Better Than Real Life Advice: Friend Dating

Dear Lauren at Better In Real Life,

My husband and I recently got married and are settling down in a new to me area – a large east coast city. He’s been living here longer than I have and has a group of friends who are smart, good, nice people – he met most of them through work. I’ve been living here for about a year and a half but have yet to make any friends of my own.

Since I am an introvert with a capital “I”, I wasn’t really expecting to become super popular soon, or any time really.  But man, I have been really giving it a try this past year without results. I’ve signed up for meetup groups online, taken new classes, tried exploring all the free fun museums and other things, but haven’t really made any friends.

My husband’s friends are lovely, nice, smart people and we do hang out with them occasionally.  Some are a few years older than me (to the point where it sort of makes a difference) and most of them have kids.  I honestly like hanging out with these families but it seems like their time is super limited because of the kiddos so we end up getting together with them once every 2-3 months.  As far as work, my coworkers are much older than me. Plus I’ve never been great at the work friends thing – I rather keep those two separate.

I have met a couple of nice people once or twice at random activities, but then it feels a little awkward setting up follow up activities.  The whole thing feels like I’m dating again, but now for friends.   Do you have any suggestions?  Is it always this hard to make friends as an adult? 

Thanks for the advice!

Not Single but Still Ready to Mingle

 

Oh dear, Not Single, this is a HARD one.

According to a Pew Research study, Millennials (those between 18 and 33) have a bit of a trust issue.

Millennials have emerged into adulthood with low levels of social trust. In response to a long-standing social science survey question, “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people,” just 19% of Millennials say most people can be trusted, compared with 31% of Gen Xers, 37% of Silents and 40% of Boomers.

It’s harder then ever to crack the code of someone’s inner friend circle. It’s hard to find people who share similar interests who are also interested in finding friends. How many times have any of us gone to a class or an event and everyone there is very purposefully there only for themselves and then they high tale it out of there? This happens to me all of the time.

I applaud you for taking classes and getting out there. That is a huge huge huge first step. And good job trying to continue to make plans with your husband’s couple friends with kids. That is hard. People with kids are impossible to make plans with. I feel like my social schedule is planned 3 months in advance. Even if they are not your forever people, they will probably fill a nice little social void every now and again. But I get you on being a little old and not being in the same lifestyle space as you. That is hard.

I wouldn’t be put off by the feeling that creating new friends is like dating, because it IS like dating. There is the initial meeting and then you get contact info, and maybe you make plans to go to a mutual interest event/activity, and then you see if there is a follow up. Adult relationships take work. There is no longer a school yard to be thrown into or a forever rotating class schedule. And we are all insanely busy with a thousand different things pulling at us. But in a way that cuts out the bullshit. The people who really want to try and make time for you, will. Everyone else is not worth it anyway.

I have gone through an ebb and flow of friends. There were years when I was TOO social. I felt like, WOAH I am popular! And then years after that I was in a friend drought. No one to play with. And it sucks, it can be lonely.

Until! I started doing stuff for ME, taking advantage of a world without social obligations, going on long walks, spending time with my hobbies, leisurely watching movies on the weekends in my pajamas!

…but it sounds like maybe you are over the me time. And maybe you just want some G-D friends!

First, don’t stop trying to date and reach out to the people you want to spend time with. People want to be around people who want to be around them! And more than that, most of the time people are just super busy and would way rather be hanging out with you but their lives SUCK them in and they forget to call or ask.

Second, join a book club. If you are an introvert, go find other introverts. In this environment you can scope out the people who seem to think a lot like you think, and then you can POUNCE on them. Not really. But it does pose a perfect set up to start a conversation and get the ball rolling. They are there to talk books and meet people. So are you. PERFECT!

Third, Is your husband on friend-finding missions with you? This could be a great opportunity to make new, non-kid-having couple friends! AND you could do some cute adventure-ing together while you’re at it. Kamel and I did rock climbing a few years ago. And we made some fun friends in the class. The 4 of us bonded over how insanely hard it was and how much we sucked at it. It was great!

Ultimately, stick with it. Friends will come along, it takes time. Social ebb and flow demands patience.

And if anyone else has any words of wisdom or stories about how they’ve successfully made adult friends, please speak up. This is a tough one.

15 thoughts on “Better Than Real Life Advice: Friend Dating”

  1. I’m in this situation too, where my husband and I just moved to a new city where we didn’t know anyone. Except HE’S the introverted one, and I just want to meet all the people! It’s still pretty new, but I do have one friend that I met at a meetup group, and I’d recommend that if you meet someone at one of these classes or gatherings and you think you’d be good friends if you got to know each other, follow up after the event! E-mail your phone number to them and say you’d like to hang out, get coffee, whatever sometime.

