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.
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?