Why Is It So Hard To Make New Friends As An Adult?
Updated: Nov 20
You grew up watching the TV shows such as Friends or How I Met Your Mother and always thought in your twenties that you would find your group. The group that understands you, gathers for dinner or drinks, and the people who check in on you and care about you
However, you are staring around your house on a Friday night wondering what you can do with your weekend. There aren't any plans. The people around you are okay but they aren’t your best friends. You wonder...what happened? Why is it so hard to make friends as an adult? When will I get my clique and what can I do to find it?
Different Life Cycle Stages
In school, everyone was always on the same path. Same grade, same ages, usually the same sports and clubs. You all had pretty similar goals: to make it to the end of the year. Developmentally, everyone was mostly on the same page. Then you hit adulthood and there are suddenly different paths for everyone. The most typical three are marriage, partying, and career. These can happen in any order or not happen at all.
Three Different Life Cycle Stages
1: Home Forever. The friend who got married young, had kids, and is completely settled into adulthood.
2: Party Animals. The friend who can always be found out at 2 AM, knows the best clubs and is never at home watching TV on a Saturday night.
3: Career-Focused. This friend is always working, traveling for their career, or building an empire. You sometimes wonder if they are alive as it has been so long since you’ve heard from them.
Once everyone fans out into different life cycle stages it can be hard to find friends in the same place as you are once everyone goes their own way. The friendship pools definitely get smaller. The best thing to do when you look for friends is to look for friends who are in a similar life cycle. It takes extra work but is worth it when you are into similar topics and can guide each other through this thing called adulthood.
Everyone Is Busy And Broke
Once you start a 40-hour a week job, it is busy and hectic. Suddenly you need to learn how to cook, clean, and take care of yourself and possibly others. There never seems to be enough time for yourself, let alone trying to hang out with others. The to-do list or “shoulds” just never seem to end. Most jobs in your younger years are also lower-paying jobs, thus leading to less money for the fun things like before.
This makes it harder to make plans with friends or agree to what your friends may want to do as your bank account balance may not be at the level of eating out weekly or enjoying a night on the town frequently. This can be a great time to learn ways to budget or look into cheaper activities in your area.
Another great idea is to try to have multiple people with similar personalities hang out at once, thus working to create your ideal friend group and see your friends at the same time versus costly multiple friend dinners scheduled every week.
You Have To Actively Look For Friends
Once again, when at school you were surrounded by friends in the same life cycle stage. Now you have to actively look for those friends (and know where to look). It can be so much easier to stay at home, stare at your walls and binge watch another TV show and while thinking about having friends. This is the time to actively look and engage yourself in new activities in your area. When looking, try to find friends in your life cycle stage and people you get along with. This won’t be easy, but it will be worth it in the long run.
In therapy, I often brainstorm with clients places they would find their ideal friends. First we start with looking at interests and what values and activities an ideal friend would have. Then we explore options such as meetups, Bumble BFF, community groups, and more. Sometimes clients then express a fear of social anxiety, or “it can be awkward” to meet new people.
It Can Be Awkward (Hi Social Anxiety!)
Walking into new situations with a new person can cue so much anxiety. This can make it difficult to entertain the idea of meeting new friends, begin the steps towards finding ways to meet new friends, or even stop you going to meet new people.
If social anxiety is stopping you from making friends, click here to read our article on it.
If you are looking to help someone with social anxiety without becoming a caregiver or codependent, click here.
Working Towards Making Friends In Adulthood
If you are working on finding your group of friends, working through social anxiety, or working to build the confidence to have your dream life, therapy with me, Mary Willoughby Romm, would be right for you. I work with my clients to work through the causes of their anxiety, develop coping skills that work for them, and eventually begin to have the confidence to approach situations they previously haven’t.
Mary Willoughby Romm is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia who provides online therapy for Willow Tree Healing Center. She enjoys transforming the lives of women, college students, kids, tweens/teens, and families through providing communication strategies, coping skills that work, allowing a safe space to be heard, and actively working towards helping you with your challenges. She is certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (ages 2-7) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, counsels substance abuse in teens and adults, and practices Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.