It's Hard to Make Friends, Especially as an Adult
You are not alone in this struggle, we all need friends.
What does friendship mean in your early 40s? I remember watching SATC in my twenties thinking those ladies are amazing friends. I kind of pictured my friend circle like that. My favorite character was Samantha Jones, and yes, I work in PR. All I do is work, work, and work though. It seems it was all a lie. I now think there is no way those four characters would be friends in real life. How about the show Friends? Would they all be friends in their 40s? Is it just me or is making friends as an adult particularly hard? Where do you even meet people? How do you know they are not crazy or worst?
Believe it or not, work is a good place to meet people. It is not a great place to make friends. Unfortunately, proximity does not equal meaningful connection. It just means you eat lunch together. That's where many middle school friendships start right? In the cafeteria. Well darling, the past isn't a pretty place to live. There weren't promotions at stake or adult responsibilities involved. I would caution against making too many work friends, as they are colleagues. If you quit like Jerry Maguire, they ain't coming with you, unless of course you show them the money. All 90s references aside, you are there to work and earn a living. Anything else isn't a realistic expectation, but once in a while, you do meet people at work that are genuinely good people. Trust your gut on this one.
When we are younger, I do believe it is a matter of both proximity and quantity that defines a friendship. You hang out and do fun things together. You kind of grow up together and you probably had no problems meeting people. Some people are lucky enough to have the same friends their whole lives. Many of us moved around and lost touch with people for various reasons. I moved to Florida from New Jersey in 2007 and it has taken me a long time to find a couple of people to be friends with.
The point of this post isn't to tell you where to go to make friends, but to discuss the concept of adult friendships. We all need friends, but in the end we need people who are genuinely interested in our lives as friends. In all our adult relationships we need equal effort, interests, and life goals. It just doesn't work with anyone that isn't on the same level, so it's better to approach life with that mentality.
A friendship isn't a romantic relationship, but our expectations should be the same in each. If you have to be someone other than your full authentic self, then it's not worth your time. This is my litmus test for everything in life now...are we equals and can we be ourselves around each other? If the answer is no to either part of that test, then I am better off without that added time constraint. Real friendships, just like real love is rare. You don’t find a real friend everyday. You can find a lot of people you get along with and people to hang out with. Friendship is something that can't be explained, it is a bond that exists between two people that is somewhat random. Most relationships in life aren't logical, but based on how we connect with a person. It is fully irrational and it is amazing to be around people who are genuinely vested in you.
I know I am a better friend to my friends than they are to me. I haven't always been such a great friend, but it was a self-defense move. My so called best friend in high school abandoned me in our senior year. We were friends with many of the same people, but she convinced them all that they shouldn't be my friend either. On her birthday, after she got her license, she had everyone in her car going out for dinner. My dad was running late from work, so I couldn't go until he came home. When he finally got there, he put me in the car and drove me to meet up with them.
I was probably 10 minutes late, but I guess in high school time that was an eternity. They were not even seated yet when they saw my car pulling up. They clearly recognized the car, then all ran to her car and left. I think my dad's heart broke for me. He tried to tell me they probably just wanted to go somewhere else and he offered to take me there. Yet, we both knew that just wasn't the truth. I asked to just go home. The behavior continued for months until she just stopped speaking to me all together. All of them actually stopped being my friend. I made all new friends, and went to prom with that group. I didn't really feel a connection with them, and the friendships all faded out within a year or two.
Eventually, she - along with everyone else in the group became my friend again -long after high school. We are still friends, but she has never explained why she treated me so badly. I always forgive and try to forget.
Even after all these years, I can't forget how awful it felt to have my friends all turn their back on me. I don't even know what I did to deserve that. It made me think I shouldn't and couldn't trust people. I was in a sorority in college, but I was close to a handful of people. I have fond memories of those times. Yet, I struggle with my personal friendships as an adult. It's not that I lack social skills, actually I'm an empath, so I can blend in to most rooms based on vibes. I wasn't a good friend to people for a long time because I just didn't want to get too close and then have it end badly. I did a lot of things to end the friendship myself. I would be harsh or judgmental. Maybe I would start fights or find ways to end everything. I apologize to those I hurt when I was hurting. I was just protecting myself and I wish I was better.
I believe we need friends in life. We need people outside of our family or other than our life partners as friends. I wish I could say it is easy to make friends, maybe it is for some people. I would rather be with my family, than with anyone I don't think is good for my overall well-being. If a person with whom you share a deep bond of friendship comes along, then cherish them. Be a good friend and give your friendship freely. Not all friendships will last forever, but it is hard to make it through life without friends. Be good to people and allow them to be good to you as well.
In a future blog post I promise to talk about what to look for in adult friendships, especially if you are an introvert or living away from where you grew up. I will also talk about how to put yourself out there and meet people. In this post I just wanted to acknowledge how hard it is for some people to make friends. You are not alone, we all struggle with some things. It may feel lonely, but you are never really alone. Someone somewhere loves you, misses you, and cares deeply about you.
Cheers to your growth and mine.