Life is f*cking hard sometimes. And there’s nothing better than commiserating with friends over a nice glass of wine, amiright? But… what about when it seems like all your friends are suddenly at a completely different place than you are? They’re all in grad school, they’re all married, they’re all ready to go out, they’re all ready to stay in, they’re all single, they’re all _______ (fill in your blank).
We reached out to our amazing audience of kickass ladies to find out how you deal with feeling left behind, moving forward early, or just feeling out of sorts with your friend group. We were overwhelmed with the response — thank you for being so open and willing to share a slice of your lives with us. We hope these experiences from real women help you feel accepted, understood, and a little less alone.
On being the first to the altar…
I got married 18 months ago at 25 years old, to a wonderful man 13 years my senior. I was the first of my friends to get married, and he was the last of his.
One particular experience sticks in my mind when I think about your question, “Has it affected your relationships?” My work friends were arranging a night out — dinner, cinema, drinks… you know the sort. I overheard them talking about it and then one friend (who had been a bridesmaid at our wedding!) came over and said, “We’re going out but didn’t think you’d want to come since you’re all boring and married now.”
That was very hurtful, but I started my own company a few weeks later and haven’t seen much of those girls since. I definitely would’ve struggled with the alienation from those friends had I stayed in the same job.
On the other hand, as my old friends start getting engaged and married, I’m the one they come to for advice, which is lovely! Not for all things, but for the wedding planning things that you don’t necessarily want to talk to your mum about… It’s interesting to see how different people react to changes in each other’s lives!
I have been married longer than the vast majority of my friends and in a stable and happy relationship with my now-husband for even longer. Of course, this is a great thing. He and I have been through a lot of growth and changes and happiness over the last 11+ years and I am unbelievably proud of that. That said, of my closest friends, one is engaged, one has been married less than a year, and another has been married for less than a month.
The bright side is that I can offer insight the three of them don’t have. I am happy to be a resource and a sounding board, but it also separates me from them pretty drastically sometimes. When that happens, I’ve found that reflecting on my relationship and how far my husband and I have come is a great method to re-center my focus and make what could be an isolating experience into one of appreciation instead.
I don’t think there is one answer on how best to deal with feeling outside or other from your friends. Even day to day, what helps most can and will change — one day talking and crying it out might do the trick, another might be just needing quiet time alone to process. I’ve come to find that the most important factor is taking the time to recognize how you are feeling and how best to manage that, whether it’s good or bad. It comes down to the most basic and, arguably, most important kind of self-care there is.
On going back to school…
I most certainly feel at a different life stage from my friends at times. I am still in graduate school while others have been earning big kid money for the last four years. School can feel stagnant while others are changing jobs, getting promoted, or moving around. I also have many friends seriously dating, three friends currently engaged, three married, and one with a baby on the way! All while I’m still what I have been for the past 25 years… single.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say there are moments where comparison creeps in and I feel inadequate, but I will also say it has been less often than I thought. I think part of growing up is accepting your rhythm, and learning that you only answer to yourself. Single isn’t a dirty word, my education is still a part of pursuing my career, and I’m happy with the patience and drive I’ve dedicated to my future. At the same time, I’m overjoyed for all of those different life stages my friends are going through. I’m gladly a bridesmaid (hello huge honor, free drinks, and dancing), and I cannot wait to be a fairy godmother to my best friend’s new baby. I recognized that being excited for someone else’s next step is easier and more authentic when you’re comfortable enough to realize it does not need to be your next step too.
I am 31 and recently went back to grad school to become an English teacher. It took me a while to be 100% sure, and in the meantime, I was living abroad and traveling. Besides being in a different place now than my friends my age who are settled into their careers, making a salary, and not struggling to pay rent with side jobs, I am also in such a different place than my amazing new grad school friends.
I bonded immediately with two amazing 23-year-olds but am constantly reminded (by myself, not them) how I am seven years older. I would have killed to start my career in my early 20s and at this age be a more senior employee. I want to start trying to have a baby and may have to put that off because I want to be settled in a job first and not risk my career. Had I started earlier, like my new friends, I could have been more “on track” with life. All that being said, I refuse to regret anything when all of my experiences were invaluable and even led me to meeting my amazing new husband and two lifelong friends.
I definitely feel like I’m at a different stage in life than my friends. I just went back to grad school after working for a bit, and as I’m wading through assignments and student debt again, my friends are getting promotions and have benefit packages. I’ve also been in a long distance relationship for six years, while it feels like everyone else is moving in with their partners and moving on to that next stage of life.
