The challenge of making new friends

By Caitlin Kelly

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THE BREAKFAST CLUB, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, 1985. ©Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

This story hit home for me, recently reprinted:

After 30, people often experience internal shifts in how they approach friendship. Self-discovery gives way to self-knowledge, so you become pickier about whom you surround yourself with, said Marla Paul, the author of the 2004 book “The Friendship Crisis: Finding, Making, and Keeping Friends When You’re Not a Kid Anymore.” “The bar is higher than when we were younger and were willing to meet almost anyone for a margarita,” she said.

Manipulators, drama queens, egomaniacs: a lot of them just no longer make the cut.

Thayer Prime, a 32-year-old strategy consultant who lives in London, has even developed a playful 100-point scale (100 being “best friend forever”). In her mind, she starts to dock new friend candidates as they begin to display annoying or disloyal behavior. Nine times out of 10, she said, her new friends end up from 30 to 60, or little more than an acquaintance.

I like living in New York, and our town’s proximity to one of the world’s liveliest and more interesting cities.

But it’s one of the loneliest places I’ve ever lived.

I’ve found it tougher than I expected to find and keep friends here, maybe because…

 

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One of the best weeks of my life, working in rural Nicaragua — now still friends with these three

Not enough time together

New Yorkers face the longest commutes of anyone in the U.S., robbing them of leisurely moments for friendship. It takes time to get to know another person well.

Not enough spontaneous time together

Between work, family and commuting, all of which have rigid schedules, “Hey, let’s meet for a drink!” can take weeks, even months to plan.

– Few shared memories

I arrived in New York at 30, with my deepest ties back in Canada, to friends from childhood, high school, university, a newspaper job, freelancing. They remain, decades later, my most intimate friendships.

— Unresolved conflict

I lost three close New York friends within a few years. That still hurts. In contrast, I’ve had full and frank conversations with my Canadian pals — and they with me — and remained friends.

Here’s a list of 23 reasons (!) women can break off a friendship, from the parenting website Cafe Mom.

No wonder it can feel so tenuous!

 

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— Money differences

Journalists don’t earn much!

One casual friend finally told us his annual income was $500,000 and I was stunned; thanks to his humble style I had no idea. We live (modestly) in a very affluent region, and many people out-earn us by enormous sums. When one person, or couple, has to keep choosing pizza or ramen and the other can drop $200 a night on cocktails, how much can you enjoy together?

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— Political differences

Since the election of President Trump, many American relationships have been torn asunder.

— Professional differences

I’m nearing the end of a long and successful career, in a competitive industry, like my husband; I’m a writer and he’s a photographer and photo editor. Professional envy and competitiveness can, and do, make us cautious about what we share about our current clients and projects.

— Children

We have none. At our age, younger friends are obsessed with child-rearing and our peers with their grand-children, We’re never invited to join child-related events, even if we’d enjoy it. That cuts out a lot of socializing.

 

I do very much value my pals in far-flung places — L.A., London, Berlin, British Columbia, Seattle, Oregon, Alabama, Maine, rural Ontario. I just wish we could hang out more often!

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Are you finding it more difficult as you age to find and enjoy new friendships?

 

98 thoughts on “The challenge of making new friends

  1. Yes Yes Yes! Lately I have been taking stock of my friends and as a result have been spending much more time alone. It can get lonely, but when I think of the alternative – spending precious time with someone who either bores the pants off of me, or acts like a princess and is constantly complaining – solo time is on the menu. However, it is not a bad thing. It forces you to open your world up and try new things and spend time figuring “life” out. Thank you for this post, I was seriously starting to question myself and feeling guilty about the distance I have been putting between myself and some friends. I don’t believe in burning bridges with people as we saw something in them back in the day that we liked.

    1. Thanks for reading — and glad this one struck a chord.

      I’m very happy alone, but I also work alone at home in the boring suburbs….so it gets very isolating. I agree that being alone is much better than faking enthusiasm for people you realize are just not very interesting or enjoyable. I dropped one friend who, despite being wealthy enough to not have to work, was constantly complaining about things. I didn’t want to listen anymore and she couldn’t stop.

      Life is so short. I think our time and attention are extremely precious.

