Web
Analytics Made Easy - StatCounter

The Problem With Making Friends as an Adult

Posted on 7 min read

So, we have new neighbours in the house across across the road from us.

Actually, we don’t: they haven’t moved in yet, but we’ve seen them a few times now, viewing the house and hanging around outside it (It’s just this second occurred to me that they could just be thinking about burgling it or something, and not new neighbours at all? Now I feel like maybe this is the start of a horror movie, or a fast-paced drama at the very least. God, I hope so!), and we’ve seen them do this because every time they’ve come round I’ve been hiding behind the blinds in the office going, “QUICK, TERRY! It’s those people back again! Maybe they’re going to actually buy it, this time?” Because that’s what happens to you when you live in a small village: the everyday actions of your neighbours become intensely interesting, and in our case these new neighbours are particularly interesting, because the house they’re buying has been empty for almost a year now.

(No, it’s not an ‘International Man of Mystery’ type situation, unfortunately, as much as I know you would enjoy that, and I would, too. I mean, it would make this post a LOT more interesting if it was, but it’s actually just your standard, “Property Market Kind of Slow” situation, and that’s not NEARLY as entertaining, is it?)

(This isn’t the house on our street that’s haunted, by the way.  That’s a DIFFERENT empty house. You can see why new neighbours are exciting to us, can’t you?)

Anyway, the new neighbours are a young-ish looking couple: probably younger than us, although: a) You can never really tell, can you? and b) I always do this thing where I forget what age I am, so I awkward try to insert myself into social groups that don’t really want me. Like, if I went to a wedding, or something, I’d feel like I should be sitting with all the teens and early-twenties people, because that’s the age I am in my head, but when I tried to talk to them, they’d be looking at me, thinking, “Why are you even talking to us? Aren’t you, like, OLD or something?” And I AM “like old” or something. But that’s not the point of this post. There IS a point to this post, I promise: I’m just hoping that if I keep on typing for long enough, I’ll remember what it is…

Oh yeah! New neighbours! Who are a young couple, and in my mind, Terry and I are ALSO a young(ish) couple, so as soon as I realised that these people were moving in (these poor, poor people, who have NO IDEA what they’re getting into…), I immediately started to entertain this little daydream in which the four of us – and maybe some other friends from the street – become BFFs, and we’re constantly in and out of each other’s houses, being Godparents to each other’s children, and that kind of thing. And there’s also this coffee shop we hang out in all the time, and we have, like, our own special couch there, and no one else gets to sit there, because that’s OUR place.

cocktail love
So, yeah, this whole thing is pretty much totally based on me watching way too many episodes of Friends lately, and also this new (to us) show we’ve been watching called Happy Endings. Which is ALSO about a group of 30-s0mething friends, who all hang out in each other’ houses all the time, and are basically like family to each other. A few nights ago, we were watching this show, and I turned to Terry.

“Why don’t WE have a group of friends like that?” I said.

“Er, we DO?” said Terry. “We saw some of them yesterday, remember?”

And, of course, we DO have friends – and some very good ones, too. But I feel like the older you get, the harder it gets to keep in touch with people. Some of you move away, some of you have kids, some of you get jobs that occupy every waking second, or have other reasons why you’re not around as much. Before you know it, you’re only seeing each other every so often, and every single meet-up has to be arranged with military precision, only to be cancelled at the last minute, because something ALWAYS comes up. So you have friends, but you don’t have Friends. Or, at least, I don’t. And it occurred to me recently that I haven’t really had that since university: since we were all living within a few minutes of each other, and had no real obligations other than to hang out all the time and come up with excuses why we weren’t working on that essay that was supposed to be handed in tomorrow.

I miss that type of friendship.

