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How To Make Friends In Adulthood

How To Make Friends In Adulthood

The fact of the matter is that as we age our social circles shrink.

When we’re in our childhood, it’s easy to make friends – there’s school, extracurricular activities, and sports. But when we reach our thirties, it becomes difficult to form friendships. And it only gets more challenging from there.

According to a 2013 study from the Psychological Bulletin, friendship networks peak in your twenties and slowly start to decrease as you age.

But this all makes sense, right? After all, as we grow older, we experience different life stages. Marriage, parenthood, and relocation can disrupt our social circles, and we begin to place more importance on our closest relationships – kids, spouses, and longtime best friends. While allocating all of our time to important relationships creates more meaning in our lives, it also takes away from our ability and desire to spend time making new friends.

Now, what if we told you that all of your closest relationships probably won’t last a lifetime? In fact, 50% of your relationships won’t last more than 7 years. According to a study from the University of Netherlands, we lose half of our friends every seven years and form new relationships as replacements.

Unfortunately, in our fifties and beyond, finding replacements isn’t so easy. Perhaps we have gone through divorce, our kids have moved out, we have moved to a new city, and so on. These life transitions not only shrink our social circles, but also leave us in situations that are unlikely to present new friends to us. In adulthood, we have to actively seek new friends – they aren’t so available as they were to us when we were children.

how to make friendsSurely you are aware of the benefits of friendship, but the consequences of having too few of friends may surprise you. Researchers have found that loneliness can increase one’s chances of premature death by 14% and significantly increase one’s risk for cognitive decline. A study conducted by Brigham Young University found that those who had very few friends had a mortality risk equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day (a higher risk than obesity!).

Senior research psychologist Robert Epstein of the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology says that adults find it difficult to establish meaningful friendships. However, he notes that it is not so difficult if you know what to do.

Well, what do we do?

 

1. Join groups that meet regularly

In our childhood, we are consistent: we go to school, play with the neighbors, go home for supper, and repeat the next day. During adulthood, this consistency rarely exists.

Many times, we are running from place to place and working late into the evenings.

Unfortunately, inconsistency in our daily lives leads to inconsistency with our friendships.

Author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen, Shasta Nelson, writes that joining a group that meets on a regular basis provides consistency, allowing us to have consistent relationships. She says it’s as simple as going to a book club, attending group workshops, joining a sports league, even taking a cooking class.

Find the things you’re most interested in and join a group or class related to the topic; this lets you meet up with like-minded adults.

However, Nelson notes that simply attending a class will not provide you with lasting friends. Most people forget to step outside of the “container”, as she calls it. Bonding over your favorite activities on a regular basis simply provides the context for finding the right friendships; but to make them last, we must initiate the friendships outside of the class or group setting.

how to make friends

Nelson recommends to start by inviting your colleagues or fellow classmates out to lunch, to a sporting event, or to a potluck party. By practicing doing other things outside of the “container”, you will begin to bond on a more personal level and “glue more pieces of your lives to each other”. According to Nelson, it takes close to six to eight experiences with a person to form a lasting friendship.

 

2. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new

What is this “comfort zone” we all speak of? And why is it so hard to get out of?

Many times, as we age we can get stuck in a “comfort zone” without even knowing it. This zone consists of all the things that are normal in our life, that we are comfortable with doing – we go to the grocery store, go to the local café, walk our dog in the park, and make the occasional visit to the shopping mall. But getting out and about doesn’t always mean we’re getting out of the “comfort zone”.

In fact, we are all comfortable with different activities, depending on our lifestyles. The key is doing something we normally wouldn’t, something that frightens us a little – a part-time job at the hospital, a volunteer opportunity, a conference in a new setting, salsa dancing classes, a ski trip.

how to make friendsUnfamiliar situations make us feel vulnerable, and vulnerability is a quick way to find the best of friends.

Epstein says that vulnerable situations “make people feel needy and provide occasions for other people to provide comfort and support.” In particularly vulnerable experiences, people bond on a deep emotional level, which makes for the most trustworthy, lasting friends.

Yes, such situations for making new friends are not always easily presented to us during adulthood; we have to go find them. We have to seek adventure.

Now, seeking adventure doesn’t mean you have to climb Mount Everest. Just breaking out of your confined social circle and expanding your horizons will lead to greater opportunities for meaningful friendships.

Social media websites like Stitch.net and Meetup.com provide great outlets for finding friends.

On Stitch.net, you can find like-minded adults in your area who have the same interests as you. Just set up a profile and start connecting with other members while bonding over similar interests and activities.

