When we were in school, making friends was a lot easier.
We had access to other humans our age, and many of us were easily divided by the activities we liked to do.
As I got older, the opportunities to make friends dwindled as I made work and family more important.
Then, I made a few long-distance moves, and I ran into the same problem many of my clients come to me about—how do I get more friends in my 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond?
We are grown, professional women who would make awesome friends, who want to make good friends, and yet we seem to fall short every time. How is this possible?
The truth is things change as we get older. We change, our life circumstances change, and we do a lot less just for the sake of fun—which is how we met friends when we were young.
Why it’s hard.
1. We become busier with life.
We have families, activities, jobs, and so much more. Our time and other people’s time are more limited in midlife. It can be challenging to get people out of the house when they are feeling overwhelmed by life.
2. We tend to sink into more comfort.
Meeting new people and making friends are a process, and it can be a scary one if we’ve had friendships that didn’t work out in the past (we all do). We can start looking for red flags that aren’t really red flags, just indicators of our discomfort of trying new things or trusting other people.
3. We want perfect friends.
So many women have told me that they just can’t find others that are just like them. When we are looking for perfect, we’re bound to find fault with everyone. We aren’t perfect, so expecting others to be is going to leave us lonely.
4. We weren’t taught how to resolve conflicts in friendships.
The truth about relationships (especially those besties we all want) is that there will be conflict, disagreements, and other uncomfortable situations. The way we become committed friends is by going through those things together. It might mean having hard conversations, asking for boundaries, and apologizing when we’ve messed up. It’s moving through the challenges together that make us ride-or-die friends.
5. We ghost anyone who makes us uncomfortable.
This was me. If the relationship seemed like a lot of work, I would gently disappear. Instead of having the harder conversations or asking for what I wanted, I just disappeared. I know I’m not the only one who fears conflict. If you do too, you might have found yourself making an escape too.
So how do we make friends after 40?
1. We can join others who enjoy what we enjoy.
Whether you like to play cards or crochet or play basketball, you can find others who enjoy what you enjoy—even in midlife. Of course, you’re going to have to show up in order to find more friends. Check out sites like “Meetup” to find people who share similar interests.
2. We work on the relationships we have.
Instead of ghosting or burning bridges, we can accept that no one is perfect. We can do the harder thing—having conversations that feel hard and asking for what we want. Keep in mind we may not get what we want, but we can ask. The answer will tell us a lot about our relationship.
One way to meet people with similar interests is to volunteer for an organization that you care about. If they are volunteering too, you already have common ground to build from.
4. Get to know your neighbors.
Sure, they may not be your age or your first picks, and with an open mind and some curiosity, you might be surprised. Or your neighbors may know people you would jive with well.
Many of my clients have met some of their best friends while on vacation. When you spend a week at the same resort or tour, you get to know each other in a low-pressure situation. That can make it easier.
We try new things.
Less comfortable, but more exciting.
You would think with more years, it would be easier to make friends but many of us are out of practice, if we had practice at all. In the meantime, be kind to you so that you will be at your best when making new connections or refreshing old ones.
We can make friends and have bestie relationships—even after 40. It may feel a little clumsy or uncomfortable, but that’s how relationships go until we get more practice.