After university, my group kind of fell apart. My best friend moved back to the south of England, and the rest of us scattered to different parts of the country. I came back home, and I was really the only one who did, so until I met Terry I was a little bit adrift, really. Now most of the friends we have are “couple friends”, and they’re great, but as I said, they all have families, and jobs, and other responsibilities which make it hard to meet up regularly. There’s no hanging out at coffee shops, for instance, and no popping in and out of each other’s houses a few times a day. Like on TV, you know?

why is it so hard to make friends as an adult

“You would hate that,” pointed out Terry when I presented him with this revelation. “You’d be all, ‘OMG, why do people just turn up without notice?” And then you’d freak out because people were in your house and you hadn’t cleaned it, or you weren’t wearing mascara or something.”

And he’s right. If people started treating my house as if it was their own, I probably WOULDN’T think, “How great: it’s just like being on an American TV sitcom!” I’d think, “Why are they always in MY house? Don’t they have a home of their own to go to?” And if I was hanging out in cafes every day, just THINK how much money I’d have to spend on coffee! Also, we don’t even HAVE a coffee shop in the village. We just have a post office, and we couldn’t really hang out there, on account of the fact that the people who run that post office hate everybody. Literally every single person who goes into their post office. (They also hate sending mail, which is honestly a bit of a nuisance, but that’s another issue altogether.)

As Terry pointed out, my inherent anti-socialness (yes, spellcheck, it IS a word. Because I said so.) is very much at odds with this dawning realisation that I don’t have many really close friendships in my life right now. The kind of friendships where you know EVERYTHING about each other, and are always dancing around your bedrooms together, braiding each other’s hair, and… wait, that’s childhood friendships I’m thinking about, isn’t it? Can you tell I’ve been out of the game a while, here?

And therein lies the problem: having been out of the ‘friends’ game for a while, I’m not really sure how to get back into it (Or even if I really WANT to, if I’m totally honest: I’m so much of a loner that most of the time I’m quite happy with the status quo: it’s only ever now and then I find myself thinking, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if life was like an American sitcom?”). Working from home doesn’t help in this respect, and neither does living in a small village. (Neither does being horribly anti-social, and REALLY not a ‘people person’, seeing as we’re on the subject) It’s not like I’m going to make friends at work, and I’m probably not going to make them while I’m out walking the dog, either. (Actually, I DID once make a friend while I was walking the dog. He was in his 70s, and everyone else in the street describes him as ‘a bit creepy’, but even so…) I know most people would suggest joining clubs or something, but my ‘shy introvert’ status makes my blood run cold at the very thought of those kind of shennanigans, and even if I DID force myself to go to some of the blogger events I’m always being invited to and turning down, the fact that I live in the exact middle of nowhere would inevitably mean that any friends I DID make at them would STILL have to be the kind of friends I only saw occasionally, because they live so far away.

Which I suspect is possibly how MOST adult friendships work, now I come to think of it? Is it? I mean, even Friends itself came to an end when Monica and Chandler had kids and moved to the suburbs: maybe that’s just the way it goes in real life, too?

What do you think? How do you make friends as an adult? Ideally without having to join the local bridge club or something…

(There isn’t a local bridge club, by the way. Again, it’s just the Post Office.)

WANT AMBER IN YOUR INBOX?

(Er, that came out a bit weird: what I mean to say is, enter your email below to be notified each time I publish a new post...)

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

28 Comments
  • Stephen
    October 16, 2015

    Heh. So many thoughts on this.

    I’ll settle for – if you ever needed me, I’d be there in a heartbeat. I don’t know if that’s friendship, but it’s true none the less.

    • Amber
      October 16, 2015

      Oh, I know: I’m not trying to imply that I don’t have anyone I could call on if I needed them – I was more talking about the kind of friendship groups you see on TV, where people see each other every day!

