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How To Make Friends As An Adult.

How To Make Friends As An Adult. | Annie Wright, LMFT | www.anniewright.com

One of the things I often hear as a therapist who works with predominantly Millennial and Gen-X clients is this:

“It’s really hard to make friends as an adult!

Is it just me?

How do people do it?”

The reality is that many of us do find it harder to make new friends in our later twenties and thirties, but, since this isn’t really discussed all that often, we can sometimes be left wondering if it’s just us who’s having a hard time with it.

How To Make Friends As An Adult. | Annie Wright, LMFT | www.anniewright.com

How To Make Friends As An Adult.

I don’t think that’s the case at all. In fact, I think for a lot of us, making friends as an adult can feel hard.

So in today’s post, I want to share with you why I think this is, maybe help you feel a bit less lonely with this particular struggle, and offer up some practical, actionable guidance and therapeutic inquiries if making friends as an adult is something you’re personally struggling with.

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Obviously, having friends is a good thing.

I doubt that I need to tell you that having friends is a good thing.

It’s what half the sitcoms and movies of the world center on and, as Cicero anciently opined, “Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.”

But did you also know that friendship may make us live longer?

Or that, according to a study published in the Journal for Developmental Psychology, best friends buffer the physiological stress effects in our bodies and the psychological impact on our “global self-worth.”

And, as the mother of all longitudinal happiness studies – Harvard’s Grant Study – as analyzed by The Atlantic pointed out, “The seventy-five years and twenty million dollars expended on the Grant Study points … to a straightforward five-word conclusion: ‘Happiness is love. Full stop.’”

And, in my professional opinion, for those of us who identify as un- or under-parented, or who live far away from families of origin and aren’t super connected to a local community, friends become your veritable family. Your urban family. Your family of choice. Sometimes the person or people you need or want to list as your emergency contact. Your go-to. Your person.

For these and so many thousands of other reasons, friendship is obviously critical to overall life fulfillment.

But what’s also true is that, for many of us as we age up through our late twenties and thirties, it can often feel harder to maintain old friendships and more challenging still to form new friendships at quite the same intensity and depth as our prior ones.

So why is this?

Why is hard to make friends as an adult?

While there’s no one single reason as to why it may feel harder to form friendships as an adult (we all have our unique situations that contribute to this), generally speaking, there are, I think, three primary reasons why it might feel harder:

  1. Reduction of built-in cohorts.
  2. Reduction of intensity of shared experiences.
  3. Schedule overwhelm.

Reduction of built-in cohorts.What do I mean by reduction of built in cohorts?

Think about it: From roughly ages 5-22 we journey with a built-in cohort of companions from kindergarten to college that basically bakes in daily socializing to our lives.

We don’t have to work quite so hard at curating friendships (or even acquaintances) because year after year we meet new folks in our classes, our extra curriculars, even the summer camps or summer jobs woven in throughout.

We’re thrown together with people based on proximity and interests during some of the most intensely formative times of our lives.

But when you hit your twenties — unless perhaps you head off to grad school or enroll in the Peace Corps — your built-in cohorts likely reduce to those you work with or live near.

And while this definitely still exposes you to new people all of the time (think about all the job changes and moves you will or have made in your twenties and thirties!) the intensity of the connection may shift and change from days past.

Reduction of intensity of connection.

Please don’t mistake me: I don’t think life gets less intense in your late twenties and thirties. (Arguably it gets more so!)

But the shared experience of how you go through these times as you age shifts.

In your teens and twenties, your intense life experiences happen side by side on your varsity soccer team, in your dorm, in your sorority, etc., etc., Later on, though, post-college and grad school, you’re still having intense moments but perhaps only sharing them with housemates or a favorite coworker or friends you may see less often.

As we age, most of us become a bit more isolated in who and how we experience intense life moments with unless we proactively work to shift that.

And given how overwhelming schedules can become in your late twenties and thirties, this takes work.

Schedule overwhelm.

In our late twenties and early thirties, there’s usually a tightening and compacting of schedules that life demands of us.

Exploration – career and hobby wise – may fade, priorities may shift, schedules demand more from us at work or in commutes, and simply juggling the logistics to get two people together on opposite sides of a city (let alone four if you’re trying to hang as a couple) can feel increasingly hard.

So all of this to say: maintaining old friendships and forming new ones may feel much more logistically challenging.

And whether or not it’s reduction of built-in cohorts, reduction of intensity of shared experiences, and schedule overwhelm, or some combination of these elements or none of them at all, if you’re struggling with making new friends as an adult, please realize you’re not alone in this.