  2. Wow, that’s very useful article for every one, we are different people living under the same sun with different opinions and ideas and even backgrounds as to how we may live our lives, but i am taking a queue from creation. God, in his infinite wisdom did not form one person but two, and let see how he put it [God] It is not good for man to live a lone, now friend simple means, a person with whom one has a friendly communication and we can find out from the bible in [Gen;38;12, 20] 2sam;13;3] Jod;2;11,19;2] also a lover, one beloved of a woman[song of solomon 5;16, [Jer;3;1, 20,] and also it is used in judges 14;12 in the sense of the bridegroom, [John;3;29] who asked the hand of the bride and rendered service at the marriage. but we must know our true friends and the ones which are not, i believe, is my opinion staying alone is not good even though i find myself as one.

    1. Let’s remember that there are more than 18,000 people who follow this blog — and from many countries, from India to Papua New Guinea.

      I never make the assumption —- nor should anyone here — that all these people are Christian, or follow any religion at all.

  3. Chrissie is really on to something here. I think old friends need to be vetted as much as new ones, especially in relationships punctuated by large spaces of time and distance. I really can’t abide hearing “I knew you when” or “You’ve changed”. I mean no shit, we’ve all changed, so if you feel you just have to press me back into the mold, well, adios muchacho.
    I also get uncomfortable with people who want to make the leap from “Nice to meet you” to “just like family” in the space of one party. It makes me feel like they are going to call me up in the morning, asking to borrow my lawn mower or, even better, pressing me for details of my personal life. The list of people who get that information is short and getting shorter.
    I don’t mind my shrinking circle of friends. There’s less diplomacy and more acceptance, which make for a more comfortable life.

    1. Thanks for this…

      One of the challenges I didn’t even mention — even after living in the U.S. since 1989 (prior to that in Canada, France, Mexico and England) — is cross-cultural. For some Americans (i.e. people I’ve met herein NY, a small sample!) “friendship” often feels extremely transactional — i.e. if you aren’t immediately useful to them socially and/or professionally, you won’t make their list or are very quickly dropped after your utility is used up.

      Americans also have a very odd habit of quickly spilling a TON of very personal information over complete strangers and mistaking this for intimacy. I hate it! If you come from a more private, discreet culture, it’s very weird and disorienting.

      To me, a growing friendship is a slow-moving thing….Last night I spent 6 (!) hours sitting at a bar with a new (single) girlfriend, and we really got to know one another much much better. Very few people have that kind of time, I know. 🙂

    2. My sentiments exactly. I’ve often wondered why, it seems, that few people seem to understand and practice this way of establishing a true & meaningful friendship. They become so personal, so fast and expect you to reciprocate as if they’re a long cherished and trusted friend.

      Good things come to those who wait.
      Anything worth doing is worth taking the time to doing it right.

  4. My father’s timeless advice to me when I left home for college: He said, “Monica be quick to be cordial to everyone, but slow to making friends with anyone.” (Or something to that effect). I’ve followed that advice from that point on. He explained that once you invite someone in as your friend, it’s hard to break away from them once we discover they’re not quite to our liking.

    Being the independent type, I’ve often found that surrounding myself with like minded individuals can be so wonderfully rare, refreshing & restorative. But once you find yourself with people who are too incompatible with you, it’s so draining and counterproductive to anything that you’re trying to accomplish. I’m often too busy and too absorbed in my daily tasks to become too heavily involved with friends. If, by chance, I happen to detect something interesting in someone’s personality, I’ll pursue further to see if the potential for a meaningful friendship exists. If not, I simply move on and leave the meeting at the acquaintance level.

    I think as we become older, we’re more selective and self-aware. We can quickly discern whether or not someone’s worth our time or just another time waster. Sadly, the quantity to quality ratio of people in today’s society is far outweighed on the quantity side only.

    1. Thanks for this…

      I think as we get older (and busier and more tired and more selective) we’re also possibly more in tune with what we really value most in others. Someone we found hilarious in our 20s or 30s might be exhausting in our 40s and beyond.

      The friends I tend to really gravitate toward, like me, have lived in multiple countries, (which kills parochial POVs); have likely had a mixture of jobs and kinds of work (i.e. not locked into a corporate mindset), love to travel adventurously and are creative,

      People terrified of conflict and who never read widely are people I can’t bond with; they smile a lot but never let you in closer. Or they’re really boring.

