My daughter holds hands with her new friend, like she knew her from a past life. I watch them, noticing there is no hesitation in their rapport. There is laughter, squealing, and joy in their interactions. They skip down the hallway, the echo of their chattering coloring the blank space.
I am a envious of the ease of my daughter’s connection to her new friend.
Since moving to a new city, I’ve made many acquaintances, but trying to take some of these relationships beyond the superficial has presented its challenges. Making new friends in my thirties has proven to be an enigma. The opportunities to meet new people aren’t always happening. I am not in college or graduate school and my workplace is my home where I spend the majority of time writing alone. Time is another factor. People are busy with their jobs, marriages and their children’s social calendar. Others may have the time to cultivate new friendships, but are reluctant to do so because they already have a well established circle of friends. They aren’t accepting any new applicants.
But I still long for some real connections. Writing and motherhood are solitary activities. The need to talk to people, to engage in a meaningful exchange is something I don’t underestimate. As a result, I’ve put myself out there. Hosting parties, joining book clubs, and participating in neighborhood activities to make these relationships happen. But there is something unnatural about it all. I am trying to make these friendships happen where they may not be any common ground. So sometimes as soon as I make a connection, I lose it. And that is disappointing.
I could take this disappointment and retreat into my safe place, not seeking rapport with others because of the rejection. I don’t think that is the answer. I find that dialogue with others enriches my life. I learn aspects about myself that I never would have encountered if I had remained in my cocoon. And because I have chose to live outside of it, I have made some friends that I think are lasting relationships. Living in this world and getting the most out of it means extending that hand. And sometimes you will have someone reach out and other times you may be rejected. But you have to try or you won’t ever know.
Do you find friendships are harder to make as you get older? Is it difficult maintaining friendships because of time? How do you make time to forge new relationships?
I think kids are much better at making friends than adults because we know how people can be. Adults have obligations and personalities and issues to work around. Kids are so innocent, as long as they can color or play with toys together it’s all good.
Even when you pretty much make it your life’s work to make new friends, it’s hard. I spend lots of time and energy–and a whole blog–trying to make new BFFs, and it still isn’t so easy. Slowly, new friends are calling me, checking in to see what I’m up to as opposed to the other way around. But it takes a lot of time and phone calls and nights out when I’d rather be in bed with a good book. But I’m so glad I do it. I know what you mean about it feeling unnatural though, it’s just not the same as it is for little kids who can giggle over the smallest things. Or even for high school or college friends who you see every day. It takes work. Lots and lots of work. And you just have to keep trying, and slowly the other hands reach back out to you.
Hi Rudri – as always (I find myself saying this every time I read your posts I think!) a beautifully written piece. I have been here in the US for six years now and have yet to find those one or two special friendships I seek. I think it does get harder as you get older and I think being a SAHM for me has made it especially hard because work, associated activities and my old leisure pursuits are where I found friendships in the past and now really my opportunities are limited to Mom groups and although I have found friendships the common ground is our kids and to date I’ve not found much more than that.
I need to make more effort, but being the anti-social type that requires some determination and a plan as to how and where to look next.
Tough questions, Rudri! Yes, I do find it harder to make friends now – or at least to build comfortable, authentic connections (and I liked the way you focused on those here). I live in a rural area, which doesn’t help. But I also often get the sense that nice people I meet, with whom I have things in common, already have complete “circles” – and while they aren’t unfriendly, I feel like an outsider. It feels like dating! (Am I supposed to suggest we exchange numbers?)
I can completely understand where you are coming from on this. I moved to the city I live in almost 10 years ago when I started college. Back then, it was easy because I had tons of friends at my university. Unfortunately, though, when school was over they all moved away and I was left here, in a city I’d already inhabited for 4 years, and I had no friends left. I still have only one very good friend, and a couple of acquaintances.
I’ve been doing the same thing as you, trying to put myself out there to create connections, but like you said it all seems a little fake. I am starting to really enjoy my writing club, for instance, but the common ground ends at the part where “we all like to write.” Because even though most of them are around my age, none of them are married with small children. And THAT is one of the biggest barriers to new friendships that I’ve found lately. People without children just live in a different world.
Anyway…sorry for the long comment. I just wanted to know that this really resonated with me, and I completely understand. I just wish I knew a solution to it, also!
I just wrote a semi-related post today! I absolutely think that making friends is hard, hard, hard in adult life. I long for those college days, when we lived together, ate together, worked, studied and played together. Over time we developed common ground, strengthened our bonds, and many of those bonds remain today.
I’m also on a mission these days to be a better friend-maker and relationship-builder. I agree, it’s so tough to balance being mom, wife, writer, neighbor, daughter, sister, etc., etc., etc. while also developing new friendships. Like you, I’m continuously putting myself out there and hopeful about where it will take me.