  • Chiarina
    October 16, 2015

    I completely understand the point you are trying to make. This post really hits a chord with me. After university I moved to a big(ger) city to start work, and I knew literally no one there. I tried really hard to make friends (at the gym, at a painting class, I even got into a drama class with the specific intent to make friends), but apparently after the mid 20’s cultivating friendships just gets harder. And I think that is one big point… one thing is making friends, another is cultivating the friendships. And THAT takes time and effort that “The Adult Life” doesn’t leave much for.
    Now I have a very close friend who lives just next door to me. We have children of exactly the same age, I go in my pj’s without any shoes on at her place for coffee on Saturday morning, THAT is how easy it is for me to see her. That said, sometimes weeks go by and we haven’t managed to meet up for a chat…

    • Amber
      October 16, 2015

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head – like I said, it’s not that I don’t have friends, it’s more that it gets harder and harder to actually maintain those friendships once you have adult responsibilities to think about!

  • Louise
    October 16, 2015

    I can really relate to this. As an introvert, I love time by myself too much, so any ‘free’ time I tend to keep for myself mostly (and I don’t get a lot of that with a young family to bring up!). Sometimes I do feel like I must be missing out on something when I realise that all of my friends aren’t my ‘best friends’ – but when I work on being closer to them, I find it emotionally exhausting to be honest. I do have lots of friends, and they would certainly be there in a heart beat if I needed them too – but I’m comfortable with the relationships that I have and the way they work. I’m not very needy, so I guess I don’t need to have someone with me ALL the time. It would drive me mad if others were in and out of my house constantly – I really couldn’t cope with that! I did have one very close friend in my adult life, but tragically she passed away. Obviously that friendship was very special to me, and I think it was a rare thing. I won’t find it again in a hurry – but that’s ok with me!

    • Amber
      October 16, 2015

      You know what, this is so good to read, because it’s made me realise that I’m EXACTLY the same – I think I probably like the idea of those sitcom-style groups more than I’d like the reality, because any time I DO have a lot of social stuff planned, I find it absolutely exhausting, and when I have free time I normally want it to be MY time, and to be able to do whatever I want with it. Maybe what I REALLY need is to just accept that this is how I am, and that there’s nothing wrong with that 🙂

      (Really sorry to hear about your friend, by the way: I do think those kind of friendships are rare things, sadly 🙁 )

  • Charlie
    October 16, 2015

    Hey Amber, I love this post! In fact, I’ve just moved you from my regular Bloglovin feed to my favourites! ( feel special! 🙂 )

    My friendship group from school & 6th form has stayed pretty tight and although we all moved away from Devon we’re spread out across Bristol and London so we still see each other a lot, which is lovely. That said I totally get what you mean, making friends as a grown up seems rare. Pretty much the only proper friend I’ve made in adult life is a girl who lived in the flat downstairs. Obviously it helped that she’s awesome but also it’s much easier to become close when your wine drinking companion is so conveniently located. I hope your new neighbours turn out to be cool!

  • Annabel
    October 16, 2015

    We moved house at the beginning of the year to the total other end of the country and it’s actually really tricky to make friends.
    Quite quickly, and mostly through my work, we were able to make ‘acquaintances’ but it’s taken a really long time to make any actual lets-go-for-a-drink on a saturday at lunchtime friends! It’s hard to stroke a balance of being nice and actively pursuing new people as potential friends without seeming like a creepy-weirdo! I think I’m just going to have to embrace my inner creepy weirdo!
    Abel x

  • Elizabeth Rose
    October 16, 2015

    I’ll agree with Chiarina above about cultivating friendships. I have noticed this problem too. I try so hard to have friends in this new city (actually, not so new. I’ve been here 3 years now), but everyone either seems to have their little group and is not interested in adding new members (manners, people) or they say they’re too busy. I don’t know. All I know is my best friend from my hometown is still my best friend and we talk everyday via text and I can’t wait for one of us to move closer to the other. I am not an introvert… so I settle for local social events and coffee shops. I know lots of people here, but I can’t say I really have any friends my age. I do dance ballet several days a week so I get a fair amount of social interaction there, but because of injuries I am mostly dancing with people who are also injured and they tend to be older. That’s totally fine, but it’s not the same at all.

