be a great friend, even to the point where I force myself to do things I don’t want to do. I justify it by telling myself that “a good friend would do this”. But what I realize now is that I have to balance that with being a good friend to myself, first.

    I am a consumate people pleaser. I am also a very good listener and I don’t openly share things about myself unless I’m asked (and then I’m happy to share). I have never been the kind of person to dominate a converstaion and talk only about myself. I prefer to ask questions, and be interested in others. As a result, I find that some of the engagements and conversations I have are totally draining because I am drawn to people who want an audience. I need to find a balance here.

    I also have a few friends that despite their mid-life status, still make bad life decisions around money and men, so they always seem to have drama. I then feel responsible for coming to the rescue, or being their cheerleader even though I really want to tell them that I think they are being unrealistic or naive. It’s not authentic, but I also don’t want to give people negative feedback.

    Friendships can be really hard. I love my alone time, but I also know that I need good relationships. It’s the one area of my life where I’ve never felt I’ve had enough.

    The conversation here has given me comfort to know that I”m not alone.

    Thanks all for your candor, honesty and vulnerability!

    • Bibi says:

      “I also have a few friends that despite their mid-life status, still make bad life decisions around money and men, so they always seem to have drama.”
      If a ‘friend’ can’t figure out how to manage their finances properly by the time they’re 40 yrs old- they are NEVER going to figure it out because they don’t want too.
      If a ‘friend’ keeps getting involved with the same type of men/women with the same type of problems – they are NEVER going to figure it because they don’t want too.
      There is NOTHING you can do for a ‘friend’ like this. It takes some kind of LIFE CHANGING CRISIS in order to motivate them to want to change these behaviors.
      Perhaps we’re doing these ‘friends’ favors by excluding them & their self created dramas from our lives. Perhaps we need to be one of the LIFE CHANGING CRISES that motivates them to change by dumping them.
      That’s my conclusion after dealing with so many ‘friends’ like this.

  14. Ariane says:

    I thought I was the only one who felt this way. I thought it had something to do with menopause. It’s like I woke up one day and say to myself I am tired of the nonsense in regards to friendships and started deleting people out of my life. The best way to determine who goes and who stays is to use a pro/con list. The last flaky friend I let go about a year ago and that was kind of ugly, but I didn’t care. I was finally giving her my true thoughts about her before I ended the relationship. She was too complexed and always complaining about her problems at work. She never really wanted to hear about what was going on in my life. I invited her many time to my home, but she would always cancel at the last moment stating she had to do this and that with her husband. She was indeed a flake in the end.

    I am always open to establishing new friendships, but I seem to draw younger women who I have nothing in common with other than I look young like them or women with a lot of personal problems/issues. Trying to figure out the solution for this.

    I have learned to fill my life with people and activities that bring joy, happiness or purpose into my life. If the activity or person is taking away from that then it/he/she is removed from my life.


  15. Sandra Anne says:

    I’ve already posted a comment here, but earlier this week, I read yet another magazine article about aging and friendship, and why it’s important to have an active social life as we get older. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately — and this post is related to that.

    On one hand, by the time we hit midlife, we know better than to put up with toxic friendships and we value how we spend our own time, and who we spend it with. On the other hand, we *need* to have a circle of friends. Spending time alone is productive, but it can get lonely too — especially in our older years. My elderly mother, sadly, became so bitter and angry with the few friends she had that, by the time she died, she had isolated herself and ended up a lonely woman with few visitors in the nursing home. I learned a lesson from watching her.

    I think the key is to have healthy friendships — as many of those as we can — while respecting our own boundaries, as many comments here have noted.

    • GraceW says:

      Sandra Anne, I think you make a great point here. While it’s important to step away from unhealthy relationships (which we become more equipped to do as we age), it is also important to replace those relationships with healthy ones.

      The posts on this topic have been really interesting to read. Many of them (Tara, especially your comments about similar values!) really resonate with my own experience.

