Why is It So Hard to Make Friends as an Adult?

making friends as an adult

Five months ago, I moved from New York City to Los Angeles. I lived in NYC for eleven years, tend to make friends easily, and I had a large network I took for granted.

I’m single, I live alone, and I’m a freelancer, so I had no partner, roommate, or coworkers to help me expand my social circle. I quickly discovered that making friends wasn’t as easy as I’d always assumed. Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t connecting in meaningful ways with those who I share my new city with.

It’s hard to make friends as an adult because most of us are pretty set in our ways. We have our friends, our routines, and it’s hard to deviate from them. Plus, we don’t have the built-in opportunities we had when we were younger and everyone was at similar life stages. As we grow older, some may be married with kids, while other friends are single and having fun. When we’re younger most of us are in school, then college, and on to post-college life.

Also, maybe now that you’re older you’ve also been burned by friendships. It’s scary to be vulnerable and put yourself out there again if you’ve had a tough friend breakup.

But we all know that friendship is important— even research has equated friendship with happiness. A 2014 study found that the frequency of socialization is positively associated with life satisfaction.

While making friends as an adult can be tough, the best part about making new friends is an ability to create healthier friendship patterns. New friendships give you a clean slate, the opportunity to learn from mistakes in past friend relationships and forge new ones that have even stronger ties. You can find the friends who will most compliment you and help you achieve a more fulfilling life, people who you can be there for, too.

Tips to Make New Friends as an Adult

It will take some work to make new friends, but you’ll find it to be so worth it. Here are some strategies for making friends as an adult, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert.

1. Become a joiner

Think about the things you wish you had more time to do. Are you a tennis player whose racquet has grown rusty? Join a tennis group. Pro tip: although many sports leagues are inherently social, you may want to look for a group that has a built-in social component to ensure conversation beyond the net.

2. Take classes

This doesn’t have to be as formal as going back to school, but if you’re interested in writing or learning a language, sign up for a class! Check out community colleges or language institutes in your area, and consider convening a study group outside of your class to practice your Spanish or a writing group to take these new friendships beyond the classroom.

3. Ask your existing friends

We’re going to assume you like your existing friends and you’re just looking to expand your social circle. Ask your current network who’s in their network. And make it specific — tell your friend, for example, that you’re looking for a yoga buddy or someone to try out new restaurants with.

4. Volunteer for a cause you believe in

Find a cause that you believe in, and volunteer your time. If altruism is something you value in a friend, this is a great way to meet someone whose values align with yours. You know that you have similar interests, and you’ll be sharing an experience together.

5. Find meetups for your interests

It doesn’t always have to be as formal as a club or class. Take whatever strange fascination you have, and there’s probably some sort of meetup for it. Live in downtown Jersey City and love the Gilmore Girls? There’s a meetup for that. You know you’ll automatically have a ton to talk about — and something you don’t typically get to talk about with others.

6. Look into support groups

Just lost a parent or just got divorced? Struggle with your mental health or live with a chronic condition? Consider looking into a support group. Your Talkspace therapist could help you find a more clinical group, but some are more informal. If you’re in your 20s and 30s, The Dinner Party is a great resource for those who have lost someone.

7. Use your kids or pets to your advantage

Whether you have a “furchild” or a human child, you automatically have another way to expand your circle. Find playgroups or activities for your child, and you’re bound to meet some like-minded parents as you watch them on the soccer field. If you’re a pet parent, you might want to try a meetup for your dog breed. Bonus: you’ll be surrounded by so many cute dogs!

8. Organize something yourself

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Create it yourself. Try creating a writing group for novelists if you’re working on finishing your novel, whether it’s your first or fourth. If you’re looking for friends to run with, put together your own running group. Know that initially your group will probably be pretty small, but this allows a way to get to know people in an even more intimate setting.

9. Use social media to your advantage.

Social media is a double-edged sword — it’s sometimes associated with making us more antisocial as a culture and leading to depression. But this discounts that it is social media. It has the power to connect us with others. Use social media to tap into people you haven’t seen in a while or as an avenue to ask your Facebook friends who you should know. Or take any of your interests above, for example, and find an online community you can then take offline. I’m a runner, and I’ve made some of my best friends in both New York and LA by posting about running and participating in the online running community.

If you’re nervous about making new friends as an adult, just remember that everybody has been in this situation at some point — and we promise that nobody is judging you as much as you think they are.

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