    Now that I am done feeling sorry for myself, I will say this article might have some more academic insight: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/fashion/the-challenge-of-making-friends-as-an-adult.html.

    “As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.”

    So basically, we overplan our lives?

    • Adriane
      February 7, 2016

      I think you’re dead on. I had all 3 conditions with my bff. Now that I’m older it seems nearly impossible to find time of energy for anyone but my 10 month old and hubby. I literally have not one friend where I live. Sometime’s I really want to move back home but, the economy is terrible and we don’t want to risk it.

  • Retro Chick
    October 16, 2015

    I started playing Roller Derby, but that’s probably not going to help you!

    I have several friends that live within walking distance of my house and we don’t pop in and out of each others houses either. I’d hate that, I’m secretly a loner!

    I think it’s hard to make friends as an adult, and even harder if you’re self employed and don’t have work colleagues! I think joining some kind of club is the only option!

    I notice people with children seem to make friends with other people with children, but I’m not sure I’m prepared to have children just to make friends!

    • Lauren
      November 16, 2015

      Seconding the “I started playing roller derby then transferred when I got a new job”.

      My other half moves to our new home next week and I’m genuinely a bit baffled about how to do the making friends as an adult front. Luckily we both have interests that are fairly sociable (and popular in new city) which should help but I’m going to miss the couple friends (our social spheres at uni all married each other) and spend a lot of time flying north for brunch!

  • Polly
    October 16, 2015

    I feel this so much. I recently moved to a new city without knowing anyone aside from my husband so it’s been a struggle to force myself out there and make friends. (Previously I’d lived abroad and was hired into companies with a close group of expats so it was easy to have a friend group already in place.) I’m also not one to have people in my life CONSTANTLY so I’m working on finding that balance.

    Basically, I’ll be stalking your comments to see any useful advice 🙂

  • Theresa
    October 16, 2015

    This post is depressingly accurate. My best friend in the world is in New York (I’m in Kentucky) and my other best friends are in Ohio, L.A. and Las Vegas. My husband and I are kind of starting to make friends through church, but it is slow going, and also everyone is busy ALL the time. I’m convinced the only way to make these friendships happen is to collect all your best friends and force them to move into houses that are all next door to each other.

    • Elizabeth Rose
      October 20, 2015

      Uh, this might sound forward, but if you’re in Lexington and want to meet someone, I’m totally around. I have no clue if we have anything in common or not, but feel free to hit me up through my blog/email if you need a local ear: http://aroseisinbloom.blogspot.com.

  • Gem
    October 16, 2015

    I moved to America about six months ago. I’m here as a trailing spouse, so like a lot of self employed people I can’t rely on work as a way to met new people. I’m in contact with friends from home (thanks Internet) but it is different. There is a spouse support network, but most people have children (we don’t) and bond through shared play based activities, and generally met locals in the same way.

    It’s a slow process. I’m doing some volunteer work (raising a service puppy) and that helps, but I can’t say I’ve made friends yet.

  • Sarah Rooftops
    October 16, 2015

    Oh, I’ve talked to Steve about this so many times – how grown up life isn’t all being a gang of five (HIMYM) or six (Happy Endings) and meeting for brunch at the same restaurant every weekend and spending every evening in the pub and WEREN’T THE GOOD OLD DAYS GOOD??? But even in the good old days I was paranoid people were whispering, “Why does SHE keep turning up?”

