Many people struggle to make new friends in midlife. They may have moved to a new city, other friends moved away or for other reasons they’re ready for some new friends.
When we are young the situations we’re in lends itself to making friends more easily. In school, everyone shares similar challenges, a similar schedule, and maybe even the same housing and food. This paves the way for friendships to easily develop.
As people get older, there are more responsibilities. They’re more likely to live alone or with fewer housemates. There may be added challenges – a more demanding job, pets, children, elderly parents, a house to take care of, a health issue, etc.
One of the easiest ways to make new friends is through a shared interest. Whether you’re into cooking, dog walking, bicycling, philosophy or restoring old furniture, there’s probably a group near you that does it together.
Getting involved in groups can be a tremendous help, but on its own is often not enough.
First, you need to get involved in these groups on a regular basis. Once people start to recognize you and know who you are they’ll be more open to being friends with you outside the group activities.
You’ll also need to get a sense of the group and how well it supports your goal of making new friends. I took part in one monthly group for a year before I realized the structure and format of the group activities worked against making friends. Everyone left right afterwards, and people seemed reluctant to talk to anyone except their closest friends.
Another group I took part in had a social time after each group activity. Everyone was keen to talk with and get to know the new people. This was a breath of fresh air compared to the other group.
To have friendships beyond the group activities you’ll need to take initiative. In our social media culture where everyone has a TV in their pocket, people are conditioned to respond to things but often will get distracted from following through on their intentions.
Sometimes this can be challenging. It may seem that their lack of follow up means they don’t like you. If they’re friendly in person, give them a chance as they may just be distracted.
When you meet someone you like, take initiative. Follow up with them.
If you enjoy someone you met at a group activity, say that you’d like to get to know them better and invite them to a short coffee meeting or similar low commitment activity that’s easy to say yes to.
This may work best after you’ve attended several of the group’s meetings and seen the person there several times.
Assuming that goes well, then look for ways to take initiative and include them in your life. Maybe that’s going to a movie or inviting them to join you when you go to a museum or art gallery.
While the group activities are (hopefully) fun and valuable, make sure to find ways to spend time with new friends outside the group setting. The more time you spend outside the group the more likely you are to become faithful friends, not just “friends” of convenience because of the group.
Taking initiative tastefully and following up with someone is not the same as being pushy or creepy. Don’t let your fear of the latter stop you from the importance of follow up.
When you want more friends, taking part in groups that are based on shared interest can be an effective way to make new friends. Get involved so you’re a regular and known person. Look for ways to spend time with people you like outside the group setting so your friendship is based on more than just the group.