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!).