Along with my 30th birthday last year came the painful realisation that it’s not as easy to make friends now as compared to say, 10 years ago. Back in university, I stayed in a dorm for two years – the perfect breeding ground for young adult friendships. Nothing bonds you quicker than slogging over that midterm together and 3am prata suppers.
As a kid, my friends were mostly other kids who were fun to hang out at the playground with; in adolescence, new friendships were all about developing a support network while figuring out our identity.
Adult friendships are a different monster altogether. All the odds are stacked against you - you’re competing with one another’s packed work schedules, spouses, partners, kids, yoga classes...the list goes on.
Thankfully not all hope is lost. Turns out, it is possible to make new friends in your adulthood - here are 5 key things I've discovered that will help you navigate adult friendships.
1. Time is a b*tch, but it doesn’t mean you should just give up
When I was in my teens, my friends and I would spend hours just sitting and chatting in McDonald’s over a packet of large fries.
According to the Encyclopedia of Human Relationships, young adults often spend between 10 and 25 hours a week with friends - a far cry from my current state of applauding myself whenever I reply group chats promptly.
Free time in our 30s and upwards is a luxury. With work, relationships and other adult responsibilities in the mix, it takes serious effort to set aside quality time with friends.
And there’s no trick to getting over this. You just have to believe in spending time with your friends because they’re worth it. Planning in advance helps, greatly. But that’s only if your friends are equally invested - no amount of planning will work if you have flaky friends (the only thing you should be doing with those is dropping them immediately).
2. You don’t have to find friends who are similar to yourself
Making friends while growing up seemed so easy - we came from similar backgrounds, went to the same schools, had similar hobbies, hung out at the same places, and even had the same crushes.
As adults, because we move in wider circles, the people we meet may be vastly different from who we are. In fact, the friends we make as adults are usually grafted onto other spheres of our lives, such as co-workers or parents of your children’s friends. The truth is, it’s easier to make friends with people that you already spend time together with, be it in the office or at kids’ birthday parties.
3. Don’t be put off by your friends’ couplings
Most of the new friends I’ve made are either married, getting married, have kids, or are going to have a kid. This means it’s only natural that their priorities are their spouse and family.
Strangely, instead of creating a rift in our friendship, knowing where my friends’ priorities lie actually helps to sustain the relationship. I have realistic expectations of them (i.e. no more drinking in bars till 4am), and we still get to enjoy pockets of quality time that work for both of us (i.e. drinking on my friend’s balcony after her kids have gone to bed = win-win!).
4. It helps to be spontaneous
Ask your friends out for a quick lunch or coffee if you’re in the area where they work. Running errands together is also a great way to spend time together while checking things off your list.
Keep group chats active and just ask if you feel like hanging out - you never know what may come out of it. Last year, my friends and I went on a trip (our first group holiday ever) that spun off from a friend’s random text: Who wants to go to Bali?
5. Accept that adult friendships will never be the same as childhood ones
I’ve known my best friend for 16 years, and despite him moving to New Zealand last year, we’ve stayed close - he’s still the one I spill secrets to, and the only thing that has changed is me being mindful of the time-zone difference in case I wake him up with a string of rant-y texts at 4am.
I’m comfortable with the fact that I may never find anyone else who can share the wealth of inside jokes and references that we’ve developed over the years, and this knowledge frees me up to embrace new friends without expecting to become “best friends”.
This doesn’t mean that adult friendships are less worthwhile than childhood ones, though. On the contrary, realising that you have to adapt your relationships to the new circumstances of life in adulthood is the key to keeping old friends and making new ones.
Photo: HBO Girls
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