One of the most pervasive myths I’ve encountered is that it’s hard to make friends as an adult. It’s really not. It’s just completely different from the process of making friends as a kid. Mature friendships are easy to make when you know what they require. And they’re also great for improving your art and creativity.

Two orange coffee mugs on a mat with a geometric pattern on a table with the text "Mature Friendships and Why You Need Them for Your Art" at the top.

In my experience, mature friendships in adulthood don’t look much like the friendships we had in high school or our twenties. These friendships are actually based in commonalities, not coincidences, like living down the street from one another or having a class together.

They’re also calmer, more open, and ultimately more secure.

Now, that doesn’t mean that all adults you meet are capable of mature friendships or even want mature friendships. Some people will spend their whole lives having those insecure “are you mad at me?!” friendships we had in high school.

But you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to.

What Are Mature Friendships?

There’s a security in a mature friendship. Both in yourself and in the other person.

As an individual, you are more secure in your identity because you’ve done the work to grow into yourself, and you can accept yourself for who you are. That leads you to find friendships with other people who have done the same.

A mature friend knows you have your own life, and that friend has a life of their own. There’s a natural separation there between you and the other person, but you are still able to come together and value each other’s company.

Obviously, there’s no universal mature friendships meaning, and what I value in a mature friendship may not be the pinnacle of mature friendships for others.

That’s the cool thing about mature friendships psychology. You’re looking for the important things, not just a port in the storm. And when you do that, you can build amazing connections with people.

Signs of Mature Friendships

Admittedly, I have far fewer friends now as an adult than I did as a kid. But the friends I have now are there for me in a way that I never experienced when I was younger. Mature friendships are stronger than adolescent frienships, and it’s because of these 11 signs:

001: Personal mental health comes first.

Every last one of my close friends is in therapy. Including myself. We do that because we know we need to take care of our mental health.

And if we don’t, we know we can’t be there for our people in the way they need us to be.

Interestingly, no one is trauma dumping on each other, or expecting people to hold space for triggering things if they don’t have the capacity to do so. We respect each other enough to know that we need to care for each other’s mental health as well as our own.

That doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the hard stuff. It does mean that we don’t just type all our grief in a text message and shoot it to someone without checking in to see if they can handle it at the time.

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002: Good boundaries are the foundation of mature friendships.

Part of taking care of your mental health is having strong boundaries. These boundaries inform how people treat you and the sort of things you’re willing to do with the people you care about.

A relationship without those boundaries can leave someone feeling used or abused or taken advantage of, when the other person had no idea they were making their friend feel that way.

Boundaries are essential to preventing that, as well as preventing potential break ups and falling outs.

003: Gossip mostly falls away.

I won’t say gossip is completely gone. But you talk about other people way less when you’re secure in yourself.

The way other people live their lives definitely bothers you less in a mature friendship, and you know that shit talking isn’t bonding even if it’s giving your brain a little hit of dopamine.

That being said, I’m a woman living in the western world who is constantly being marketed to. I’m going to talk shit on celebrities who endorse bullshit diet products.

004: Hangouts nurture your inner child, not your boss babe.

Friend hangs at my house look a little like a slumber party. Maybe we’re making friendship bracelets. Sometimes we’re pouring candles.

We’re always having snacks, of course.

Mature friendship hangouts feel less needy to me. We can be happy doing whatever. And that could be grabbing coffee, going antique shopping, or just sitting and chatting.

I have noticed we have a tendency to do the things we liked doing as kids. That doesn’t mean we don’t do adult stuff too.

But the adult stuff isn’t performing adulthood. There’s no accountability check-ins for arbitrary self-improvement bullshit. We don’t have to talk about what we’re working on if we don’t want to. We get to be humans in the company of one another.

005: Commitments and responsibilities come first.

In adult friendships, people have kids and families and jobs. As a friend, you recognize this and respect it.

No one in a mature friendship expects their friends to devote the same amount of time to them as we did when we were younger. There’s no marathon hangs doing absolutely nothing or all day group texting.

And no one worries that their friends are mad at them because they can’t be available all day. We know people have shit to do.

I think this is especially true for friendships formed around a specific career or calling. Check out this post about how to make writer friends for more ways to make friends as an adult, and reasons why you can’t expect friendships to look like they did in college.

