Why We Lose Our Friends as We Age

The act of choosing friendships is what gives them value.

Oliver Munday

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When I was in college, an acquaintance who had graduated a few years prior came back to visit for the weekend. As we walked around campus on Saturday night, he flung his hands into the cold Connecticut air and exclaimed, “You guys are so lucky; you live a minute away from all your friends. You’ll never have this again.”

At the time, I thought it was kind of sad—a grown man pining for my life of university housing and late library nights. But his words have stuck with me in the years since. “In adulthood, as people grow up and go away, friendships are the relationships most likely to take a hit,” my colleague Julie Beck wrote in 2015. The older you get, the more effort it takes to maintain connections, because you don’t have as many built-in opportunities to see your friends every day.

The writer Jennifer Senior noted last year that the fact of our choosing friendships makes them both fragile and special: “You have to continually opt in. That you choose it is what gives it its value,” she wrote. But that’s also what makes friendships harder to hold on to as our lives evolve.

It’s hard but not impossible. Senior notes that when it comes to friendship, “we are ritual-deficient, nearly devoid of rites that force us together.” So we have to create them: weekly phone calls, friendship anniversaries, road trips, “whatever it takes.”

“Friendship is the rare kind of relationship that remains forever available to us as we age,” Senior writes. “It’s a bulwark against stasis, a potential source of creativity and renewal in lives that otherwise narrow with time.” It’s something worth choosing, over and over again.

On Friendship

Oliver Munday

It’s Your Friends Who Break Your Heart

By Jennifer Senior

The older we get, the more we need our friends—and the harder it is to keep them.

A woman sits in a chair with a laptop on her knees. Behind her is a collage of colorful silhouettes of friends.
Wenjia Tang

The Six Forces That Fuel Friendship

By Julie Beck

I’ve spent more than three years interviewing friends for “The Friendship Files.” Here’s what I’ve learned.

Two women sitting in chairs talking to each other in the midst of a wide open field at what looks like a concert venue
Millennium Images / Gallery Stock

Why Making Friends in Midlife Is So Hard

By Katharine Smyth

I thought I was done dating. But after moving across the country, I had to start again—this time, in search of platonic love.

Still Curious?

Other Diversions


In one of my favorite editions of Julie’s Friendship Files, she spoke with three women who tried an interesting experiment to deal with “the friendship desert of modern adulthood”: They entered into “arranged friendships,” bringing together a group of strangers who committed to be friends through it all.

— Isabel