      1. I am much older than most responders here––I’m 74––and keep in touch these days with only a handful of old friends. Instead of “friends,” I devote my energy to immigrant and refugee students in ESL classes where I teach. I feel quite fulfilled by this kind of limited engagement.

      2. What a great way to give of yourself…thanks for sharing this and (perhaps?) inspiring others. I have done quite a bit of volunteer work in past year and might do it again in retirement — not there yet. 🙂

  5. Great piece. 🙂 And very true! I have three friends – my definition of “real friends.” Two in particular are closer than family. But I haven’t made a “real” new friend in years. The “acquaintance” sort have come and gone. Between divorce and death, the friendship garden got weeded pretty ferociously. I am finding closer connections to people here in the north much more than I have anywhere else, though.

    1. Thanks!

      Sorry to read this — but not surprised.

      Professional jealousy/competition here is a real damper on growing more intimate friendships, even with people with whom we have a lot in common. You have to be strategic, which isn’t very open!

      I’ve heard this many times about Northern life. Yay!

      I was naive enough to think that small town/rural life (in NH) would be like that; I lived there from January 1988 to June 1989 — and I have never anywhere felt so totally lonely and disliked. It has left me very very wary of moving again.

  6. I definitely make friends less often than I used to. These days I don’t go out as much, and I tend to socialize online more than anything else. However, I do keep up relationships that are important to me. I’ve hung out with old friends I haven’t seen in years recently (even had one over for dinner the other night), and I’m going to see a few old and a couple of new friends over the next couple of weeks for various events.
    At least I can say that I can keep friends, no matter the time or distance. And even when they’re not nearby or easily accessible, I’m not pining for company. I’m very happy as I am, and I think that’s only going to improve with time.

    1. I like socializing on-line —- but am really burned out by it. I’ve had FB comments (and my settings are private) screens-shot, shared and used to bully me by putative friends. I’m now very cautious about accepting any new “friend”.

      I’d rather sit with someone at a movie or show or go for a walk than spend another minute staring at a damn screen. 🙂

      1. You’re on Facebook? Send me a friend request! I’m trustworthy…most of the time. 😉

        Yeah, I can’t deny that face-to-face interaction has its benefits. It can be difficult to tell how people will react to something you say, for example, without the context of voice and tone.

        Which is why I’m looking forward to some of the face-to-face interactions I’ll be having over the next couple of weeks. A friend of mine is getting married tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to seeing a bunch of people I don’t get to see that often anymore. I’ll also be going with some friends to see the new adaptation of IT next weekend, so that should be a good time (hopefully scary too).

      2. Have fun at the wedding! It’s usually a great time to catch up with old pals.

        I’ve got a lunch date skedded this week in NYC — and a brunch date in Montreal next Sunday.

        My new tactic is to (gulp) reach out more often to acquaintances, often people I only know through my work, and ask them to be social –even just for a meal. So far, it’s working.

      3. It takes…a bit of nerve. I never assume anyone wants to move beyond the ease of mere acquaintance (and many do not) so it’s always a bit of a risk to make that first move. I find Twitter very good for this — if someone is smart, witty and playful there, we’re likely to enjoy one another’s company IRL. I met up with two Twitter pals in Berlin (for the 1st time) and we had a great time.

      4. That makes sense. For me, I’ve found that friends of friends make for good company. For example, a couple weeks back a friend of mine and I went out for some drinks and to have a good time. He brought a friend of his, and we ended up becoming very good friends just from that meeting. And as soon as he laughed at my first joke, I knew that was going to happen. He’s even said he’s going to go see it with me next weekend. How awesome is that?

      5. So true!

        I made a friend through (!?) our blogs; she lives in London and is much younger. Her BFF from high school lives here in NY and is also a globe-trotter and journalist, so we had that in common. She and I have now become friends and I feel very fortunate in that.

  7. Great post! I have also found it harder to make friends as I’ve gotten older. I have plenty of casual friends, but few close friends. I have found as I have gotten more successful that old friends have drifted away. I’m happily married and it seems old friends who were not happy in their lives didn’t want me in theirs. Their loss for sure.

