Last week, I headed out on a retreat with a handful of the women I go to my Arabic classes with. While the point of this trip was to bond outside of our usual class setting, this getaway was needed for so many reasons.
Amidst the competitive game nights and evenings talks about our faith – we opened up about a ton of common struggles we face as part of adulting, leading to the big ol' question of:
"Why is it so hard to make friends as an adult?"
Having little to no friends as an adult is an uncomfortable topic to speak on.
It's daunting at any age - but there's something about stretching your social circle after your teen years that seems more overwhelming.
Even in the era of instant DM's, digital invitations and WhatsApp group chats 🤳🏽- finding friends that you genuinely vibe with can be tough.
You start to think about:
- How do I find new friends?
- Where are the people who have similar interests / hobbies / life perspectives / vibes / moral beliefs as me?
- How do I introduce the adult version of me to others?
If you're currently in this boat – just know that you're not alone. It's really common for adults to experience difficulties in the literal friend-zone.
But it's time we speak about it, unfiltered.
Why Is it Actually Hard to Make Friends in Adulthood?
Research shows that the most common reason why people struggle to connect with others is due to a lack of trust.
It's harder than ever for people to find friends that they can fully invest in emotionally and mentally. This also happens to be the reason why people stick to their childhood friends and don't try to branch out too much.
As adults, we're more aware of our surroundings (which is great) but it also means we're more fearful of risks.
We're also a lot busier as adults compared to our younger selves. The work schedule, the allocated 'me-time', and the family priorities means that we want friends that fit into our lives pretty seamlessly.
How willing are we to compromise a bit on our time to maintain quality friendships with long term benefits?
As a Kid, It's Just Different.
As a kid, we know it's different.
The school playground helped us navigate friendships and branch out of our comfort zones pretty easily (and quickly!).
The "Do you want to be my friend?" line would simply do the trick as a kid, but it doesn't prove as easy as that as an adult.
Even during college and university days, the ability to bond over subjects, interests and in social settings would keep friendships thriving.
As the years went by and these settings slowly faded away, the things that tied us to our friends no longer existed.
And now it's our 'adult-ish' responsibility to keep that spark alive, make time for those friends – or seek new friendships completely.
To My Introverts, I See You...
For all my introverts on here who find comfort in their own space and on their own vibe - I get you. I'm the same – and it's actually a huge reason why it takes me longer to open up to new people because I feel so content on my own.
You even start to think:
"Do I even need friends right now?"
As an introvert, you're also going to want friends that 'get' you a lot quicker than most. The lower social battery mixed with your love of quieter activities can make that friendship search feel more complex.
But it doesn't have to be!
The great news is - you already have a 'vibe checklist'. You know exactly the type of people who make you feel at ease so it's just about taking that step into the world to find them (trust me, they're out there).
The Truth Is - Friendships are Important
Let's not deny the facts. We're human beings that crave social interactions.
Scientifically, studies show how good friendships can double our chances of recovering from depression and boost your ability to be empathetic.
Asides from the science of friendship, friends bring happiness into our lives and provide us with a different perspective on life. This is why the struggle to find quality connections can be disheartening at times.
Let's look at how we can take the next step on our roadmap to true friendships in our adult lives:
A Combination of Courage and Vulnerability
There's two traits that I've learnt can aid us in creating new friendships in adult life - Courage and Vulnerability.
Courage is what it takes to step foot into the world.
To join a class with likeminded people, to approach that lady who you sit next to in that course, or to introduce yourself to the mum with children similar to yours.
Vulnerability is what it takes to open up.
It's one thing having a bunch of introductions with potential friends, but it's another thing to escalate that first hello into a blossoming connection.
People often connect over 'shared vulnerability'. It's like this thing that two people find complex about their lives but, by sharing it with each other, it's a less of a burden in some way.
Practical Steps to Great Adult Friendships
It really is possible to break the barriers and succeed in having epic friends (even post teenage years). Here's a few ways to go about it 👇🏼
Write down your qualities (and theirs)
Take out your notebook and write down all the things that you believe make you an awesome friend. Perhaps you're a pretty good listener, or you have high levels of empathy.
Now write down theirs. What do you want in a friend? Is it someone who can help you make better decisions? A person who is organised and enjoys routine?
Join a Beneficial Class / Course
The majority of my (now) social circle came from when I signed up to weekly Arabic classes.
I knew that the women who attended the classes would most likely be invested in their religion, in their early twenties, and be studying at university, too. It was a golden opportunity to meet like-minded girls so this is promising route.
If you're into sports, or maybe you want to know more about your faith, join a class that's relevant to your interests and the friends will follow.
It's also a smart way to build conversations because one minute you're discussing the class notes, and the next minute you're buying bubble tea together. 🥤 True Story
Look to Your Network
The growth of social media has seem to become the founder of many friendships groups. If you come across a mutual friend's account who seem to have similar hobbies to you, why not drop a message?
It's also a little less daunting to do things digitally because you don't have to walk up to them and initiate a convo.
Have Patience and Make Dua
Friendships take time. Especially strong ones. Having patience is an important part of nurturing these relationships and giving them time and space to grow.
Ask Allah SWT to grant you friends that uplift you spiritually and keep you firm on the right path. Choosing companions that impact your faith positively is one of the best things you can have.
In A Nutshell
Although previous friendships betrayals or rejections can bring on this 'totally-not-true' idea that loneliness is inevitable - it's time we break that mould.
If having genuine companions who uplift you and bring you close to your faith is what you need right now - make this a priority, lean into your vulnerability and choose people who make the world feel a little lighter.