This past Saturday night I was over having dinner at my friends’ Rachel and Karl’s house. As our kids happily played together, we talked about technology, philosophy, and their recent vacation to Mexico and I marveled at how much I enjoy their friendship. It started because their daughter and mine were in a preschool co-op class and we often worked in the classroom on the same days.
When I had kids at age 46 and again at 50, I essentially started a new phase of life that was out of sync with my friends. None of my friends from before I had kids have kids as young as mine. So I needed to expand my circle of friends if I wanted to have friends that were experiencing the same things as I was.
I found establishing friendships with people that have young children to be hard. First off, everyone has just expanded their family and is all hands-on-deck with supporting new life. Secondly, having young children doesn’t mean we have anything else in common. And thirdly, research shows that we typically have the most friends at age 25 when we are establishing our identity and from there, our friend networks get smaller, often with a focus on fewer but more in-depth friends.
A recent study revealed that only 50% of people report establishing a new friend in the last year.
[I’m going to insert a big aside here. I think this might be a much different number in the blogging community where we are “introduced” to new people regularly and form some of what I think are great blogging friendships, or as my friend Betsy calls them, Blog Buddies. The research I mention here was focused on the broader population.]
Listening to a Ten Percent Happier podcast with psychologist and professor at the University of Maryland, Dr. Marisa G. Franco who has recently written a book called Platonic, made me think about the parenting friendships I’ve established in the seven years since I’ve had kids. It’s taken some time but I’d say that I’ve established a handful of close ones.
Here are some of the things I’ve found helpful in creating new friendships interspersed with some of the wisdom from Dr. Franco.
You have to be vulnerable. This is a hard one for me because my biggest fear is to be seen as a needy person who can’t do it herself. So I’ve worked hard to open up to people who have earned my trust.
Dr. Franco has found we have attachment styles that affect our ability to make friendships. There is a lot of room for interpretation in our relationships (e.g. is that person just busy or ghosting me?) and our past relationships can factor in on how we do that interpretation.
- Securely attached people tend to not to take things as personally and to think people like them.
- Anxiously attached people tend to cling or lose themselves because they assume they’ll be rejected.
- Avoidantly attached people don’t want to give others the chance to reject them or use their vulnerability against them.
Dr. Franco says being aware of our styles can be really helpful so that we understand the filter we are using when interpreting new friendships.
This brings to mind a recent situation with a parenting friend. I had made overtures to do things again and again. She always said, “yes” but never made the effort herself. I tend to be the securely attached style but I started to wonder if I was the only one who valued the relationship when she offered up the comment, “Thanks for thinking of this. I have social anxiety and often forget to reach out.” Ah – awareness matters.
What often falls off my radar is my existing friends. I confess to being not very good at planning things with my pre-parenting friends. Life feels busy and that falls into “me” time that is hard to set aside. So I’m always incredibly grateful when they reach out and suggest get togethers. I do my best to tell them I appreciate it!
On the morning after that lovely dinner with my parenting friends, Rachel and Karl, my best friend from when we were seven-years-old, Katie, came over to hang out with me and my kids. Friends, from all phases of life – what a blessing and well worth the effort.
Please visit my personal blog at https://wynneleon.wordpress.com and I also post on Mondays at the Heart of the Matter blog. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @wynneleon
(featured photo from Pexels)
33 thoughts on “The Art and Science of Making Friends”
I love this blog Wynne. It makes me think of the various ages and phases of the life journey, and how friendships fade in and fade out of life depending on which phase one is in. Many of my friends of years (and decades) past have either retired, moved or passed away. Much to my amazement, my dwindling friend base has increased over the years, thanks to the many new friends I have gathered in the place where I live—a condo of residents 55 and older. Clearly, we all have a lot in common, and what a blessing it is And as you pointed out Wynne, there is an amazing cadre of bloggers—especially through THotM (thank you all very much) who I consider friends! I cherish them all, each and every one! 😘
Ages and phases – well said, Julia! Yes, first the dwindling and then the rekindling. I love that your residence is a great source of new friendships. And yes, aren’t we lucky to have this amazing group of bloggers. I consider myself blessed with your friendship!
So much to love in this post, Wynne. I was unaware of Dr. Franco and her book…all of it sounds really compelling, especially the ‘attachment style’ insight…lines up with so much that I believe to be true. 😉
I love that it lines up with what you’ve seen, heard and experienced. Interesting and good stuff, my friend!! 🙂
Many of my friends went into hiding the moment I had kids. 😂 Either that or they had kids of their own so I hid from them. (I only like my own children.) I kid of course. But there are a number of friends who aren’t as close now as they use to be – especially those who haven’t had kids. At the same time we’ve grown closer to a number of other friends who have. As a parent you are kind of consumed but the whole parenting thing. What binds us as friends are usually the things we have in common so I guess this makes sense. Kudos to you for making the effort to expand your circle Wynne. Great post as always.