  2. This is definitely tough. I’ve lived in my city for six years, I grew up nearby, most of my friends from college and grad school live here, and I’ve made plenty of friends at work. And sometimes it *still* feels hard to make friends as an adult!

    No advice here, but I did have a question for Lauren and any other young parents out there: I’ve been told (by people from my parents’ generation, mostly) that making friends becomes easier when you have kids, because you kind of fall into a natural socializing pattern around their activities and friends, who also have parents you can hang out with, who better understand the “planning three months out” thing. My mother also said she was always very shy until she had me, and then she became less inhibited about walking up to people she didn’t know and starting a conversation. What has your socializing experience been since having kids? How have your friendships changed?

    1. Making friends with parents of young children is really difficult unless you join a local mom group, which I have not (because of time, mostly). Parents of young children are frazzled and busy and it’s a pain to the leave the house. I imagine making friends when kids start school gets way easier, or even older preschool once they can join classes and do more activities. Right now I don’t actually know any of the parents in Gabe’s daycare class aside from the occasional hi/bye at drop off/pickup.

      I have also noticed that we are almost always the youngest parents around. All the other parents are in their mid-30s or older and I had Gabe at 27. So that has been an interesting hurdle as far as parent-friends. Plus none of the friends I see the most have kids yet. Basically, having kids makes your time less. So I say no more often and the fringe people basically fall away because I have to really pick and choose where I spend my time. But that also means the quality of my interactions goes way up, and for that I am grateful.

      I would have to say that other parents do approach you a lot in public places which can be nice. At the park it is easy to strike up a conversation with a parent-stranger. But as far as actual parent-friends in real life, we have yet to experience this because I think Gabe is still a little young.

    2. It wasn’t until I had a baby that I made some women friends of my own, but as Lauren said that was from being part of a mother’s group. In Australia, we were grouped by our local council for a series of classes (when the babies were all around 6 weeks old) and we just bonded together because we were all having the same issues with feeding and sleeping, etc. We aren’t seeing each other as much now we’re all back at work but it gave me more confidence to talk to other mums at playgrounds or libraries or say hey ‘are going to this baby rhyme time next week? Maybe we could do a coffee at the playground after’…

      I also found that having a baby changed my relationships with colleagues. Most of mine are older (and male) but almost all of them have kids so they became more interested in chatting and finding out about my boy. One (again older) woman who had always been really stand-off-ish ended up having a baby around the same time as me and we become quite close.

      As an introvert and hopeless smalltalker, the baby became both an icebreaker and a bit of a shield. You are almost instantly have something to talk about with other parents, and a really good excuse to hightail it if things get weird or awkward.

  3. What a great question, and I think one a lot of grown ups struggle with. The ebb and flow of friendships is hard and I think when we are young and constantly surrounded by schoolmates we don’t notice it but when you are an adult it can definitely feel like nothing you are doing is right and you are repelling people.

    I also struggle with not wanting to be too forward. I am one of those people who, if we hang out once and it goes great and then we don’t talk for a while I’m all “Hey, hey are you mad at me? Do you hate me? you hate me don’t you?!” Which is basically the worst.

    A book club is a great idea, and way to go on the classes!! I took a knitting class a few years ago and not only was it a way to hang out with new people, I left knowing how to do a thing I had always wanted to do!!

    Keep at it, and don’t get discouraged if every person you meet doesn’t end up being a Friend Connection. Just remember everyone is dealing with their own life stuff.

  4. I feel you on this one. Like Lauren said, the fact of the matter is that finding friends in adulthood IS like dating. Which sucks but there it is. I too am an introvert and have a deep fear that people are hanging out with me only out of some obligation so friend-dating is the worst to me. But! I want friends! So I try to soldier on.

    Some things that are helpful for me to remember are that you will not be as close to your new friends as quickly as you were in school. The amount of time you spend with friends in adulthood just goes waaay down and so if you don’t already have a history with that person it is going to take time to feel like they are a “real” friend. Also, it takes way more effort. So it takes more effort and you get less friend-time and immediate gratification of friend-closeness out of it. It is a marathon and not a sprint. But if someone seems like a person that would add value to your life, it is worth it to make the effort and put in the time.

    The other thing I try to remember is that, like 85% of young adults are in this situation (non-scientific statistic). It just seems like everyone else has enough friends. But most people have moved around or have had their friends move and are looking for friends too. So I remind myself that I am most likely making someone really happy by wanting to be their friend.

    And, this is the hardest one for me, you kind of just have to put it out there that want are in the friend market. Like at book club intros, Hi! My name is Jane and I just moved here so I’m excited to be part of this group because I’m looking to meet some people and make some friends. I hate doing this and rarely take my own advice on this because it feels needy to me but the reality is that most of my friendships in adulthood have started with the other person saying something to this effect. So it works.

