You know what I’ve been surprised by?
How hard it is to make friends as an adult.
I’m naturally much more on the introverted side, so I do not feel like making tons of friends easily is one of my strong points.
But the older I get, the more I feel the desire for strong friendships in my life.
I was never someone who had a lot of friends – I feel like I knew a lot of people and was friendly with them, but I’ve always had a small number of close friends (and for most of my growing up, almost every one of my close friends was a boy).
Then I went to college and ended up becoming close friends with my roommate and the two girls next door and it was one of my first experiences having multiple close female friends.
After that, I had a small number of friends I really really liked in each place we lived.
Texas was particularly great the second time we lived there, thanks to being in an apartment complex with more than a dozen other young couples with one or two small children around the same ages as mine and we’d go for walks together in the morning or have impromptu play dates.
I also belonged to the best book club on earth where, every month, I felt like I was surrounded by kindred spirits.
I felt like, more than I ever had, that I really had dear friends (and moving away was pretty heartbreaking for me).
And North Carolina was as easy a move as you could possibly have, since Duke is completely set up to bring people together and make them feel welcome – there were welcome parties, family events, weekly dinners, and lots of other smart, interesting families.
All of which made moving to Arizona something of a shock.
It wasn’t like North Carolina, where everyone was new and looking for friends. In fact, a huge proportion of the people I’ve met in Arizona are originally from here and so they have family and old friends and aren’t really looking for a bunch of new friends (which doesn’t offend me – most people only have so much time available to spend socially, and if they are already maxed out, they just don’t have room for a lot of new friends).
I also noticed how different my own situation was. When we lived in Texas and North Carolina, I had no children in school, so I had basically all day every day free to get together for park play dates, library story time, or picnics. I was working around a single nap for Ani and other than that, I could come and go as I pleased.
But that wasn’t the case when we moved here.
Ella was now in school and between drop-off and pick-up and a napping baby, I couldn’t believe how much that tied up my daily schedule.
When we took her out of school and homeschooled, that actually made it WORSE because my whole morning was dedicated to homeschooling, so I was even less free.
It was a pretty lonely time for me.
My friend Jessica came to visit with her two little girls about five months after we moved here, and having a friend to talk to felt like the best thing in the world. I literally followed her around the house for two days talking non-stop.
I slowly started to realize that if I was going to make friends, it was up to me to make that happen.
I’d been invited to join a book club and I really really liked the women there (they were the first people that made me feel like I could enjoy living in Arizona). I’ll admit that reading through the Great Works of the Western World would not be my first choice, but I love the discussions and I really love getting together twice a month with women I admire and enjoy.
Shortly after I moved here, a friend of a friend reached out to me and asked if I wanted to get together and although that’s the kind of thing that makes me SO uncomfortable (making small talk with a stranger for two hours? Kill me now). But then she was the most delightful person on the planet despite the fact that she’d agreed to drive all the way to my neighborhood splash pad so I wouldn’t have to drive more than four minutes and then my key didn’t actually WORK for the splash pad, so we were just standing around with antsy kids in 117 degree weather. And then my children ate all her snacks.
Let me tell you, you don’t let a new friend like that get away.
She’s turned out to be one of those miraculous friends who is always like “hey, there’s a new park. How about we meet there on Tuesday afternoon?” And then all I have to do is show up. Sometimes I even bring my own snacks.
I forced myself to go to blogging events around the Phoenix area even though I wanted to just turn around and go home instead of meet new people. And I tell myself that all I have to do is pretend to be extroverted for two hours. And then I can go home and read a book in my pajamas.
And, what do you know? After going to a few of them, I know people and it’s not so horrifying to enter a room full of people.
Last year, I decided to start hosting birthday lunches for a small group of my friends. And having these four fun, smart ladies over several times a year is really great.
This year, I decided I wanted to start up another small lunch group and I agonized over the initial email – what should I say, how should I say it? Would they think I was lame?
Then I thought, “How would I feel if I got invited to a lunch group like this? I’d be THRILLED. If they think it’s lame, they probably aren’t going to be the kind of person I’m going to connect with.”
And every single person sent me the nicest response saying they’d love to, and what could they bring, and when everyone left yesterday, they said, “This was so fun. Let’s do it every month.”
