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Can You Make New Friends after 30?

Updated at the bottom

I was reading a post on Cafemom yesterday about the inability to make friends after 30, right as I’m leaving for the annual BlogHer conference which is for all intents and purposes the equivalent of sleepaway camp for adults.  We’re even going to steal someone’s bra and run it up the flag pole Friday morning.  I bet you $10 that it will be Martha Stewart’s undergarments.

Meeting people at the conference is like shooting fish in a barrel as long as you are willing to dive into conversations with strangers.  Last year, I plopped myself down at a lunch table for book bloggers and walked away with 15 book recommendations and a new blog to read.  It’s also very easy to go there and have the whole outing feel like that game show staple where you have to catch dollar bills blowing through the air while you’re in a glass box (come on, you know exactly what I’m talking about).  It’s people, people everywhere and not a friend to be made.  And that can be INCREDIBLY lonely.  There is really nothing lonelier than being amongst 4500 people and feeling like you’re not connecting with any of them.

I had a large outpouring of new friendships this past spring; a Friendnaissance, if you will.  Some of the new friends are neighbours, some have kids who are in the same activities as my kids, some are the parents of the twins’ friends, and some are random people I’ve met from volunteering or activities.  Three or four have entered daily phone call/just drop by status.  The Friendnaissance was as surprising as seeing Brunelleschi’s Baptistery doors on the heels of the Middle Ages.  The thirties can bring a bit of a new friend drought, and even longstanding friendships can get weedy as attention is split in multiple directions.

During my twenties, most of the people I met were on the same tier: new job/maybe dating someone.  Now, in my late thirties, most of the people around me are on different, non-matching tiers.  I have newly married friends and newly divorced friends and long married friends and single friends.  I have some with kids and some without kids and all the kids are different ages.  I have some who are working and others who are not and still others who work bizarre hours in the house tucked around their children’s routine.  It’s harder to make friends because people are busy, and it’s harder to keep friends because schedules don’t always mesh when people are in different life stages.  My newly married, no kids friends want to go out at night.  My newly divorced, older kid friends want to meet for lunch.  My long married, not working, new baby friends want a playdate in the middle of the day.

It’s not just that the opportunities to meet people dwindle when you’re in your thirties; it’s just hard to make something stick that works equally well for both people.  I lost a few friendships because our kids were at drastically different stages of life and our schedules didn’t mesh, and a few others who ceased to put out an effort around the same I phoned it in too, and the friendship drifted away.

So the Friendnaissance was surprising and much appreciated; it was like getting a fantastic new outfit after feeling a little dumpy for a few months.  Getting a new friend made me feel good about myself, which probably made me more enticing to be around, which netted me more friends.  And now there are all these people around.  And there are all of you.

I’ve said before that a dearth of friends in childhood has made me cling to people much in the same way our grandparent’s generation clung to money after coming through the Great Depression.

I never felt as if I had enough friends.

It’s that feeling you get when you sit down to eat, fully expecting to be satiated by the end of the meal, especially when you see the amount of food at your disposal. But you walk away from the table with this gnawing hunger still present. And what is it? A failure of my own body to not recognize that there is food in my stomach? A true need unfulfilled? How do you know if it’s something wrong with you or something truly missing?

The same could be said for my heart. I had friends and I obviously connected with people and loved many. I’ve never consciously known what was missing or looked for it (or, more accurately, known how to look for it). It was always this small emptiness, a tiny gap of air in the heart. In my mind, I imagined everyone I love squeezed into atriums and ventricles, bodies locked against each other as I carried them inside my chest. And somewhere, free-floating through that mass of love, a tiny space. A pocket of emptiness. And absence searching for a presence.

I’m still trying to make myself understand that I don’t need to amass an army of friends; we’re not fighting an enemy.  We’re just trying to make each other’s lives a little easier.  And you can do that with one other person or you can do it with ten other people, and the number doesn’t matter.  I’m trying to remember that friendships have an ebb and flow, and sometimes they drift away like dandelion fuzz.  That everyone who steps into your life serves some purpose whether it is to get you through a moment in time or a lot of moments in time.

I’m just appreciative of my friends; the ones that came before 30 and the ones that have come after, like all of you.

Are you finding it easier, harder, or the same to make friends later in life?

Updated:

Blanche brings up a fantastic idea.  Anyone in Richmond, VA or have friends in Richmond, VA you can connect with her?  Anyone else looking to meet people?  Throw out the nearest big city to you in the comment section below and please follow someone back to their blog and connect with them (or connect them with a friend) if you live near them.

31 comments

1 HereWeGoAJen { 08.02.12 at 7:31 am }

It’s harder to make friends after you leave school. When you are in school, everyone is at the same stage and usually about the same level of needing friends. Once you leave school, most of the time when you are trying to make friends, you are the one in a different spot while everyone else is static. Like you’ve just moved or just started a new job.