I think it feels hard for many people for these and many other real, practical reasons.

Okay, so how can I make friends as an adult?

If you’re reading this nodding your head, resonating with what I’m writing, and still wondering how you can actually make friends as an adult, I now want to offer both a list of practical suggestions and also a list of therapeutic inquiries that may plant a seed and help you on your path to make new friends as an adult.

Because the reality is, there’s actually a lot of very wonderful things about now consciously attempting to make more friends as an adult. For starters, you likely know yourself better and can now seek out more like-minded, similarly oriented folks in a way that you just don’t get to do when you’re all lumped together thanks to zipcodes in high school. 

So, these suggestions and inquiries are by no means prescriptive — use them as a catalyst for your own creative ideas about how you might want to approach this — and definitely leave a message in the comments at the end of this post if you have some additional, helpful ideas to share with our community of blog readers.

Practical suggestions:

  • Reconnect with old friends. Before you rush to seek out and form new friendships, be curious if there are any old friends in your past you may want to reconnect with. Remember that old Girl Scout song? “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.” Who knows if this will feel true for you but it’s worth a try!
  • Put yourself in real life situations with new people. Whether this is a mastermind group, recreational ultimate leagues, weekly Zumba classes at Y, a night class at a local community college, a REI training class, a MeetUp, put yourself in situations where you’ll meet multiple new people face to face. (And, better yet, consider hosting a class, party, or Meetup if you feel up to it!)
  • Similarly, say yes to invites where you’ll be exposed to new people. A birthday dinner party for a girlfriend where you may not know everyone else, a networking gig, an alumni gathering, say yes to moments where you’ll be exposed to new people. I know this can feel hard if you struggle with social anxiety, so take your time, and start off by saying yes to invites that push your boundaries a little bit each time.
  • Find and follow your kindred spirits on social media. I think one of the best parts about social media is how we can more easily seek out our like-minded kindred spirits — our Wolf Pack! — that we may not otherwise have had any other way of meeting. Connecting and following someone online may not bloom into a real friendship right away, but this may happen over time if you two decide to take it offline (and this has definitely been the case for me!).
  • Deliberately plan time in your calendar monthly for friendship. I know this sounds silly but life gets super busy and before you know it, months have flown. And so, as my one of my mentors, Marie Forleo, says, “if it’s not scheduled, it’s not real.” Put a friendship date — whether with an old friend or a new one — down in your calendar and stick to it. Don’t let schedule overwhelm keep you from prioritizing this if making friends is, in fact, a priority for you.
  • Join a therapy group! Whether this is a Women’s Circle, a grief processing group, a recently broken hearted or preparing yourself for relationship group, find a circle of people journeying through something you’re going through. That kind of connection can be vulnerable and powerful. 
  • Use social media in a different way. If you want to cultivate a deeper kind of friendship, be more vulnerable on your social platforms, don’t just make it be a highlight reel. You may deepen connections you already have or draw new people to you. And if it feels too risky to do this with your established profiles, consider setting up a Finstagram, a separate, alternate account you only use with your besties (or soon-to-be-besties).
  • Volunteer. Or join a Board. Or host a fundraiser. Again, it’s all about putting yourself in environments where you’ll be exposed to new folks and the bonus here is feeling good for giving back!
  • Host something for your neighbors. Or, at least, say “Hi” in the hallway or on the street taking out the recycling bin.
  • Be proactive and pursue things that you’re interested in/passionate about. Whether it’s a jewelry making class, open water kayaking, or investing, join groups and classes online or in-person and go from there.
  • Host a monthly potluck. Or gather at a restaurant and ask your friends to bring someone new into your group each month.

Where we can get therapeutically curious:

As you can see, none of the above suggestions are rocket science and they’re really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creative ideas about how to meet and make new friends.

So where we also want to be curious is if there’s something bigger showing up for you when you think about going off and pursuing some of these practical suggestions. If there is some kind of psychological resistance that shows up for you.

For instance, here are some inquiries I invite you to reflect on if making friends as an adult feels like a challenge for you beyond the practical, logistical side of things:

  • Do you have resistance to initiating new friendships? Are you actually open to new relationships right now?
  • Are there issues in current or older friendships you’re avoiding looking at in your pursuit of new friendships?
  • Do you trust that there are people out there that you’ll resonate with? Or do you have a fairly pessimistic view about meeting new people?
  • What comes up for you when you think about exposing yourself to new people and new situations?
  • What’s your history of friendship been like? Is it painful in any way and is any of that showing up for you when you think about actively trying to make new friends?
  • What do you know about how you “tend to” and nourish the friendships you do have in your life?
  • Are you using your schedule or lack of energy as an excuse or avoidance of doing the vulnerable work of making connections?
  • Does any part of you feel frustrated or angry that making friends as an adult is this hard? Do you have an expectation it “should” be easier?