    • Whitby says:

      I’m always ambivalent re. these reports about the necessity for an active social life. In fact, my doctor tried to prescribe more socializing for me, and I just wasn’t having it. The thing is, I am really introverted – I mean, really introverted. I have some friends whose company I enjoy, but in very very limited doses. The thought of socializing just makes me feel anxious. And when it does happen, I am usually ready to go home after an hour. I can happily spend a week without talking to anyone. I don’t mean to pour scorn on the various studies that suggest that socializing is good for the aging brain, but I often wonder if the researchers take into account the differences between extroverts and introverts.

  16. PollyPeppa says:

    I totally agree with the original poster’s comments. As time go by, I have learned to respect myself more and listen to my needs and my instinct. In my twenties and thirties I allowed people into my life that caused me more pain than joy. What’s the point of that?

    I don’t mind friends telling me their problems and sharing their troubles. That’s what friendship is for after all. What I don’t like is hypocrisy, back stabbing, gossiping, spreading rumours, lies… and in my subjective experience women “friends” do that a lot when they’re young.

    I only have a few friends now, which I try to keep as one to ones, to avoid the gossip and drama. I have simplified my life and am very happy with that. I have heard a lot of the same experience from women in their 40’s. It seems that as we grow older, we are wiser and become better at setting boundaries and respecting our emotional needs. It’s been a tough lesson from life, but I’m glad I’ve learned it.

  17. lua says:

    I would rather spend time by myself than to waste time hanging out with toxic friends full of drama. I am less tolerant because I value my free time. Granted, I don’t have as many friends as I did in my 20s and 30s but that is from weeding out unfulfilling friendship. I don’t have the time and energy for nonsense. If a friend is going through life struggles, it’s temporary and they don’t look for drama. Life throws people curve balls. It’s their ones whom repeatedly get themselves in these situations whom invite the drama into their lives that I refuse to deal with.

  18. Maddie says:

    I think Annie stated it perfectly. As I get older, I am not at all tolerant of anyone else’s drama. I’m a good, loyal, supportive friend, but I am not a psychologist and do not want to hear about your marital woes, boyfriend trouble, or conflict between you and your coworkers, endlessly.

    And if you call me at 3 am, someone better be dead or dying.

  19. Amy F says:

    I don’t think we can generalize for everyone. In my early 50s, I’m only interested in having healthy friendships. I’m also more tolerant of understanding that a lot of people go through periods of times when their lives are filled with drama (sick parents or spouse, illness, new grandkids). The difference for me is self created vs life drama. Friends will have problems. Are they trying to help themselves or making excuses why they can’t? Do they behave like victims? With longterm friendships, I can look over a decade or more of the person’s history to see if I want to engage or back away. I don’t often end friendships, but I back away and disengage while the person is working out their crap. If the drama is a character trait, we aren’t that close of friends and probably just acquaintances.

  20. Bridget says:

    I’m going to be 40 in just under two months and I am currently focusing hard on learning my boundaries and about self care. I just ended a very unhealthy, all-consuming friendship and it’s been such a struggle adjusting and trying to figure out what I truly desire in friendship. I’ve always placed a high value on friendship, but I’ve struggled to find quality friendships that have healthy boundaries.

    I loved reading all of your thoughts on boundaries, self-care and being in control of your time and choosing wisely who you spend it with.

    As I grow in learning how to keep my boundaries in tact, I hope I find some healthy, positive friendships along the way that can enhance my life. Thanks all!

  21. Tara says:

    Hi Annie,
    What a great question! It definitely got me thinking of my own path and was curious to hear everyone’s responses. I feel very similar you and what others have written here.

    Like Grace W said, it is about understanding one’s own boundaries and I think that that comes with emotional maturity rather than a specific chronological age. I can imagine that with life experiences that it is around a similar chronological age that this starts to happen for most. I had a wake up call around 34 when it came to friendships – dealing with a really toxic friend and that lead me to seek therapy and understand my boundaries.