Really thoughtful post!
Important discussion and meaningful discussion. It’s true that lots of things get harder as we get older, part of that comes from changing perspective but also I think our expectations change. And I’m not suggesting that they change in a bad way, just that they change because our needs change and so the circle we have to pull from becomes so much smaller. I have a handful of very close girlfriends, but it is a small handful. These women are important to me, of course, but to be quite honest even those relationships are changing. I’ve reached out via blogging and I’m finding that right now, when I have to stay close to home, when I have less free time to get out and participate in activities, this is where it’s at. Maybe that’s unhealthy, but it works for now. And the best part, it’s so much easier to surround yourself with people who think about the same things!
I struggle with this myself. I find it difficult to establish a close, meaningful friendship – most people I meet now already have a comfortable, tight social network or they are often busy with their own family so I just can’t bring myself to impose upon them. I agree with Christine that our expectations change as we get older. We don’t just look for like-minded folk but we seek those who also want to make that connection with us. When I feel that I’m doing most of the reaching out, I get exhausted from trying to chase these relationships, and they too eventually fizzle.
I enjoy my conversations with people I’ve met in the blogosphere, but it saddens me that we can’t simply meet for coffee because sometimes you really just need someone there to look into your eyes and laugh with you, or to say it’s OK. It’s great that technology increased the ease with which we stay connected (e.g. mobile internet, facebook, email) but these cold connections are poor substitutes of a warm hug or smile from a friend who is right there with you.
so true, Rudri; it was so much easier making friends when we were younger; now it seems like a chore
You’re right, you have to try or you’ll never know. I am not currently seeking friendships, but I do find them in unexpected places. I am the type of person that I have few intimate friends and I am comfortable with that. It is hard for me to find time for myself or family if I try to surround myself with too many people.
This really hit home as I have been having somewhat similar thoughts. Even though I know I have many, many wonderful friends in my life, I am feeling a disconnect with many of them because it is so hard to find time to get together. Most of my friends now have children – I do not, so we don’t have that “similiarity” where, for example, we could set up play dates for the kids and use that time to catch up with each other. Also, many of my closest friends, including you Ru, now live far away, making it even more difficult to get together and keep in touch.
You may find that in church, too. People, I find, put up walls sometimes. They don’t mean to, but they do anyway. Shyness gets in the way or a lack of self confidence prevents them from sharing a bit of themselves with you.
You’re doing all the right things. You’re getting out there. It will happen. Friendships take time. Keep trying.
Hi Rudri – As always, this is a beautifully-written and thoughtful post. And I share your experience almost exactly. One thing that I’ve found very interesting since deciding to stay home with my kids is that so many relationships spring up around them and the parents of kids that they play with. And that is great in a way because it gives me a pool of candidates to meet and audition. 😉 But it’s also hard because there seems to be some assumption that all moms can and will be friends because their kids are friends. In three years of living here, I have made two or three good friends and I think that’s a very lucky ratio.
Making friends has always been easy for me, very easy. I have always had lots of friends UNTIL I moved to the suburbs and became a “mostly” stay at home mom.
It has been a truly unique experience. I think the problem was that I really had very little in common with the people I met. I seemed to connect with my kid’s friends mothers but at first found that we only had the kids in common.
Soon that changed and I found my place here. My community. It takes time.
This has been a subject of discussion recently with another couple of bloggy friends of mine and we’re all pretty much on the same page on this.
Basically when I left school I pretty much lost touch with school friends. When I started work I made a great new set of friends but then lost touch with them when I started a family. I ‘kicked myself’ for years for having allowed this to happen, until one day I realised that I may not have called them but, hang on, they hadn’t called me either! The friendships I made as a Mummy in my 30s were harder to form and far more tenuous, so that they too have fallen by the wayside. Now I have vague contact with old workmates and my best friend from school has just popped back into my life (although we rarely see each other – it’s more a question of emailing each other)! All I can say is, thank goodness for the internet. If I wasn’t so shy I may well be Skyping all over the place but the fact of the matter is that I really hate talking on the telephone!
What I particularly love about the internet is the fact that I have friends of all different ages whom I’m quite sure I would never usually have a chance to mix with, and because of our geographical locations I’m positive we would otherwise never have come across each other anyway. I know these friendships are no substitute having a friend physically by your side for when times are really bad but they are, nonetheless, very rewarding.
I wouldn’t say it’s harder for me to make friends now…but I’m definitely more picky about who I choose!
I agree with Elastamom. It’s not that it’s necessarily harder, but I definitely am much more particular about with whom I share my time.
I think it is harder. And moving and staying home makes it more so. I keep getting disappointed and surprised. They don’t call. We have such fun! But friendships take time to build. We moved a year ago, and I thought by now I would certainly have more friends. More time…