I hate that green-eyed monster feeling, but dealing with it has been hard. I’m trying my best to celebrate my pals and their accomplishments first and foremost. I’m also trying to see them as resources that I can tap into once I transition back to working after I graduate, and for when my partner and I do (eventually) move in together. I don’t think it’s affected any relationships, but I’m also working really hard on my end to make sure it doesn’t.
On not feeling “settled down”…
When I left school at 18 along with all of my friends, they all went to university while I moved away from home to volunteer for a year. That one year turned into two years as I volunteered at a conference center in exchange for my board and food.
I moved back home at the beginning of this year to find all my friends halfway through getting a degree while I didn’t even have a job. I felt like a failure because I didn’t have much. I met up with one of those high school friends a few weeks ago, and in some ways yes, I felt like I had lived my life wrong, or backward, or wasn’t successful, but she said that she felt that way too. She was halfway through getting a degree, but what happens after that? She felt the same way as me, only she had a degree to make her look successful whilst I had nothing to mask that feeling of failure.
When she said that she felt like she was failing at her own life, I realized that we’re not so different. That journeys take you to different places, but everyone’s just trying to find their way without wasting their life. We’re all figuring it out as we go along, because no one knows what’s around the corner.
It was hard for the first few months of this year when I was adjusting to being at home again. I just have to consistently remind myself that success isn’t always something you can see, and even though my life’s journey looks different to other people’s, that doesn’t mean it was wrong. I grew so much, learned so much, made some amazing friendships in those two years, and I don’t regret it. I need to tell myself that I chose right, and all my friends who chose university chose right too! Different doesn’t mean wrong.
All my friends are either in long-term relationships, engaged, married or have kids. I only have one single friend.
It’s incredibly hard to hang out with my girls. A lot of them will only go out as long as their significant other comes along or they will only do group dates. Now I don’t mind being a third wheel, but sometimes you just want to have a girls’ night. It has definitely put a strain on all my friendships because I’ve just gotten to the point where I don’t ask to hang out anymore because the response is always that they are busy (which I don’t blame them for, they have different priorities than me). Now I just see them at birthdays or weddings.
Sometimes, I feel pretty alone and jealous when I look at my friend’s stages in life compared to mine. I am of course super happy that they have significant others, are killing it at work, and are happy!! I wish my friends nothing but good health and happiness. However, since we’re clearly at different stages in our lives, I feel like an outsider looking in.
My two high school friends and I live in three separate states, working in three separate careers, and I feel lightyears apart from where they’re both at. We’re all 25 years old. One friend is marrying her boyfriend this September, and the second is banking on a ring from her serious boyfriend any day now. I consider both very much settled down.
I am single and have not had a serious boyfriend (read: any boyfriend) since my college BF and I broke up 3+ years ago. I have a great career, but rent an apartment and don’t see myself “settling” until I’m ready to have a family (probably mid-30s!). Usually, I keep my eyes on my own prize and focus on being the best me that I can, but often I get caught up in feeling very juvenile compared to my girlfriends. They are on a very different level of commitment, family development, etc.
I often see our relationships suffering when it comes to dealing out advice. We are so used to turning to one another in times of indecision, but they are unable to counsel me on dating, and I’m nervous to speculate on their partners’ behaviors. Oftentimes I am frustrated — I don’t want friends to sacrifice better life opportunities for a husband, but who am I to make such judgments?
Luckily our friendships are based on more than this, but I definitely have those days where I feel a twinge of insecurity and wish I had more of the conventional markers of adulthood on the horizon.
I definitely have gone back and forth struggling with this. Right after college graduation, I moved abroad to Argentina, then shortly after to Spain, where I still am currently nearly three years later. I’m from the south, where getting married at a young age is the norm, so moving away (especially to a foreign country) was quite a shock to those around me. I specifically remember one friend asking, “But don’t you want to get married?!” I do, but everything comes with time… and at that time, I was only 22!
After several engagements and weddings that followed, I constantly felt that I was in not only a foreign country but a different world. But I loved my life abroad (still do!) and wasn’t ready to give it up, even if it meant being on the same page as my college friends.
What I learned from this is that change is a part of life and generally after college, our lives don’t all operate at the same pace anymore. Some will work, some will go back to school, some will get married, some will have babies… and not all of it will be in an exact order that fits your own life. I realized that part of growing up is accepting change and learning to cherish EVERY season in life, no matter what that season may be.
