I think we can all agree that making new friends is one of the most stressful experiences an adult can have! As we age, friendships can take a backseat to families, intimate relationships, work, or even caring for others. Yet humans are hard-wired for connection and intimacy and to feel we belong with others. Creating space for friendships can have huge improvements on life!
Are Friends Important?
A study by Kara Takasaki showed that people who have at least two close relationships with someone that wasn’t their spouse allowed them to have a higher quality of life regardless of other relationships, versus someone who did was likely to consider their happiness dependent on the relationship with their spouse or intimate partner. She noted that many participants in the study felt that friendships were just as durable as family relationships and offered “multiple perspectives, opportunities for individual growth, access to resources, social capital, and diverse compatibilities to meet the individual needs” that partners cannot. Having a balance in our support system can be helpful and encourage us to make hard decisions with less guilt.
In her same study, Takasaki notes that many “wished they still had access to a unique environment, like college, where they could easily establish social networks and long-lasting friendships”. There is difficulty in finding people who represent ourselves in the ways we are looking for when a natural environment no longer exists!
How Can I Make Friends?
- Go to places that represent parts of yourself you’d like to explore. Interested in learning a new skill? Take a cooking class. Looking to get more involved? Help put together a community event for a cause that is meaningful to you. You’ll immediately have something to talk about and a shared interest with others at the same place.
- Accept and offer invitations! It’s so easy and comfortable to stay home and enjoy our solo time, but saying no or not seeking out invitations from others limits the opportunity to interact with people who can be meaningful. Challenge yourself to accept an invitation, as well as extend an invitation, at least once a month. Putting yourself out there can be huge for your confidence and will encourage others to keep seeking you out.
- Reconnect with those who have sparked positive interactions. Whether it’s an old friend from high school or someone in your yoga class who joked around with you, you may already know tons of people worth connecting with. Send a text or just check in to see how they are doing and watch the sparks fly!
Remember, you don’t need to be friends with everyone to have a meaningful life. A few close friends that really support and connect with you are more than enough. Friendships are about quality, not quantity.
How Can We Make Friendships Last?
- Choose people that vibe with you. Participants in Takasaki’s study believed “that friends they carefully chose (or did not choose) reflected their personal identities and needs as adults”. Most people are not going to fit all parts of your life, so it is important to foster relationships with those that best represent us. You might have one friend you do really intense mountain biking with and another that enjoys trying new coffee shops with you. When we are able to not force all experiences onto one person, we are better able to experience the joy that relationship brings.
- Be available! Building a close relationship requires time—usually spent together! Make an effort to check in with one another and be open to creating time to have quality interactions.
- Open up. We can’t build intimacy in relationships if we aren’t willing to be vulnerable at times. Disclose experiences and be supportive to those wanting to share their experiences with you. If you think of a friendship you are seeking, what sticks out the most? Offering those qualities shows that you are there for others and expect the same in return.
You’re going to make mistakes. You might read the situation wrong or share something that may not go over well, and that is okay. Remind yourself that gross feelings will pass and continue putting in the work and meaningful relationships are right around the corner.
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