    1. Thanks…

      It’s hard sometimes as paths diverge. I think it would be hard for me, had I stayed (unhappily) single to hang out with happily married friends.

      I do have more casual friends I enjoy, but I value a deeper sort of intimacy. The truest pals are the people you know you can call — God Forbid — at 3am in an emergency,

      I think the truest of all there in times of real fear and grief, when many flee.

  8. This piece is very much on point. I’m 35 and it’s so very difficult to keep friendships when your friends are married, engaged and/or having kids. I’ve tried to get involved in group activities related to my interests, which helps with friend making, but if those things end, it’s hard to keep up the friendship. My work schedule makes socializing difficult, too. I pretty much work 10-12 hours per day, and my available times often fall during the work times of others. I’m at the point where I’m only really keeping in touch with close friends now. I live in the American south where people are more open and friendlier (Compared to other locals-especially in comparison to the north Texas area where I used to live), which facilitates making friends as an adult, but distance and obligations still take their toll. But I keep trying to engage with people. I do have to remember, though, that some friendships just don’t last. It’s ok, though, because sometimes, when one friendship ends, another begins. Just keep going forward and hold on to the ones who stick around.

    1. Thanks for weighing in…

      Americans work crazy long hours (compared to some other places) and that mitigates against having time to just hang out.

      I’m very frustrated by my arthritic right knee, now bone-on-bone with no cartilage, forbidden from running, jumping or sudden twists — all of which I did for 15 years as a regular weekly softball player with friends. That loss has been annoying to me.

      My interests are very eclectic so single-interest groups aren’t necessarily my best fit.

      1. Yeah, the work is my problem. My jobs just don’t pay enough, so I have no choice until I can find better work. I’ve heard about efforts to create 20 and 30 hour work weeks in Europe, I think; these sound great, but I don’t know if they’re in practice or not. It would be interesting to see if they pan out. But I think for many, kids and family take up a lot of time- and the hours that those take can’t always be decreased.

  9. Jan Jasper

    Caitlin,
    I appreciate your comment that you don’t assume, nor should other visitors here assume, that all folks here are Christian, or follow any religion at all. I am an Atheist and have been since my teens. So I appreciate your inclusive tone.
    About keeping friends – I think if one is selective and middle-aged, it’s hard to find friends and even harder to keep them over time. In the past several years, I’ve had 3 long-term friendships end. In one case, I was stunned to discover an ugly side of a woman I’d been pretty close to and thought I knew pretty well after 20 years. Taken together, these losses hit me hard and has made me less inclined to trust new people past a certain point.
    Also, one of my oldest friends is developing Alzheimer’s. He used to have great psychological insight and we’d talk in detail about the ups and downs of our respective marriages. Last time we talked and I made a comment about my late husband, he not only forgot that my husband had died – he forgot that I’d ever been married. He asked in surprise, “How long were you married?” and I replied “!4 years.” He had no memory of this. Nor did he remember the times that, as couples, we’d been to each other’s houses. I don’t want to distance myself from this dear friend of 25 years, but I’m not sure how to talk to him now. He’s invited me to visit him and I plan to do so while he still knows who I am.

    1. It’s not a typical reply on this blog to have Scripture quoted — and one of the pleasures for me here is that readers come, literally, from around the world. I make NO assumptions that they share anyone else’s religious beliefs or convictions. I think readers know me to be generally pretty liberal politically, but I do try (at least I think I try) to be inclusive. So, thanks. 🙂

      How sad about your friend! That’s terrible…and what a double loss of your husband and his shared memories of you and your husband.

      Yes, I had a friend here of about 15 years — one I spoke to almost daily, traveled with (very rare for me), met her sister and parents, etc — turn out to be someone much less honest than I could have imagined. It was horrible. Then she married a wealthy guy who boasted about his income (ugh) and she dropped me like a hot potato. Not pleasant at all.

