How Did Making Friends Become So Hard?

Making friends was so easy when we were kids. Or at least that’s how my nostalgia remembers it (successful counseling sessions blocking my freshman and sophomore years of high school).

You tackled a kid at recess. Partnered with someone for Bio Lab. Played a pick up basketball game at the park. Got cast in a play. Moved into a dorm.

Then bam, you had a friend.

Where Did All the Friendships Go? PictureLots of them.

Like the kid who’s dad worked for Nintendo — friends just waiting at your doorstep.

And then college happened — the height of friend-mania.

And then college ended.

You sang “…friends are friends forever…” arm to arm with your best friend for life you swore you’d  never forget right there beside you her name coming to you shortly…

….SamanaaaThereseeEileeen….

Where Did All The Friendships Go????

Then you entered the abyss — the friend-abyss.

Your 20s and 30s are deep, uncharted waters were friends are dumped in black bags never to be seen again.

All those friends-are-friends-forever friends, gone – the apparent expiration date on “forever” lasting about two and half years.

Because you move. Get married. Have kids. Work a 60 hour a week job. As I wrote in 101 Secrets For Your Twenties:

Keeping friendships in your 20s is harder than Ryan Gosling’s Abs. Because no longer do you have any shared experiences.

So after a couple back-and- forths on voicemail, then a couple texts, then a couple Facebook messages — next thing you know your friendship has been reduced to throwing out the once-a-year “Happy B-Day!!!!” Facebook wall post, giving it four “!!!!” to show just how really excited you are about your “friend.” (Without of course spending the time to actually write out the entire word “birthday“, let alone give them a call).

Making New Friends

If keeping up with old friends is Chuck-Norris’-Abs-hard, making new ones is Chuck-Norris’-Fists-of-Destruction-harder.

A two year old who can’t count could count all the new friends I have made post-college.

Between work, wife, baby, work outside of work, and then those silly things like the need to sleep, who has time to go meet new people? And then actually go through the long, awkward process of developing a friendship?

And the only thing harder than finding new friends post-college? Finding new couple friends post-college – now four people to toss into the Compatibility-Blender.

And the only thing harder than finding couple friends post college? Finding couple married friends with young babies who:

A. Aren’t on the fast track to divorce. So that by the time you finally go through all the awkward lunches, meet-and-greets, and you seal the friendship deal, one of them isn’t off with their secretary… (wish this was hypothetical…)

B. All four adults like each other, but the baby keeps slapping yours in the face and throwing temper tantrums like an Orange-County-Teenager who gets a KIA for her first car instead of BMW.

This friend-shoot ain’t easy…

That’s why for the second post of this series I’ve written about three keys to making and keeping friends post-college. Stay glued to the screen.

But what say you? Has it been difficult for you to make or keep friends since college? If so, here’s the follow up post with three strategic tips on how to make and keep friends post college.

28 Comments

  1. Leah

    I’m SO glad I’m not the only one who feels like this! After graduating college almost two years ago, I made the dumb mistake of moving to a city where I literally knew no one. While it taught me how to be self-sufficient and how to be an adult, (barf!) it’s pretty much the end of having friends.

    • admin

      Leah – Kudos to you for making the big move into the unknown. After college I definitely did not have that kind of guts. I stayed in my same college town, and still struggled with keeping friendships alive. The next post will give some tips. Hopefully they’ll help…

  2. Morgan

    You make a really good point in the sense that, as we get older it does become a bit more difficult to make friends. But not just make friends, to keep friends. I have made some great friends from work and some through other friends. It really varies, but these days, I admit, I do make a lot of friends online. And not just friends that I only speak to online, no no, we actually hang out in person.

    But, again, it can be easy to make a friend, it’s not so easy to keep them because of all the things you mentioned; marriage, move, etc.

    The best ways I make friends is to meet them through other people.

    Good stuff! Looking forward to more!

    • admin

      Morgan – Kind of stealing some of my thunder for the next article :). Did you break into my account and read my draft? I kid, I kid…

      Some excellent points and tips here. It will be interesting to see the shift in making friends online becoming more the norm than anything else, as I have definitely done the same….

  3. Mike

    There is a category of people in my life who have completely forgotten how to make friends (to which I have a thought, read on!), have not changed or grown since high school (same thought applies… it’s coming), and still put me and my wife through guilt trips that we don’t spend more time with them. Hanging out with these people is usually just painful. They are lonely, self-centered, and have forgotten how to share deeper parts of their lives with other people, and maybe even each other.

    [I guess the rest of what I have to say is mostly for Christian 20-somethings; but non-christians should try this too!] There is still a place (actually several, but I have a favorite) where you can have shared experiences and there are friends there waiting for you. That’s right: I’m talking about your local, neighborhood church. These people who put so much pressure on the people they were friends with 15 years ago (before marriage, kids, etc.) could find everything they’ve been longing for in a loving church community. Yes, I’m biased. Just like elementary school taught us that our friends didn’t like it when we stole their pencil, the church community is a great place to learn how to be an adult and have (drumroll) real friendships, with people of a much larger age spectrum. In the last several years, I’ve developed deep friendships with people older than my parents, and teenagers, younger-twenty-somethings, and everything in between.

