There’s an old song which reminds us, “breaking up is hard to do”. Everyone knows ending a relationship of any kind is difficult, even if you’re the one making the decision to end it. Have you ever thought about how hard it is to start a relationship? Whether you’re looking for a partner, best friend, a workout buddy, or a casual friend to grab coffee with at work, meeting that person might prove to be more of a challenge than you realized.
Having friends that are connected to your past is important. Friendships that stand the test of time are special because these people know who you once were as well as who you’ve become. What happens when these “older” friends are in different places in their lives than you and you two don’t have quite as much in common at the moment. You still love your friend but recently realized you need to connect with people who are in the same stage of life.
If your friends are married with children but you’re ready to hit up the town and party until 3:00am you two might not hang out in the same way or be up for the same thing. Or if you’ve moved to a new city your best friends might suddenly be 2000 miles away from you. It’s okay to branch out and meet new people who share your interests and live nearby.
Once you’ve decided you want to make new friends, following through might feel harder than you anticipated. Growing up people make friends through school, sports teams, youth groups, and other organized programs. It’s easier to meet people when you’re thrown into something and everyone there is also looking for the same thing. This is why college connects people instantly to others. Everyone there is starting fresh and is eager to meet new people and form strong bonds. So what happens when you’re in your thirties or forties and find yourself in need of new friends?
The truth is, making friends later in life can be challenging. It leaves you in a vulnerable situation and can stir up many insecurities you thought were long behind you. Suddenly you’re looking for cues through a text message to see if your potential new friend is actually sorry she can’t hang out or just not interested in getting to know you better. You’re giving deep thought as to whether or not you should friend someone on Facebook because you don’t want to seem too eager but you also want to continue forming a connection with your new buddy. You’re confused as to why you’re spending time giving thought to these questions when you previously considered yourself to be a confident person. You might find yourself simultaneously eager and anxious to make new friends which leaves you acting cautiously for fear of coming on too strong and pushing someone away. You may have found yourself in a situation where you need new friends but the people you’re meeting don’t have that seem need. As I previously mentioned, in earlier situations everyone shared the goal of meeting new people but later in life that might not be the case. So what do you do?
Start by getting clear about why you either need new or more friends at this point in your life. If you’re looking for people in similar stages in life, then find activities that can connect you with similar people. You can find hobbies you like and start joining clubs. Examples include a running group, an art class, a book club, a professional networking event in your area of expertise, or a mommy and me class. Even if you don’t meet people in the exact same stage of life as you you’ll at least find people who you have something in common with and can connect with on some level. Plus, the group will probably include at least one or two other people also looking for new friends who share common interests as them.
I encourage you to be yourself when meeting new people. You’re looking for people who you want to spend time with so trying to be someone else would mean you’re doing yourself a disservice. If someone doesn’t like you chances are you wouldn’t like them either. Why would you want to spend time with someone who didn’t appreciate you for who you are? Sometimes two people don’t connect. You might feel hurt if that happens but remember there are lots of other people out there who you will feel a connection with and you’ll get more from that person in the long run.
Sometimes making new friends is about needing someone who understands where you’re at in your life right now. These friends might turn into forever friends or they might simply serve a purpose in this present moment. Either way is okay. Friendships ebb and flow over time and you learn and grow from each new experience.