      So I understand and share your wariness. 🙂

  10. I was drawn to this post because it featured a picture of one of my favourite movies. Then I read on and discovered that you were writing about something I had been subconsciously thinking about for a long time.
    My best friends are the ones I have had for a really long time–more than 20 years. I have made “friends” at work, but they’ve dropped off or drifted away quite easily. Work (ESL teacher based in Toronto) used to provide interesting friends–world travelers, artists, thinkers, and interestingly harmless freaks, but that has changed a bit. The industry has changed, or maybe these people are now being accepted into other jobs which would have shunned them before. The hours have also changed, leaving less time for socializing. Also, rent prices and drink prices have made socializing a difficult option.
    Those friend of twenty plus years, don’t require socializing. We can watch TV together and be happy.
    I rambled, but I hope I was able to express some of what I was feeling.
    Thanks for your post. You’ve given me things to think about.

    1. Thanks for such a thoughtful comment…

      So true…Most of my friends fit something of a profile (as I suspect many of us do) — like me, they’ve traveled the world (but not in luxurious ways, necessarily); they read widely; they’re very curious about how the world (at large) works; they speak multiple languages and/or have lived outside their native culture so they have a true appreciation of difference,

      I grew up in Toronto and left it decades ago, but go back once or twice every year to see friends. The city is SO expensive now for housing, especially. It’s brutal.

      Those oldest friends are our greatest treasure. I re-connected with (!) a very good friend from high school in Toronto (Leaside) at our 20th reunion who’s lived since then in the countryside — and we’ve stayed close since then, despite living very different lives. I love the comfort of knowing someone so long, and they knowing me.

      I’m honored this prompted some reflection on your part. That’s the greatest compliment! 🙂

  11. The French use an expression to explain the break-up of a friendship or the hesitation to cultivate a new one – “on n’a pas les mêmes valeurs”. This expression neatly sums it up.

    My former best friend in Toronto (of over 20 years) and I broke up in 2012 over Israel, can you believe it? She did not condemn the horrific bombing campaign during the summer of 2012 in which thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza were killed or maimed. When I shrieked that the whole world was watching in horror and that humanitarian organizations were all condemning the brutal acts, she said quite calmly that she didn’t care. (she has family in Israel).

    On n’a pas les mêmes valeurs, that is sure. This was a truly ugly side of her that was revealed to me, a shadow side which contrasted sharply with qualities of generosity and kindness. Go figure. I miss her.

    And then, just recently, I ended a long-term friendship over another issue of violence. Violence in the home where the kids are often slapped and hit by the parents. This is unacceptable (not my values) therefore leaving me no choice but to put an end to the relationship.

    So, in summary, this is how I explain true friendships. That we share the same values.

    1. Exactement.

      Thanks for putting it so succinctly and lucidly. This is why I ended three friendships, all of which I still miss years later, as I saw behaviors that I found abhorrent. Not as bad as what you describe.

    2. Yes! I’ve lost friends over Israel as well, and even stopped speaking to some relatives due to their blatant anti-Semitism. On the other hand, I have close friends who – outwardly at least – are the complete opposite of me. But our core values align 1,000%.

      1. I generally avoid political discussion — pretty burned out on it by now as a journalist.

        I think core values are key; my BFF from college has a 100% different life from me in almost every way, but she’s still someone I love and get along well with.

  12. I realized that I didn’t really answer your question – Are you finding it more difficult as you age to find and enjoy new friendships?

    The answer is no. Because I have a full time job and I’m (desperately) trying to finish my book project on weekends, I don’t have time to find and enjoy new friendships. But later on I’ll definitely set out to do so. And I’ll do it by joining book and writing groups, travel groups, etc. where you meet people with like-minded interests. For example, there’s a writing group in London called Chalk The Sun which organizes all sorts of workshops and trips. I was supposed to go to Puglia, Italy with this group mid-September, but something else came up …

    1. I’m not much of a joiner, I’m afraid.

      I have made friends organically through social media (and then met IRL, as we did) and through my work. But a true friendship really takes time and people seem to just have less time for it now.

  13. everything that you say here is true, caitlin. for me, it definitely has slowed, but i feel that the quality of new friends, while much more rare, is worth the wait. that being said, as humans i think we are meant to share our lives with others, and on many different levels. i love my alone time, and have discovered myself to be a bit of an introvert at times, as far as needing time alone to recharge, though i love interactions with others.

    i have a few friends that i’ve stayed connected to over the years, and those feel natural and easy. i’ve made it a point to try to stay in touch as life happens and when we see each other it is quite enjoyable. i also made a small group of friends here, when i came for grad school at 40, and we continue to be in each others’ lives. i enjoy meeting new people, discussing the world, our lives, our thoughts, our differences, the things we have in common. i especially enjoy shared experiences or just laughing or seeing the world together. i love the human story. i like to be disclosed over time, and not blurted all at once. it does seem harder as we grow older to meet new people who stay in our lives and as a singleton, i’m not always invited to things, other than by those who already know me well. it’s an ongoing balance and i continue to reach out, though granted more carefully than i once did, but nonetheless, still reach out.

