“Friends-how many of us have them?”- Whoodini
I see my daughter walk up to kids on the playground and ask “do you want to play?”, ”What’s your name?” Sometimes she doesn’t say anything at all & just plays side-by-side in some parallel kid universe with a new “friend”. I wish it were more like that for grown folks. Why is making legit friends as an adult so tricky. Or is it?
I was asked recently “how did you meet the last adult friend you’ve made?” So it sparked my thoughts about why we seek new friends as an adult & how we go about it. It’s not like making friends in your 20’s or anytime pre-marriage, pre-kids, pre-career. It was more ‘unconscious’ then. In those days all you needed was to hit happy hour after work, meet friends through friends, share drinks over long discussions about movies, music, books, & share dating disaster stories. Those were the simple days of brunching, lunching, shopping, lounging, impropmptu trips, going out together, saying ‘we should go out next week’…& meaning it.
There are many reasons to seek new friends as an adult.
Maybe you may have lots of old near & dears but your newfound love of running marathons may get you the dreaded huff & eye roll when you ask them to maybe join you sometime. You may find yourself cleansing some toxic old friendships & seeking some healthier kinds, or maybe you are just feeling lonely, new in town, & seeking connection.
Here is the KEY: If you are finding yourself in a position where you are desiring more companionship, friends, friendly aquaintances etc. you will find your peeps where your deep interests, deep dislikes, or deep heartaches lie.
Let me break it down.
Share Deep Interests-
As a military spouse just having that in common is not enough for me when I am new in town. Also, just because our kids go to the same school is not enough either. There’s not enough ‘glue’ there if we don’t both really care/can’t stand/or heartache over something else.
What I’ve noticed in my years of moving around & dipping my pinky toe out there to feel people out is this…you have to have something you feel very strongly about in common. A shared agenda if you will. As an adult you go through different phases of your life so it changes. The shift to friendship is becomes more conscious & has a slight sense of effort to it.
Here are 3 major things to bond over when seeking out the coveted “friendship material” in someone.
1. Something you really LIKE: adrenaline junkies, biking, beaches, wine, politics, art, music, dance, immigration, equal rights, positive parenting, holistic remedies, dogs, movies, fresh snow, triathlons ….go geek out, rant, rave, have shared fun with someone over what you both like.
2. Something you CANNOT STAND: Injustice, racism, loud parties, banned books, your boss…whatever makes your blood boil or annoys you. You likely can find a friend over that too.
And not to be overlooked (but less popular for obvious reasons) is…
3. Something your heart ACHES about: AKA something that depresses you. Coming out of the dark with someone is powerful in creating a lasting bond. Some examples of this are other fellow post partum parents, recovery, grieving loss etc. When your heart aches along side another person it’s actually all good stuff that brings you closer.
After you find what strong feeling you have in common…
Create a Bridge-
Just simply existing side by side with someone who shares a deep interest with you is not enough. This is where many people drop the ball. You then have to create a bridge. Bring them into your world somehow. Invite them over, take them up on their invite. Text them. Meet up somewhere, (gasp) solidify a set date & put it in your phone. Do it over & over again.
The hardest to give: Time
You must invest time. This is what there is not a lot of in adulthood. People have families, kids, responsibilities and not a lot of time. Especially not to do something as silly as ‘make friends’. Especially when your car needs to get serviced, you have to go grocery shopping, your behind on making dentist appointments for the whole family, planning the upcoming birthday gathering, and that work report is due. Time must be respected… & valued…& used wisely. When you invest a little bit of time & you feel as if it is being invested equally by the other person. BINGO!! You hit the friendship structure jackpot. This is the stuff a great friendship is built on. There is potential & the makings of a lasting symbiotic friendship. It will fluctuate, sometimes you will do a bit more, and the other person will do a bit less & plans will be broken, rescheduled, & put off but if for the most part it equals out…your in the green. Keep moving forward with this friend.
Trust: the experiment
Then from there things blossom organically where you play the scariest game ever, the game of ‘can I trust you?’ Trust is the other crucial element in friendship. This takes some time. Do small social experiments & notice the outcomes. It may start gradual like, can I trust you to keep plans, can I trust you to show up on time, return a text. Then it may move to can I trust you enough with my family, to reveal something embarrassing or unsavory, a hearts desire, to treat me with respect, to really show up for me when I need you.
Progress not Perfection
It may or may not ever get there, but finding your tribe starts with 1.
Like any relationship. Allow for mistakes. You are both learning each other, figuring out hot buttons, and quirks. Practice forgiveness. Use the three strikes & your out rule. Don’t be a doormat.
So how did I find my latest friend… Like great friend…Like soul connected friend? We met in a mommy & me class, both feeling super out of place we shared an affinity for not following the rules, a shared curiousity in the world around us, never ending desire for coffee, play, and found comfort during some dark tough transitions of motherhood. It was friendship magic, rare, & true. 5 years later, still dancing, laughing, & crying together.
And over things as simple as that a soul sister can be born. Friends I’m not saying it’s easy…I’m just saying it’s possible.