The Struggle to Find Adulthood Friends

Monday, July 16, 2012

The friendships we develop as children are vital to our social and emotional growth, confidence, and general happiness. But what happens when we become adults — with children of our own and demanding jobs and making friends suddenly does not seem so easy? How do we make time for new friendships when we barely even have time for ourselves?

Marla Paul struggled to make friends as an adult when she relocated from Dallas to her hometown of Chicago. Paul is the author of "The Friendship Crisis: Finding, Making, and Keeping Friends When You’re Not a Kid Anymore."


Marla Paul

Comments [18]

paul from Long Island NY

at 51 -- with a classic "mid-life" crisis -- I feel like I've given the last dozen or more years of my life to my children and my career and lost sight of who I am -- including losing touch with my friends. I am starting to remember who I was when... Part of this is "doing things" with friends that are not driven by my children's schedule or to network my career.

Jul. 18 2012 10:48 AM
Lucia from NYC

I grew up with a mother that had a wide circle of friends, and who told me to cultivate the bonds with people I appreciated. I don't think I understood what she really meant until recently when I relied on my friends more than ever to go through a divorce, illness, violence committed against my family, as well as joyful moments that taste so much better when there are others you can share them with! Making friends is work, but I take pleasure in it.

Jul. 16 2012 03:55 PM
Pamela from Queens

To add one point to my earlier post: I firmly believe that "to everything there is a season." There was a time when I desperately wanted to have many friends; now that is no longer the case. But I cherish nonetheless the ones I have.
As with most things in my life, I need less than I used to and am learning to love what I already have.

Jul. 16 2012 03:42 PM
Pamela from Queens

Friendships of longstanding take time and patience to develop and maintain, elements which become in short supply as one grows older. That said, I try to maintain my older friendships through phone-calls, emails, and get-togethers. Then I have "acquaintances," the sorts of connections which are more casual and intermittent and less deep than my older friendships. As I grow older, I find that my needs from people in terms of connection have changed, in that the kind of intensity I knew as a youngster and teenager is diminished, now replaced by a calmer and less emotionally-charged attitude.

Jul. 16 2012 03:32 PM
Larry Fisher from Bed Stuy, Brooklyn

You can make instant best friends with alcohol, any day of the week in just about any bar in New York!

But what I do is cook for my friends every week. Every Week!
We have Taco Tuesday and it has been a great, great way for people to come over the house and stay connected in a deeper way than the Internet.

I start cooking and cleaning on Monday. Last week, I turned my grill into a smoker, and made a pork shoulder that someone said was better than the 10,000 dollar smoker their restaurant bought. I also made a Mexican Zucchini soup. So, I experiment with the different types of tacos and the menu.

Also, every week I have to get on the phone and call people about the party, and it is a great excuse to talk to people even if they aren't showing.

The fiesta atmosphere of the tacos and friendship is long lasting. New people come over and sometimes I have connected with them to call them on other days of the week.

Money is tight but the party keeps me connected and grounded...

Oh, during the school year, I pick up my kids from school. What I will do is completely ignore them and spend my time calling my friends and going over my problems. If you become my friend, you learn to ignore my calls between the hours of 3p.m and 7 pm during the school year.
(I don't really ignore my kids)

Jul. 16 2012 01:42 PM
Angel from Miami, FL

Super-easy question to answer (after 10 years I figured it out). The answer is the "perception of time". Before you're 32 and have few responsibilities and you make friends with anyone. ANYONE. Because it doesn't feel like a waste of time to make friends with just anyone. These are your truest friends, by the way. When you pass 32, society gives you all these grown-up responsibilities. Suddenly you (self-righteously) believe your time is too important. So you make friends based on proximity and interests. These are artificial constraints and those friends are only there as long as you share their interests or zipcode.

I cope by having various friends that will never meet one another and I pretend to have the same interests as them. I'm sure I'm not the only one who compromises the unimportant stuff to be near the people they like.

I watch people do that with their kids all the time.

Jul. 16 2012 10:14 AM
Kate from rockland county

There is another aspect of this issue down the road for younger people. My husband and I have no children. When our friends began having theirs we understood that much of their time/energy/effort would be devoted to their children AS IT SHOULD BE. We worked very hard at maintaining the friendships. When the kids got older all of us were able to nourish our friendships. However, now that we are in our 60's, and our friends grandchildren have come along we find that once again our friends responsibilities have shifted from pursuing and maintaining peer friendships to babysitting and being on call for last minute help. So, for those in the audience who think that it is difficult now...wait until you're older and trying to make's tough as well

Jul. 16 2012 10:06 AM
Jessie Henshaw from way uptown

We sometimes overlook that friends are *events* in our lives, not fixtures. If we look over our lives there are distinct periods when we're making lots of friends and others when our friends are either stable or drifting away.

