by Ana Allmon

Time changes everyone in one way or another, and with each passing decade, life experience builds up and both refines and redefines perspectives and relationships. Arguably, people seem to experience the most drastic changes in the transition from their carefree twenties to the sobering realities and responsibilities of the thirties—people tend to learn a lot about themselves and others, values evolve, and different things become important. With a refreshing boost of new 30-something confidence, a greater sense of independence emerges—not only financial but also emotional and social. With that, friendships tend to change as well.

Something about crossing over into what feels like official adulthood forces a period of reflection and 30-somethings begin examining their friendships, valuing quality over quantity of the people in their lives. Whether at work or at home, new obligations and responsibilities usually come with additional stress, and there never seems to be enough time in a day—making time become precious. Eventually, people turn away from investing time, emotion and energy into negative, superficial or even unfulfilling friendships, realizing that the little time there is to spare is better invested in a few truly close friends and genuine relationships.

The unavoidable transition from life as a 20-something to a 30-something affects everyone differently—reaching this milestone, the big 3-0, is exciting to some and insignificant to others. Meanwhile, the people in between seem to find themselves in some combination of anxiety, stress, confusion and even disappointment or sadness. A common thread among young adults is the expectation and misconception that all major things in life must and will be figured out by a certain age—for 20-somethings, that age is often 30. All of a sudden, the carefree twenties fly by, and when faced with a reality that doesn’t reflect people’s long-standing expectations or unrealized dreams—it becomes easy to spiral into crisis mode if life has seemingly veered off course. However, another common thread can emerge from this mini-crisis fueled by misconceptions of what life should look like at a certain age—a reflection on and a greater appreciation for the things that really matter in life.

This shift in focus and perspective creates a tendency among 30-somethings to distance themselves from things that don’t seem worth their time. Instead of trying to avoid disappointing others at all costs and worrying about pleasing everyone, 30-somethings pay more attention to finding and maintaining their own happiness. This unapologetic focus on happiness makes it easier for 30-somethings to let go of friendships that don’t support or encourage this ultimate goal. Friendships in one’s thirties, although fewer in number, are often more positive, uplifting, genuine and supportive.

Significant life events tend to occur in one’s thirties, and as life becomes more challenging and stressful, the friendships that last tend to offer support, encouragement, loyalty and a shared desire for each other’s happiness.