006: There’s so much less alcohol.

Admittedly, we still split a bottle of wine or make a special cocktail for a gathering. But no one is getting black out drunk the way we did in our twenties.

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The hangs are about connecting with your friends as a way to blow off steam rather than blowing off steam with alcohol.

And if someone isn’t drinking at a gathering where other people are, no one cares. No one grills the person about why they aren’t drinking or tries to make them drink when they don’t want to.

Alcohol isn’t a feature of the friendship. It’s an optional accessory.

007: Your friends are not an escape.

It took me a long time to realize that a lot of the friends I had growing up didn’t actually need me as a friend. They needed me as a person to help them kill time until something else was going on.

Even into adulthood I had writer friends who wanted to use me more as a space to manifest their dream writing career, but didn’t have the capacity to actually be a friend, especially when I needed it.

Mature friendships aren’t about escaping your life or whiling away the hours. It’s about actual connection and valuing the other person.

008: You adapt your behavior to what your friend needs.

Friendship isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’s an actual connection between two people, and that takes work.

In a mature friendship, you know that your friend will be going through life, just as you are. And when shit gets hard, you have to be there for your friend in a way that’s probably different from the way you would be there when shit is really easy.

That isn’t to say that you’re trying to fix your friend or make them happy all the time. You can’t do that, and you both know that if you’re in a mature friendship.

But you both know that sometimes you’re going to be insanely happy goobers meeting up for coffee and talking about movies. Other times, you may be sitting on their couch and crying together. You roll with the punches together.

009: No one expects you to be the same person you used to be.

The hardest thing about maintaining friendships from back in the day is that some people change and some people don’t.

I’m a person who has changed a lot since high school and college. I know who I am more than ever, and I won’t except the types of friendships I used to have.

Some friends have grown with me and I still see them often. Some have not and we don’t really meet up ever. Some friends left in our early twenties and have tried to come back and act like they can pick up with me where they left off. But I’m not who I was then, so it’s not possible.

I go into this more in this post about catching up with friends.

Mature friends are people who have also grown. They can see you for who you are and understand who you used to be. They would never expect you to be the person you were in college.

Thankfully.

010: You know some things don’t last forever.

Not all friendships are meant to last, and that includes mature friendships. Everyone evolves and changes through their life, and sometimes that means a friendship no longer serves you the way it once did.

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I’m not saying you immediately terminate that friendship. But you can both see why maybe you aren’t as close as you once were, especially if you recognize that adults have commitments and obligations and priorities that change throughout their lives.

So, you have a season of life where you are able to do a lot together, followed by a season of life where you don’t get to see each other as much. Maybe that ends the friendship, maybe it doesn’t.

The important thing is that you both can be present in the moment and enjoy what you have while you have it because things may change.

011: You value accountability over enabling.

Friendship isn’t about validating bad behavior. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.

When your friends make stupid choices or engage in toxic behaviors, you shouldn’t worry about them getting mad at you if you try to talk to them about it. And in a mature friendship, you don’t have to.

I’m no longer capable of having friends who want me to co-sign for their regrettable actions. And if my friends do something problematic, I don’t worry about talking to them about it because I know I can have tough conversations with them.

How Mature Friendships Help You Make More and Better Art

All of this is to say that when your mental health is strong and your friendships reflect that, your art will too.

I spent all of my twenties and the majority of my thirties in friendships that took too much from me. Codependence was mistaken for intimacy. A lack of boundaries was mistaken for closeness. I was a dumping ground for traumatic and triggering shit regardless of whether or not I could handle it.

And now that I’m on the other side of that, I have the hindsight clarity of knowing that I’m a better writer without that shit.

In fact, I’ve been writing so much more as a result of having mature friendships. Yeah, it’s because my mental health is better, but I also have more time to actually write because I’m not babysitting my text messages all day or spending precious energy overanalyzing interactions to worry about whether or not someone is going to be mad.

My fiction reflects this shift too. Conflicts, dialogue, and characters are stronger and more meaningful. And I can fall into a writing session so much easier now than I ever have before.

It has absolutely been a lot of work to get here, and I won’t say some of it wasn’t heartbreaking. But it has been so, so incredibly worth it.

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