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Having adult friendships is hard. Nobody knows that more than me. My husband and I have moved around a lot in our nearly 12 years of marriage and each time we find ourselves in a new town—we have to find a new “tribe” of friends. What a daunting task. All of those high school insecurities come creeping back up—oh mercy!
Not to mention that there isn’t any time as an adult. Between your spouse, your job, your kids, and your to-do list; where in the world do you carve out that time to make (and keep) a friend?
But there is this urge, in even the most introverted among us, to go out and make friends and be part of a tribe of like-minded pals. To have a sense of belonging. It’s worth it.
Here are a few suggestions that have helped me make (and keep) friends over the past couple of years.
You need to leave your house. The internet is awesome, but it’s too easy to be someone you aren’t.
There is a woman from church with whom I have mutual friends and our kids are the same age so we pass each other in the hallway and smile and say “hello.” I guess you could call us acquaintances. (Just a note—we attend a large church, so there’s a lot of hustle on Sunday mornings and there isn’t a great opportunity to stop and chat.)
So one Sunday after church, I decided to “friend” her on Facebook, she quickly accepted and we had great conversations via Messenger that whole week—and I was pretty confident that I had made a new BFF! The following Sunday, I was excited to see my new friend and actually talk in person. As we approached each other in the hallway, I kept looking her way; waiting for her to look in my direction and when she finally did—it was just awkward. I open-mouth smiled and said something like, “HELLO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and she said, “Hi,” and kept on walking.
It was as though the chatting on Facebook didn’t count for anything. It was really discouraging. It went on like that for a while—awesome personality on Messenger and totally opposite in person. I just had to chalk that whole situation up to social anxiety on her part—I don’t hold it against her and even to this day we have barely graduated to small talk in person, but she has confided in me about some pretty big stuff via Messenger.
While I am happy to be a support for her, it’s kind of a one-sided friendship—and honestly, I just need more.
The fact is that it is easy to be talkative and outgoing through the internet but how authentic are you? I would challenge you to get out of your house and go where your people are—dance class, Bible study, grocery store, the gym, volunteering at your kids school….
Go there—meet them in person and find out if they are a good match for you.
So you’ve done it, you have left your house—now get off that phone!
Listen, we’re all guilty of it—looking down at our phones with a false urgency to avoid possible human interaction. I did it just last night, actually. I joined a new prayer class at church where I don’t know very many of the others in the group and the first thing I did when I sat down was pull my phone out to turn my sound off—which is OK—but then I didn’t put my phone back in my purse! What is wrong with me?! That was a great opportunity to look around and strike up a conversation with someone I didn’t know.
Next Wednesday I am going to turn off my phone before I even get into the classroom and it won’t come out of my purse at all. I’m going to make an effort to be sociable.
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.
I wonder how many people are walking through the grocery store having a fake conversation on their phone or pretending to respond to a really urgent text they never received. I’m not criticizing, it’s hard to step outside our comfort zone and make actual eye contact with a stranger. But having friends is so important—it’s not about being popular, but it is about having a supportive group of women who are there to cheer you on, pick you up and hold you on your feet when you can no longer stand.
[side note: It’s been a long time since I have dated—and I never actually dated as an adult since I was still a teenager when I met my husband—but I would imagine that adult friending is a lot like dating. The nerves and insecurities are probably all the same—but I can testify that the results you get from putting yourself out there are worth the risk.]
So you made a friend! Now what?
Now water that friendship with time and effort.
Laugh together about inside jokes and talk about the things you have in common.
Show her grace when she cancels on you because her baby is sick.
Be a thoughtful listener—when she says she’s worried about a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday, text her Wednesday night to ask how it went.
Be an astute observer. Watch her body language—pay attention to what she’s not saying because a lot of times that is where the “meat” of a friendship can be formed. If you are able to pick up on something without her ever having to say it out loud—well that is when it clicks and she will say, “She gets me!” And that feeling is overwhelming—in a good way!
Now go out there and make friends like a pro—you can do it!!