    The other aspect is that I understand what friendship means to me. I no longer look for surface level connection (similar hobbies, activities, etc.) although that helps, I look for people who value similar things in friendships – reciprocity, listening and support. The other stuff, like similar backgrounds, religion, age, etc. have become less important to me. Because I am coming from a place where I now accept myself, I can now accept other differences. I actually find that as long as a friend isn’t shaming me, putting me down and respects me for who I am (or not abusing me b/c I am kind), I am open to different people in my life. This actually makes me more open to friendship and like you say, less willing to deal with the drama of toxic friendships.

    Insightful question and I really started to reflect on my own journey in how my friendships have changed.

    Kind regards,

    • Sandra Anne says:

      Tara, I am so glad you mentioned the word “reciprocity” in terms of friendship. This is so important, no matter what age we are. Not that anyone extends herself because she hopes to get something in return. But it IS important to feel that our thoughtful gestures and support are reciprocated in some way. When one person is always initiating plans or being the generous one, well, that gets old quickly. As we mature, we realize that we deserve better.

      • Tara says:

        Hi Sandra Anne,
        A good point, that we are also worthy of receiving thoughtful gestures and support is part of emotionally maturing. For a while, I didn’t accept others being kind to me and realized that didn’t contribute to a healthy friendship.

      • KH says:

        This is absolutely important Sandra Anne. Reciprocity can make or break a friendship. It takes parties to keep the friendship alive and once you see that the other individual is not giving or doesn’t care, it can be a low blow to the soul. It makes you think “am I not worthy of the same effort?”

        Truth is …YES I am worthy of the same effort & once I figured that out and BELEIVED it my view of what friendship is began to change!!

        Love these posts!!

  22. Whitby says:

    Yes – like everyone else, my attitude towards friendships changed dramatically in my 40’s. I am really introverted but had boundary issues; I would not assert my own boundaries and then explode when people “violated” them once too often (“violate” is in scare quotes because even though I had some jerky friends, I should be fair to them and admit that if one doesn’t tell someone about one’s boundaries, that individual cannot be aware of said violations). I also finally figured out that I just don’t enjoy being around other people very often. I even started going on holiday alone. I feel so much happier and more productive now. Like Ellen, peace and simplicity – or treading lightly on the earth and in the world – have become central to my existence. A lot of noise from other people detracts from that …

  23. Beth says:

    I used to have toxic friendships when I was younger. Excessively needy friends, friends with substance abuse issues, drama queens, negative Nancy’s…..as I grew older I put the brakes on friendships that were draining and unhappy. Why should anyone waste time on people they don’t like?

  24. GraceW says:

    It’s not just a matter of not having time for drama. I didn’t like drama when I was half this age (just turned 40 this year), but I didn’t even consciously realize it and wasn’t able to articulate it at the time. Here’s my reasoning:

    The older I become, the better I know myself.

    The better I know myself, the easier it is for me to recognize my own boundaries and needs.

    The older I become, the less I care about people calling me selfish for honoring my own boundaries and needs.

    The older I become, the more bad choices and mistakes under my belt, so I recognize certain problems much earlier now. By the time a person is forty, a lot of experience-based learning has occurred, right? So when I come across someone whose behavior is familiar in a bad way, I can react more quickly and appropriately.

    Here’s a different perspective: It’s not that I’m less tolerant, some women are just really intolerant of my boundaries and needs, which I’m able to articulate much more clearly these days. They lose interest when I say no to things that I don’t want to do. “Friends” are those rare women who are able to tolerate (respect) my boundaries and needs, and whose boundaries and needs are reasonable enough for me to tolerate in return.

    • Sandra Anne says:

      Grace — well said. And I am glad you talked about “boundaries,” since that’s really the key to this whole topic.

      • GraceW says:

        Sandra Anne, thanks. I feel like the phrase “less tolerant” sets women up to feel guilty for having boundaries. “Being tolerant” is usually seen as a good thing, therefore being “less tolerant” suggests one is lacking. Having boundaries does not mean one is lacking!

  25. Sandra Anne says:

    Annie, you really hit home with me when you wrote: “I admit I’m a people pleaser, and that has got me into trouble in the past, sometimes allowing the wrong people to attach themselves to me. I always seem to attract the wrong ones but that’s because I’m quite chatty and friendly.”

