The New York Times ran an article “Why Is It Hard to Make Friends Over 30?” in 2012. It was so popular—and timeless—that they recently reran it. The central premise is that once we hit, or are nearing midlife, schedules become more demanding, priorities change, and people become pickier about their friends. Plus, we are no longer in situations (college, shared apartments) where interaction is constant and where our penchant for youthful exploration and romanticism is at its strongest. Those kind of magical friendships that felt a lot like falling in love, where we let our guards down and poured out our hearts, are harder to make because the circumstances that led to them have changed. So, how then, do we make new friends as mature adults—real friends, and not just acquaintances from work or your kids’ friends’ parents?
As someone currently experiencing this challenge, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the years—made more acute by a major move from the east to the west coast. I left behind friends I’d made in college and at my first job, as well as neighbors from the apartment we lived in for years.
Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:
Let age differences blur
Unlike in your 20s, the difference in years can really become insignificant in middle age. At 40, you may easily discover 30-year-olds or 50-year-olds that you gel with. After 30, maturity levels tend to even out, and it becomes more about shared experiences or worldviews that bind you together.
Let your passions lead you to your people
In college, friends were more about proximity, but as you get older the things that you love to do matter more. I’m not saying you need to rush out and join a Meet Up, but that you simply pursue hobbies that might also result in new friendships.
Take your time and get to know someone slowly
While it’s always tempting for me to fall into fast, heady friendships, I’m slowly learning that when you give a friendship a little more time to bloom, it can end up being a more valuable one. That doesn’t mean that you won’t ever have instant connections with people again, just that you can benefit from getting to know a person gradually. It’s harder to be disappointed when you don’t go all in at once.
Be a little vulnerable
The armor you’re carrying around is probably well-earned, and you should be careful about who you emotionally invest in. That said, you can still hold on to a bit of that joie de vivre from in your youth. For an authentic friendship to develop, both people need to give a little.
Take the initiative
You can’t just hope that friendships will happen. If you meet someone you like and want to get to know them better, invite them out for coffee or a drink. They may very well be feeling the same affinity, but are afraid to act first.
Making new friends is always hit or miss, but with some of these tips, your chances of finding ones that stick are far more likely.
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