Before having kids, my husband and I had a solid group of friends with whom we had fun parties, nights out at bars and movie watching marathons. There was always someone up for something and our social lives were busy. Then we had a baby. Suddenly, we weren’t as fun as we used to be and friendships fell away like leaves from the autumn trees.
When our kids were tiny, it seemed fairly easy to make friends again. Baby swim class was filled with other moms desperately seeking adult company, toddler sign language class had tons of other snooty parents who thought their nine-month-old was a genius and university friends had started popping out offspring around the same time so it was all playdates, all the time. As the kids got older, however, most of those friendships fell by the wayside and I looked around and felt, well, friendless.
Once the kids were in school full time, I realized it was high time I found a coffee date, but where was I to find one? How do you make friends at 40? How could I meet any eligible women to test drive a friendship when it seemed everyone had already committed to friendships for life? Exacerbating the problem was the fact that I work from home, so I’m basically a hermit.
Writer Marci O’Connor undertook a fascinating task—she tried her hand at an online friendship service. The service was designed to connect people for platonic friendships in much the same way dating sites work. Despite Marci’s relative success with online friend-matching, I don’t think I’m ready to take that route.
Rebecca G. Adams, professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina cites three conditions people tend to need in order to make friends: “proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other”. Huh. Remember when just being in the same sandbox was enough to be BFFs 4-ever?
It seems that as we age, we consistently want the same things in friends. We want to depend on them, to be able to talk to them and to have fun with them—but we tend to weight family time more heavily. As we recognize our mortality (oh my, how very depressing) and experience time flying by, we choose to spend more time with our parents, our spouses and our kids. Combined with our work expectations and other responsibilities, it leaves little time for forging new friendships.
Five Ways To Find Friends At 40
Get out into your community
When we moved three years ago, I vowed to make some new girlfriends and the only way to do that was to be face-to-face with the people around me. I stood outside my kids’ schools and smiled at strangers and started conversations. (As it happens, one of my very best friends took that bait and we’re now virtually inseparable.)
There was some trial-and-error and sure, a few really awkward, “Hey, um, want to grab a coffee sometime?” proposals, but overall, it’s been a success. I’ve got a core group of women who I regularly laugh with, rely on, and am thankful for.
Meet your friends’ friends
Often, if a friend likes someone, you will, too. I’ve made a lot of friends this way—invite people over and accept invitations elsewhere. Organize a pub night or dinner out and invite everyone! You never know who you’ll click with.
I love chatting with people in the same gym or art classes—at least you’ve got one thing in common!
Are you finding you’re chatting with an old high school friend a lot on Facebook? If you’re within a reasonable distance, take it offline! You might find that they’re happy to hang out again, too. And seriously, sometimes all you need is a mutual love of chardonnay to get a good friendship going.
Fan the flames
I don’t mean this romantically at all, but rather platonically. One of the saddest things I’ve experienced is the slow decline of once-happy friendships. Like any relationship, friendships need nurturing. A long-time friend of mine is amazing at reminding me it’s been too long between lunches, and we now meet once a month for riotous lunches and hugs.
If all else fails, drop me a line!