    Actually, maternity leave isn’t far off this – a group of people who don’t work and really fancy a hot drink. But it’s not reason enough to have kids. I guess…

  • Jennifer
    October 16, 2015

    Yes to all of this. I could have written this post, except it wouldn’t have been as well done and I don’t have people moving in across the street from me. I have been thinking a lot about friends lately. That is what having teenage friendship drama going on in your house will do to you. I think we are frequently looking for “kindred spirits” and they are few and far between. (please tell me you read Anne of Green Gables as a child. She is the reason I spent my entire childhood wanting red hair and the reason I still covet yours.) I think most often we have friends because of circumstances. We work with them, have children the same ages, whatever. But I at least am always looking for the other friends, the ones who just get you. They happen, but life gets in the way, people move, and it is hard to keep in touch.
    In my dream world I have a circle of friends like that and it is wonderful. In actuality, my shy introverted tendencies say that after a week I would have to move to a deserted island.
    So really, I don’t have any suggestions about how to make friends but now I want to sit down with a cup of tea and discuss it with someone. But you need a local available friend for that!

  • Veronica U
    October 16, 2015

    Oh. My. GOODNESS. I relate to this on ALL THE LEVELS. #hahabutreally I love my friends but at times it can be very difficult; my husband and I are at the age where all of our friends are having kids and we are pretty happy just the two of us – love our friends but it can be really hard to relate sometimes! And small towns, and driving for an hour+ to be able to see friends .. just .. yes.

  • Jess
    October 17, 2015

    There was a really interesting post on Reddit about this! Some dude even brought in results from a study. Basically, in order you become GOOD friends, you need something that forces you to be together on an often basis, that isn’t just for the sake of seeing each other. So that explains why a coffee here and there doesn’t turn into the ultimate bestfriendmanship. For example, we had school, then it was uni, and then work means you have to see the same people regularly. I’m in the same position, and trying to think up ways that would force me into the same situation with other people quite a bit. The gym is a v. good one and going to the same classes, but I’m not sure if you would have a gym in your village! Could start a meet up for a certain hobby? Would be a big move but would do the trick! xxxx
    Jesska – Opal Soul

  • Síle
    October 18, 2015

    Oh heaven help me I so identify with this..! We’ve been trying to rent a flat, pitching ourselves as a young(ish) married couple, my husband has gone back to uni to do a masters and we’ve realised we’re not young… But at least this is one way of meeting new friends! When we moved to London we knew no-one, and I joined a couple of Meetup outings to meet new people. As cringey as it was at the time (basically group internet dating for pals) I did actually click with a couple of girls, who had also met people at a couple of other events – we ditched the whole “organised fun” thing and just went for lunch! Fast forward 2 years and we have a bunch of lovely new friends, but we’ve all moved on and scattered across the globe again. That hanging out in the local coffee shop is just not gonna happen!

    x Síle

  • Wendy
    October 19, 2015

    I moved countries, and after a few years made a friend, then another… then we moved 3000 miles. Two years later I have only one friend (sort of). Yes it is hard. I feel terribly lonely. How sad!

  • Lily
    October 19, 2015

    I’m in pretty much the same situation as you, Amber. Most of my friends live far away, and even those that live close are difficult to see because we’re all so damnably busy. It’s an odd situation to be in, to feel both as if I have friends and to feel isolated at the same time.

  • Jenni
    October 19, 2015

    I live in a city and I think it’s much easier to make friends that way…not to mention there’s tons of stuff going on so it’s practically impossible not to do stuff (festivals, fairs, markets, quizzes, game and film meetups, charity projects, web events, etc. plus all the stuff that’s always there like bars, clubs, arcades, ‘escape’ rooms, little coffee shops and so on). The grass is always greener though – I was whining to my boyfriend last night about how people come over and just LEAVE stuff everywhere in our house. Like endless wrappers, and their tubs of ice cream in the freezer, and huge bottles of alcohol I don’t like, and at least once a week I’m picking stuff up going ‘What even is this, and how do I even go about tracking down the owner?’ And on top of that I have ‘guest’ everything – guest allergy tablets, guest toothbrushes, guest paracetamol, guest hot water bottles, guest soft drinks…etc. etc. because people ask all the time.

