How To Navigate Friendship Drama As An Adult

By Gwen Farrell··  6 min read
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sex-and-the-city-How To Navigate Friendship Drama As An Adult

It’s understandable to have a lot of preconceived notions about adulthood, what it is and what it isn’t. As most of us know by now, usually from experience, they’re rarely correct.

One of mine was that I’d have stable, healthy relationships with all of my many friends, even those I’d made during childhood. Wrong on all counts.

Maturing is hard and sometimes painful, especially going into adulthood. It feels like the rules are already written for us, which makes it even more difficult when things don’t happen the way we think they’re supposed to. 

Middle school, high school, college...we think the drama in our friend groups is something we can outgrow, something we should be too mature for by the time we’re adults. But some things never change, especially if you have these kinds of friends in your life. Wherever they are, drama is sure to follow. Here’s how to navigate each one, and more importantly, how to determine if these friendships are built for the long haul. 

The Flaky Friend 

We’ve all cancelled plans, sure. But canceling plans or even just failing to show up, being non-communicative and dismissive over and over (and over) again? Meet: the flaky friend. 

i wish i could but i dont want to

The flaky friend may have a good heart, but she’s your worst nightmare if your love language is quality time. If she cancels plans easily, chances are she also procrastinates on work and her other relationships and has a hard time committing to things in general. Not only that, her flakiness is actually disrespectful. Who likes to be treated like an afterthought? Additionally, her flakiness can quickly make things awkward or uncomfortable in your friend group when your pals inevitably choose sides, and whether or not they’ll make excuses for her or decide that they’ve had enough.

flaky friend sick

Reliance and dependence are the cornerstones of a solid friendship. If you don’t have those, what do you have? Your friends, especially through the highs and lows of adulthood, should be there for you just as much as you’re there for them. With flaky friends, it may be time to keep your distance if you keep getting burned. Or better yet, let them make the plans and put in all the effort in for a change. If they’re really adult friend material, they’ll forgo their flakiness and start committing when they eventually wise up and realize being present is more important. 

The High Maintenance Friend

The high maintenance friend is, more than anything else, exhausting. 

A few types of people may come to mind when you think of this one. On the harmless end, maybe she’s a little attention-seeking or too invested in her appearance (read: can’t go anywhere without makeup on). On the other hand, maybe she demands complete perfection of everyone around her, complains all the time, and is the victim in any situation where she’s actually in the wrong. 

youre being so extra right now

The high maintenance friend is a difficult one to tackle. Maybe you’ve been tied to her since you were kids and it feels wrong to cut it off. Maybe you feel bad in general about ditching anyone. But if hanging out or doing anything with her feels more like work than fun, re-evaluation is in order, especially if she’s more consumed with her own life and never has time for yours. (Take extreme precautions if she asks you to be in her wedding. Believe me.)

using my bride card

The high maintenance person can be a fun, passionate, enthusiastic friend, but they also might be in dire need of a reality check. Don’t let them invent drama or stir it up just for their benefit. We’re all adults, after all. 

The Influencer Friend

You might not recognize this friend type, and that’s because you might not even recognize yourself when you’re with them. 

im cooler than you

This friend probably prides themselves on being the fun or “spontaneous” one (meanwhile, you’re supposedly not fun for having regular responsibilities like...having a job and paying bills). While you might find yourself sometimes venturing outside your comfort zone with this one, you also might find yourself doing things you would never do, acting how you would never act, or saying things you would never say, so much so that other friends might not even recognize you. 

influencer friend kardashian

This friend also expects you to commiserate with them constantly, and always be up for whatever it is they have planned. Bad influences don’t just have to stay in the sandbox on the playground. They can be any age, and the older they get, the more serious the consequences become. 

The Toxic Friend

We saved the best for last because this one is the worst of all.

cant see skin problems with makeup

Where do we even begin? This one isn’t just responsible for all the drama — they are the drama. When it’s just the two of you, the conversation inevitably turns to your other friends who often fall short. They talk so harshly about others it makes you wonder what they say about you when you’re not around. They’re consistently negative and so comfortable in their behavior that they’re unlikely to change it. They’re judgmental, but not in a constructive way. They hold grudges, get upset over the tiniest things they perceive as personal slights, are petty and vindictive, and refuse to forgive. They enjoy sowing seeds of doubt and stirring up conflict just so they can watch from afar. 

They also don’t apologize — ever — and they’re just...mean. (Bullies do grow up, after all.) The list goes on and on. 

id ask but i dont care

Toxic people create toxic cycles, which we often don’t even realize we’ve been in until after we get out. Toxic friends, especially if they don’t have any intention of changing, aren’t worth keeping around. The cycle will continue, your needs will never be met, and you’ll waste time making excuses or trying to change a person who isn’t interested in all the time and energy you’ve invested in them. 

Closing Thoughts 

As we get older, it gets to a point where we have to realize that drama isn’t fun, productive, or mature. It’s perpetrated oftentimes by people who don’t want to examine their own insecurities, so they insist on causing problems for everyone else.

One of the hardest things we have to realize about our friendships as adult women is that some aren’t built for the long haul. Some people are meant to be present in the entire book, while a few are only there for just a chapter. 

Our friends may stay the same, or they may come and go. We may grow closer than ever before with some, while distancing ourselves from others. Maturity is hard, and that’s what it looks like. Drama may be commonplace at the high school lunch table or your sorority text thread, but it’s not a good look as an adult. Whether you have these friends or even are one of these friends, it’s time to take stock. 

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