On pursuing your different careers or lifestyles…
I couldn’t feel more alone right now. I just graduated college a semester early, moved to a new city, and have my first big girl job. Additionally, my boyfriend and I broke up my last week of college after dating for three years. SO it is safe to say I am undergoing a huge life transition!
My college friends obviously have no desire to pursue the same routines as me simply because they aren’t ready to pursue routine. I don’t blame them for that, it just makes me feel like our lives are different.
Along with that, I feel so much younger than all my work friends. It feels as though they look down on me or forget what it was like to be this age. I feel like no one knows me or understands me right now just because they don’t want to.
These circumstances have affected all my relationships. First, it has made me immensely grateful towards my family who always steps it up to fill that void I am feeling. Second, I deal with those feelings by taking care of myself and doing what makes me happy as I attempt to take advantage of this time in my life where I have no obligations to anyone around me. This looks like dancing by myself, doing lots of yoga/stretching, face masks, and listening to audiobooks.
Earlier this month, I turned 26. To be honest, I don’t feel all that different and don’t often notice the subtle drone of my biological clock ticking. Sure, 12-year-old me is losing it inside, baffled that she’s not married, has never had a serious boyfriend, and instead is “focusing on her career,” but I’m able to silence her most of the time.
However, within the past six months, the lives of my friends have started to change. Four friends have gotten engaged/married — three of my nearest and dearest that I hope to have standing by my side when I DO get married one day. One of them came to my birthday party this year with her husband and I almost threw up in my mouth introducing them to my party guests as my college roommate and her HUSBAND. How do I have friends that have HUSBANDS? Another has been planning her wedding since we were in middle school, so that’s really no surprise. Then finally, this past weekend, my younger cousin, the baby of the family, got engaged to her high school best friend. While I am SO excited for her, I sat on my couch, stunned, feeling like everyone else’s lives were moving at warp speed while mine sat static.
A bit of background on me: I’m a goof. In college, I got straight As but liked to go out and have fun, often racking up a plethora of ridiculous stories about the guys on our very small campus. After graduating, I moved to New York to work in TV production. I maintained that slightly crazy lifestyle for my first year or so, but then 12 hour set days started taking their toll and now I haven’t even gone on a date in over a year.
To this day, friends from high school and college think of me as the “fun, crazy one” and chalk up my single lifestyle to living in New York. And while it may not be healthy, I’ve adopted the same mindset. My friends that are settling down live in smaller cities, or places like Ohio or upstate New York. They work 9 am-5 pm as opposed to 8 am-8 pm. They commute 10 minutes, not 45. Every so often I do get hung up, feeling like I’m missing out on something, but then I have one of those quintessential New York experiences and go home to order Seamless and digest the fact that I couldn’t live this life anywhere else. Sure, it’d be nice to have someone to come home to, but I have a roommate who’s one of my best friends.
More recently, I’ve tried to take action to combat these feelings by rejoining the dating app scene, actually saying yes when people invite me to things, and straight up talking to strangers, but in reality, it’s a mind game. What’s meant to be will be and my timeline is just different than everyone else. For today, at least, I’m okay with that.
I was raised strictly Mormon (even by Mormon standards, my parents were a bit extreme) and then lived in Utah for several years, so 95% of the people in my life (despite having left that religion five years ago) are Mormon. My peers began getting married one by one at 18 years old, so nearly all of them are on their second or third child. I am not ready for marriage and don’t even want kids period, but I still feel like a tremendous failure in comparison because I am trying to build my life around a career, hobbies, healthy relationships, and helping others. Now, I know logically that I am a good person, that I am finding out who I am as an individual (as opposed to just how I fit inside of the Mormon church) and that I have much to offer. But when child rearing is the only thing that matters to those close to me, accepting that I don’t want that life has caused strained relationships with my family and friends, and in turn a huge bout of depression.
Honestly, my main coping mechanism is writing notes to myself in my phone, both negative and positive, as reminders. When I feel down, I will type out a short version of what’s going through my mind — what’s scaring or stressing me, and why. It helps me pinpoint the pieces I can control (and then decide how to fix it) and those that I can’t (which allows me to stop spending energy on it). When I feel good, I write upbeat reminders to myself of WHY I am sticking by my decision and why the path I’m on is best for me, and why it doesn’t matter that it looks “wrong” to others — it’s not their life, after all. It’s mine, and only I need to be satisfied with how I live it.