Consumed by the whole parenting thing – exactly, AP2!! That’s it – it’s such a different phrase and you describe it so well. Thanks, my friend! 🙂
This is a true commentary on our modern lives! Friendships are treasures, and as we age it becomes more and more difficult to make real friendships with people we can open up with. I tend to shy away from superficial ones, preferring my own company. I also find as I’m aging that my energy levels are lower, so getting through a work week is challenging and weekendds tend to be for family, recuperating from the week, preparing for the next week, and squeezing in some time for my hobbies. Then the weekend is over! Poof!
I can relate so well to your comment that to shy away from the superficial ones. Yes, we have less time and more wisdom to avoid that as we age, right? Poof is a great description of it! Thanks for a wonderful comment and insight, Tamara!
Avoidantly attached. Oh wow that sounds like me. love to keep friendships at arms length. Thanks for sharing this👏👏
Ah – I love your self-awareness. Dr. Franco says that is key in observing how you relate in friendships when you do interact. Thanks for chiming in!
I totally understand how you feel when your friend said “yes” but never followed through. A couple who live a few houses away from us, invited us over three times and stood us up once and cancelled twice. I met the wife at our neighborhood coffee and we hit it off. The fourth time, I cancelled because I was preoccupied with my trip. I didn’t need the bother of investing the time. The book sounds good.
Oh geez, those neighbors sound like a risky investment for sure. How interesting! Thanks for adding this experience to the discussion – so interesting how we navigate these waters!
I talk easily to people but I do
I can imagine your friendship experiences are so interesting given the different cultures and countries you’ve lived in, Cristiana!
My previous comment was incomplete as you could guess. Sometimes I struggle with WP app 😕 I just posted the second part…
I easily talk to people but I don’t make new friends that easy. Most of my friends are about my age and we have been friends since we were teenagers. I also have some new friends from work but again we are more or less in the same age. It’s by chance, it’s not that I look for as old as me friends. Regarding having kids, only two women among my friends have kids. I don’t feel belonging to any categories describe by the author, I just let friendships be. But I agree with you Wynne, friends are a blessing a well worth the effort.
I’m sorry the WP app cut you off – I guessed that might be the case. Your phase “I just let friendships be” seems very peaceful and mature. Thanks for adding that to this conversation!
I wasn’t aware of this model or the classifications of friend relationship reactions, but it all makes perfect sense. My dad was in the navy, so I never really made long-term friends as his posting changed every couple of years. I guess it means I’m more friendly as I’ve always had to make more, new friends. I think while I’m friendly, I’m guarded about calling someone a friend (avoidance maybe). I know it can cause some people to be hurt if I don’t see the relationship in the same way they do.
Wow, that makes sense that you’d have to get good at making friends when moving every couple of years, Brenda. I can see how that helped to build your friendliness! Thanks for commenting!
Is it weird that I’m okay not having much friends? Like I’m not a peoples person and everyone is not my cup of tea. I love having stimulating conversation now and again but I’m not the person you’d find instantly making friends.
I think everybody does it differently and it’s totally fine. Sounds like you’ve discovered what works best for you and that’s great. Thanks for adding this perspective to the conversation!
Can I ask did it take long to become pregnant at that age? I know everyone is different. I am 34 and I want at least two more kids. I must find my person though and that seems to be very difficult as of late!
Ah, finding our “person” is hard. I did it via IVF because I hadn’t found the right person with whom I wanted to have kids yet. And using IVF, it didn’t take long at all – just a long lead up while I figured out that was the route I wanted to go. Here’s to your dream for those 2 more kids!
Was it expensive ?
I enjoy having friends in various age groups- I feel like it helps me widen my view.
Widening the view – yes, what a great way to look at it, Todd!
Wonderful insights, Wynne! I enjoyed reading this. <3
Thank you for reading and commenting, Cheryl! I appreciate it! 🙂
I find making friends tricky as an adult. Everyone is busy – working, raising a family or dealing with older or ill family sometimes all at once. I’m grateful for the friends I do have. Fir me, friends seem to icy similar life stages or proximity. I’ve generally only made them at work in the past 10 years or so, probably because my children entered their teens. I wonder what will happen when I’m old enough to retire? Will I ever make a friend again?
I agree – it is tricky as an adult. If you read Julia’s comment at the very top of the comment thread, she’s found that her 55 and older residence has helped to make friends later in life. So perhaps the right community environment helps in the process. Sending you best wishes!