Wrapping this up and moving forward.

I hope you enjoyed today’s article and, more than anything, I hope that if you’ve personally been struggling with feeling isolated in the struggle to maintain and make new, close friendships as an adult you feel less alone after reading this.

The reality is, I think that many of us struggle with maintaining old and forming new close friendships as we get older. You’re not alone in this at all.

And while your situation and reasons for this struggle are, of course, unique, there are, I believe some fairly common logistical and practical barriers as to why this is hard for many of us.

But what’s also true is that with effort and inquiry, it’s never too late to form friendships and to meet your next kindred spirit.

So I hope the list of practical suggestions and therapeutic inquiries felt helpful to you as you begin to think about what this may look like for you.

And now I’d love to hear from you in the comments below:

Have you struggled with making friends as an adult? What’s one practical suggestion you have for someone wanting to make new friends as an adult? What worked well for you and what guidance would you like to pass onto others? Leave a message in the comments below so our community of blog readers can benefit from your wisdom.

If you would like additional support right now and you live in California or Florida, please feel free to reach out to me directly to explore therapy together. You can also book a complimentary consult call to explore therapy with one of my fantastic clinicians at my trauma-informed therapy center, Evergreen Counseling.

Or if you live outside of these states, please consider enrolling in the waitlist for the Relational Trauma Recovery School – or my signature online course, Hard Families, Good Boundaries, designed to support you in healing your adverse early beginnings and create a beautiful adulthood for yourself, no matter where you started out in life.

And until next time, please take very good care of yourself. You’re so worth it.

Warmly, Annie



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  1. Steven says

    Thank you for writing this. It’s quite true and very accurate, but I can’t help but adding my own personal belief, that it’s harder to make friends of the opposite gender because of built in social expectations. As in it’s a negative to be just a friend with someone who is single, because that person may feel that there’s something wrong with them. Or if someone wants to genuinely be friends, but the other person is dubious and incredulous to the offer. Maybe it’s just where I live, or who I choose to communicate with.

    Again, thank you for the wonderful article. I’m sure you will help and broaden the horizons of a plethora of readers! Take great care!

    • Annie says

      Hi Steven,

      Thank you for taking the time to read the post and for responding. I agree with you that an added challenge to making friends as we age can be societal (or personal) expectations and pressures around gender, relationship status, etc. I don’t think you’re alone in feeling this way and imagine it’s a struggle for many men and women.

      I appreciate you taking the time to write and am glad it inspired you to share your perspective.

      Warmly, Annie

  2. Nikki says

    A big issue I keep running into time and again (since my early 20’s) is that I think I’m making friendships and it’s progressing beyond being being an acquaintance; but then I’ll say or do something or they’ll say or do something and it’s obvious we’re not as close as I thought. I’ve had this happen in groups and at college. And there have been times were I just haven’t really connected with anyone. Everyone seems so busy that it becomes disheartening.

    • Annie says

      Hi Nikki,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think that what you shared is something a lot of people could relate to. A sudden shift in closeness in friendship, the challenge of everyone being so busy… These things definitely happen in the course of friendship as we age and I totally hear you that it can feel disheartening. Your feelings about this are totally valid.

      Again, thank you for taking the time to write.

      Warmly, Annie

  3. Richard says

    One of the biggest battles in my friend-seeking is social media–that being the primary way people meet nowadays. I don’t use social media, because it’s so easy for a person to defame you(or worse), and almost all relationships never reach the deep level which I desire. And, social media has made it far more difficult to approach new people in real life. I get on the bus these days, and everyone seems so guarded; trying to look at anything except another person.

    • Annie says

      Hi Richard,

      Yes, I really agree with you that social media has really changed the way most of us relate and connect (or don’t, for that matter). Deepening authentic, connected relationships takes time and seems to be something many of us struggle with so I hope you know you’re not alone in this.

      Warmly, Annie

  4. Kendra says

    I was just talking about this the other day! I find that the most difficult part is moving from acquaintances to actual friends. It sounds kind of crazy, but I use something of a formula for that. When I meet a new friend that I would like to integrate in to my life, I try to see them weekly (if possible) or every other week for about 4 instances. That seems to get past the “who are you” part to the “how are you” and really makes it feel like you’ve become people who are involved in each other’s lives. It’s worked really consistently for me, and some of the others I’ve told.