On being the first to start a family…
While I was still in college working toward my Bachelor’s degree, I got pregnant. Now the mom of a ten-year-old, I am not in the “baby stage” like many of my friends. Braces, puberty, and middle school are on my mom horizon while some of my girlfriends are still adding to their families.
A few weeks ago, I was chatting with my college roommate after I had taken cupcakes to my daughter’s school to celebrate her birthday. It occurred to me that I am almost through the ‘cupcakes at school’ phase in life and she hasn’t even started! Her son is just three years old. I still have my mom-moments where it feels like my child is literally draining the life out of me, but more than anything, I’m in awe of the young lady she is becoming right in front of me. And I’m not jealous of the missed naps that my friend is obsessing over.
It can feel isolating at times when those who are the closest to you are unable to relate to what you’re going through. This is true to about any situation in life but it can be especially hard when you’re trying to be the best parent you know how to be.
I constantly feel like I am in a different place/stage than my friends — I am younger than the majority of them (about 6 years difference), I am a mom, I own my home, I have a career, and I am in a long-term relationship.
I love my life. I’ve become more of a homebody, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m happy going to bed at 9 pm on a weekend. I sometimes feel judged because I turn down going out, yet I would be judged if I was out every night. I feel like it is a lose-lose situation.
I’ve recently started stepping out of my comfort zone and trying to make friends with other moms, who are married and understand a few of the same priorities I put first.
I live south of Seattle, and have a lot of college friends who are career women; some married, some not, all under 33. They are educated, wonderful people, but they are all busy! The majority of them don’t have children yet, and if they do, they only have one. I, on the other hand, stay at home with my three girls, all under five. I have a masters degree I have put off using so I can stay home with my kids.
It’s difficult at times to feel connected to friends, but when we do get the time to meet up, it’s like no time has passed. I think it’s important to try and find the time to check in, via text, Instagram message/comment, anything to let your friends know you’re thinking about them. Because if too much time passes without communication, that’s when the relationship can start to feel strained. Just be thankful to the life you have and the people in it. Life’s too short.
On starting over…
I spent most of my 20s in a long-term relationship which dramatically ended right before our wedding at the age of 29. Then I spent a few years dating around. In that time, my friends had settled, married, bought houses, had kids, and traded in their cars for SUVs. It seemed like they did this all at once and exactly the same way. I had about 15 baby shower invitations at that point.
I was using my single years to travel and date and do what I wanted. Now I’m about to turn 34 and most of my friends are finished having kids. I recently got married, but even that was a very different experience to my friends. I married someone from England and we are going through the immigration process now for him to permanently stay in the U.S.
I will admit that a lot of my friends and I have lost touch. Unfortunately, being in different life stages and having different schedules makes it very difficult to plan things. Some of them I’ve had actual fallouts with. It was very hard at first, but now I’ve also come to terms with the fact that people come in and out of your life at different stages of your life.
I’m still close to my closest friends and they and I have an understanding of each other’s lives and schedules. They know the specifics of my life and I know about their lives as well. It all reminds me of Shakespeare’s quote: All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances. It hasn’t been an easy process but something I’ve been working towards accepting.
I grew up in the Caribbean (Trinidad and Tobago) and was one of a handful of friends that decided to move away for university, so I now live in Canada.
While I was extremely ready to move for school and had absolute faith in my friendships at home, I knew that there would be a shift in culture, but I really wasn’t prepared to make brand new friends. I had moved to Canada and was living on my own and expected most university students to want the same experience, however, most people in my program still lived with their parents and had no desire to socialize outside of class time. We came, we sat for class, and we left. It was very difficult to make friends again, and even when I did make friends, some of the cultural differences or even personal beliefs were just too large for me to ignore.
When I do go home now, I try to see as many of my old friends as possible. They share in my success (and I share in theirs!) and we commiserate over failures, stumbling blocks, and life hurdles. Certainly, sometimes we differ in opinion or points of view, but we are open to hearing each other out and trying to look at our own situation objectively because they know that our friendships are based on wanting the best for each other even if it means hurting feelings or distorting a fantasy. We can call each other out on mistakes that could have caused a situation to go differently and we know when we were too naive to know better, so we laugh about it.
I’m definitely in a different life stage now than most of my friends. Being divorced and childless at 31 years old wasn’t part of my original game plan.
