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Making Friends as an Adult

Matt and I have oftentimes talked about how we wish we had more close friends. Granted, we're not at a loss for social invitations, but there's something different between getting together for a quick meal, a shopping excursion, or a night of gaming compared to someone you call/email on a regular basis and talk about the important things. However, making new friends at this age seems to be challenging for a variety of reasons. The two most common challenges I seem to encounter are:

1. Life paths. In your late 20's or early 30s, as Matt and I are, you pretty much know if you want to get married and/or have kids. If you choose to have kids, you commit to taking care of little ones for a lifetime, oftentimes putting their wants and needs above your own. If you choose not to have kids, you have less constraints on your time and finances to be able to go out more readily. Oftentimes, these life paths tend to clash, sometimes making it difficult to maintain a social relationship. If the time or financial constraints aren't an issue, different life paths also tend to change the dynamics of conversation. Those with families are experiencing the excitement of watching their children discover the world and themselves, and those without kids tend to explore more personal hobbies. Beyond simply updating each other on each other's day-to-day adventures, there isn't as much common ground to talk about.

2. Lack of preexisting social situations. In high school and college, we made new friends by taking classes with others and participating in the same extracurricular activities. In high school, all of your friends are geographically close to one another, so it's easier to make plans to get together. In college, dorm life allows people to be readily available for social interaction on a moment's notice. As you get older and settle into a life of full-time employment, your time to socialize and engage in hobbies is severely limited compared to our high school and college days. As a result, there aren't always as many opportunities to meet new people because of our culture's typically busy lifestyles. And, to complicate matters, people move, making distance a common barrier to regular socialization.

Because of the above, I strongly feel that most people, since their time is limited, spend most of their free time socializing with people they are already friends with and who typically have the same life paths. Your life situation is similar, and the familiarity and reliability is comforting.

Unfortunately, Matt and I find ourselves in an interesting situation that has been a large part of our social relationships growing up. We have the blessing and the curse of being able to socialize with a variety of different people in a variety of different contexts. It's a blessing because we can almost always find some sort of common ground or activity to get involved with the group in a social gathering, but we're not usually alike enough to feel we could spend a lot of time with those people on a regular basis (either based on life paths, hobbies, personalities, etc.). Therefore, many of those friendships exist only at a surface level. You engage in friendly conversation with those individuals, but you don't necessary go out of your way to exchange phone numbers or get together with them some other time.

Sometimes, though, we find ourselves in a situation where we meet someone we'd like to get to know better and possibly be friends with them. Matt and I oftentimes joke that we feel we want to "date" a particular friend or a couple because we're unsure of how the other one(s) feel about getting together. Our society is conditioned to say, "We should get together sometime!" and not necessarily following through with it, even if we mean it. Life, as they say, gets in the way.

My question is this: Do others feel this way, or are most people satisfied with the friendships and relationships they currently have? Is it awkward at this age to try to make new friends when most people have social groups established, or do others crave these friendships too but are also unsure of where to start?

I am grateful that Matt is my best friend. When asked what my favorite thing about him is, I always immediately respond by expressing my appreciation for our ability to talk about anything and everything. Most importantly, I haven't met anyone who is as interested in talking about people and relationships as I am. However, we both want to have friends outside of our relationship. We recognize that this is a healthy thing to have in a relationship, and spending time apart with other people in meaningful ways will strengthen our relationship as a result.

Therefore, I've been thinking about the best way to increase my base of meaningful friends -- people who not only enjoy similar hobbies as I do, but are genuinely interested in me as a person, interested in sharing with/confiding in me about their own lives, and who seek to get together as often as I seek them out. I've come up with two ideas, and I'm interested in hearing if you have ideas as well.

1. Reach out to those people that interest me. It'll feel like dating, but it seems to be an important step. While I feel like I'm one of the few who doesn't have a group of close-knit friends, I know I honestly can't be the only one. So, I can ask people to come over for dinner sometime, to go out for coffee, etc. Strike up a conversation, see if we have similar interests, and go from there. With time, as in dating, you'll become better friends the more you hang out.

2. Find social activities that foster communication with others. Obviously, taking an exercise class isn't conducive to discussion (though I do love the health benefits!). But, joining a book club would. By thinking of groups to join or classes to take, I have the potential of meeting new people who already have at least one similar interest to me.

While Matt and I would love to have a group of friends like the ones we've seen in Friends or How I Met Your Mother, we recognize that that isn't necessarily realistic (though, since proximity in those shows plays a factor, it may happen when we get a house!). Hopefully, though, we'll soon learn that we aren't the only 20-and-30-somethings out there looking to expand our friend base.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 6th, 2010 01:59 am (UTC)
You and Matt aren't alone. It's definitely harder to make friends as an adult. My immediate friend circle has undergone a change in the past year as people have gotten new jobs, new significant others, and new priorities. I love my close friends, but its always nice to introduce fresh blood into your life. That's how I met a lot of the people I hang out with now, you make a few new friends and then you meet THEIR friends, and it spirals from there.
Jul. 6th, 2010 03:51 am (UTC)
My recommendation is to follow through when yo say "we should get together sometime."

Minnesotans seem particularly bad about not following through for some reason.
Jul. 6th, 2010 04:44 am (UTC)
I can relate to the difficulty in making friends at this age (or even keeping old friends). I know plenty of people but no longer have any close friends to talk to about day-to-day things. I have attempted to try to get in contact with people but it always seem difficult to get a response (and really not liking calling people - since with cell phones a person could be anywhere and you could bothering them when something important is happening - doesn't help).

It also seems like everyone I know is a couple, so I always assume everyone is busy doing couple things. And since I never get any phone calls from people I know, well it makes for a lot boring Friday nights.
Jul. 6th, 2010 05:18 am (UTC)
After college it's hard to maintain friendships. In the last 5-6 years I have seen my friend groups morph and change dramatically. I got divorced. Others married. People couple up, break up, move away. I'm still friends with almost all of them but some people I see often and others I only see a few times a year.

My current friend group is AWESOME. I actually feel like I do have friends like those on How I Met Your Mother. Though none of us went to college together. The group sort of cobbled together because I met a couple of people on LJ and then we all hung out one year at con and it just sort of snowballed.
Jul. 6th, 2010 07:39 am (UTC)
Wow, it's like you read my mind. Right down to how dorm life was great for getting together and how I'd really like to know a Barney. I often wonder about this. I will say that working 2nd shift is shitty for having a social life. :\
Jul. 6th, 2010 01:59 pm (UTC)
You are NOT the only one; your experience and the accompanying speculations as to why rings true with what I've heard from basically everyone I know. (Including in older age cohorts, as well; then it's not always about the kids per se, but people still drift into different life paths.)

However, I'm autistic spectrum, which makes me a terrible advice-giver about how to end up friends with people. :) Add to that that my wife is not only my best friend but we've been in this increasingly bonded dyad for the past 17 years (meaning she's not just my closest friend now, she's ALSO one of the only two who gets my jokes about high school, alas), and we're at least as awkward as you are at trying to make new friends, probably more so.

Your plan sounds lovely, since it's low-key but still involves you guys making the first move. Oftentimes that's the hardest part for both friendships, just like dating. Also, I don't think you necessarily need to equate it with dating if that weirds you out; there are some parallels, but only *because* both have a similar starting point (trying to find interesting people and connect with them). Certainly that has worked fairly well when I've seen people try it - one of the people I know at work has actively tried the same method pretty consistently and with reasonable success.

Good luck!!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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