Meetup.com is also a great avenue for making friends, because it offers a range of local groups and clubs that you can join; you then can attend events that they host in your area.

These websites will give you the chances you need to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.

 

11 Comments

  1. June

    A friend from work saw this site on Fox5 Channel, New York, just this week. I’m almost 59, single white female. I just finished another disappointing year on eHarmony. Would like to meet other mature, active adults around my age who live around the Union County, New Jersey area. I’ve always been the outdoor girl. Would be extremely happy to find a guy with similar interests, for friendship, companionship, long term commitment. Mixed group activities would be fantastic, just as you stated, friendships thin out as we get older. It would be a breath of fresh air to make some new friends in 2015.
    I had checked Meetup, but most were younger and further north in New Jersey.
    Yours truly, June

    1. Andrew Dowling

      Hi June,

      We certainly hope we can help out! We’re only just starting out in the NY area so please bear with us while we grow our member base there … but what you’re looking for is exactly what we built Stitch for, so if we can’t help you out it means we’re doing something wrong! You might also want to check out the events we’re starting to create to fill the gap for meetups (as opposed to just meeting other Stitchers online). In the coming weeks you’ll be able to find events close to you within Stitch itself, but for now we’ve started setting them up via our web page here: http://www.stitch.net/events-activities-registration/

      You’ll see a few NY based events coming up … maybe you’d like to register for one of them? Please let us know what you think!

      Thanks,
      Andrew.

  2. Elisa

    Stitch has a lot of promise, but I didn’t realize it was so new. I live in Utah and seem to be the only one who doesn’t live on the East or West Coasts or in IL. This is a HUGE disappointment. I’m not planning to delete my profile just yet, but neither am I going to subscribe in order to see more profiles per day.

  3. Fran

    Hi,
    what a great looking site. I will hang around and see who shows up.

    I may pay, later. I need to look this over, first

    1. Marcie Rogo

      Thank you Fran and welcome to Stitch!

  4. dan

    hi im dan retired divorced 62 looking now for some new friends dating etc im new to stitch help

  5. Maria

    Estou só sem amigos e realmente nesta faze de viuvez, fica complicado pois antes eramos eu ele e os filhotes(kkk), mas agora não há ninguém, mesmo porque o circulo social que se apresenta e é possível para mim, não condiz com minha formação cultural e social, já que a perda monetária foi significativa e isto atrapalha na hora de um recomeço. Aceito novas amizades e um companheiro, sou do rio de Janeiro e tenho 51 anos. Um abraço a todos.

    English Translation: “I’m lonely without friends and really this make of widowhood, is complicated because before we were I him and puppies ( kkk ), but now there is no one , even as the social circle that appears and it is possible for me , is not consistent with my training cultural and social , as the monetary loss was significant and this hinders time for a fresh start . Accept new friends and a fellow , I am of Rio de Janeiro and I’m 51 years old. A hug to everyone .”

  6. Theresa

    Neat idea great story I am a 50 year old female recent widow in the Quad Cities Ia I was searching the web for what I am supposed to do next. Don’t get me wrong I have a ton of friends and relatives and support system. I guess I really don’t think I want to start all over, but realize I need to do something. This did give me stuff I had already thought of though.

  7. denese andrews

    Hi i am new to this site so if its ok with you guys i would like to pay later but i would like to pay by month to month if thats possible as i could not pay out $120 in full and i dont have a great deal of single friends , does your site stitch work in Australia Queensland

  8. Toni

    Meetup.com in the Boston area has been underwhelming and disappointing for me and many others I have met.

    1. Very few groups for 55+.
    2. Almost every activity is very large or very small.
    3. In three yrs I have met four people that wanted to get together outside of Meetup; two of them are nice aquaintences.
    4. If there are men, the ratio is about 5 : 1.
    5. I’ve been a group organizer for three yrs. 30-50% that sign up do not show up or cancel. It is so inconsiderate and selfish of people.
    6. If the group has been active for a while, many members are in cliches.
    7. Some people charge to join and for every activity in order to make money.
    8. It will not surprise anyone to hear how high turnover is.
    9. Most people that find a dating relationship disappear.

    I don’t mean to be “Debbie Downer”. I just want people to be aware and know what it’s like around Boston. It’s very disheartening as there are 100’s of groups!

  9. merlyn demonte

    what a wonderful site …
    well here I am , the other side off the world …AUSTRALIA
    nice to chat and just have friends , like pen pals in the old days.. now we e.mail
    ALONE BUT NOT LONELY…
    very busy social life …
    just like to know how others enjoy life …or not in some cases..

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