Whenever I watch children playing together at the park, it always reminds me of a giant chemistry experiment. Like atoms spinning through the air, boys and girls whirl around, bumping into each other. Occasionally, they come together in small groups, only to be ripped apart by unseen forces.
For most of our lives, our friendships are “accidental.” We sit next to someone in elementary school who happens to like trucks. After a few weeks, we are “best friends.” As parents, our own children tie us to each other in an intricate web of social relationships – some cherished and others that we wish we could avoid.
Then, in our 40s and 50s, things start to change. With our kids out of the house, we no longer have an endless stream of BBQs, sleep-overs, road trips and family vacations to keep us connected. Most of us are still working, but, on average, our careers have lost momentum. Many of us find our romantic relationships under pressure by the social, financial and biological changes that we are encountering.
We know instinctually that we need a new way of making friends, but, after 5 or more decades on this planet, we are reluctant to step out of our comfort zone.
The good news is that making friends as an adult is completely possible. It just requires a little effort – and, more importantly, a new approach. Here are a few suggestions.
Self-awareness is the starting point for any meaningful change in your life. As a result, the first step to making friends as an adult is to accept the fact that your social reality has changed.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. The fact that you are having trouble making friends has nothing to do with your worth as a person. It simply means that your social circumstances are different.
Once you accept this simple fact, you will be more willing to make the changes in your life that will lead to a successful and fulfilling social life.
It may not feel like it, but, life after 60 is the perfect time to make new friends. Without school and family-related events to keep you busy, you have more time to focus on your passions.
Making friends as an adult starts with your passions. When you focus on what you love to do in a social environment, new friendships form naturally.
What do you love to do? Are there any passions that you put on the back-burner, while you were busy raising your family? Have you always been fascinated by a particular sport? Is there something creative, mysterious or wacky that you have always wanted to try? Are you ready for a career shift? Now is the time to pursue your passions, not people.
By the time we reach our 60th birthday, most of us have our share of emotional bruises. It’s not that we are cynical – but, our rose-tinted glasses are certainly more transparent than they used to be.
We realize that people are complex, love rarely conquers all and people are self-interested, even when they are helping others.
Making friends as an older adult requires you to find a balance between suspicion and trust, emotional risk and potential friendship.
Once again, the first step to overcoming our fears is to bring them into our awareness. Have you been hurt in the past? How has this impacted your desire to reach out to other people? Are you painting men or women with broad brush strokes? What are you most afraid of when it comes to building new friendships?
Take the time to understand your own fears. Then, ask yourself whether you are being fair to the world – and yourself. Making new friends as an adult is different, precisely because we know so much. Sometimes we need to learn to think a little less and trust a little more.
Do you think that it is easier or harder making friends as an adult? Please take a second to vote. Then, let’s start a conversation at the end of this article.
What do you think the secret is to making friends as an adult? What have you done to improve your social life and make more friends after 60? Please join the conversation and “like” and share this article to keep the discussion going!