Monday, June 21, 2010

How to make a new friend when you're a grown-up

A few more thoughts on friendship coming out of my post on being a MK.

Developing new friendships as we get older can be confusing.  Finding someone we actually like and find easy to get on with can be hard work.  Developing a real friendship in the midst of all the acquaintances.  Or, as Seinfeld helpfully points out, it can feel like dating. You like them.  But they seem to have lots of other friends. You try to initiate social interactions.  They don't reciprocate.  So even if you find someone you do like they may not always be as keen!  It's not always a straightforward process.

There's a temptation (as I've experienced with my No 4 child starting school ) to say 'This is TOO much!  I can't do this anymore.  No more new relationships'.  And it makes sense in lots of ways.  Invest time in those relationships that you know are good and strong and reliable.

But I've been the new, friendless person so many times in my life that if all the people I met said 'Sorry, I'm full up with great friendships, so even though you seem nice, I just don't have room left', I would have had a miserable life.

One of the strategies I've used to meet people as I've moved into new situations is to get involved with some kind of group that meets regularly.  A Bible study group at church, a mother's group, committee at preschool, book group.   So that all you have to do is turn up and you have a purpose for regular contact with people.

Of course it is complicated, takes time, a few risks and some hits and misses.  I often think that making new friends is like getting some mud, throwing it around and seeing what sticks!  It can be messy but you won't know unless you start throwing.

7 comments:

Rodney Olsen said...

I love the last paragraph of your post. So true.

We moved to a new area and a new church about 18 months ago so we've been making new friendships.

Some remain solid and grow while others remain at the 'acquaintance' stage which is fine by us.

Not all friendships will go deeper and deeper so we're happy to take things as they come.

It's a mid-sized church and we haven't had the opportunity to get to know everyone yet so there is still plenty of time to create more new friendships.

Sarah said...

Thanks for this post, Jenny. I moved to a tiny farming town just over two years ago, and have struggled to make any meaningful friendships outside of church even though I've tried to get involved in community things like sporting clubs, fitness classes etc. It's really hard to make friends when you're an adult; when I was a kid, it was easy. Or maybe it's just hard for Christians to make non-Christian friends? Or maybe it's the cliqueiness of small towns? I don't know, but for a long time I felt disillusioned that no-one outside of church seemed intent on getting to know us, and I felt it was THEIR role as the established people to make the first move. Maybe I just need to throw some mud. It takes guts though.

Pip said...

I like the Seinfeld example of dating...though I think at the moment I am in the 'stalker' category at school...chasing people down who I might have had a vague conversation with once...can be very emotionally draining.

Jenny said...

O I feel for both of you on this one because it is so hard. The only other thought I had was that I try to invite people over for a meal/ afternoon tea/a play (if they have kids) and am just open about it. "I don't know you very well but it would be great to get to know you better would you like to come over?". And yes, it does feel like asking someone out on a date and is very draining and nerve-wracking. I've also generally found that many people are not thoughtful enough to realise that a new person might need a friend so they don't make the effort to get to know you.

Anna M Blanch said...

I'm living in a new place for the third time in three years (on 3 different continents). It is hard and draining and it takes time. I've benefited from long term friendships (at a distance) alongside making the effort to try to invite people over etc. It can take a long time...and i'm not even half way there...

Jenny said...

Wow Anna - that's huge! I agree about maintaining long term friendships. A good phone conversation with someone that knows you well can sustain/refresh you. And can help regain some emotional energy so you can push on making an effort with new relationships.

Sarah said...

Moving to Mexico has helped me to realise that it's a myth to think that it's up to the established people to welcome the outsider. I think the onus is on the new person in the situation to do the initiating. They are the new element, and it's up to them to communicate what involvement they'd like to have with people and structures.

Ideally, within Christian communities, it should be the opposite way around. The essence of hospitality is love of the stranger. But the reality is that even in churches, the natural ways of the world are all too dominant.

Changing my expectations and knowing that it's up to me to initiate, and keep on initiating, has helped with contentment. So I do as much as my energy level at the particular time can cope with, and don't worry too much about the stuff and relationships that aren't happening.