They correspond to the times when we ourselves are flowering in our lives, and moving from one phase of opening up to another.

Jul. 16 2012 09:58 AM
Mallory from Pittsburgh, PA

I read this article yesterday and said to myself "Yes! So I'm not the only one struggling to find friends!". I think there should be a online friend finding service! Same set up as a dating site - but you search for friends, or even group of friends. The world needs friends!

Jul. 16 2012 09:57 AM
mary from rockland county, ny

Living in suburbia intensifies the difficulty in making new friends when you are in your 50s or 60s. A lot of people living here have been here for decades and have strong, active friendships with little time or interest in making new ones. Moving here as I did, a few years ago, I have found it impossible to make new friends. I've tried working part-time and have gotten involved with a local group that revolves around a common interest. I made acquaintances, but it not strong friendships. Living in a community that relies on automobiles for transportation isolates people. There is little daily rubbing of shoulders or eye contact with neighbors. I'd gladly move back to my old neighborhood in the Bronx.

Jul. 16 2012 09:39 AM
Susan from Brooklyn

Having kids can inhibit too, especially if your friends don't have kids or if their kids don't match up well with yours--boys to girls & ages. NYC is hard when you don't have enough space for your own family let alone someone else's.

Jul. 16 2012 09:33 AM
Deborah Harkins from New York City

Women over 50 have an easier time. I'm a member of The Transition Network (, a national nonprofit whose mission is to help accomplished women over 50 savor their meeting likeminded friends for discussion groups, travel, book clubs,learning improv, singing the American songbook, whatever. there are nearly 600 members in NYC, plus groups in 14 other cities. I've made some dear friends in my seven years in the group. Their motto: "From here on . . . " (a 501-c-3 organization started 11 years ago).

Jul. 16 2012 09:11 AM
Rachel from Colorado

I've always preferred to have "spectator" instead of "participant" friends. It's never been the norm for me to depend on friends for intimacy and support. I've still got both of my parents, two brothers and a man in my life who satisfy that need. I've not met many friends who were trustworthy enough to let in. I have one friend who i do trust at this level. As a younger person this was strange, but I see my 30-something peers doing something similar, whether it's by preference or not.

Jul. 16 2012 08:45 AM
Kate from NYC

I agree with you, JV - I moved to NYC from the South (not the deep South, but still below the Mason-Dixon line) and find NYC to be extremely difficult. Where I'm from, people get together at each others' houses and have dinner, watch movies together, or just hang out. Here, one usually has to be out in public to get together with friends, which I think does inhibit the development of deeper friendships. People are not very outwardly friendly, too, which makes it extra challenging to break through the tough exterior. And this city is so rushed that no one has time for anyone. I've been here for seven years and am exhausted - I can't wait to move out of here one day!

Jul. 16 2012 08:42 AM
Joanna from Bay Ridge, NYC

True, friends are made through associations, work, school, etc., but when you are alone, a senior, retired, I now want to do things I really enjoy like photography, swimming, walking, dancing tango and going to events. Friends I've made over the years are still my friends, the recipe for making a new friend, takes a smile, a word of encouragement, humor, and compassion. I recently saved a person's life on a bus going to the tango practica, he was having a heart attack.....I made a new friend...and btw, I have maintained a loving friendship with two people I have never met, on the telephone, through previous work, and I am remembered every year on my birthday, and they always say I am their inspiration.

Jul. 16 2012 08:41 AM
Evelyn Stock from Westchester

Admittedly, I live in the suburbs but I continue to make new friends and friends of different ages because I get involved in organizations and activities. I recently started playing bridge again and taking lessons. Now I have new bridge buddies. Advice--find an organization or activity that you care about and spend time there. Friends don't just happen if you just stay home.

Jul. 16 2012 08:38 AM
JV from NYC

I moved to NYC five years ago at age 36 for work. Finding friends as an adult has not been easy. I've had to change my ways and become more pro-active, but I also find NYC very hard. Everyone is booked to the max and it takes a long time to get around.

Jul. 16 2012 08:20 AM
chris krezmien from greenfield ma

Interesting that this topic is being discussed at the same time of the cable bundling issue. The tube is by far the single most destructive social force in this country. People have time to watch 5 hours of TV a day and countless hours connected to the web, but are too busy to make friends. It i

Jul. 16 2012 06:41 AM

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