Where have all my adult friendships gone? This is what I think when I’m cruising “social media” and I see pictures of the girl’s weekends I was never invited to, friends enjoying each other at dinners out, drinks in hand as they raise a glass to the camera. I get a bit jealous. Or is it sad? I’m not sure why it hits me this way but, it slaps me in the face pretty hard. I don’t have my own group.
When you’re young, everyone is your friend – kids at the playground, or the old lady in the checkout lane. When you become a teenager those friends are your life. The drama of navigating puberty together sets them in your soul. Through college, you learn what adult friendships should be: giving and taking support and love. And then when you have babies of your own it seems, well not easy, but through your kids, you have the opportunity to make connections and grow friendships around their sports or other activities. There always seems to be another mom who is looking for someone to connect with.
As my children grew and started pulling away to form their own lives (as they do) it seems so did my friends. Or the women I thought were friends. I had to consider, is it me? Do I not know how to be a good friend? Or does that happen to numerous women? All I know is that it happened to me. My adult friends faded away.
I thought I would have my high school friends forever, but we all grow and change. The time came to re-evaluate those old bonds and make sure they were still serving me. Turns out, they weren’t and I had to let them go. Making an even bigger hole in my already low friend count.
I asked my husband once, “Why do I have a hard time having women friends?” His answer shocked me in its truth. He said as gently as he could, “Well you don’t really have much empathy. You tend to be more stoic than most women.”
Intimacy is a skillLloyd Reed
Ouch! He’s not wrong. Sadly, I do have a short tolerance for complaining. I rarely hold my tongue when I see something that bothers or irritates me and I tend to be a bit gruff around the edges. I’m a tomboy through and through. But I still crave the bond that only other women can give. I want adult friends.
Why are adult friendships important for women?
We need adult friendships. As I get older I see the benefits of having an outlet of amazing people around you. Friends can help build your confidence. They don’t necessarily overlook your flaws but love you in spite of them.
Adult friends give you the emotional support that is so different from a spouse. You can lean on them, let loose, ask for advice, or get some that is unsolicited. My husband gives good advice but it will never be what my girlfriends would say. For example, the ever loaded question, “Does this make me look fat?” My husband would never want to rock the boat. After all, we still have to live together. A good girlfriend would tell you, without hesitation, “That outfit is not for you.”
When you surround yourself with good people they can push you to be better too. A good friend will push you to be your best version of yourself, cheer your successes and cry with you in your defeats.
There are physical and mental reasons to have friendships as we age. It decreases feelings of loneliness and can reduce the risk of some diseases like cancer, heart disease, and even the common cold. Not to mention anxiety and depression. When you spend time with friends your stress level drops. Your body release dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. I do miss those belly laughs and drunken stumbles home on the arms of my girlfriends, telling them how much I love them, and let’s go eat at Denny’s at two in the morning. Not ashamed to admit that in my twenties that could have happened more than it should have.
Loneliness is the #1 health epidemic of our time. It’s equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. That’s just really bad on your ticker!
Why is it so hard to make adult friendships?
As adults, we have many responsibilities, and as we progress in life we get married and have babies, and friendships get sacrificed. We become more set in our ways and rigid in our routines. The friends we do have become set and it gets more difficult to let new ones in.
As our kids age, there are no longer built-in opportunities to make new friends. We get through our school years, then we get married and our focus changes. We have kids and then the kids sporting events end, the ballet classes end, the playdates end. Our kids fly the coup.
We become pickier in our friendship qualities. We no longer tolerate behaviors that put us off. Complaining, or gossiping. We hone in on what qualities we want to have around us.
It can be doubly hard when you’re married. Not only do you have to make sure you like one of the other couple but that you like both of them and that they both like you and your partner. It’s like finding a friend but intensified.
Lastly, your old friends could have burned you. It happened to me. The love we once had for each other turned toxic. The subtle insults and aggressiveness toward my personality, my outward appearance and at the basic the essence of who I was began to whittle away at my self-esteem and I had to let those friends go.
So what can I do to make friends as an adult?
There are a few steps we can take to find new adult friends but it takes time. There is no rushing real connection.
Action steps you should take to help foster adult friendships, according to Psychologist Marisa Franco, are you should assume people like you. If your internal dialogue is telling you different it’s time to work on those thoughts and turn them toward the positive.
Initiate! Send the text, make the call, don’t be passive. Even if you fear being turned down. Research shows that it is less likely that will happen. You have to take the leap and just ride it out, good or not so good.
Third, keep showing up. Don’t let the good initial connection fizzle. A study from the 1950s, which is still proved today, stated you are more likely to like someone if you know you are going to see them again.
Then there is the Who, When, What, and How steps. This is a process to help flush out new adult friends.
WHO do you want to develop a deep meaningful friendship with? Name two or three people you would like to connect with. WHEN could you connect with the people on your list? Relationships take time to invest. WHAT do your friends want to know about your inside world? Do you have enough self-love to think yourself worthy? It’s about being vulnerable and letting people into your weird little world. What don’t you normally share about yourself? HOW can you communicate these inner thoughts and feelings in a meaningful way. This can be a bit awkward face to face, so try text or email. A sweet thank you card for a nice deed or shared thought. Most of all, be patient. You can’t rush this process. Not sure that can be said too often.
Creating and fostering new adult friendships requires three crucial steps. Nearness to each other, repeated unplanned interactions in a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in one another. So love yourself, be kind to yourself and get out there.
Interested in reading more on this topic? Check out Navigating Friendships Through All Stages of Life: 4 Things I’ve Learned by We Spot writer Trista Gangestad.