Inside: why it’s hard for adults to make friends, why adult friendships are important, and tips for making friends easier
Remember when you were a kid, playing in the park with someone new, and within an hour she was your new best friend?
I had a whole bunch of friends like that. I bet you did too.
But somewhere along the line, as we got older, we’ve lost that ability to make friends easily. In fact, a recent study showed that 22% of adults in the US feel lonely and isolated.
Today, let’s take a closer look at why we don’t make friends as quickly as we used to, why we really should, and what we can do to make it easier.
Why it’s hard for adults to make friends
Making friends easily is one of those underappreciated things about childhood. Back then, it was enough to know your new buddy’s name and whether she preferred the red lollipop or the yellow one.
Adulthood made things much more complicated. Is she married? Does she have kids? Do we share hobbies? (And for military wives, will she be moving away soon?)
And that’s just the beginning. Here’s a bunch of other “reasons” adults often give for not investing time into a new friendship.
Between work and family responsibilities, you’re too busy as it is. When are you supposed to make time for friends? And new ones at that?
When it’s hard to figure out how to balance everything that’s on your plate already, adding another social commitment is probably not high on your list of priorities. Especially when going from acquaintance to friend takes 60+ hours spent together.
Not knowing how to get into a new social group
Most adults have completed their social circles by the time they’re 30 and are not looking to add new friends. If anyone moves away or drops out for another reason, the void usually doesn’t get filled.
And if you’re the one who moved away, you leave your friends behind and may not find new ones if you have a hard time breaking into a new group of people. I see this a lot with military wives, especially the introverted ones.
Lack of social skills
Remember what the world looked like before the internet and social media changed it beyond recognition? Back when long-distance phone calls were a thing?
Yeah, most interaction back then was face to face. Absolutely nothing like mindlessly clicking the like button or typing out LOL as if that were a real conversation.
It’s hard to switch back to a real face-to-face conversation when you’ve been living mainly on social media lately. And it’s even harder if you built up a “unique” online persona.
Fear of rejection
Maybe you even like someone but never invite her out for coffee or ask if she would like to run a few errands with you. Because what if she says no? What if she’s busy?
The fear of rejection is intense. So strong that it keeps you from even entertaining the idea that the answer might be yes. Or that your new friend might be grateful to you for taking the first step.
It’s called a comfort zone for a reason – it’s comfortable. And venturing outside it is, well, uncomfortable. So we stick with the status quo even if that means we don’t have friends.
In reality, we don’t make friends because we’re not really trying. We have all sorts of excuses, but that’s all they are.
Now let’s dispense with the excuses and look at why we should make an effort to find new friends and develop new friendships.
5 crucial benefits of adult friendships
People are social animals. Extroverts obviously need social time to feel normal. But even introverts who need a lot of alone time benefit from spending time with friends.
- Friends support you – with friends, you’re never alone. There’s always someone to cheer you on or provide a shoulder to cry on.
- Friends teach you social skills – with friends, you can practice and find out what’s acceptable, and try new social situations you might not have the nerve to take on alone.
- Friends give you tough love – who else but a good friend will tell you when you’re wearing the wrong color or walking down the wrong path? This kind of reality check helps you navigate the minefields of life and keeps you safe from total disaster.
- Friends are your role models – especially when it comes to relationships. You see how they interact with their partners and children, and these impressions inform your own behaviors.
- Friends are good for your health – people with friends tend to have healthier lifestyles, and fewer health issues, like heart disease or dementia.
In other words, friendships are an essential and very beneficial part of adult life. This isn’t the time to make excuses for staying in your comfort zone.
Instead, let’s look at some good ways to meet new friends.
How to find new friends as an adult
It’s almost funny to write this because we all knew how to make friends as children. It was as easy as walking to the park and sitting down next to the kid in the sandbox.
And now, as adults, we need instructions. Crazy, no? Anyway, here they are.
Tip #1: Try a meetup
Seriously, go to meetup.com – it’s a website where you can search by location or interest, and see what gatherings are coming up.
It’s how I found a new circle of friends the first time we moved overseas back in 2007. A bunch of knitters and spinners were meeting regularly, and one of them posted about it.
It turned out to be a wonderful group of military wives, and we got along fabulously thanks to our shared hobbies and lifestyle.
And just like that, you could have a new circle of friends too.
Tip #2: Learn something new
Sign up for a class to try something new. Maybe there’s a fantastic cooking class where you learn to cook a gourmet dinner or how to make the most delicious gluten-free vegan brunch.
Or maybe you’ve been admiring tooled leather belts and would like to try your hand at that. Tandy Leather can hook you up – I loved the class I took at their location in Cheyenne, WY, shortly after we moved there.
Quilting lessons? Hot air balloons? Whatever your fancy, I bet you can find a place to learn it and make some new friends in the process.
Tip #3: Join a book club
When’s the last time you went to the library? If you haven’t been there in a while, go check out what book clubs they have.
And if you usually only go to return books and borrow new ones, ask the librarian what she’d recommend. She might have suggestions for you beyond the book club.
Book clubs are awesome because you get to indulge your love of reading, have an intellectually stimulating conversation, and make new friends who share your appreciation for books.
Tip #4: Walk your fur-baby
Do you have a dog? Take her to the local dog park and meet a bunch of other dog lovers while your fur-baby makes new friends too.
And if you don’t have a dog, see if you could
borrow help your elderly neighbor by walking hers. Total strangers will likely approach you looking to pet “your” dog and strike up a conversation in a completely natural, not creepy manner.
Making new friends in adulthood doesn’t need to be complicated. We may have eleventy million excuses for not trying, but they’re mostly BS.
Adult friendships are super important and beneficial, and opportunities to meet new people are practically everywhere. So be bold, get out there, and meet your new friends. You’ll be glad you did.
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