As we pass through life’s milestones, starting families and getting older, making friends can seem like an unusually difficult task. With no schoolyard or campus as grounds for fraternizing, there’s no natural congregation of girls that normally forge bonds in your earlier years. For some of us, making friends with other women doesn’t come naturally at all. In my younger years, I had introverted tendencies, with my favorite hangout being a quiet corner with a good book.
Once you get past your thirties, those natural challenges multiply. Especially if you’ve suffered from a friend breakup, which can be traumatizing. After an experience like this, it’s easy to retreat into your shell, tucking away your vulnerabilities and keeping your guard up. I’ve been there – once you’ve been burned, healing is a hard process. But once you do open yourself up to future bonds and allow yourself a clean slate, it’s a powerful energy shift.
Making friends as an adult is tough, but I would argue that these friendships are even more gratifying than built-in childhood relationships that are bonded by similar life stages. Sure, they might not know your entire timeline of romantic partners or all your awkward phases as a kid. But as grownups, we’ve cultivated our values and desires. Seeking out a friendship is an intentional act, rather than one that falls into our lap out of circumstance. As adults, we’ve grown and learned from past toxic dynamics and mistakes. With new friends, we can create even stronger ties based on this new arsenal of information.
Starting the Process of Making Adult Friends
If you’re not naturally a joiner, this step might be hard for you, but it’s very helpful in finding people with shared interests. Have a hobby? Take a class to advance your skills or volunteer for a local cause you’re passionate about.
Set up a Group that Hangs with Existing Friends
Perhaps start a book club or a casual cocktail meet up with friends, and tell them to invite new people from their network. This might feel more comfortable if you’re socially awkward or get nervous easily around new people. It’s also an organic way to expand your friend group.
Download a Friendship App
From Bumble BFF to Hey! VINA, there are many friend-finding apps to find like-minded individuals nearby you. These apps let you apply advanced filters (i.e other parents, non-drinkers, or night owls) which make it that much easier to find your friend’s soulmate. It takes the anxiety out of meeting and talking to new people.
Join a Support Group
Do you find socializing difficult because you’ve gone through a recent loss, illness, or trauma? There are even support groups for empty nesters whose kids have left the house. The nature of these groups is vulnerability and honesty, which makes forging authentic, intimate friendships a little easier.
if you do have friends, you may have found that you’ve grown apart. If one of you is single and the other has started a family or you’ve moved to different countries, holding onto that bond can be elusive. But there are ways to maintain it without drifting – it just takes a hefty dose of self-awareness, and consciousness in your relationships.
Tips to Keep that Friendship Strong
Schedule weekly check-ins – this can be video calls or phone calls, but try to make it more meaningful than a quick text message exchange.
Dive below small talk – It can be easy to reduce things to a quick “how are things” and “wish you the best” but try to connect deeply and stay genuine. This can include reminiscing on past memories, checking in on their mental health, or admitting something you feel vulnerable about. Sharing your own insecurities can encourage others to do the same.
Write letters to each other – being virtually present isn’t always easy. Social media reduces things to brief, superficial, and mostly public interactions. Instead, write letters to each other. This act of mindfulness is much more cathartic and fulfilling than typing out a DM. It adds an accountability factor to the friendship and makes for cute memorabilia that can go on your fridge.
Schedule girls trips – If you have a group of friends (or just one friend) that’s drifted or lives in a different area, consider scheduling an annual retreat to unplug. This can become monthly and take place at a five-star spa or in an RV. Nothing bonds people more than an adventure.
Friendship isn’t a luxury – it’s necessary. Research shows that it boosts our immune system, reduces stress, and decreases the risk of illness. Friends don’t just make our lives more fulfilling – they literally help us live longer.
Platforms like social media make it easy for us to check in on each other without actually checking in with each other. Regularly sparking a conversation, goes a long way, but it’s a two-way street. If your friend isn’t responding to your advances or repeatedly flakes, perhaps re-consider the value this friendship is adding to your life. Still, it’s important to be understanding and cut friends slack if they truly are overwhelmed with work or family responsibilities. That being said, if a pattern presents itself and you don’t feel respected, stay attuned to those red flags.
Don’t feel stuck in toxic or energy-draining friendships because you feel there aren’t other options out there. After all, there could be the yin to your yang (the Frankie to your Grace, if you will) just waiting out there in the universe for you.