6 Reasons It's Hard to Make Friends When You're Older

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By Laura Lambert,

Friendships don’t just happen, and that’s especially true of adult friendships. They take time. They take work. You need to invest. But, as any social scientist worth his or her salt will tell you — the payoff is immense.

That’s the point of a couple recent New York Times Smarter Living articles (here and here), both of which highlight the power of even the most casual of friendships. There’s a quaint, small-town undercurrent to all of that. Say "hello" to the person delivering your Amazon haul. Chat a while with your neighbor. Borrow sugar! We can all make more of an effort in the pickup line or with the cashier we see weekly (which is probably more often than you see your best friend). But let’s be honest: They aren’t the people visiting you with soup in hand when you’re ill, or returning your late night texts when an existential crisis rears its ugly head.

Those are your friends. Chances are, if you're an adult with a partner and maybe kids, the number of close friends in your life has dwindled. Or, at the very least, the people who are your long-time besties, your ride-or-dies, are farther away.

Why are adult friendships so hard? Let us count the ways.

1. Friendships take time There’s a 2018 study that tells us just how much time, too. “On average,” Cari Romm wrote in The Cut, “it takes about 50 hours of time with someone before you consider them a casual friend, 90 hours before you feel comfortable upgrading them to just ‘friend,’ and around 200 hours of quality time before you’d consider the two of you to be close.”

I don’t know about you, but as a freelance writer with a husband and two school-age kids, I can’t find an hour in a week for me, much less for putting myself out there an additional 90 hours to make a new friend. That would take, like, years.

2. Friendships take energy And modern life is really draining. The result? Major burnout, which applies as much to doctors as it does to stay-at-home moms. (And P.S. Women are more likely to report burnout from chronic stress than men.)

3. Dance cards are full Relatedly, many of us pray regularly at the Cult of Busy. Our aversion to being idle has morphed into jam-packed schedules, whether at work or with our chronically overscheduled kids. There is precious little time in those schedules to welcome someone new — and untested.

4. There’s no impromptu anything anymore One of the great pleasures in life, for me, is when someone just pops by — and we end up having wine and ordering in, and the evening unfurls ahead of us at its own pace. That impromptu spirit is a big middle finger to the Cult of Busy, and it feels indulgent and in-the-moment, the way the best parts of friendship can feel. That’s when you have the heart-to-hearts. That’s when you laugh uncontrollably. That’s when you reminisce. But those moments are so very few and far between.

5. Everyone comes with baggage Namely, your kids (if you have them) and your partner (if you have one). Adults often come as a package deal, and if some of those relationships between, say, partners and newfound friends aren’t quite love at first sight, it makes the friendship harder to maintain.

6. We’re out of practice If you haven’t made any new friends in a while, you’re not alone. Another study on social dynamics found that the average American hasn’t made a new friend in five years. And nearly half — 45% — of those interviewed say it’s difficult.

Difficult, but not impossible. One fairly sound piece of advice I try to keep in mind, from an old Quartz story, is the Golden Retriever Technique. “To be like the golden retriever, all you need to do is find someone who seems nice, approach them with genuine enthusiasm, and if things don’t pan out, trot along with a stick in your mouth and a song in your heart.”

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Love Magazine: 6 Reasons It's Hard to Make Friends When You're Older
6 Reasons It's Hard to Make Friends When You're Older
Friendships don’t just happen, and that’s especially true of adult friendships. They take time.
Love Magazine
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