    Also most of these thoughts originated from these two posts:
    http://offbeathome.com/2013/06/how-to-make-friends
    http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/07/how-to-make-friends/

  5. I haven’t made any “new” friends in a long time. So several months ago, when a woman and I hit it off at a party, we decided, “You know, we should not do the Seattle passive thing and just say ‘oh yeah let’s hang out’… let’s actually do it!” So a little while after that, we met for happy hour.

    And it was SO AWKWARD! She was a super nice person, and I would definitely like to hang out with her again, but so much awkward. It was exactly like a first date — what do I say, what topics can we talk about, will I inadvertently offend her by saying something? It made me realize how long it’s been since I’ve been on a date, and how grateful I am for that fact.

    It’s so easy to make friends when you’re younger — especially in school/college, which kind of throws you into this weird friend incubator. It’s harder out in the real world!

    1. Have you heard about the whole “seattle freeze” thing? Apparently seattle is known for being a tough environment to make new friends in… which is kind of weird, if you think about it. How can an entire city of adults be more standoffish than others?

      1. I think this is one of those sayings (like “Don’t like the weather? Wait 5 minutes”) that lots of people say about their city. I hear it about Minneapolis all the time! So whenever I meet someone who has just moved here I’ll say, “You’re new? Do you need friends? Want to go to happy hour?” This works! It’s awkward, but the only way I’ve found to make new friends as an adult is to embrace the awkwardness. I’ve also found that some of the adult etiquette rules help in these situations, like sending thank you notes. Of course, now those can be super informal emails/texts, but I try to reach out and say things like “Super fun to see you! Next time let’s do XYZ” even if our coffee was a little weird, because a year from now I don’t want to realize that I’m back at square one.

      2. Actually, the “Seattle freeze” was something we talked about! This woman was from the East Coast, and said she was having a really difficult time making friends in Seattle. People would be friendly… but then never follow-through on actually hanging out. And I was thinking, “Well, hell, I don’t want to be THAT Seattleite…” 😉

        1. I second your sentiment, Laura. I always try to dispel that myth about Seattle – my hometown and where I currently live. I am the anti-freeze (see what I did there?) 😉 Really though, I have made some great new friends this year, but it wasn’t because I was specifically looking for new friends. It was, as Lauren said, because I was investing in myself during a year of self-imposed change. Sometimes those risks fell flat (we are both interesting people, but schedules don’t align or life just takes us down different roads) but other times they were a home run! Having that honest conversation with them seems to always be the clincher. “Gosh, you’re fantastic! It’s rare to hit it off so well with someone in such a random setting. I’d love to capitalize on that and maybe meet up again for something fun, if you’re interested? Let me give you my information, that way we can be I touch if one of us sees something we’d like a partner in crime for, sound good?” I’ve never been turned down, and a couple times it’s stuck. Those new friends have brought me THEIR friends and vice versa. Think about it like applying for a new job. Statistics say for every 10 resumes you put out there, you’ll get 1 interview. And we all know how many interviews it can take to find the right job. Don’t lose hope! We do have some great people here in Seattle, natives and transplants alike!

  6. This feels like a weird humble brag but I keep hearing this lament and have trouble relating to it. The biggest advice I can give folks is DO STUFF. The book club suggestion is a great one.

    I grew up in the city I currently live in but the vast majority of my close friends are people I’ve met since I graduated from college. I’ve made friends through activism (volunteering would be a good stand-in), book clubs, chatting with folks at parties, and even at concerts when people are mingling between sets. Asking for their phone number or email can feel really forward but give it a try. An easier entry point is to follow them on twitter or instagram. Ask if they are on social sites/feed. Everyone loves to show off! It gives you a peek into each other’s lives and can build passive rapport through likes and comments.

    Basically this is all exactly like dating. And the crummy part is that sometimes the people that seem really cool aren’t in a place where *they* can friend date. Work schedules are insane and often times people are balancing a thousand other things. Be the open and communicative friend you want them to be. Keep doing cool stuff that you’re into and build in personal rewards for putting yourself out there because that shit can be exhausting. Good luck!

  7. I love the book, MWF seeking
    BFF. It really deconstructs the friend making process while walking through one woman’s journey to make some. Idk how helpful it can be, but it sure is comforting and validating!!

  8. Hi Lauren (and everyone else here)

    Happy New Year! So, evidently I am the worst reader ever. I saw your reply and took the ideas but for some reason did not get around to commenting until now … a month later. So sorry! Regardless … thanks for posting my question. I enjoyed reading what you had to say about it. I ended up joining a book club shortly after I wrote to you and I enjoyed going there and it seemed like the most likely avenue to meet new people / fellow nerds. I am also signing up for a couple of crafty classes and cooking classes in the evenings after work.

    Thanks again for your thoughts! Hope you have a great 2015!
    Ana

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