    1. I so agree with you that disclosure takes time — and should. People who feel compelled to blurt it all out often flee afterward.

      My European trip really made me realize how much I need and value friendship in my life — not only on-line!

  14. buffgecko

    Nice post, thanks for sharing. I don’t have many friends and I tend to keep the ones I’ve had for a long time. The real ones are the ones I know I can count on, are good people, are honest, and don’t pressure me to do anything.

  15. Jan Jasper

    Thanks to everyone for sharing, and especially Caitlin, for starting this fascinating thread. I’m not much of a joiner and am quite introverted. As I’ve gotten older, I’m increasingly sickened by the cruelty and injustice in the world. I’ll admit that I indulged in some magical thinking when I was in my 20s, but I now find it intolerable to hear luckier-than-average people say things like “Someone must be watching out for me,” “God has a plan,” or “I’ll put out positive thoughts and the Universe will reward me.” It’s childish, ignorant, and also self-absorbed and smug – most people who say these things are simply lucky, yet they think “The Universe” or God finds them special. I have ended friendships over this, and it shapes who I choose to be around. A couple years go I began attending Atheist and Humanist groups via MeetUp.com. The people are very down-to-earth and most are well-informed. They share a belief in secular society and science. Some are Unitarians. Nobody asks your astrological sign. I’ve made many acquaintances and had fascinating discussions; and several people I’ve met here have become friends,

    1. I doubt anyone speaking like this would ever be a friend of mine, either.

      It gets tricky as you age because your values and principles, whatever they may be, probably get hardened. I’m not going to listen to bullshit anymore and I did for years to keep some friendships going.

  16. A fascinating post and comments. I would add a wholly different dynamic to the issue of making friends – lifestyle. We are now retired and living full time in a mobile home and traveling. So far, we’ve met some folks and exchanged (and forgotten) names – but nothing’s come of it. One contributing factor may be expectations – an expectation of forming friendships as an easy thing. If you read through the comments above, it’s pretty clear that there is an unexpressed expectation that we should have many friends. Well, just who said that was so? I would love it. We all would love it. But rather than being concerned about how our lifestyles impact our circle of friends, shouldn’t we first examine our expectations? Social media has resurrected my ability to communicate with friends from long ago – but that hasn’t necessarily made them all BFFs. Those who are my “of course you can call me at 3AM” friends mostly stem from interests and work held in common. And they are few. That may be all I will ever have or know. Rather than be sad/disappointed in their scarcity, I rejoice in their simple existence.

    1. Very true…I think $$$ and family responsibilities play into that.

      Once you’re not working, and moving around a lot, I think it’s likely much more difficult to find people with whom you have a lot in common because, de facto, you just don’t have any shared history with them, shared memories and friends in common as a result.

      When I visit my high school friend back in Ontario (usually once a year or so) who is still very tight with four or five or HER high school pals, I get the added pleasure of hearing how they are all doing now as well. With old friends who have kids, I’ve met their kids and seen them grow up and am always happy to hear their news as well…It becomes a larger network.

      I don’t think many people have a HUGE circle of intimates.

  17. You certainly have to be careful about who you choose to socialise with!

    I have a recent example of this when my mother got to know someone at her university — they were both doing PhDs as mature students and they became friends. But then it ended badly when the supposed ‘friend’ started making all sorts of judgmental/unpleasant comments about my mum and also about me (after she’d met me once!).

    I have a few close friends and I’ve made friends with someone via my blog — we’ve been emailing for the past few years and hope to meet in Europe next year. But purely online socialising doesn’t cut it for me — I like meeting interesting people IRL too. It can be difficult to find the time to meet new people though.

