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Making friends as an adult

By Georgina Lavan

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Making new friends as an adult is hard! When you’re working full time and trying to catch up with the friends you currently have via weddings, baby showers and birthdays, you’re spending all your time doing the obligatory events before even saying “I want to see you” for a movie or a quiet dinner.

According to Wrzus, Hänel, Wagner, & Neyer (2013), there are two types of social networks in our lives. We have the global network – these are all the people you know, including those you have on Facebook that you went to school with all those years ago and haven’t spoken to since you left the playground. Then there’s the personal network. These are your confidants, family members and friends who you want to spend time with.

Now, as we age, we go through life events that can be broken down into normative events (where people get married, have babies, take on full-time jobs) and non-normative events (events only experienced by a few groups, such as trauma, divorce, war or famine). As we come across these hurdles, our support network changes in accordance to what is happening around us. At the time of adolescence, we seek new friends to find out information and achieve goals with those other than our family members. We try to work out our identity and do this by making as many friends as possible. Why wouldn’t we? We have all the time in the world at that age to hang out with our 200 best friends!

Fast forward say 15 years, and as we start to fit in full-time work, possibly a partner and maybe even kids, we realise that time is limited. Your expectations change as you grow older and you become selective on who you want to spend your time with to meet your emotional needs. Now, try to coordinate your limited time with your friend’s limited time, and you can easily find that your support network diminishes in the blink of an eye. New friendships are now formed around your partner’s network, your children’s network and work colleagues.

So, if you’re in the predicament of making new friends, and do not have a partner or children in the equation, where do you turn to? Sadly, we are no longer at an age where we see someone in the playground and tell them that we want to be their friend. So, here are some suggestions to help motivate you to seek out your next new friend.

Know what you want from a friendship

Take some time to think about the gaps that are missing in your life and what needs you’re hoping to be met by your newfound friend. Do you want someone to have a good time with, where you simply enjoy their company? Or are you looking for something deeper than that, say, someone that you confide in and share the things that are going on in your life that you wouldn’t post on your Facebook status?

Work

We spend 40 hours a week with our co-workers. Over a year, that’s over 2000 hours with people you hope you have something in common with. Fortunately, having a shared interest in your industry is a good start, but if you want to form friendships through work, you may want something more than someone to vent your work frustrations to. Take the opportunity to join in on work socials such as team dinners, lunch time sports or after work drinks. You never know who you might come across as a work friend.

Get involved with sports

Club sports growing up were a way to meet new friends in your local area that didn’t attend your school. Now that schools out, club sports are more important than ever to make friends whilst keeping fit and enjoying the bond of team spirit and competition. You can look for a local team to join on the NSW Government’s Office of Sports and Recreation website.

Volunteer

Volunteering gives you the opportunity to contribute in the community whilst meeting people who share the same passions as you. What’s the worst thing that could happen? If you don’t meet the right people, you’ve taken time out of your day to do something good for someone else.

Meet up!

Meetup is an online service where people can post activities for other like-minded people to join in. Their mantra is “when we get together and do the things that matter to us, we’re at our best”.

The Sydney chapter has loads of ads, including walking groups, tech talks, movie clubs and singing groups (to name a few). You can post or search for a meet up here.

Night classes

Learning a language, taking a hula-hoop class or learning how to cook are just some of the many ways to come across like-minded people. Your local council usually do mail drops of course catalogues for the local community college. No exams necessary here!

Put yourself out there for an introduction

Moving to a new city or country can be scary when you don’t know anyone, so why not let people know of your move and see if they can help you out? Letting people know through word of mouth or social media can strike up the “I know someone who lives there” conversation. Take this opportunity to ask for an introduction, at least for a support in your new town whilst establishing your bearings. A friend of mine connected two friends he knew when they moved to Japan. They recently got married and continue to move around the world for work.

The good news is…

You’re not alone in this. Many of us can get caught up in the busyness of life to suddenly find that our emotional needs are no longer being met by those that we were once close to. The length of a friendship does not always mean that it’s a good quality one. Putting yourself out there can be a vulnerable time, but rest ashore, like you; the people you meet all had to take that first step to make friends too. The awkward phase will be short lived, and you will look back on that time and laugh with your new found friends that are there to support you through the thick of things, all whilst building that special bond that you’re searching for.

Resources:

Wrzus, C., Hänel, M., Wagner, J., & Neyer, F. J. (2013). Social network changes and life events across the life span: A meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin139(1), 53.

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