Whether you’re an extrovert, introvert or even an ambivert, making friends post-college can be tough. The usual reasons abound: Work, family, commute, and energy all contribute to a “maintenance” mind-set. You may want more or new friends, but knowing how to find them and expending the energy required to attract and retain them may not be easy to come by.
It’s just different for those at or approaching mid-life. Youthful energy that fuels exploration wanes. Those BFFs of your teens and twenties more pragmatically transition to “kind-of-friends,” (KOFs) of the more situational variety.
As writer Arthur Bloch famously wrote, “Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.” It takes extra effort to accumulate friends and not cultivate enemies.
In an article on Lifehacker.com, writer Melanie Pinola examines why it’s so hard to make friends after college for so many people. She offers some thoughts on what to do about it.
Pinola writes there are “three things sociologists consider necessary to making close friends: close proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting where people let their guards down and confide in each other (like college).”
Absent one or more of those factors — because your job or relationship takes repeated priority — and those opportunities for connection dwindle. We need to prioritize these factors in our lives. I’ll add a fourth factor: fun. We need to be around those that we have fun with. Conversely, in the absence of fun, relationships are not likely to last even if we have the other three factors.
In a piece from NYTimes.com, author Alex Williams writes:
“In studies of peer groups, Laura L. Carstensen, a psychology professor who is the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity in California, observed that people tended to interact with fewer people as they moved toward midlife, but that they grew closer to the friends they already had.
Basically, she suggests, this is because people have an internal alarm clock that goes off at big life events, like turning 30. It reminds them that time horizons are shrinking, so it is a point to pull back on exploration and concentrate on the here and now….
… In your 30s and 40s, plenty of new people enter your life, through work, children’s play dates and, of course, Facebook. But actual close friends — the kind you make in college, the kind you call in a crisis — those are in shorter supply.”
A social imperative
Isolation kills. Healthy sociability is vital to our overall health. It can be a struggle to come up with authentic connections at any age. But does it get more difficult as we get older? Do we get more real as we age? Or are we just too self-important? Does pride sometimes hamper your ability to maintain relationships? I know it can for me.
If we’re seeking more meaningful relationships, then maybe we need to do a self-audit, first. For Baby Boomer WiseTribers, have your views on friendly relationships changed over the years? Here are a few questions to ponder:
- At your current age, are you more or less willing to put yourself out there for friendships?
- Do you have a greater interest in making friends with younger generations?
- Do you find yourself gravitating more toward other adults close to your own age?
- Trust factor: over the course of living your life and experiencing the ups and downs of relationships over time, have you become more or less trusting?
- What is most important to you: Old friends with you for life or the refreshing aspect of meeting new friends?
- Does your desire for new friends hinge on a desire for new and interesting stimuli? New thinking? Or a desire for connection? In other words, is it more about intellectual growth or human relatability?
- Is it possible for people to be friends with members of the opposite sex? If so, does that sometimes tricky dynamic get easier or harder as you age?
If one or more of these questions sparks your interest, let us know in the comment section below. No need to write an essay. WiseTribe is about forming and maintaining relationships with friends of every generation. We’d like to know what your experience has been like.
A friendly idea
Comedian Paula Poundstone used to have a bit in her act about how adults are always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up. The punch line is, “… because we’re looking for ideas.” Well, we’re looking for ideas about how to make and maintain friendships post-college. If you’ve experienced some difficulty in creating friendly relationships at mid-life, you are certainly not alone. If you’ve got some good tips, please share them with WiseTribe.
One more thing. In most any list of the regrets of the dying, wishing one had spent more time with friends always makes the list. At our deepest, most reflective moments, it’s our friends we think about. Life is happening today. Sharing is caring, friend.
Julian Rogers is a writer, editor, community manager and marketing communications consultant for high-achieving businesses. He is the senior communications consultant for Juju Eye Communications. Find out what he’s thinking about on his blog: mrturophile.com, or connect with him on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
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