Making Friends as an Adult

When I’ve written about friendship in the past, I’ve received comments regarding how challenging it is to make friends in adulthood. It seems that the ease and excitement that once accompanied the process of making friends grows wearisome as we get further from childhood.

It becomes increasingly difficult to make friends as we age. Why is it challenging to make friends as an adult and what can we do to overcome this challenge?

My husband and I have become increasingly aware of this phenomenon. Why is it challenging to make friends during adulthood and what can we do to overcome this challenge?

Why it’s difficult to make friends as an adult

According to this article, sociologists believe there are 3 factors that are necessary for the formation of close friendships: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let down their guards and confide in each other. If this is true, then it makes sense that adults may have a difficult time forming meaningful friendships.

  • Proximity. It’s hard to maintain proximity with friends (or potential friends) because we live in an increasingly mobile society. It’s not unusual for people to move numerous times during their adult lives. It’s also common for adults to have long commutes to work, church, and/or other activities. Thus, it’s difficult for them to interact across settings.
  • Repeated, unplanned interactions. Who has time for repeated, unplanned interactions? The schedules of most adults are packed with work, playgroups, errands, carpools, chores, etc. There’s not a lot of time left for friends! Moreover, there are often limited opportunities for single adults and married adults to interact and for families without children and families with children to interact.
  • Settings that encourage people to let down their guards and confide in each other. Adults often interact with their peers in settings that aren’t conducive to vulnerability. Workplaces are often competitive. Playgroups are often rife with tension from the mommy wars. How can people confide in each other in these environments?

Tips for making friends as an adult

  • Hang out where you’ll find like-minded people. Though people often say that opposites attract, research shows that the converse is true. We typically form close relationships with people when we share things in common with them. This is why my husband and I think of church as a great place to meet people and form friendships.
  • Expand your concept of who should be your friends. Though this may seem contrary to the above point, it’s not. Newlyweds often seek out friends among other newlyweds. Young parents often seek out friends among other young parents. Empty nesters often look for friends among other empty nesters. There’s no reason that we can’t be friends with people who are in different stages of life. Take a look around and see who else might be looking for friends, even if they are much older or younger than you or have a different family structure.
  • Take a class, join a team, or volunteer. See what activities are available in the local community and take part in them. This will help you meet people that are outside of your typical circles. Even if you don’t meet new friends, you’ll have some fun!
  • Be tenacious when making plans. Sometimes it can be awkward when you reach out to a new acquaintance. You might suggest getting coffee together or meeting up at a local park with the kids. She might say she can’t make it. This is the point when I usually assume that she doesn’t want to hang out with me and I give up. This is kind of foolish. It’s important to try again because your acquaintance might have been having a bad day or might have been busy. If you ask again, she may have time.
  • Rekindle old friendships. Sometimes it’s easier to rekindle old friendships than to form new ones. Thus, it can be useful to take steps to maintain contact with friends from your past (find tips on how to do this here). With the help of social media, you might be able find childhood friends or college buddies who live nearby. You already have some things in common with these folks, so it’s often easy to rekindle your friendships.

Do you think it becomes difficult to make friends as you age? What have you done to make friends as an adult?

Shared on the following link-ups:

Anything Goes, From House to Home & Essential Fridays.

Comments

  1. Great points. I think there are several factors that make it more difficult when you’re an adult. It was the hardest for us after we moved. If we didn’t meet friends at church or at work (in my husband’s case), then where would we meet them? When would we have time to meet people?
    We ended up meeting some great friends through our boys’ participation in sports. We met parents of the other kids on the team.
    We do have friends from our pasts that we keep in contact with, but it’s also very important to have friends locally.

    • Shannon says:

      I agree that it’s important to have friends locally.
      Thanks for the tip about looking for friends among the parents of your kids’ teammates.

  2. Norma VanMatre says:

    Excellent insight. I am very blessed to have the childhood friends around me. Their families also keep me close. Friends, as I grow in years, are absolutely kept at a different distance from those from my past.

  3. Charlotte Thiel says:

    A couple of things I have done that kind of worked for me were to join a bowling league, and just looking around my neighborhood for others who are home. I was a mom who did not work outside the house so during the day I would look for fellow at-homers and walk to their house and introduce myself. I made a very good friend that way. I also, now that I am an empty nester, volunteer a couple of ways each week and that has been a good way to meet people and,really, the best way to make friends is to start by meeting people. Leo Buscaglia used to say everytime you are in a room and don’t know anyone, look around to find someone else who doesn’t know anyone either and who needs a friend as much as you do, then make their acquaintance. I try to make this sound easy but it wasn’t for me and maybe it isn’t for you either, but a shoot and miss isn’t any farther away that not taking aim at all.

    • Shannon says:

      Great tip about introducing yourself to the other stay-at-home moms in your neighborhood. The quote about finding someone else who doesn’t know anyone is great, too!

  4. This is such an insightful post. I wonder whether it is easier for women to make friends as adults than men. Especially if we stay at home during motherhood. There is great community to be found there. Men, however are often busy at work and have less time to spend on relationships.
    Thanks for sharing at Essential Fridays.
    Blessings
    Mel from Essential Thing Devotions

    • Hi Mel,
      I think it might be. I know that my husband usually just wants to relax during his time off because work does keep him busy. This is definitely something to think about and to see if there are ways we can support our husbands as they find time for friends.

  5. It’s so refreshing to see you write this. I thought it was just me or my circles that were preventing me from making “grown-up” friends. I have a party every year and when I invite new people, I am amazed at the awkward responses I get. I think people don’t feel like they have time for new friends.

    • You’re certainly not alone!
      I think time is an issue. It’s great that you have a party each year and invite new people. I hope at least a few take you up on the offer. 🙂

  6. Having moved all of my life, my long term relationships are via email/occasional visits. This is such a pertinent post because I think many people have lots of “friends” but none who they really know and share life with. And, now that my husband and I are empty nesters, we’ve found it even more difficult to make relationships without the connections a couple has through children’s activities/school. I like you tips and need to follow a few of these myself. Bless you,
    Gail

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Gail. Grace as you continue forming close relationships with true friends.

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