In fact, being single at 31 in and of itself is weird without my personal drama. Think about it: being single at 20 is cool, because hey, I’ll just hang out with my plethora of single girlfriends on any given weekend. Being single at 31 means going to the movies with your parents on a Saturday night because all your friends are married and not a single one can find a sitter… Safe to say, I’ve had some awkward conversations with people I no longer consider myself close to, adapted to best friends finding other new best friends, and have gotten used to being the fifth wheel with my married couple friends…
In this transitional life phase, I’ve found new hobbies (I started hand-lettering, watching how-to videos on DSLR photography, going to the shooting range — next up, actually going to classes for these hobbies where I can meet new people at said classes) and hung out with co-workers outside the workplace. I have also relied heavily on the few single friends I have, and together we have planned some bomb vacations (last year: Iceland/England and Atlanta and this year: Ireland).
I’ve purposely tried to stretch myself outside of my comfort zone, meet new people that share similar interests and take advantage of the fact that I have a better income than I did in my 20s and less responsibility than most of the 30-somethings I know. I am taking the time to be selfish and do things that I enjoy, knowing that the next phase of life will come when it comes. If anything, I’m trying to make the most of this transitional period, living my life with zero regrets.
At this point, I can say that I’ve come to terms with the fact that not everyone will have the same life path. And that’s okay. 😉 I’m not falling behind — I’m exactly where I need to be.
On dealing with illness, death, and mourning…
My mom died of breast cancer two years ago and my dad is battling ALS and is expected to pass in the next few years.
I definitely feel I’m at a different place than my friends and it’s very frustrating and lonely at times. Thankfully, I can turn to my sisters (age 21 and 24) for support, but in terms of friends, it’s been difficult to truly let it out. They’ve been so incredible throughout all of this but, at the same time, it’s awkward to talk about death and those conversations tend to only last so long.
I’ve learned to be open and honest with my friends when I’m not feeling up to going out, turn to my sisters (or support who have gone through something similar) when feeling lonely, and remind myself that I am 25 and need to experience this part of my life — I rarely went out the year my mom passed and it took me a long time to gain that confidence back.
I’ve now asked my friends to help push me out of my comfort zone so we can have those spontaneous nights again!
This is something that I grapple with a lot, well, almost daily.
Let me just say that I love my friends and I want nothing more than to see them happy. They are all married, thriving in their jobs, having children, and are building families. But I can’t help but look at their lives with envy and feel as if I have failed at something (but that’s a whole other issue there).
I’m 31. I have Crohn’s Disease, which caused me to quit my job (that I loved and excelled in) and move from NYC back home to Boston (to live with my parents). I haven’t worked in three years because of the ups (bought a condo and got a dog) and downs (including surgery and getting an ostomy bag). I always feel a little bit stuck or like I failed or I will be alone forever. Rather irrational thoughts really, but they happen and it’s okay.
I have to remind myself that each person has their own life. We all have to take a different path and that journey we go on and the things we do — what happens to us and how we react to those things say a lot about who we are. It helps to always say that things could be worse, look for humor in everything, and talk about things. Anything. There’s no shame in talking about how you feel. Comparing yourself to other people or your friends will happen (I still do that quite often), but again, we don’t all have the exact same lives (it’s not Stepford, thank god) so how the hell can we compare ourselves to others?
I made the decision at a fairly young age that I wasn’t going to have children. I just didn’t feel the calling to be a mom and I was lucky enough to marry a man who shared the same sentiment.
My friends and I all got married within a few years of each other and most of them started trying to have children right away or a few years after that. So the babies came, and then more babies, and there I was, baby free. Then my life started to change in big ways as well. Both of my parents became ill. My dad was diagnosed with a rare stomach cancer in late November and then the doctors discovered that my mom had several brain tumors in January. Suddenly, my life was consumed with doctors’ appointments and trips to the Mayo Clinic and making hard decisions. Not just for one parent but for two.
My dad passed away. Then a few years later, my mom passed away.
While my friends had been wonderful mothers and caregivers for their children, I was a caregiver for my parents. Then I was someone who was grieving. Then I was someone who felt lost because so much of my life was dedicated to taking care of the two people who once took care of me.
It was difficult. Life was heavy.
I had absolutely no peers who had gone through the same thing. I couldn’t sit down and talk about puking babies, or diaper changes, or Kindergarten just like they couldn’t talk to me about brain surgeries, expensive chemo pills, or funeral arrangements. I mean we can talk about those things, we can share — but until someone has lived it you just have no idea. It’s lonely.
My friends and I are on separate paths. Some of those paths were chosen, some we were pushed on to. We just have fewer things in common right now. We are being shaped by different experiences. There’s a little more space between us. Maybe we needed that to grow.