    1. It can be a shock when you think someone’s a new friend — and they’re not. This has happened a few times to me, and it makes you wonder how much they reveal at first….why it takes time to confirm whether they ARE a good fit and vice versa.

      Online is fun but not nearly as satisfying as a shared experience.

  18. Amen to this. Being anything other than an orthodox human being makes friendships difficult. Work a 9-5 and think like everyone else thinks or… you blog on a Sunday instead of hang out with peers.

    1. So true!

      I was tweeting a younger fellow FT freelancer about this yesterday — we’ve yet to meet, but I love her spirit of adventure; she lived in Thailand for a year working and just visited India. I know, firsthand, that choosing a (much) less conventional life means a lot of people will never have any idea who you really are or why. I tried for many years attending a local church where everyone was a stay-at-home $$$$$ mother, or a $$$ corporate warrior. No one ever “got” me and it was very lonely. I gave up.

      The friends who do? Gold! 🙂

  19. Honestly, I am happy with my life as I am. I do not have close friends. But, I am either too busy with my jobs or too tired.

    Regarding friendship, I would rather go overseas and meet better friends or find American friends who share things in common with me.

  20. I think it’s certainly more challenging these days. The modern pace of life, frequency of moving, isolation due to technology, prevalence of family breakdown, and lack of commitment are all contributing factors. Intimate friendships take much time, trust, and commitment: three commodities that are in rare supply these days! I’m not sure how realistic it is to expect to have many close friends in this culture. I’m thankful for the friends that I do have, and I try to reach out to others who may not have any real friends. New immigrants, in particular, can feel very lost and alone.
    I’m sorry to hear about your church experience. I hope you find one where you feel more understood and welcomed. Sometimes joining a small group within the church (like a feeding program or an ALPHA group, for example) can help you connect with others.
    Thanks for the interesting article!

    1. Time, trust and commitment — thanks for such eloquence! 🙂 You said it so well.

      But people who feel like as though friendship is “too much work” need to really think this through more carefully. I recently attended a friend’s father’s funeral. The “friend” is not someone I’m super close to (we’re both authors/journalists and have known one another for a decade, albeit in different cities) but he was very glad I came, and so was I.

      As we age and face illness and death of loved ones, true friendship means showing UP — not just a bunch of easy emojis.

      Not sure how we’ll deal with church. I was so disheartened by my experience (while missing greatly the beauty of that church) I have little appetite right now for church-shopping. But thanks for your suggestion — a good one!

  21. I’ve gone through phases. Some places I make friends extremely easily, others less so. I’ve been moving since I was a kid, so my way of making friends differs from many of the locals, as I tend to treat people like we’ve been good friends for ages once I decided that I like them.

    The way I look at it is that moving gives me the opportunity to find more of my soulmates.

  22. It’s true how the most liveliest places can be the loneliest. The greater the contrast, the greater the effect. When you live in a place that is just flowing with miscellaneous kinds of people and you don’t know even one, the effect is greater than when you sit in a restaurant and the person next to you does not know you. It’s sad but true. The truth is loneliness makes you like a fish out of the water. It’s scary. We can stop somebody on the way home and share a small conversation and still be lonely. It is a connection between hearts enriched by many known and unknown kinds of human emotion that serves as an antidote to loneliness.

    1. True — big cities without any strong emotional connection are tough! But I’ve found it much easier to find people with whom to connect there than I did living in a small town in the U.S. — where every single effort I made was met with silence or rejection. It was brutal and really left a scar.

      While loneliness can make you feel alone, the irony is that SO many people feel it as well! Breaking out of your bubble is the challenge.

      It’s also cultural — I grew up in Toronto, a place where people are less likely to chat up a stranger than in NYC, where I’ve had some great conversations with strangers. On my European trip, I was very lucky to meet, even briefly, some really interesting people beside me on a park bench or, actually, in my hotel restaurant. But then I talk to people for a living (as a journalist) so I’m not too scared to strike up a conversation.

  23. CoachMandala

    Indeed! Also, it is impossible to make new friends when you have many roles (mother, wife, worker, student…). Perhaps, a new article could be how to balance our live: finding time to make friends. Happy labor day!!!

    1. I would have written more on “balance” — but I am not a mother, or grandmother, or caretaker. Nor am I student right now. So it would not be appropriate for me to advise others!