But I’ve done it and I am actually still working on it. We moved here two years ago and I am still trying to settle my friendship niche around me.

2 Blanche { 08.02.12 at 8:04 am }

Definitely harder.

This is one of the many stressful things of our upcoming move. After living here for 6 years, I finally made some good friends in town after LO was born (like being in school, it can be one of those leveling & connecting events), and having to start all over in a new town is just depressing. Especially since I’m not the most outgoing connecting type to begin with. At least now I have more skills and desire to make the effort, if not for myself, then for LO to have a good example to follow. But if anyone is in Richmond, VA I’d love to have a connection through Stirrup Queens!

3 EC { 08.02.12 at 9:10 am }

So much harder! Ever since graduating from college, I’ve found it to be difficult. We relocated a little over a year ago, and made some friends in the apartment complex we lived in when we first arrived, which was kind of a surprise. We live in a city now that has a lot of new transplants, which helps, but strangely, our new friends seem to be guys. I think all our new friends are really my husband’s friends – single guys, or guys that are married. We go out with couples, but it’s all coordinated through the guys. We’re friends with some people that he works with, but it’s the same situation. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just not that great at making friends, or if I’m hard to connect with, or if there’s some extra step I’m not taking that would make a difference.

4 Io { 08.02.12 at 9:30 am }

What everybody else said – when you leave college it gets harder because you’re not all on the same page. Or even in the same book. I have a lot of friends – one of my friends said something about that friend group being jealous of my other friends. I think I am the same way I was in high school in that I belong to several different groups of friends. But I have grown those friendships over the course of years, so I worry about how I would handle making friends if I had to move to a new town.

5 Mud Hut Mama { 08.02.12 at 9:30 am }

I think it became more difficult to make really good friends once I was in a long term relationship. It seems like if I really click with someone my husband doesn’t click with their partner and vice versa. There are just a few couples that we both really look forward to seeing and we treasure those friendships.

I think that’s part of the reason that I’m valuing the online friendships I’ve been making so much. They are uncomplicated by all the other aspects of my life that are difficult to separate from face to face friendships.

6 KeAnne { 08.02.12 at 10:33 am }

Harder. Much harder. I’m trying though. I’m having lunch dates with people I’ve met online and hope to schedule some play dates very soon. I live in Raleigh, NC if anyone’s interested in getting together.

7 Sharon { 08.02.12 at 11:05 am }

With the exception of the three years I was in grad school, I have found it much harder to make friends as an adult. The majority of the friends I’ve made in the past ten years have been at work, so I can’t even imagine how someone who doesn’t work in a traditional office environment meets people and makes friends.

I’ve actually made on “real life” friend through my blog, too, which is pretty cool. :-)

8 Amy { 08.02.12 at 11:17 am }

I have one person who has been my best friend since high school. She’s the person who’s been there for me through everything. And I hope to return the favor, since she’s now starting her journey to her family. But she’s it. I have a hard time making new friends…I work from home, so I don’t even meet anyone at work or on the train anymore.

I live in a south suburb of Chicago…Shorewood, if anyone reading is looking to meetup!

9 Heather { 08.02.12 at 11:29 am }

Mel, You have said this perfectly. I’ve noticed how much my life/friendships have changed as I have gotten older and often I do wonder “Is it me?” I am looking for women with children to connect with since I am a SAHM for the first time. It can be so lonely, especially in small towns! I’m in Wyoming if anyone wants to meet up!

10 Amy { 08.02.12 at 11:40 am }

I’ve made more new friends I the last year than I had in probably the previous five…but we’re all babyloss mamas. I guess that common thread brings even the oddest folks together.

11 Jo { 08.02.12 at 12:30 pm }

Yes, yes, and yes. I moved mid-college, and found it hard to make new friends even then. Lots of people were already established by junior year, and I worked a lot and lived off campus. In my twenties (also known as Hard Times With the Husband), I kind of his from others. What I was going through was impossible to talk about. Since moving home, I’ve opend up a lot and made a few casual friendships, and one intense one that I’ve kind of let slide as her life transitions into newly-divorced, no-kids status. All that to say that,yes, it’s much harder to make friends as we age. In elementary school friendships were quick and instant: same classes, same games at recess, etc. as an adult we are all so diverse and spread thin that I think we don’t expend the same energy in cultivating new friendships, either.

12 Her Royal Fabulousness { 08.02.12 at 1:58 pm }

Much harder. The only place I tend to make new friends is at work and a few online friends who have turned into real life friends. But, if someone is a SAHM or works out of their home, it would be even harder to meet people. I do have friends who have joined adult leagues in different sports that have had luck that way…

13 Bon { 08.02.12 at 2:15 pm }

I blogged about this too – and MissOhKay mentioned this post (which I had yet to get to in my reader)….

