Making Friends as an Adult is Different...and Can Be Really Challenging

You’re not uncool. Making friends as an adult is just hard

When you were a kid, it seemed like you could walk up to just about anybody and be best friends the next minute. But somewhere along the long, winding road to adulthood, making new friends became an impossibly hard thing to do. Well according to psychologist and University of Maryland professor Marisa G.


NPR’s article & corresponding interview captures something that I have been teaching to people, as early as post-graduation from their education for their career.  Going to school creates the social dynamics that allows for making friends to happen organically.  Repeated exposure to the same people in a common experience allows for getting to know people better and honing in on people who might be a good match for you as a friend.  It allows for time to build trust, establish things in common, and develop shared memories.  When we are no longer in a structured environment like that, developing new friendships takes more of a willingness to be vulnerable and choosing to put yourself in situations repeatedly to get to know people.

Developing new friendships is extra difficult after a move.  When you wind up living in the same area that you went to school, you will continue to lean on some of your school relationships while you naturally give yourself time to get to know new people through work or other community activities such as volunteering, your kid’s school, or perhaps a spiritual community.  When you move, you will still have the emotional ties with your close friends who live far away but developing a network of people to call on for social activities like catching a movie, going out to dinner, or having over to watch the game…this takes time and putting yourself out there.  I often compare it to feeling the same awkwardness that can happen when you are trying to date people, without having to navigate the physical component.  It can feel like a very lonely time and, when people don’t realize that it’s a normal situation that will get better with time, sometimes they take the feeling personally and worry that there is something wrong with them.

If any of this feels like something you, or someone you know, is struggling with…give this link a listen.  I suspect that perhaps, suddenly, you will feel a little more understood and a little less alone (and maybe a little anxious about learning that you need to try to put yourself out there, but it will be worth it!).

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

There are many things to consider when you are trying to decide whether to continue to put energy into the relationship that you have, to make it better and stay together.  Outside of physical or emotional abuse (which is an entirely different scenario) there can be different factors that bring you to this point:

  • Some couples don’t yet have the skills that go into healthy mutual support and conflict resolution.
  • Sometimes, questions about the future of the relationship arise when your partner (or you) has had an affair.
  • Other times, the grind of a particularly challenging life circumstance, such as the illness of a child, has brought your relationship to a very negative place.

Regardless of what brought you to asking yourself about whether you want to stay in this relationship, the path that you choose is up to you and should be based on what you have decided is the best one for you to take.  It doesn’t matter what other people think.  For some, breaking up is the best way to go.  Others decide to work hard to try to put the pieces of their relationship back together.  And, for those who do try, some will, ultimately, be unable to make it work while others will indeed find their way back to a healthier, rewarding relationship.

Drs. John and Julie Gottman are highly regarded psychologists who have spent decades doing research and working with couples.  They are regarded as being among the top in their field. There are therapists (myself not included, as I don’t do couples work) that are specifically trained in this framework, although there are other types of couples counseling that can be very helpful too.  Their website has a ton of free information on it.  Below, I’m listing two places on their website that you might want to start, if you are contemplating whether you should leave your relationship.  BUT, I want to emphasize that while the information on the other end of these links is based on research, there are always exceptions.  So, if it paints a very negative picture for you, and you still want to try to turn things around, go for it!  (Especially if you feel that you have gotten to this place because of the wear and tear from significant life challenges that you, as a couple, have had to face.) But, in all situations, if you felt the need to read this article here today, I do strongly recommend that you find a good therapist that has specific training in working with couples to help you through the process.

  • Love Quiz: Is It Time to Leave Your Relationship? A research based tool that they have developed to analyze whether the negativity in your relationship has possibly gotten to the point of being really hard to come back from, if not the point of “no return.”
  • Learning to Love Again After an Affair A page on their website geared specifically towards discussing options and providing other links to help a person consider things from different perspectives.

No matter what you decide, good luck.  Either choice is likely to be difficult, but ultimately you can get to a better place for you when you take charge of your decisions and work towards your goals.