I just had to get the ball rolling.
One of my dearest friends in Texas was someone I met at library story time because I went every week and never talked to a soul and I thought, “Just talk to the person next to you.” And we ended up having lots in common and getting together every week for a standard low-key Tuesday afternoon play date while our husbands worked long hours and she was so low-key and easy to talk to, even though it took me several weeks to really warm up.
In London, I met another woman with a little girl about the same age as my girls at story time and we decided we’d go to the park every week after story time, and it was such a lifesaver to have another woman to chat with each week (and talk about some of the funny and odd things about being Americans in London).
After North Carolina, I think I’d just expected it to be that easy again.
And when it wasn’t, it took me a while to stop waiting for other people to make it happen.
I also had to accept that this stage of life, with kids in school, gymnastics, work, travel, and lots of responsibilities, means it’s not going to look like my college social life or my new-mom-with-one-child social life.
But the great thing about this stage has been that I get to choose what kinds of social activities I want.
Do I want a lunch group at my house where my baby can take a nap while we eat? Other families over for Sunday dinner so the grown-ups can chat while the children play in the basement? A book club with women who are serious readers (way more serious than I am!)? I can make those happen.
I just have to be willing to make the first move (which is not even remotely my default).
I also go to blog conferences a few times a year with some of my blogger friends that live in different parts of the country. I Marco Polo with various friends that I don’t see super frequently. I have a little blogger group that has a Google Hangout every month or so. The MBA wives have a big email chain that we try not to let die so we keep up to date with each other. If I’m traveling, I try to squeeze in a visit with friends in the area, like when I went to Texas for the Hog Wild! event.
Every time we’ve moved, I’ve heard from so many people who are struggling to make new friends in a new location, so if you have advice or suggestions, I’d love it if you shared it.
Story of my life! I have moved as many times as an adult as I did when I was a military brat. Another layer of complexity for me is that I had my kids young (21), so most parents with kids my kids’ ages are… older. Add to that the fact that I just started a new career (teacher, so ain’t nobody got time for NOTHING!) while most who are mid 30s are well established. Still searching for good adult friends. #adultingishard
We are a military family and just moved this summer. It was tough at first because everyone seems to be from this area, and not many people are looking for new friends. Despite being an introvert, I’ve learned just to keep initiating a meet-up (and trying not to get offended if it doesn’t work out). I struck out a couple times (with embarrassing stories to go with it!), but slowly I’ve found 2 – 3 kindred spirits, which is perfect for me. And thankfully, they’ve been here longer than I have, so they have introduced me to their friends, which is an easy way to get to know more like-minded people.
So basically, I have no real tips except keeping trying and don’t get discouraged. 🙂
Kate @ Mom's Radius says
Making friends is SO hard! I am a transplant to Milwaukee, and it took about 10 years of living here to finally feel like a had a good friend base. Now that my son is in school, I’m finding it easier because I’ve put myself out there and scheduled play dates with kids from school. I’m getting to know some other moms and starting to feel even more connected. I’ve started numerous book clubs to meet people as well over the years. I think you’re right. YOU have to be willing to take the first step. Inviting people to do things can be scary, but I have the same thought all the time, “How would I feel if I got this invite?” And I’d always be thrilled. It takes work, but it’s so worth it!
Whitney H says
Thank you for this honest post!
I’m a mom of 3 (ages 8, 6 and 4) and work part-time with my husband and father-in-law. Our office is very small — just the three of us and a secretary. Because of this, even though I work outside the home, my social interaction is extremely limited. Sometimes I’m SO desperate to get out and interact with other women.
Thank you for sharing how hard it is to make friends as an adult. Really. Your post was encouraging. I really do need to keep trying… keep trying to talk to the mom at my daughter’s ballet class, the mom in the drop off line at my boys’ school, the mom at karate with her three kids… maybe I’ll make a connection. Fingers crossed!
