Human beings are social creatures. Attachment to others is hard wired into our development. Our first relationships with our parents or caregivers, then our siblings and eventually school age friendships form the building blocks of how we relate to others as adults.
As children, making friends was relatively easy. In our childish innocence we were able to simply ask, “Do you want to be friends?” From that a bond for years could be created. Depending on your generation, your parents may have created your friendships for you with play dates and other social activities. Regardless of how the relationships formed, these friends were important parts of your lives. Usually, in the midst of some casual friendships or acquaintances a “best friend” would emerge. The person you did everything with. Some of us had a few of these through our school years, changing periodically as we grew and interests changed. I’ve known some people that made this close friend in the earliest years of school and remain close as adults. No matter how the relationship formed or the length of it, these connections made life bearable during the difficult years of high school. Sometimes, they were the source of “drama” and stress, but in the end, we wouldn’t have wanted to spend our teen years without them.
Despite the importance of these friendships as we were growing up, many of us have downplayed the need for this type of relationship as we’ve gotten older. Our hectic schedules make it easy to overlook these friendships. Depending on our stage in life, it may seem more important to spend that time taking care of our children, maintaining your relationship with your spouse or helping elderly parents. Maybe we consider our spouse our best friend so we don’t feel we need other friendships. Sometimes, our co-workers seem to fill that void with brief conversations during the work day. Whatever the reason, we just don’t make time or put in the effort to maintain these additional relationships. There have been times in my own life when keeping up with friends just seemed like more work, one more responsibility or thing to cross off a to do list as opposed to something enjoyable and fun.
Having friends is important through all stages of life. We may not be able to spend every minute with them as we did as children, but just grabbing drinks once a month or having coffee is invaluable. Friends lighten our mental and emotional loads. They give us something to look forward to and allow us to be helpful to others. They expand our horizons and share hobbies with us that our spouses hate doing.
So, how do we make friends as an adult? Even if we keep in touch with our best friend from high school or college, chances are you don’t live in the same city. Life can get boring without friends to do things with.
-Check out online sources: Websites like meetup.com are perfect places to meet others with similar interests. The best part is, everyone on the site are also looking to meet new people.
-Get involved in politics: No matter what side of the aisle you lean toward there are always political groups looking for more help. Pick a particular issue you are passionate about and reach out to supporting groups.
-Take a class: It’s a great way to meet new people and learn a new skill. There are a wide variety of classes offered in most cities for people looking to develop a hobby -cooking, photography and Improv just to name a few.
Making friends as an adult can be difficult. It often feels awkward and can bring back the insecurities we may have had as teenagers. As online social media is more and more prevalent, we have fewer opportunities to actually interact with people and develop friendships. We may feel “social” when we post things on Snapchat, Instagram or Twitter but we aren’t actually being with people. We’re not having deep and meaningful conversations or even just being present during a silly moment, which is what happens when we spend time with a friend. Building and maintaining friendships as an adult is a surprisingly difficult skill that few have mastered. Are you feeling dissatisfied with the quality of your friendships? Do you feel lonely and want to meet new people, but anxiety is holding you back? A licensed mental health counselor may be able to help. Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced therapists.