August 25th, 2017
Why is it so hard to make friends as an adult? That is a question I repeatedly get from clients, and something I have asked myself personally many times.
Several years ago, I was on a quest to find my new “best friend.” We had recently moved to the suburbs from the city, which included a loss of close friends – proximity-wise. I was melancholy for “girls’ nights out” and get-togethers that included deep conversations and strong connections with those who knew me wholly, without judgment.
I would search for opportunities to meet like-minded women who could recreate those deep friendships I missed. I likened those opportunities and interactions to a blind date – feeling anxiety over whether they would “like” me or if we had similar interests. I was really struggling with why it was so hard to make new friends – and it appears I wasn’t alone.
According to a study published in Psychological Bulletin, researchers found that the number of friends we have peaks in our 20s and steadily declines as we age, primarily due to different milestones – marriage, parenthood, job changes, and moves.
Strong friendships are built on consistent, unplanned interactions and priority – you build strong connections when you see your friends frequently – in classrooms, on teams, in college organizations or jobs – and you maintain them by making those friends a priority – which doesn’t always happen when we shift from putting our time and energy into maintaining strong friendships to our partners, marriages, children and other family commitments.
Also in a world of email and social media in which we have 5,000 friends but limited human connections, we miss out on those “real” interactions in which we learn about others in a more organic way. We may also already dismiss someone as a friend based on their Facebook posts or Instagram pictures bringing in preconceived judgments and biases.
Shasta Nelson, the author of Friendships Don't Just Happen! and the founder of GirlFriendCircles.com, a women's friendship matching site, found that it takes 6-8 meaningful interactions with someone before you would call them a friend and it make take 1-2 years before you would confide in that person.
While we may long for that “one” person to call our best friend, one friend doesn’t have to offer everything. Consider opening yourself up to different people who may provide the social and emotional support you need in different ways – for example, someone you work out with, someone who enjoys discussing books, and someone who is fun to grab a drink with.
Consider some suggestions for building your social network:
While making new friends can be challenging as we age, others are most likely feeling the same way and are wanting similar connections. So, put yourself out there and make the first move….it may lead to a rewarding and life-long friendship.
Erin Swinson, LPC, NCC
At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in therapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic at (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.
Wikiel, Y. (n.d.) How to Make Friends as a Grown-Up.
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