I have been gently reminding friends who have either moved into our ward and complain that the ward is not nice and is not including them or the friends have moved away from the place they have lived for the last 15 years and complain that the new place is unfriendly and hard to make friends… that it’s not the location’s fault that this stage of life is more difficult to make friends. It is easy to retain friends that you made when younger, with fewer kids and less responsibilities. But hard to start friendships when you don’t have any of those things going for you. A friend of mine in the military really impressed me when she moved in and immediately started up it once a week dessert night. She always had a dessert ready after the kids were in bed and anyone was welcome to come hang out. Some weeks she had 10 ladies show up and other weeks only one or two or sometimes even none. But the offer always started and you can bet she had a lot of friends very quickly.
Janssen Bradshaw says
That dessert night is BRILLIANT. I might steal that. . . .
It didn’t hurt that she went to culinary school and loved having people to eat up her amazing desserts (although just as often it was regular low key desserts…but that was half the fun…you never knew what to expect!)
Yeah, making new friend is tough as an adult, especially in an area where people have lots of family around. I feel like I have to do lots and lots of inviting to actually make something happen.
Most of my friends here in Utah are people I knew in DC…or people I didn’t know well in DC but who I have gotten to know better now that we’re both here. When groups of friends get together the 1 or 2 people with no DC connections will inevitably joke about how we DC people always stick together. It’s not a conscious decision, but I have found that people who have moved away from Utah and then come back tend to find one another. There is a similar mentality, interests, priorities we often find in one another.
If only you already had someone who knew and loved you in AZ ?
Janssen Bradshaw says
Those pool trips were life-savers! And I think you were one of the reasons I realized that having children in school really makes it HARD to get together – between your boys’ schedules and my girls’, it was almost impossible!
If I see any friend quarterly, that feels like I see them all the time. Which is so sad.
Thank you for this post! It really hits home for me. I moved to CA several months ago, and have to admit that when I take my daughter to the playground I just search the other parents’ faces, looking for ones who might want to be my friend… =) I’m very introverted as well, and have also always found it easier to make friendships with guys instead of gals. (weird, right?). I feel like that makes things extra difficult sometimes. Either way, I really appreciate your perspective on this, and it encourages me to just keep putting myself (even if it is my 2-hr extroverted self!) out there in hopes of finding some kindred spirits.
The struggle is real! I just moved to my husband’s hometown, after being in college & college-towns for the last 10 years. I’ve struggled a lot over the last year trying to find some girl friends. I find a big issue for me is *not having any kids. Most of the women in my area my age, around 30, have kids that they are busy with and seem to be in a different stage of life. Because of grad school, I’m just a little late to the family planning stage (definitely want kids).
I started attending a Junior Women’s group & am building some relationships with some very nice ladies. This is only once a month, and I’ve realized that I just need to take the plunge & ask them over or to something outside of those meetings. What I really crave is to have a girl friend or two that I could call & hang out with on a moment’s notice, in our pj’s with a glass of wine. It’s good to know that others struggle with this.
Janssen Bradshaw says
Yes! That feeling having no one to call or text is so isolating.
Seriously, this has been my biggest struggle since moving to Arizona in 2015! My mom always encouraged me to meet other moms at church, which I have met a couple, but still struggle and can definitely identify the moms who have their group established and don’t seem interested in adding many people to their group.
Yes!! Other than college I’ve lived in the same city my whole life but it’s still hard on the friends front because many of my high school friends have moved away PLUS none of my college friends are in the area, since they mostly leave near where we went to school. It’s one of the reasons I am looking forward to my son starting K in the fall, hoping to meet some new friends myself! Especially in a similar life stage (and on the same school schedule can’t hurt!) It’s a good thing I have a bunch of sisters because they are my closest friends even though half of them don’t live close either!
Janssen Bradshaw says
Ah, I think that can be just as hard when everyone moves away from YOU!
Paige Flamm says
I’ve been surprised by how different this move has been for us. We’re in this awkward phase where the newlywed people at church think we’re outrageously old and don’t want to be friends with us, but then the people with kids the same age as ours are actually 5-10 years older than us, and also aren’t looking for friends. And since both our kids are in school this year, we don’t get invited to playgroups because they happen during the 2 1/2 hours that our kids are in school anyways. HOWEVER, I made the bold (for me), move and joined a running club that meets up 2-3 times per week for group runs, and I’ve been amazed at how much of a difference that one social group makes in my life. I told Derek how I feel so connected and in on things here, and then realized that my only interaction is actually with that one group. It’s definitely impressed on me how much of a difference even small amounts of effort can make a big impact on your social life!
