Adult Friendships…are they still important?
Back when we were kids and teenagers our friendships with others were the most important thing in our lives. We usually saw and talked to them everyday, and then were often hanging out with them or on the phone with them after school. When we were 5 making friends was as easy as sharing a cookie on the playground. Teenage friendships were often complicated and drama filled, but still definitely a huge part of the teenage experience, whether good or bad.
When it comes to adult friendships, it seems that things can get even more complicated. It can be hard to make friends as an adult and adult loneliness seems to become more and more common amongst the women who I talked to.
When I asked about friendships and loneliness in our private Facebook group, I got several responses. By midlife a lot of women do not have many girl friends, if any at all. Some said their only friends are their sisters or their mom. I can relate to that…as I consider my adult daughter one of my best friends now. Some said that their husband is pretty much their best or only friend.
Others said that because they had children either very early or very late they do not fit in the demographics of their neighbourhoods or their children’s friends parents. They do not have anything in common with someone 20 years older or younger…other than the fact their children play on the same ball team.
For some…when the kids were done with school and activities, there went their social life too.
Finally some women said that they get so busy with kids, work and activities they just lose touch with friends who are also busy with work, family and activities. Then when the kids are grown and gone they realise that without the constant business they are really feeling a little lost and all of a sudden all alone.
I do know people who have lots of friends. Some of them have even known their friends since kindergarden and 40 years later they still get together on a regular basis. They have been through school, marriages, births, divorces and all kinds of everything crazy in between. They never moved away from their home towns and now their children even go to school together. I think these friendships, while amazing, are not the norm. Although if you have them…. I am a bit jealous. I actually do still have a few childhood friends that I lost touch with for many years, but through the magic of social networking, we have been able to reconnect and stalk each other through facebook posts and pictures. But I have not actually seen them in years.
More often than not, most of us have moved around several times in our adult lives. We go off to college, take jobs in different cities, maybe we get divorced and the ex spouse gets the friends in the settlement; at some point in time we may just feel the need to make new friendships.
I know in my case, we have moved numerous times over the years. While the kids were in school it was easy to meet other people. There were other moms everywhere…at the playground, at the school bus stop, at Brownies or Girl Guides, at soccer and on parent council. It was easy and just natural to become friends. I made some good friends during those times, but inevitably we moved, or they moved or we all just moved on.
In my 40’s when my kids grew up, I finally found a group of friends based on my own interests and not my kids activities. Friends whom I actually had things in common with, was able to call up for coffee, or to go to an event or even just a walk. We shared the fact that our kids were grown and we were now in a different phase of life and had time for ourselves.
But then we decided we missed our adult kids and grandkids too, and when an opportunity to move closer to them presented itself, we jumped on it, and once again I moved away from those I considered really good friends. We now live in a pretty rural community about 4 hours away…and 2 years later, I have yet to really make many new friends here.
I have met some fantastic people and we seem to have some thing in common. It seems to be that we are tired, we don’t really like to make plans, and we really don’t feel like leaving our house, unless we need to. We are able to catch up for a text message chat occasionally, all while wearing our pj pants tucked under a blanket on the couch. Even though we may feel lonely we also just feel worn out socially, so we are selective about how and where we spend what little free time we may have.
When it comes to making adult friends, even though we have more confidence than we did in our teenage years, (after all we are adults now, have careers and we have done really cool things) meeting new people can make us feel like we are walking into the lunchroom for the first time, all alone, all over again. Now… if you were the popular girl, who everyone wanted to be friends with, then maybe you can not relate. I was not that girl.
Even at this age, it can be hard to break into a new community, when people already have busy scheduals and their friends cards are already filled. Especially in a small community…it can just feel like all the available ‘friend material’ people are taken, and so you just need to wait your turn until there is an open and available space.
When I say ‘ friend material people’ it is because at this age, we are picky, at least I am. I don’t want needy friends, friends who bring a lot of drama, or a “project”. ( you know… those people who have big time issues but you are pretty sure you can help them) I really want to meet people who ‘appear’ to have their shit together. I don’t want to know all the skeletons in your closet on the first meeting. Let’s keep the crazy hidden… at least for an hour or so. I will do the same… and believe me, I do have some crazy too. It’s all about finding compatible crazy…and letting it loose a little at a time.
If you are feeling lonely, nowadays it is so easy to connect with other like minded people via social media and our phones. We don’t even need to talk on the phone, we can just send random texts throughout the day, without feeling like we are taking up someone’s valuable time with a phone call.
I have one friend who one day sent me an old fashioned letter! It was so much fun to receive a letter in the mail, filling me in on what she was up to. I even resisted my urge to send of an email or text reply, and I sat down with a paper, pen and cup of coffee. What a great way to slow down and connect with someone! I truly enjoyed it.
One of the women in my online group said one of the things that was tough for her was finding people that she had things in common with. Well, now a days we can easily meet up with other like minded people by finding them online. There are tons of online communities for just about every topic around. These are great places to make online friends, and feel connected to others. In fact 2 of my very best friends in the whole entire world are people I have never met in person. I met Lori and Cindy a long time ago…maybe 10 years ago …. in an old style on line forum for doulas. We were all practicing doulas at the time. We became fast friends and even though that doula forum is long gone, we have stayed in constant contact via facebook messenger on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. Anytime anyone of us has something going on, we send out a message and the other 2 are usually able to respond almost instantly. We have helped each other through so many of life’s rough patches. In fact just last week one of us was going through a tough situation…and instantly we were able to talk her off the ledge.
But lets say you really want to make some real live friends, to actually leave the house and do things with…..what is a midlife girl to do?
- Volunteer- pick a worthy cause that interests you, and offer your time and talents. Maybe teaching adults to read, or at the community theatre. Whatever your interest is, there is probably a place where you can volunteer and meet other like minded people. Plus… it will do your heart and soul good too.
- Take a class in something that interests you. Yoga maybe? Painting? How about a book club? I met one of my good friends at a photography class. LOL neither one of us enjoyed it and we only went to the intro class, but we connected on FB and eventually started hanging out. You can watch your local community events page for more ideas.
- If you can not find anything going on that interests you, you can always take the initiative and put an ad somewhere that you are looking to start a walking group, or a book club, or whatever it is you want to do. I pretty much guarantee there are others out there looking for connection as well. Just remember all the safety rules when connecting with strangers! I met another good friend this way.. actually this is how we met out best “couple friends”. We posted on a local motorcycle group that we were heading out for a ride and if anyone wanted to come along to meet us at the local coffee shop. 5 years later these are our best friends, we stay at their house when we go ‘home’ for a visit, and we go on vacations and camping weekends together. Once again, we live 4 hours away now, but we just send a texts back and forth every few weeks to check in and see what is new.
I do think that adult friendships are still so important. But it is realistic to say that these friendships are not the friendships of our youth. I am grateful for the friends that I have in my life, even though they are all a little different and a little weird! Even though most of them are not women that I see on a constant basis, I do realise that their support has gotten me through a few really rough patches. I hope I have given the same to them.
Nurture your friendships! The ones that really mean something to you. Even though everyone is busy and tired…. I guarantee that they would love a quick, phone call, text or even an old school letter to let them know you are thinking about them.
The world can be a rough place sometimes… but we get through it with a little help from our friends!
If you would like to join my online group for midlife women…..we would love to have you.