    And people assume I’m going to *their* specific thing and make plans for me and I really hate that because it means choosing between people or event-hopping and it’s really exhausting….not to mention *I* want to be the person who decides what I’m doing (!) We also go to a lot of grassroots web events, which basically involves sitting around chatting, and free drinks and pizza…but it’s pretty overwhelming when there’s something on every week and people really really want you to go and then I feel guilty when I’m just too tired. Sometimes I just want a day off from my life. So I’m sure there’s a balance somewhere in the middle, but I haven’t found it yet!

    • Alison Gibb
      December 2, 2015

      This sounds like village life Jenni? I always thought cities were much more anonymous? x

  • Amy
    November 3, 2015

    I grew up in the US and moved to the UK in 1999. I didn’t know anyone except my partner (and later, her family). I had always been an introvert so I didn’t really need friends. I started work in 2000 in a village outside my city (my commute was backwards to everyone else’s) and I was the youngest employee by 18 years and there were only four of us. I wasn’t going to have work mates.

    I cultivated online friendship groups and they worked wonderfully for several years until I fell ill. One of my symptoms was light sensitivity and I couldn’t look at my computer screen anymore. On top of that I lost my hearing so phone calls were out. On the rare occasion that I could touch base with my friends it was a very depressing conversation about how ill I was and they seemed to feel badly telling me their stories since I was so stuck. For the record, friends of ill people: tell us your stories! It is a fine distraction and a wonderful way to feel like one is still part of the outside world. Anyway, one of the things I could do was knit. My mother-in-law taught me while I was recovering and it saved my life.

    So I eventually found myself in the situation of having had a very serious illness, with literally my family and one friend. Who lived 250 miles away from me. I continued with that (lack of energy to cultivate new friendships) for some five years. I realised one day though that if my one friend moved on in anyway I wouldn’t have any. I did what I had always done and turned to the internet. I used a few sites, but the most successful by far was Meetup.com – I joined a 30-something group with limited success (there were over 700 members, it was overwhelming) and then I joined a knitting group. The group was new and often in the early days of meeting, we’d have three people there. We now regularly have 30 people. It is as the previous replies have said, we are meeting regularly for low pressure social interactions and we are all local.

    I joined a few other groups too, I run a monthly meeting and I participate in two board games groups; and at my last birthday party I invited 68 people (~35 attended, it was unbelievable). Local people who I interact with regularly. It blows my mind that I can go from literally one friend to this in three years.

    Feminism also helped me make friends. I spent a lot of years thinking I was an ‘exceptional woman’ because I didn’t like shopping, I didn’t like home décor, I only had male friends and I hated wine*. Clearly I was not a proper woman. I was apart from other women and we’d never get along – that isolation was a sure-fire way to keep me from bonding with other women. When I allowed myself to stop participating in the idea that women were a monolith and that in fact the stereotype was just that I found a whole world open before me. The relationships I have with other women are invaluable and deeper than I could ever have imagined.

    * I have come to realise that I only disliked shopping because the shops didn’t cater to my size/style, I love making my own clothes and find fashion to be very satisfying – thus why I’m here I think! I still hate wine.

    I’ve written an incredibly long comment, well done if you read the whole thing!

  • Alison Gibb
    December 2, 2015

    I play tennis and I am into art, that is how I make friends. It will always completely mystify me why I have soooo much in common with other people who play tennis??!! But I definitely do, I also find I have a lot in common with other people who are into art, but I find that less mysterious.

  • Suz
    November 1, 2016

    I moved to a tiny village in the middle of nowheresville last year and, dare I say, I LIKE that there’s no one around. Like you, I’m not a fan of people popping over and I have, rather successfully, managed to avoid most of my husband’s work ‘things’ without having people think I’m a complete weirdo. I am a complete weirdo, but they just haven’t met me enough times to realise it. However, being a tiny village means that everyone knows my husband and are always trying to encourage me out of the house. I’m resisting but, at some point, I’ll be able to resist no more and WILL have to attend some event/dinner/awkward chat in the street. That’ll teach them.

Previous
Stripes and a Secret
The Problem With Making Friends as an Adult