Janssen Bradshaw says
Yes! I always remind myself I don’t need a million friends – just a few that I really like.
I love your advice about finally reaching out to someone at story time! I felt totally isolated as a nanny for many years until I realized the gem of friendship waiting for me at library story times! I tend to join groups with a generationally diverse group of women these days. Quilt groups, bible studies, prayer groups. Libraries, churches, dance studios, any community-minded institution is a great place to start.
Janssen Bradshaw says
My book club in Texas spanned about forty years in age, and I LOVED that diversity!
So I’m reading a book all about making friends as an adult. it’s called “Friendships Don’t Just Happen” by Shasta Nelson. I just started it but I’m really excited to learn more about friendships. Anytime I talk about feeling lonely for friends or wanting more friends I feel like I’ve said something taboo. I know friendship is so important! I’ve tried some things but nothing has produced a really great friend in the last three years which is a bummer. Anyways, if you read that book, or “FRIENTIMACY” by Shasta, I’d love to read a review.
Janssen Bradshaw says
I’ve never heard of them, but I just requested Frientimacy from the library!
the easiest way I’ve ever found to make friends is by volunteering at my kids’ school. get into a routine of something that happens once a week and involves several people (stuffing envelopes – does that even exist anymore now that there the internet?). Later in my kids’ school years I volunteered for post prom (I know you’re a ways away from that) and made excellent friends. When our kids graduated we started a book club called the prom queens to stay together.
Janssen Bradshaw says
Yes! I think that’s so true – you already have a lot in common with children and location! And I love the name of that book club.
I’m always interested when people in their 30s talk about about making friends and I enjoyed this post. I’ve found that the two big divides are children and full-time employment. A difference in one category decreases the chances for successful friendship, and differences in both pretty much doom it. Sometimes it’s scheduling conflicts (weekday birthday lunches, long morning walks, afternoons at the park vs. dinner with friends, evening happy hour, nighttime gatherings) and sometimes it’s diverging interests (“Can I bring my 9-year-old to your tea party?” “…no” “Yeah I can’t make it, thanks for inviting me”).
Is it even possible to have one-on-one friendships when one person is married, has children, and doesn’t work outside the home, and the other person is not married, without children, and works a regular 40 hour week? Are any of your lunch groups or book clubs mixed in terms of relationship-, parent-, and work- status?
Janssen Bradshaw says
That’s such an interesting question!
In my birthday lunch group, all five of us are married and have children, but two of us work part-time, two are stay-at-home moms and one works full-time.
In my other lunch group, all of us are small business owners and all married with children, and range from 20s to 40s in age.
In my book club, we have a couple of unmarried women with no children and full-time jobs, a few of us with part-time jobs with small children, and most are stay-at-home moms.
I do agree that the schedules of people who work full time and those who are at home all day are really hard to fit together!
Book club is everything! Pretty much the happiest day of my month. I started the book club I’m in now almost a year after moving to my current city. I wanted to start it right away, but was too nervous no one would come. But it’s been going strong for 3 years now, so other people must appreciate it, too.
My sister in law mentioned that a group of ladies in her church have a hiking/backpacking group. I thought that was such a cool idea…something I may start soon! I’d love to go for a hike and be able to walk faster than a snail’s pace, which my 3 kids like to maintain.
Janssen Bradshaw says
Oh that is FUN!
You should check out the group Hike it Baby. They are an organization that puts on family friendly hikes with a lot of local chapters. It’s a great place to meet other outdoorsy parents!
I forced myself to go to the PTO meeting in 2002 when I had a 2nd grader & Kindergartener at the school plus a 2 year old. 16 years later a group of 12 ladies that met at PTO are my dearest friends. We play Bunco together once a month, have birthday lunch or dinner every month plus other fun outings. We helped each other out during graduations, surgeries, parents deaths, lots of child/teen/young adult drama & much more. 5 of us have kids graduating from high school this year, 3 are the babies of the family. We’re considering starting a supper club next year as the majority will be empty nesters. So, be brave go to a meeting by yourself! You never know what will happen.