      I work alone at home, so my time (possibly VERY unusual for a woman) is very much my own to command and to use as I wish. I’m lucky and I value that very highly.

  24. It definitely gets tougher the older you get. I’ve a few friends I’ve met through work or the gym but rarely see them outside of those environments unless it is a lunch or quick coffee. Part of the issue is that I much prefer female company and once they have children I find myself disappearing from their lives as they get caught up in family stuff. With regards friends I actually get to do stuff with – this is restricted to the two or three times per year when I catch up with my old school friends who now live several hundred miles away at the other end of England.

    1. Sorry to hear this — but good to know (sad but helpful) this happens to men and in other places.

      We have become accustomed to a long — 8-10 hour — drive from NY back to Canada to see my oldest friends there. Very few of them have come down here (it’s very expensive and, with a one-bedroom apartment we can only host one person at a time on our sofa) so it’s up to us to make that move. We also have very good friends in DC (about 5 hours’ drive south of us) and we visit them once a year or so.

      This summer we were very lucky, loaned a beach house in NY, and friends (whose kids are now grown) came to join us there for three days. Trying to find people whose income, interests and schedule mesh enough to travel with? Difficult!

  25. Wow..following this conversation has been quite therapeutic! I can identify with so much here. For me it is reassuring when I see that there are still safe spaces (such as this blog) for people to share their feelings and experiences and even those niggling insecurities that we think we should have left behind us as children!

    1. I’ve been very surprised — and touched — that this post resonated with so many people. I felt embarrassed posting it thinking “Ugh. It’s all my fault” but it’s helpful to hear that others struggle with this, too.

      I’m not sure we ever lose some of our insecurities. I feel 10000% confident professionally, but not always socially, even now.

  26. It’s definitely not easy making friends for some people especially since your friends kind of depict who you are too.
    You have to make the right friends but how do you do that when you’re surrounded by people who believe in stuff way more different than you? And how do you make the right friends who will bring good into your life and who are genuine?

    1. All good questions!

      I think Juliet said it very well in her comment — you have to share values (ethics, morals, spiritual beliefs — or none) more than liking the same music or food. That comes and goes.

      I think it also takes time for people to reveal their true character — so if you spend limited time with them, you can’t tell if they are good or genuine. It’s a risk; you have to make the time to learn more, and may not like what you discover. It happens. 🙂

  27. It’s also tricky when the only way you learned to make friends was through/within a particular religious community and then your beliefs begin to change! Thanks for sharing this list–sometimes its helpful to see in black and white why friendship are hard to form. And it lets us know we’re not alone.

  28. Great post! I have also found it challenging to build new friendships in my 30s. There is no longer the built-in social network of school and school activities that made it easy in childhood and my early 20s.

  29. Actually, it is not easy to make friends, especially when you live in another countries by yourself. “More modern living style – less real friends”. Thank you for your blog, it is very attractive!

  30. Hey Caitlin,
    I am from India and people here are so friendly and willing to strike up a conversation. I would love to come to America one day but as I see from your post, I think I will miss the friendliness of Indians.

    1. It depends where you go in the U.S. — some places are much friendlier than others. In the U.S. people are often obsessed with work and being economically “productive” so anything that doesn’t warn them money or their boss is seen as less important.

  31. Your piece is very honest. It is tough to admit you don’t have an abundance of loving friends knocking down the door. I read somewhere that most friendships last 2 years which sounds about right. I have noticed friendship can last indefinitely if both parties have willingness to forgive whatever came between you. In the burbs it usually involves dogs or children. But you also need a connection deep enough to survive the inevitable separation that occurs when whatever kept throwing you two together in the first place (soccer practice, Women’s clubs, school) ends. “Frienemy” type relationships are over with that first altercation. You two never liked each other. Your child is out of Brownies or gymnastics and thankfully you never have to look at her again. But even when there is a real connection there is always that adjustment from being 2 year friends to a lifetime friends, and it involves moving past the stumbling block/altercation/ fallout whatever it may be and both of you do become better people. I have only a handful of such friends but those are the most rewarding friendships in my life.

  32. Pingback: The challenge of making new friends — Broadside – Ursus Americana

  33. Pingback: The challenge of making new friends — Broadside – Ursus Americana

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