    That describes me as well, and I had the same conflicting feelings about similar friendship issues. To cut us both some slack, I think it’s very hard to tell — at first — when a potential friend is going to become a “problem” friend. Unless we get together with these people a few times and get to know them, we don’t know if they will be “high drama” friends or users or other types of problem friends. I wish there were a formula for figuring this out! (Irene — that would be a great topic in the future?)

    I’m in my early 60s, and have also had to unload a few friendships that felt one-sided. I’ve found that high-drama friends tend to take advantage of me as well, and, in retrospect, those friendships were very one-sided. It was all about THEM. I found that to be draining and frustrating, so I would do a “slow fade” to ease them off my social calendar. I feel guilty whenever I have to do that — again, the people-pleaser in me makes it hard.

    But after caring for a parent with dementia and learning that life is too short to allow others to control us, I find it’s getting easier to say “No” when I need to. During an especially stressful time in my life, I was lucky enough to find a wonderful book by Cheryl Richardson, titled, “EXTREME SELF CARE.” This book helps you identify what is truly important in your own life — and how to weed out the distractions and people who are draining the joy out of you. The author offers many practical tips that helped me so much. I think you’d find it helpful for this issue you’re going through as well.

  26. Gwen says:

    Yes! I can barely keep up with the drama of raising 2 teenage girls, why would I willingly import more?! I don’t cut myself off from future friendships per say. I feel like I was able to compartmentalize these connections once I hit my 40’s,..Walking friends, gym friends, kids high school xxxxx activity parent’s friends. I used to let people in to all facets of my life, (I too am a people pleaser)- it was emotionally exhausting and you realize you need to save yourself for your family first. I’m in no way a hermit, but am more selective.

  27. Ellen Lederman says:

    Loved this! I’ve reached the same conclusions as “Annie,” but it took me 20 years longer to do it! I’ve always known and accepted that I am the quite the introvert. But when I retired, there did seem to be time and space in my life to focus on friendships. It was something I haven’t done much of, so I thought it would be a new adventure. And being very health-minded, I thought it was important since experts say that social connection is so crucial to mental and physical health.

    But I haven’t found it satisfying at all. As soon as I get done with getting together with a friend, it’s like I am planning to another get-together with that friend or another one because I wasn’t satisfied by the previous one, so felt I needed a do-over.

    Problems I’ve encountered are that the best ones are already taken. The people who value friendship, want it, and are willing to put effort into it typically have all the friends they can handle. I liked the idea of befriending people who had no ever friends, but always eventually discover why that is and get tired of one-sided friendships. I retired from a career in human services where I had to give to others and got burnt out; I was getting paid for that and I’m not for befriending people who don’t contribute much/anything.

    Although I am retired, my time and energy are finite, so I need to use it for things that fulfill me. Like Laura said, reading or a walk in nature is so much more fulfilling. I also add cooking, meditating, and exercising into the mix. Like Annie, I value peace and simplicity. I strive for good mental health and find that so many other people I meet aren’t working actively towards that goal, so it can be counterproductive to have them in my life.

    Will keep the few friends who add something to my life and always be open to meeting new ones, but no longer feel compelled to just collect “friends.” Social connections may be important, but let’s not kid ourselves that every social connection is healthy, just as every food isn’t 9and too much of even healthy foods can be unhealthy!).

  28. Laura says:

    I totally agree-with 3 kids, working full-time and a husband who travels alot for work I have less tolerance for neediness, insecurity, negativity & competiveness. As I’ve transitioned into my 40s I’ve become more discerning about my friends, my free time (and how sacred it is!), and how important self-care is, and ultimately this has also evolved with age. I’d much rather read a book, take a walk in nature, go for a pedicure or have a massage, and selectively decide who I align myself in terms of like-mindedness and positivity. In my 30s I really struggled with friends, but now I feel liberated with the control I’ve taken with my time and who I choose to share it with.

Leave a Reply