Oooooo-eeeeee. Wow. What a topic. It seems to be an issue that plagues most adults. I’ve been there myself. I hear it from adults who are single; adults who are married without kids; adults who are married with kids. I hear it from stay-at-home moms and working moms. I hear it from divorced dads and happily married dads. I hear it from single, working professionals. I hear it from coupled, working professionals. The point is, it seems to be much less about what demographic categories you’d tick off a form at the doctor’s office and much more just a universal truth.
Friendship and connection, as we all know, are vital to our ability to live a fulfilling and happy life. In fact, feeling connected to others can decrease symptoms of depression, contribute to anxiety management, and be an impactful way to stay somewhat upright during times of grief & loss. Support from people in our lives can help with the postpartum adjustment period; other major life transitions; and even can enhance the quiet, calm periods in our lives.
Men and women alike need friendship.
But as an adult, the ease and breeze with which to achieve that seems elusive. And you’re left sitting at home on Friday night, wishing you could text someone about getting brunch the next day. You’re finding yourself in the aisles of Home Goods, frustrated you don’t have a mom friend to call to be there perusing the shelves with you. You’re a dad who just wants a buddy to come over and have a beer while you’re grilling….you really want to show him your new Traeger.
But alas. You’re alone again. Sure, you have friends! But they aren’t available for socializing. Maybe they live in different parts of the country. Maybe they’re local but they’re in a different stage of life than you. Maybe you just moved and you’re a bit overwhelmed with how to get started with new relationships in your new city.
So, how can you go about forming new friendships?
Here are some things worth considering:
Reconsider how “hard” it is. I think mindset about forming new friendships can be moderately to majorly adjusted at most, and tweaked at least, to help set you on a path to doing this well. Yes, there are some challenges to making friends as an adult but is it the hardest thing ever? Not quite. It’s hard as an adult because you don’t have the same openness of time you did as a child. Your other responsibilities, obligations, and heck, energy levels, are delegated elsewhere! Also, you’re not constantly surrounded by same-age peers in school and the neighborhood and extracurriculars. But don’t you remember middle school and high school and those friendships?! Those certainly weren’t always straightforward, deep, or long-lasting. So take a breath as an adult. Yes, it’s challenging, but not impossible! But if you keep thinking of it as “so hard”, it will always be so hard.
Get clear on expectations. Your own. Are you expecting to find 3 of your “best friends” without remembering the work and general passage of time it takes to get there? I encourage people so often to remember that not every friend needs to be everything to you. Consider the areas of your life you’re looking for connection and/or companionship (yes, I put the word “or” there purposefully. Not every friendship in adulthood has to be about resounding, lasting connection). What are your needs? A walking pal? A weekend getaway friend? A person you trust enough to watch your kids when you’re in a pinch or have an emergency? Someone you enjoy for a great cup of coffee or glass of wine…..no more than once a month? Break it down, and also be honest with yourself. I bet you need a handful of people in a handful of different ways. By adjusting your understanding of your needs, you can more precisely and effectively find those people.
Be willing to take the lead on the friendship-starting. I know it feels awkward, but invite that other person out to grab a meal together or to go do something in the area. (Visit an exhibit at the Art Museum; check out holiday lights; get creative but also make it straightforward and simple!) The likelihood is high that they, too, want more friends. Also, don’t take it as something completely awful when there is a lull or awkward silence during the first few get-togethers. It doesn’t mean you guys can’t be friends or don’t have enough in common. It’s just normal relationship development growing pains! Push past the pain if everything else seems good, and you’ll be glad you didn’t turn around at that silence.
Find friends from a variety of places. If you’re a gym-goer, ask someone that’s always in the same class as you if they’d like to grab a smoothie after class sometime. If you’re in a Facebook moms’ group, take someone up on a park playdate when they say “I need friends….anyone want to meet?” Spend time outside in your neighborhood and ask someone if they want to enjoy a cup of coffee on your porch sometime. Get involved in that text group of parents from your child’s class at school. The more areas of your own life you tap into for friendship building, the more dynamic that new social group will feel. Also, if you’re forming friendships through multiple avenues, you’re also opening yourself up to a ton of secondary friend groups. As you make friends, you’ll meet their friends!
Like dating, it’s a bit of a numbers game. Set yourself up for success by pursuing new friendships with a lot of people. Maybe make a goal to do something with x number of people over a 6 or 12 month period. This will keep you from getting hyper-focused on a “failure” if it doesn’t work out with one person. It will also remind you that the work of building friendships takes a little bit of “being in the groove” and you’ll get better at it from practice. Also, by interacting with so many new people, it increases the likelihood that at least some of them will translate into friendships.