Totally agree… Loved the blog post you linked to (CafeMom’s) and the post she linked to (HuffPost).

So glad I’m not the only one who feels this way — it’s sad to know that there are so many of us who feel this way, yet it’s still difficult.

14 Shana { 08.02.12 at 2:21 pm }

Definitely harder, especially since I became a mother. Before kids I met some people through an online based social group. Mostly single and virtually all childless. The people I connected most with moved away – I used to joke, if you want to leave town for good, make friends with me! My life is now work and family (family being husband and kids). All my friends and other family members live in other states. I live in Las Vegas if anyone wants to connect!

15 a { 08.02.12 at 4:42 pm }

Eh, I’ve always had a hard time making friends. I don’t worry about it too much – there are a few constant people in my life. I had dinner with one last night – and having dinner with her always presents interesting opportunities to talk to new people. For instance, the original plan was to meet for dinner with another friend of hers…which turned into a birthday dinner for that other friend’s mother and included a couple extra people besides. Then we went out afterwards and met up with some more of her friends…and a large group of Chinese foreign exchange students. When I need to socialize, I just go somewhere with her.

I would guess it all depends on how easily you have made friends throughout your life otherwise.

16 loribeth { 08.02.12 at 8:32 pm }

Much harder. I didn’t grow up here, moved here after I got married. My college roommate was here, still is, but we live on opposite ends of the city and she is a high-powered lawyer who works ridiculous hours. We work in neighbouring office towers & used to get together for lunch every few weeks, but have sadly drifted apart over the past few years as she’s been dealing with a teenaged son, divorce, the death of her parents and a switch in law firms. I have another friend from “back home,” a fellow journalist that I met after university but pre-marriage, & we manage to get together a few times a year for lunch or a theatre or shoppoing outing. And my office best friend, who retired five years ago, lives about a half hour away. We get together now & then, downtown or out here, for lunch or coffee.

We met some really nice couples through our support group. Of course, they gradually stopped attending & eventually, so did we. For a couple of years, about six of us girls used to get together once or twice a month to scrapbook, but that gradually fell by the wayside. We used to see each other a couple of times a year at group memorial events (Christmas candlelighting, picnic), but attendance at those has also dwindled for numerous reasons.

I actually became quite good friends with one of those women — we had a lot in common, besides dead babies (scrapbooking, reading, realized we’d been at the same university at the same time…!), and best of all, she lived just a 10 minute drive away. We’d scrapbook together and every now & then, she’d call me up and say, “I feel like making a trip to Michaels” ( about a half hour’s drive) — want to come?” We’d go, shop, and then go for coffee afterwards. And then her husband wangled a transfer to a city close to her hometown, about two hours away — something she desperately wanted, so that her son could be closer to his grandmother & cousins growing up. We’ve been there to visit them a couple of times, but even dh says, “I miss them.” :( When I was growing up, I was always the one who moved away. It was kind of a shock to the system to be the one left behind.

Complicating factors: I don’t drive :p and I get very nervous about entertaining. I can manage a few people over for coffee, but more than two people for dinner & I’m a wreck.

17 Lili { 08.02.12 at 8:38 pm }

Love this…was the same way as a kid, still a little bit now. Having the husband and kids around can also make me a bit lazy (on account of never being alone enough to be lonely).

18 orodemniades { 08.02.12 at 10:08 pm }

Much harder to make friends. I live in a rural area, as do most of my friends, we all have jobs and different days off, yadda yadda yadda.

Same thing when I was a kid, except once we moved to town I still didn’t have friends because a) they didn’t like me, b) I was a black kid in an all-white town (no, really), c) I was weird, d) I ended up being a day student at a private boarding school. I didn’t make lifelong friends until my senior year in college, if I’m honest.

19 luna { 08.03.12 at 12:30 am }

SO much harder, for all the reasons you mentioned.
we’ve got SO little free time, limited family time, virtually zero solo time.
it’s pretty difficult with small kids when you have no help too, to meet new people aside from other families with little ones.

good for you with your friendnaissance!

20 JustHeather { 08.03.12 at 3:10 am }

It is harder to make friends once out of college. Although, I’ve managed to make a few good friends at work and in some social activities. I like to think I’m quite friendly and out going, but after having lived in Finland for 13 years, I’m finding myself becoming more quite like the Finns. Partly just because I’m adapting to my ‘new’ country and also partly because of language (though not as much anymore).

