Growing distant from your best friends?

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I have lately started to notice that I am slowly starting to grow distant from my best friends. They both work and have stopped with school - meaning they finished their bachelor and master degrees and continued working. Meanwhile I am doing my PhD and everytime we talk I notice that we almost don't speak the same language anymore. We don't have the same problems. I mean, they're putting down payments for their houses and getting married and big weddings and expensive vacations - while I on the other hand am paying rent, using my bench fee money to attend conferences, traveling for work, writing, doing fieldwork and generally being invested completely in my PhD - while trying my best to make the ends meet.

Whereas I am completely aware that all our journeys are fine - I cannot help but notice that I don't even think they understand me anymore. Whenever we talk I cannot ever get into detail about my PhD because they either don't understand it or they don't really care because they don't value it as important. I mean they say how proud they are of me but at the end all our conversations revolve around mortgages, vacations, trips - mainly things me (and my partner) cannot even start dreaming of.

This is causing me a bit of trouble because I don't wanna grow distant with them. I love them to bits and I don't wanna allow my PhD to ruin our friendship. So I guess my question is - has any of you been there? If so - what's your advice? Even if you haven't been there - what would you do if you were in my place?



In my experience people do grow apart as they get older, hard to accept but true. Even if you were working in a corporate job and had the same lifestyle, it just gets harder to make time for everyone especially once partners and kids come along. It's just one of those things. Nothing to do with the phd itself, though sounds like you are very different people in a way that maybe only becomes apparent when we age. Think it's important to remember that having a mortgage and fancy holidays don't necessarily make people happy either. They might well be a bit jealous of the intellectual freedom you get from your phd, they may even feel a little trapped - if not now then in the future. I dived headlong into a corporate career and home ownership and all of that...basically ended up jacking it all in to retrain. I've had my fair share of fancy holidays too but that can get to feel pretty empty and I don't regret having sacrificed that by taking a significant pay cut to get started in academia. If you think the friendships are worth making the effort for then great but - as I've done with a couple of once best mates - you might just have to accept things have changed, maybe see them for a catch up once, twice a year, and make an effort also to make new friends that's have more in common with your adult self. If its a true friendship, then it'll last and might come back round again. Recently I've seen a bit more of an old mate whose life is very different to mine (insurance broker, lots of travel and night out on company expenses), I felt he was a bit obnoxious at one bit but basically we pretty much agreed to keep off boring topics like work and had a laugh last time we met up. But equally there are some people, if they brag a lot...maybe let it go. It's not worth stress.


I know how you feel, I've been through the same thing with my friends. Some of them left school at 18 and our lives have taken a very different route. They are all married with kids now, which couldn't be further away from my stage in life. It's hard not to feel like the outsider at times, which did make me really sad at one point earlier this year, especially as all my PhD friends have moved away. So what did I do?

I accepted that the nature of friendships change - we are always going to be on different trajectories, but at the same time, we have our childhood in common so we always have something to link us, too. I also thought about ways that I could interact with them better, so because I don't have kids I've become the one that helps out before and after events like parties etc, because the rest have to take their kids home. They appreciate someone helping and I get to spend time with them when it's not all about their kids. I also make sure I go to everything they invite me to, even if it's things like taking their kids to the park or the zoo. Obviously these are things we wouldn't have ordinarily done, but we can't do the same activities that we used to when their kids need be in bed by 7pm and I understand that.

Of course they don't understand or care about my work and that's not going to change. Sometimes I talk to them about stuff they can relate to from their jobs e.g. people or meetings, since they may be more interested in that.

I think there's always ups and downs in relationships, so whilst we may not have many shared interests now, we may well do in the future, so I maintain these friendships as best as I can.


Hi there,

I can also very much relate to how you are feeling. After university I stayed on in research and also, like tree, have led a very different path to many of my friends.
I just kind of accepted it in most part but what I found was that after a while my own 'friends' would begin with the 'when are you settling down?' comments and I had to say that after that I reduced contact with them. We all take different paths in life and in the end only you have to be ok with what you are doing.
Is there maybe a social interest club you could join with some peers from your lab or maybe something at your union - just so you can meet people who maybe lead a similar life to yours and understand the difficulties of working in research?

all the best to you


hi, hope you are ok. Things will change between bestfriends because of different life paths. But you will always have that special bond because you were already bestfriends before anything else changed!

I can share with you, that things will get better in time. In my own experience, I don't have much to say to my before-phd-day bestfriends but when we do get together, we do have a lot to talk about. Another thing is if you don't meet that frequently, you will have more to say to each other when you meet up.

Don't worry about growing distant from your bestfriends.

Also you will find new friends, new bestfriends. I have found one or two very special people from this forum! they are my bestfriends now even though we have not met face to face. They are the ones, my current bestfriends, I write to when I need help, or when I have good news etc. And my before-phd-day bestfriends will always be my bestfriends whenever we can meet again.



Why would you even want to talk to your friends in detail about your PhD? Do you ask them about their jobs in great detail? No one will ever find our PhD as important or as interesting as we do, unfortunately.

I know you are saying that the are talking about holidays, mortgages etc, but those are not job related things. Your PhD at the end of the day, is your job. Try to focus on other aspects to chat to your friends too like the travelling that you get to do at conferences.


There is another possibility which should be considered.
It is possible that these people are talking about mortgages etc to make you feel bad.
They will know for certain that you have little money coming in.
Under those circumstances why would a friend continually talk about what they able to afford? This could simply be a way to boost their own ego at your expense.
I've been there and experienced this and it sounds very much like you might be facing that as well.

Friends come and go I'm afraid. It can be very hard to keep touch with people when you move away career-wise or location-wise and often you might feel that you gain little from doing so. The good news is that other people tend to come along to fill the void.