Heather Cook says
I’m so glad you started a lunch group. I did the same thing when I was lonely for women friends and it’s been such a great thing for all of us. It works so well for the stage of life/mothering I’m in now. Love you!
I love this post because it totally speaks to me. I was feeling so lost with this latest move because my kids were getting older and we were no longer part of a school or Community social group. Basically I still can’t believe that the introvert that I am mustered enough courage to email you. So glad we can be friends and that our husbands are friends too. Couple friends can sometimes be even harder to find than girlfriends!
Janssen Bradshaw says
THANK HEAVENS that our husbands get along – you guys are some of our very very favorite people.
And I would never have guessed it took any courage from you; you seemed so confident and natural while I was all awkward and “hey, will you watch my kids while I go see if I can get my key fixed?”
Sounds recognizable. Just moved and ran into a lot of friendly faces although the ice wasn’t really broken. At Christmastime I’ve sent some cards to people of our street, the reactions were so nice! Now I plan to join a running group (usually I like to run alone) just to meet some people.
I cant tell you how grateful I am for this post! Sometimes I feel like there are no introverts left in the world! Ha, ha. I so relate to you. Growing up I didnt have loads and loads of friends, and most of my friends in high school and college were guys. Like you, I moved to NC for my husband’s MBA program (I think we might have been at UNC around the same time you were at Duke) and found that it was SO easy to make friends because everyone was in the market for friends! I found, however, that it was difficult to establish deep friendships with the women. You know, the sister-type of friendship. Everyone seemed to form those easily, but I’ve always struggled. I’m just not the “girls night out” type of gal, and I don’t necessarily enjoy a daily trip to the park for socializing. So it’s hard to fit yourself into a group that already has these things established. First impressions and getting to know someone is the easy part. It’s like dating. First date’s great— you get to know the basics. Second date goes well as you can get to know each other more, and in a different atmosphere. But the third date is like, “WHAT DO WE TALK ABOUT NOW?” Ugh! I have the hardest time with this! Cultivating a friendship into something easy and natural. Truly, sister-friends are hard to find. Thanks for sharing some tips and tricks!
I love this post! As a fellow introvert, but also the wife of a youth minister, we have moved enough for my taste. 🙂 Our last move was just over two years ago when we moved back to my husband’s hometown and church. It took me at least a year to even think there was a chance of being happy here, a year and a half to be able to say I had one good friend, and even after 2 years I find myself feeling lonely and craving closer relationships. It seems to be similar to what others have said: its a place that alot of people move back to (especially the church) amd they already have friends. Plus, absolutely it a HARD stage. I think my problem is that I can’t do shallow/surface level relationships. I need authenticity and reciprocity, and it doesnt seem to be very common. Or, its always found in the moms of 3-4 kids while I just have one and its hard to meet up. I also find myself getting discouraged that I am always the one doing the inviting. How do you keep from feeling this? Or do you? I know I need to just keep trying and keep asking, but its hard when it seems so one-sided.
Janssen Bradshaw says
My husband has more of this feeling than I do, but I try to just remember that everyone is just busy and that I’m doing this for ME because I want to have friends. I just try not to take it personally if I’m always the one making plans and I hope that the friends that are always the ones making plans and inviting me don’t take it personally either!
I’m an Indian first living in New Jersey and toronto so it’s been such a struggle.. we’ve been in Toronto for 3 years but I still do not have a girl friend I can meet for coffee or just call n talk.
Allison | My Novel Life says
I’m so glad you wrote about this. It is so hard to make friends as an adult, especially as an introvert. I’ve always had a hard time making friends outside of work. We just moved to Minnesota from North Carolina where I left my job to stay at home with my kids (9,5, and 6 months). Staying at home makes it extra hard to make friends. I’ve been trying to build up the courage to join a book club through Meetup, but my shy nature takes over.
This is my favorite post you’ve written so far. I recently met a lovely woman and felt a spark of hope that the meeting could turn into a real friendship. I am inspired by this post to take the lead, organize events, and really commit to opening the door to closer relationships when I meet people like her. Thank you for sharing!
