How to Make Friends as an Adult, and Sustain Them
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients tell me that there must be something wrong with them because they struggle to make friends. If this is something you struggle with, you are not alone.
When did making friends become so much harder?
Making friends is something that felt like it just happened when you were younger. Even in college, friendships might have just developed and felt more effortless. You had the same class or lived in the same residence hall and the next thing you knew, they were your BFFs. Then something changed.
So what happened? You got your first job and then the evenings and weekends were dedicated to household chores and errands. Somewhere down the line, you began noticing the shift, you spent less and less time together or meeting new people felt like work… And we can’t blame COVID for this one as it was a struggle before the pandemic, but COVID didn’t help.
You know you have to put yourself out there, but it’s hard…and who has time! By the time you get home from work, maybe go to the gym, and eat dinner it’s time for bed. How are you supposed to not only find the time but the energy? Here are some things to consider that may help:
Stop Overthinking Your Friendships
We can get wrapped up in whether or not someone likes us, what will they think, or did they take what I said the wrong way. We regularly overthink social interactions. The thing we don’t realize is that just like you, others are wrapped up in their own thoughts so much so that they are rarely giving what you said a second thought. They also like you more than you realize. Prove it, you say? Well, there’s actual research that’s looked at this that shows that this is often the case.
Make the Effort to Make Friends
You may spend hours on the dating app of your choice. What if you spent a little of that time trying to cultivate your friendships.
Be intentional about ALL of your relationships, not just the romantic ones. Follow up with people not only people you’ve recently met but also with the friends you have now. Following up does not mean a text message. It might be convenient but it’s likely not going to help in deepening your relationship. Make time for a call or to hang out. Building deep meaningful friendships takes time and some nourishment. Think fertilizer nourishment. You know, the kind of fertilizer that life throws at us every now and then. It’s in these life events that provide opportunities for others to “show up” for us and, in return, allows us the opportunity to “show up” for them.
While it feels crappy when we are in the middle of disappointments, breakups, or losses, these times are fertile for deepening trust and the relationship overall. It is a chance when we can walk the talk. We not only say we care, but we can demonstrate that we care through our actions. Little by little we show one another our commitment to one another, that we’re dependable even when it may be inconvenient, and we begin to know one another not just when we are at our best but when we are struggling. This give-and-take in supporting one another means that we, too, need to be vulnerable at times sharing both our successes and struggles.
Wondering where to find potential friends?
You get it, it takes time and energy to have acquaintances grow into friendships and you are willing to put forth the effort. However, the thought may come to mind of where to start meeting people so that you can build a friendship. Well, they are not going to just show up in our living rooms when we are watching Netflix on a Saturday night. That means we need to leave our homes every now and then. Think about what you enjoy or what you want to learn and start there. If you love reading, join a book club. If you enjoy staying current on current and international events, see if there is a group that you can join. When I moved back to Chicago, I joined the Chicago Council for Global Affairs. Not only were there great talks from renowned leaders but it was an opportunity to meet others with similar interests. Doing something outside of the normal routine provides us with a chance to meet others whose paths we may not cross otherwise.
Enlist Help to Make Introductions to New People
Ask friends, family, or even co-workers for an introduction to anyone they would recommend getting you to know. You may also be a part of groups that would be more than likely to help you connect with others. I find the expat community to be particularly good at this. Expats are often very familiar with the loneliness that moving to a new country can bring. As such, they can be very giving in offering to connect you with someone they know living in your area. Or asking in a local Facebook group if anyone would be interested in meeting up for coffee is oftentimes met with enthusiasm. So let it be known that you are actively trying to expand your social circle.
Don’t Get Discouraged
As mentioned, building friendships takes time, so try not to let feelings of discouragement stop you from continuing your efforts. Another important fact to remember is that we are not meant to be BFFs with every single person we meet. There may be a number of people that don’t move into the friendship category but you keep them as acquaintances. That not only is ok, but it is also helpful. This information helps you decide with whom spending your time and energy is most important.
Begin Online Therapy With an Expert Therapist
If this blog was helpful to you, read more about how to cope with loneliness and isolation and consider online therapy in the United Kingdom, United States, or elsewhere in the world. At ChangeWorks, I offer therapy and counselling services to a wide range of people all over the world. I provide counselling for college students, therapy for expats, and work with women’s issues, anxiety & insomnia (using CBT-I). So, if you’re looking for a counsellor in London (or almost anywhere in the world) and are interested in learning more about how I could help you, please don’t hesitate to reach out.