I read a fascinating article awhile ago about making friends as an adult. (Well, it was about making friends over the age of 30, but I’ll extrapolate, because I think it applies.) This is obviously something that I’ve given a lot of thought to in the past few years, especially since moving to Atlanta. For me one of the stumbling blocks always seems to be, “But I have these awesome friends in other places and I don’t know how to make this new relationship be like the one I have with So and So.”
The article states that “the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.”
This seems to happen easily in college. You’ve obviously got the proximity thing down pat, and unplanned interactions happen easily in the cafeteria, the post office, the gym, the dorm bathroom. And we’re you’re literally living together, it’s pretty easy to let your guard down.
I spent 6 years in a dorm setting and have the friends to prove it. But once I graduated and was living in Huntsville, I exclaimed to Andy one night, “I don’t think I’m very good at making friends!” It’s so, so hard to move beyond a relationship where you see each other in a certain setting and get along well but never interact outside of that one place. And it’s even harder to know who and how to approach to try and make that happen. The author of the article puts it this way about a woman she has seen 4 times in the course of a year: “We are “friends,” but not quite friends. We keep trying to get over the hump, but life gets in the way.”
It’s so true. When everyone has jobs and marriages and especially kids, it takes an act of congress to meet up with people. I had a drink last night with two friends from my church small group who have moved to new neighborhoods. We planned the get-together 18 days ago. Hardly an unplanned interaction. But that doesn’t discount how great and important it is to see your friends. In fact, in some ways it adds even more weight to the relationship that you’re willing to set something on your calendar that far in advance.
I’ve watched my parents build a community around themselves since moving 8 years ago, and it’s pretty incredible all the different places where they’ve developed relationships. I guess for most of my life their main social group (especially for my mom) was by default the other parents of my friends, swim team-mates, etc. But now they have a pretty rich group of people with whom they do fun and interesting things.
The article puts forth a case study on a certain approach to adult friendships: “Some, like Ms. Degliantoni, the fund-raising executive, simply downsize their expectations. ‘I take an extremely efficient approach and seek out like-minded folks to fill very specific needs,’ she said of her current strategy. ‘I have a cocktail friend and a book friend and a parenting friend and several basketball friends and a neighbor friend and a workout friend. It’s much easier filling in those gaps in my life,” she added, “than doing an exhaustive approach for a new friend.’”
I could see that working pretty well actually, and being nice enough, but my heart still craves that friendship, even if it’s just one, where you can call someone and know they’ll be right over if you need them to.
I’m clearly not an expert on this, but I’m working on it…though let’s not talk about keeping up with the old friends, ‘cause that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.