    To put it frankly: 20-somethings, you want to find real live friendships? Go to church. Really get involved. Take the initiative. Be willing to befriend people you would have ignored in college. Take all your excuses for why you don’t like church and throw them away… loneliness and not-growing can’t be better.

    • admin

      Mike – Call this an “informed hunch”, but I have this feeling you might be a pastor. Don’t ask me how I know this…

      You make some great points. As I look back at different seasons in my life most of my most authentic, deep relationships did emerge out of some sort of faith community.

  4. melissa

    For me personally it has been difficult ever since I was 20. I was ,uh, a little ahead of everyone else in the baby game. I ended up doing college online which didn’t really help at all.

    After 5 years being a married stay at home mom of two there aren’t many chances to make new friends but it has helped me to be more outgoing. I have to go out of my box to meet new people and just talk to anyone. If I hit it off with them then we end up becoming friends.

    • admin

      Thanks Melissa for the comment and the reminder that we have to get out and actually talk to people to start developing relationships. How crazy is it that this has become a somewhat radical concept for some of us – me definitely included??

  5. Diana

    After college, I kept my friends because we all mostly lived in NYC together. And the ones who moved away often visited or we visited them.
    Then I moved across the country and had no friends. By the time I made a few good friends, I was moving again back across the country but to a new city. That was grad school so they were forced friends. And I had a few friends from home that lived there. Didn’t matter because I could never see anyone because I was drowning in school work. Then I moved back to NYC and half my friends left and half are there – but have different lives now. I’m moving again — and I wonder if I will make any friends there. I’m sure I will – at least one. But it is TIME CONSUMING. It took me a year to finally become best friends with some women.
    Everyone has different lives now than in college, as you said, and it is extremely difficult to get your friends together just for one night. The only reason 6 of us are making an effort to go away for the weekend is because I’m moving. Otherwise, people let their lives get in the way. And if your friends are really that important to you then you need to make time for them and learn to say no to other things. It’s all about EFFORT. I can’t emphasize that enough. We all have stuff going on, but make the effort once in a while. It’s worth it.

  6. Lindsay M

    The thing I’ve learned about maintaining and developing friendships is that it takes intentionality. I mean, sitting down and emailing/calling/texting/smoke signaling a friend and saying, “Hey, I/we want to spend time with you. When are you free?” Even if it takes two months to get a date on the calendar, it’s worth it because their friendship is worth. Oh, and I’ve also had to get over the whole well-it’s-their-turn-to-call-me deal because then I’ll be waiting for a long time and not see or hear from them. I’ve eaten some humble pie in that department but my friendships are better for it.

    • admin

      Lindsay – “Intentionality”. One word that sums it up perfectly and you’re right that playing the whole “well I called last” game won’t get you very far and won’t get you many friends.

      You’re definitely going to see “intentionality” in my next post about tips to making and keeping friends.

      And thank you Lindsay for living out your own advice.

  7. Megan

    Once I graduated college, I moved back to my hometown because I got a job. It was such a strange transition from living in a community where everyone was my age and I had at least 10 friends who lived within a mile radius. At home, it was a completely different story…my boyfriend lived close, but he had to work and so did I, and I knew that spending all my time with just him would be unhealthy. But I had nowhere to meet friends…my coworkers were all great, but I was the youngest by quite a few years. Also, I moved into my own apartment and had to learn to get by without the constant company of roommates (so I got a cat…)

    I thought I could supplement my lack of friendship by telling myself I’d visit my college-town friends every few weeks, but honestly, the thought of fighting LA traffic on a Friday evening made the whole trip not worth it, so this idea fizzled out after the first two months of moving to my hometown.

    The change happened, however, when I decided to commit myself to the church I attended. I got involved, joined the young adult Bible study, and met people my age…and a few of those people are now my closest friends.

    So I would agree with Mike’s post…look to your church! No, not everyone there your age is going to be your best friend, but it gives you a common-ground, experiences to share, and a guaranteed place to run into one another at least once a week…it’s as easy as simply asking them to grab lunch with you 🙂
    Also, be open to people not only in your age-group but in your same life-stage. You can learn a lot from people a little bit older/younger than you, with a friendship that is on the same level.

  8. admin

    Megan! Thank you for sharing your story. I think the post-college transition is one of the most difficult processes, and one of the least talked about. Especially in relation to relationships!

    It’s a such a swift and drastic transtion for many — going from not being able to escape from people in college, to not being able to escape from yourself after college. Community is underated and undervalued.

    So great to hear that church has been a place to find roots again.

