Verily Magazine posted an article last year with tips for making friends as an adult, and just yesterday, they added another one that compares adult friend-finding to dating. I’m glad I’m not the only one going on friend dates! Let’s blow this discussion wide open.
It’s going to be a girly discussion, though. Verily is a women’s magazine, and I’m a woman, so I don’t know if this advice (or even the problem!) applies to men. The dynamics of male friendships are beyond my scope. Both articles have great lists of strategies, but the second hints more at what my heart is still wondering: why it’s so weird (and kind of hard) to make friends as an adult.
I do have friends. I talk about this situation with them sometimes. The newer article highlights three critical factors for building a friendship: “proximity, repeated and unplanned interactions, and a setting that lets you confide in each other.” When you’re no longer surrounded by peers for the majority of your waking hours, you still need friends, but it’s much harder to find them. I managed to do it (and thus have someone to talk about it with; so meta), but why is it so difficult in the first place?
When I moved to Austin (almost six years ago!), I knew a few people in the area from my grad school program, but they weren’t really my friends. Besides our collegiate affiliation, we had little in common. It took until about Christmastime for me to realize that I had no friends here. So I turned to my favorite resource, the Internet, and found a delightful non-parish-specific Catholic young adult group and my trivia teammates.
The Catholic YA group is no more, but I was always in it with the personal mission to make actual friends. I wanted to build connections with people so that I didn’t need organized, scheduled activities in order to see them. Since the group disbanded, I don’t see some of the people I met in the group anymore. No more proximity. No more interactions. Not surprising. But the ones I connected with, the ones who “got” me, the ones I cared about building a relationship with: we’re still friends.
My trivia teammates and I have a different relationship (mostly because I am very religious and they are very not), but I have actual friendships with a couple of them, too. When you’re invited to someone’s house, you know it’s for real.
But beyond that, it’s just me.
If I’m being perfectly honest about my efforts to make friends as an adult, it has a lot to do with my being unmarried and living far from home. There are no single men in my house, so if I want to meet any, I have to go out. (I’m taken at the moment; it’s not insignificant that he found me.) Many of my friends are married and have small children, so if I want to see them, I have to meet them where they are—literally. I’ve learned that private conversations with friends-turned-parents aren’t always possible, so I settle for semi-private conversations as we follow the toddler around the room so he won’t get mowed down by the bigger kids.
One of my friends-turned-parents asked me if there was a time when you stop wanting to make new friends. I replied that it was probably when parenting starts.
Think about the family you grew up in. Your parents probably didn’t actively make friends. They had old friends: college roommates, wedding party members, friends from their life pre-marriage and pre-kids. They had work friends, but they didn’t always see those people outside of work or maintain relationships after job changes. That’s possible, but it’s rare. They had your friends’ parents, mostly so they could keep track of you and your influences. Maybe they had a professional group, a church group, or sports teammates.
But can you remember your parents making new friends? I met one of my mom’s work friends at my grandfather’s funeral. She was touched by that friend’s presence, as was I, yet it was strange because I’d never met her in all the years they’d been working together. My dad had a buddy once he met at one of my brother’s sports practices, and it was weird because Dad had a friend. There was nothing fishy going on, but it was odd because, well, dads don’t make friends. Or do they?
I’m not saying that anyone who’s a parent is forbidden to make friends, but I wonder why they so rarely do. Families have to unite to form societies. Is it a good thing that those unions are driven by children or by the past instead of by current intentionality? Should friend-finding be more like dating? Can we work harder to turn online friendships into offline ones?
I don’t have any answers, but this is one case where I think it makes sense to raise the question, to start a discussion, to just talk without needing a defined takeaway. Am I just shouting into the void here? Am I finding a problem that doesn’t exist (because, after all, I do have friends)? Any ideas?