Janssen Bradshaw says
Oh thank you! Good luck – it’s so worth the effort!
It’s all so true, and important that people know that it’s a lot of people’s reality. I felt very social in high school, but really just had two best friends. 2 of us married young, and I moved away pretty quickly. We kept in touch alright, but the proximity changes a lot. And then we moved a lot, like you, and met great friends everywhere! But now that we’re settled, it’s been like your experience. People in utah have their long time friends and family, and the stars have to align just right in order to meet someone you get a long with so perfectly that the relationship can supersede the others! I started a book club which is my biggest lifesaver, but it’s really hard to get mom friends together. I don’t know why it has to be so hard! I get discouraged, but I try to focus on the fact that I have fantastic friends around me, I just rarely see them!
I didn’t have much of a social life before joining Meetup groups. You can browse for groups by interest, or create your own for about $15/ month if nothing suits you.
I’m a non-mom in my late 20’s, so I looked for female friendships. I went to one that was kinda terrible at first, because all the women were in their 50s and I was seated on the end of the table and couldn’t get in the conversation. But I refused to be discouraged by that one event, and soon after from that group met a girl closer to my age. She introduced me to a couple of her friends and we (living in Southern California) shared Airbnb’s in Big Bear and San Diego. I also joined a group where the organizer said she wanted to make friends that weren’t her students (she works/lives on a college campus) and go out for a glass of wine when she wanted. This is probably my favorite group so far- I’ve been able to talk to people I normally wouldn’t from different ages and backgrounds, male and female. If you don’t create your own group, meetups are free to attend unless the organizer specifies otherwise.
I now have something to look forward to, socially, as often as I want, which is delightful when you live alone and your closest friends live in other states. I hopes this helps anyone who needs guidance. This is probably the best thing I’ve done for myself last year, and I have no intention of stopping.
SK Bell says
I definitely relate to this in a million ways.
Each time we’ve moved, it’s taken me a little longer to make friends. I attend a church moms group in my current town but I only go about once a month. Maybe even less than that. I just don’t WANT to go to social gatherings most of the time, but because I’ve forced myself to go sometimes, I’ve made friends I can connect with one-on-one (actually it’s more like five-on-three, since I have four kids) and that has made a world of difference for me!
I totally agree it’s really hard as you get older. You’ve used some great tactics to meet people and make friends though, your connections have all been in the real world where as a lot of people nowadays turn to the internet to try and meet people. It’s really important to have friends though and I think a lot of women underestimate that.
So true! I have moved 3x since 2011 and usually just make friends at work. But this move, I ended up in a too small lab and it has just felt pointless. I am also childless and in my late 30’s so I feel judged. I was just considering joining a book club or taking a yoga class and we might be moving again. ? I admire your initiative. As an introvert, I know how hard it can be!
Janssen Bradshaw says
Thank you for this post. I am going through such similar things! I just moved to Arizona in summer 2016 and no one is looking for new friends here! I have had the hardest time connecting with people. We moved here from Missouri were most of my friends were wives of current Grad School students, like us. We had instant connections because we were from all over the country and usually far from family. But then we graduated and got a job and started over again. All four of my boys are in school now so I don’t have kids to take to play groups or library story time anymore. I stay home too. It’s been really tough finding women to connect with when you’re an introvert.
Janssen Bradshaw says
Yes! I think the switch from grad school to regular life is very tricky.
Rena M says
I enjoyed this. I’m more to myself as well. I cherish my me time. I have a few childhood friends across the country who keep in touch, but I find I liked them better when I was a child (am I awful?). I’m a stay at home wife who prefers the company of my husband but hasn’t really connected with anyone female. Honestly, it’s partially out of fear! Over the years I’ve attracted friends who just love to use me as a therapist and zap my energy. I feel honored people share so much, but they didn’t want to help themselves or change only to complain. To me. With 30 texts per day. I know, boundaries. I also think I’m cut off from folks because lots of women like to drink and I don’t like that scene…then the ones who don’t drink they are highly commited to our local church. I’ve been asked why I don’t attend a church since I’m obviously a “dry mormon” ?. I’d love…LOVE a good friend with whom I can connect well, share things with. We’d enhance each other’s lives, and of course have home spa days!