I’m going to put it out there. Making friends once you reach a certain age is hard.
Maybe hard isn’t the right word, although it feels like it is sometimes. It’s just … different.
Remember as kids, a smile was all it took to make a friend? You’d discover you both wore the same Impulse deodorant or had a mutual obsession with Scott Wolf. Next thing you know, you’re BFFs.
What about your 20s when life revolved around your friends? When friendships seemed equally as important to you as family, if not more, because they just got you?
Enter your 30s and 40s when life becomes more complicated. You have demanding jobs, partners, kids and ageing parents. You have a lower tolerance for putting up with other people’s shit and can recognise toxic friends a mile away. Friends move, people change, and you have differing views on life. You grow up. You have less time and energy for friends and sometimes it’s easier to stay at home watching Netflix than leave the house.
Before you know it, your friendships have taken a backseat. And it’s crazy. It’s crazy how that happens because your 30s and 40s are when shit is getting real. You’re dealing with marriage breakups and mental breakdowns, infertility, menopause, or you simply want one hour, one teeny tiny hour away from the family to preserve your own sanity. It’s during this stage of our lives that we need the support of our lady friends more than ever.
At 38, my friendship circle has shrunk considerably. I have some beautiful, long-lasting female friendships, but can count on one hand the friends who live in my city that I can catch up with when I’m down or want a fun girls’ night out.
I feel lonely at times, which is a strange thing to feel when I’m in a loving relationship and have two children. It’s the type of lonely void that only a female friendship can fill.
Now that my daughters are older and I’ve had a chance to breathe, I’ve realised there is a gap in my life. I’m missing the friendships of my 20s. I want a Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha group of friends – maybe with less debauchery – that I can share life with until we’re old biddies wreaking havoc in the nursing home. Women who support, challenge and raise each other up.
I’ll hazard a guess that the friendships you make in this period of your life will be among the most real you’ve had. You have lived life, you know who you are, and you know what kind of people you want to invite into your life.
But, herein lies the question. How the fuck do you make these friendships? While everyone already has friends and they’re busy with their own lives, how do you weasel your way in without feeling totes awkward?
If you’re an introvert like me, the thought of seeking out new friends can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. There are simple ways you can make friends later in life.
You’ve finally figured out who you are and are happy in yourself, so don’t change for anyone. Be awkward, be geeky, be shy, be out there, be whoever it is you are because being authentic is far more attractive, not to mention easier, than being someone you’re not. Build friendships based on who you are and not someone you’re trying to be.
Make friendship a priority
Building friendships takes time and commitment. If you form a connection with someone, make sure you nurture that connection. Take an interest in their life and don’t make it all about you. If you can’t catch up regularly in person, pick up the phone.
Join a group
Let’s get down to it. To make friends you will have to leave the house. Listen, I hear you. I love vegging out in front of the TV as much as the next person, but in order to build real friendships you’re going to have to get out there. Social networks like Meetup.com which connect you to like-minded people in your area are a great place to start. Group activities can be a non-threatening way to meet people who have shared interests.
Give back to your community and find new friends in the process. Whether it be joining the P&F at your child’s school, getting onboard with your local sporting association, or helping to maintain recreation areas, volunteering can be a rewarding way to meet new people.
Go through your Facebook friends list and reconnect
You may have 300 Facebook friends, but when was the last time you made contact with them? Send a few friends who live in your area a Facebook message. Ask them how they are and what they’ve been up to. This is a non-scary way to test the waters to see if a friendship can be rekindled.
Mummy play dates
Mothers groups aren’t for everyone, but I know many who have built strong friendships from them. Instead of joining a mothers group, I participated in organised mums and bubs activities in my community. Five years later, I’m still friends with two women I met through these activities. The cool thing about these groups is that you’re meeting people who are experiencing similar things to you at the same time as you.
You spend enough time there, you may as well make friends while you’re at it. Working part-time, I tend to be head down bum up to get as much done as possible before I pick up the kids. It is worthwhile pausing to notice the people around you. Start conversations at the photocopier or invite women out to lunch. You already have something in common, so this is a great place to start.
Do you belong to an online group or forum? Do you follow a blogger that you think you’d connect with in real life? Send them a PM to get the ball rolling. Some of my closest friends are those I’ve met online.