I would love to meet bloggers, but because I blog in English and most of the people I follow also post in English, it means they are not in Finland, so less chance for me to find nearby bloggers to meet up with. It doesn’t mean I’ll give up though. :)

21 Jendeis { 08.03.12 at 10:24 am }

I think it’s harder to make friends as a grownup simply because you spend less time in places where you are going to meet new people. I met you after 30 though, so it is possible. :)

22 Esperanza { 08.04.12 at 12:33 am }

I thought a lot about this post. And then I wrote this. http://esperanzasays.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/what-must-you-think-of-me/

23 Mali { 08.04.12 at 2:53 am }

I missed this somehow till I read Esperanza’s post, and so I haven’t read the article (but suspect I’m going to hate it). I’m going to go against the grain here, and say that real, true friendships are easier to make after school/college (university). All my closest friends bar two have been made since I was 30. Yes, I’m still in touch with a couple of people I went to school with, and a bunch of friends I was on a student exchange with, but my close friends – the ones who I talk to about life and the universe, are all people I met or developed closer friendships with in my 30s and 40s. And although I don’t have kids, they do. And yet we’ve built and developed our friendships. I do consider friendships and, I don’t know how to describe them, perhaps jovial acquaintances?, to be different though.

24 Jen { 08.05.12 at 11:11 am }

I have definitely struggled to make friends since graduating from college. It’s been such an interesting struggle, that I actually formulated my interior design masters thesis around that issue in my early 30s. I looked at how kindred relationships are formed both for friendship and dating, and came up with a design for a facility that would foster such relationships.

I moved to Boston 14 years ago, a year after college. One of the things I’ve found intimidating about making friends in this particular city, is that there are so. many. schools. here. And people stay. My husband is a local, went to Tufts, and has been hanging out with the same people for the last 25 or so years. But I showed up here with just two people I knew from college, and had to start from scratch. It’s not easy to break into these groups of college friends who have been together for years.

The other issue I have often faced in making good friends at work is that I’m just always a bit behind or a bit ahead of where the bulk of the gang is. I had a great social life for a while in my early 20s with my coworkers, who averages about 4 years older than me. Until they all got married, and started having kids, and I was perpetually single. The company closed out from under us (damn dot com crash) and without that in common, it just became too hard.

Now, my husband’s friends are who we spend most of our time with. But he is almost 7 years older than me, and non of that crowd wants to have children. So it again feels like a bit of a last hurrah.

Anyway, all this is to say, it’s damn hard as an adult. And I’m an expectant mom in metro Boston looking for some friends! (I did have the pleasure of recently meeting up with Her Royal Fabulousness, and I hope we will get to do it again soon. There’s even a chance our kids could end up in the same daycare. So that’s a start!)

25 jjiraffe { 08.06.12 at 2:57 am }

I’m so happy you’re having a Friendaissance!

I’ve tended to idealize certain periods of time when I had rich and fulfilling friendships because most of the time I’m in the desert searching. I definitely left BlogHer feeling so happy to have connected with online friends, including you.

26 Natalie { 08.08.12 at 6:52 pm }

Making friends has always been hard for me. The only time I had a real solid group of friends was in college, I still keep up with quite a few of them, but we all live in different places now and it gets so difficult to stay in touch. I had made a few friends through IF but when I was able to have two kiddos eventually and neither of them had any, the friendship eventually faltered. At the moment I feel a real lack of good friends in my life and it is really hard on me.

27 Bea { 08.13.12 at 10:02 am }

So obviously you’ve answered your question by going out and making a whole stack of new friends. The answer, it turns out, is yes. But there’s something about having people who “knew you when” or “knew you before”. I suppose if we take the friends we make now and bake the friendships another few decades it’ll all seem as good, though.

Bea

28 kateanon { 08.13.12 at 4:20 pm }

I had to blog about this, rather than carrying on in the comments. http://kateanon.com/2012/08/13/make-new-friends-but-keep-the-old/

If anyone’s nearby, I’m in SLC, Utah

29 kateanon { 08.13.12 at 4:24 pm }

Also, read this article at about the same time as the first one. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/fashion/the-challenge-of-making-friends-as-an-adult.html?_r=2

30 Jacky { 08.16.12 at 6:03 pm }

it’s so hard to make friends nowadays that “fit in” with my personality. In high school and in college i could find people that I meshed with, but as i grew up, got married, got divorced etc….i lost and gained new friends so many times that the depth of our friendships never were really deep. I also became very sensitive to people and their views of me. I miss having a good group of girlfriends that can hang out and go out to dinner and have it not be all about getting drunk or going to the bar….sigh…i’m glad i’m not the only person who feels this way.

31 friendlyhomosapien { 01.22.13 at 6:21 am }

Your post really spoke to me as it did all these other people. I’m in a new city trying to make friends in my 30s and have found it’s an uphill battle. But one that I am determined to keep going with!

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