    And great advice that “friends” don’t need to always be in your age range. We should have people above and below in our lives to bring perspective.

  9. Robin

    Paul – such a great post! I agree on so many levels. Can’t wait to read the follow-up posts. Keep em coming 🙂

  10. Jeff Goins

    Totally! It’s even harder once you get married, because you have to find friendships that work for both you and your spouse. Ugh. We’ve had such a struggle with this.

    • admin

      Exactly Jeff. Most the time it feels like the Couple-Friend-Compatibility-Blender is switched to “puree” and no friendship stands the chance of making it out in tact!

      So hard.

  11. Teresa

    Just stumbled on your website via Pinterest. Have already bookmarked it and will be checking back. Keep up the good work!

  12. Caitlin

    We are having the exact same problem. I think my hubby and I didn’t realize how much we were relying on college friendships. We moved 3 years ago, and still haven’t made the deeper, lasting friendships that I expected. We’ve had quite a few false starts. It’s kind of humbling when you consider yourself a fairly friendly, charming person, and yet you have no close friendships to point to!
    I noticed that you wrote this article over a year ago. Have you and your wife made any progress on this score?

    • admin

      Thanks Caitlin for sharing your story. Sounds pretty similar to ours for sure. I wish I could say in the year we’ve made legitimate progress, but in reality it has been very slow. It seems like so many twentysomethings/thirtysomethings, maybe especially those with kids, are just in survival mode — changing jobs, houses, friends, whatever it takes to live another day. I realize more fully now the intentionality it takes, and what that means, and quite frankly I don’t feel like I have the time to do it right.

      A fact that scares me when I pull myself out of the grind for two seconds to take a breather.

  13. William

    Just found this page and site… I can definitely relate to many of the articles, especially this one. I never realized why making friends became so much harder as I’m growing older. I just thought I was bad at the game of making friends.

    One thing someone has told me is that friendships form through hardship (apparently this is the underlying principle for hazing in fraternities/sororities). So that is very similar to what you said about the shared experiences.

    By the way, did you ever write the follow-up articles? I couldn’t find it and I’m interested in seeing some of your solutions Thanks 🙂

  14. Penny Hollison

    Hello guys,

    My name is Penny and find it really difficult to make friends. I am very easily intimidated by others and I think many people I tried to be friends with could easily tell that I have no confidence since I seemed to be way too interested in them. I’ve been addressing my problem making friends to professional coaches now (for who might be interested: Your24hCoach) I already feel a little more confident and I’ve made one friend two weeks ago when joining a group playing pool.
    Just to share my story.

    Penny

  15. Susan

    Wow, I thought I was the only person who felt this way. I was a little awkward (ok, really awkward) in school and believed it had extended to my adult life. Thanks for the article.

    • admin

      Thanks Susan. Yep, you’re definitely not alone. I’m there with you

  16. Brenda

    I thought I was the only one but kinda knew I wasn’t.I’m trying to be proactive about this because I have but 1 friend and I can’t have a birthday party with 1 friend.

  17. S

    How`dy.
    Recently found your site and I have to admit, I can totally relate to most of the things your write.

    And yes, it is hard to make new friends nowadays, but I think it`s even harder to keep the friendships you already have alive and…well, interesting.
    It`s annoying when each and every one of your friend has a girl/boyfriend and they are suddenly too busy for you. And when you do get the chance to see then, they bring their better-half along and you have to find common subjects with the other person too…and when you`re out of subjects…silence, just awkward silence…I don`t know, sometimes you just feel replaced, and that “friendship spark” fades away…

    Oh, and the frustrating part is that some friends are so busy, they can`t event text or call too see how you`re doing. I mean…ok, friendship works both ways, but when you`re the only one starting a conversation (which usually ends up being short)..well it just makes you realize how alone we are sometimes.

    It`s sad, because that`s when we seek comfort on the internet. online social networks have taken control. I miss the days we just looked forward to seeing our friends and telling stories, what we`ve been up to lately, staying up late and just having a good time together. Now everybody knows everything about everyone online. I think we need to wake up and realize that a friendship need human interaction, not online interaction.

    I wrote too much, I`m going to stop now 🙂
    have a great day!

  18. Isabelle

    I have only read a few comments, and I love how many people thought they were alone in this, but realised they weren’t. I think this is why this web page is so great, we can all relate to this.

    Also, thank you for this post. Today I decided I needed to create my own community and more friendships. In my opinion its essential to leading a happy life. I’m 24 and starting today, and kind of freaking out. Fingers crossed I can get this to work. 🙂

  19. ritchess

    i was just thinking about this the other day. it had me down because i see all the people i used to hang out with hanging out with the same people they’ve been friends with since middle school. my family moved around a lot and it seems like i could never keep a group of people around, even after college. like every year i loose friends. but i don’t really think I’m supposed to have attachments anyway, most leaders are lonely. So i guess its a blessing and a curse.

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