The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax: Frustrated by changing friendships


Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I’m the last one of nearly all my friends to settle down. As a result, most friends are in the baby/toddler/teenager stage. Which is great, I’m really happy for all of them.

BUT . . . you knew this was coming. When my friends were all falling into great partnerships, I got to share their stories and excitement. Now? Everyone is too busy for me. I get it — as much as I can from the outside — that kids take tons of energy. I know this in my head. But there’s a huge part of me that is just GAH!

Do I address this with them? Or just let it go? It feels petty but at the same time, I’d like it if someone would return my call so I can share a sweet story!

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Last One to Partner Up

I get it, and it’s one of those things that just isn’t fair — the first to pair off get all the story-telling attention, and the first to marry get the same, and the first to have kids. It’s about novelty, not about you, and it’s just a fact of life that newness gets more attention than the familiar.

Certainly any good, conscientious friends get this and do what they can to rally for the 10th friend to reach some milestone or another, but it’s still not the same as having all 10 people experiencing your “wow” right along with you.

The best solutions I can offer are really just work-arounds, and they’re not easy, and they’re pretty impressive in their lack of creativity:

1. Patience. Life phases are all about change. Keep seeing these friends as opportunities arise, and see where your paths take you.

2. Resourcefulness. Work on cultivating other friendships with people at your life phase, and also try to cultivate other interests that have nothing to do with your age or life phase.

The latter is underappreciated, I think. It’s so common to have timeline-based friendships — from the moment we’re fed into the school machine. In second grade, you hang with second-graders, and you talk about cartoons. In 11th grade, you hang with 11th-graders and complain about each other and school and parents. And that tracks right to college, jobs, dating, marrying or not, kids or not, and whatever bake sales you get sucked into in the process. It’s possible to arrive at your empty nest having known little besides timeline friendships.

Yet there is so much to be gained from being close to people who share your interest in something completely untethered to life milestones, like a cause or a hobby or a taste for something out of the mainstream.

Part of the reason they’re so great, I think, is that it takes knowing yourself first for you to be able to know them. People on a timeline path can easily subordinate themselves to the template of Young Adult, Career Striver, New Parent, Kid Chauffeur, etc., and lose track of this stuff.

So, that’s my unsatisfying answer: If you haven’t done this yet or lately, then look to who you are, at your most offbeat and interesting and focused, and schedule your time accordingly. I suspect you’ll find the kind of companionship your old friends no longer provide.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at



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