  5. Samantha Fields says

    I was in a very controlling relationship that isolated me from friends and family. It took 28 years to get out of that mess. At 55 years old I left my home in Colorado and moved to Maine where I had no friends and no family. I will be 57 this month and I am still on my own and finding it difficult to make friends so I really appreciate this article. I do have some great friends but no one close by. I think of where I live right now as a transitional layover before I move on to what I intentionally want in my life. I have not put much energy into making friends because I always have in the back of my mind that I will be leaving here. Despite that I have made some good friends. I may head back to Colorado where my best friend lives but I want to have more friends again. To me it is quality of friendships not quantity. I want to have friends who share common interests but also friends who have different interests so I can learn about new things. I love social media and being online and count some of my Facebook friends as read, honest to goodness friends. Some I have met, some I have not. My thought is that on my drive back to Colorado I would stop along the way to meet some of these amazing people. I do want in person friendships though so I can share experiences with people who care about me and the things that are important to me even if they are not important to them. I do plan on using meetup.com to start looking for like minded people. Some of the things I like are a little off the beaten path (astrophysics, math, organizing, science, space exploration, pet abuse & safety in relation to domestic abuse) but some are typically mainstream (hiking, reading, classical music, attending plays, concerts, going to art museums, photography, writing, movies). So I feel like I have a lot of avenues to pursue where I can be with like minded people or to put myself into more challenging places where I can meet new people and learn new things. I look forward to putting some of your suggestions into practice and discussing some of the therapeutic questions with my counselor. Thanks for this great article.

    • Annie says

      Hi Samantha,

      Thank you for sharing your personal experience so generously and I certainly hope that implementing some of the tips feel helpful and useful to you. And I think it’s a brilliant idea to talk about some of the therapeutic questions with your counsellor.

      Warmly, Annie

  6. Kari says

    I appreciate the strategy of being vulnerable on social media and not just posting the highlight reel of life.

    I consider myself an extrovert but I spent a good deal of my 30’s alone – even though I am married. We are a childless couple and this reality excluded me from many social experiences with friends around the same age. As a result, most of my friends are older than me by 10 – 30 years. I’m in my 50’s and have a small but cherished group of people I can call friends. In my early 40’s I met one person who generously connected me with a wider circle of friends. I realize now that lots of people feel isolated and it takes more initiative than I anticipate to share a meal with someone, have coffee or just to actually talk on the phone.

    • Michele says

      Kari – so well said, and I can totally relate! Although I do have step-kids, as a stepmom you still aren’t in the “mom’s club” so I missed out on those social connections and experiences as well. I’m in my 50’s as well and it is really tough to make new lasting friendships. It is disheartening when you make the effort to connect but then feel that the effort is not reciprocated. I’m very hard on myself so it really makes me feel like a loser when I hear about girl’s weekend trips, girls nights etc. from co-workers and acquaintances.

      • Annie says

        I’m glad you could relate to what Kari, said, Michelle, and I can certainly see how it might feel harder to be part of a mom’s club when you’re in the stepmom role. And it totally makes sense that you would feel disheartened when your efforts to connect go unreciprocated. I hope that you can be kind with yourself around this. Warmly, Annie

    • Annie says

      “I realize now that lots of people feel isolated and it takes more initiative than I anticipate to share a meal with someone, have coffee or just to actually talk on the phone.”

      I think you hit the nail on the head with this comment, Kari. I really appreciate your insight and how you’ve shared your personal experience. Thank you for taking the time to comment and share of yourself. Warmly, Annie

  7. Ashley says

    We had finally cultivated a fabulous circle of family friends, and then we had to move for a job, to a town about 1/10 the size of our former city. We’re 90 miles away, so close enough to sometimes see my old every month or two, but not several times a week like before.

    I think part of my problem here is that I just want my old friends! I have made a couple friends here in the last 8 months since we moved, but I feel like my closesness with my old friends will be jeopardized somehow not only by distance but growing closer to someone new. I know that’s not exactly accurate but I can’t help but feel that missing my friends and sort of hoping to move back is actually keeping me from making new ones here.

    • Annie says

      Hi Ashley,

      What you’re experiencing makes so much sense! I think the desire to hold onto our old friends is something that many of us can experience when we move to new places. It’s totally normal and natural to feel that way and I hope you take compassionate care of yourself in your transition. Moves are stressful and I din it always takes time for new relationships to unfold once we move. Warmly, Annie

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