Making Friends as a Single Adult
Updated: Dec 9, 2018
Have I lived enough?
Have I loved enough?
Have I considered Right Action enough, have I come to any conclusion?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
Have I endured loneliness with grace?
Mary Oliver, excerpt from The Gardener
Man, I am loving Mary Oliver’s poetry! Her collection, A Thousand Mornings, is so beautiful and accessible. I’m new to poetry and I am reading her stuff aloud in the Autumn sunshine these cool days; it’s FUN. Which is what I need poetry to be right now, accessible and enjoyable – I want to get hooked on poetry so I can see what it’s all about it. I wouldn’t mind a poetry addiction.
But for here and now, what I’m thinking about is making friends when you’re single. Especially new friends. Part of me wants to say, “Hey, being lonely is something everyone needs to get comfortable with.” I think that’s a true statement but also true is, “Hey, everyone needs friends.” So there you have that.
Let me give you some background. I was single with a scattering of short lived boyfriends until I started seriously dating my (now) husband at 29. We were married just one year and three days after our first date, which was also our first meeting. So when we married, I moved to join him in his home in a different city. At that point, I kept my old friends but slowly started making friends in my new town. And that is a lot of fun as a married person! It’s fun to go to church, parties, community events, etc. with the Love of Your Life! It takes way less courage. When you are single, it takes a different kind of concentration and strength. At least it did for me.
I remember really struggling once I hit that point in my mid 20’s where most of my friends were married or seriously dating and I was not. And I didn’t really know how to make new friends once I moved away to go to college – which I did at age 25. Once in school, I was working full time and in classes full time so I had hardly any extra energy for making new friends. I made low key friends with my co-workers and classmates but not much developed there outside of work and classes.
Up to that point, I always thoughts friends were made by being friendly. I still think that is true. But sometimes it’s not that simple.
Obviously personality plays a big part in all this. For anyone who is autonomous and loves their independence, I’m talking to you here. It’s easy to think, “I don’t need anyone else.” Until months go by, and you think, “Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a good chat with one of my dear friends.” Except those friends are not handy for getting together because they live out of state or have three toddlers to care for or are deep in the throes of their new crush…and you are just lonely. Then you call someone you just met and say, “Hey, want to get coffee?” and they do and you meet them and you have to work hard at the conversation and spend the necessary time building a friendship. You just can’t skip the step of slowly building through vulnerability, common interests, ability to listen and humorous moments and sharing ways of looking at the world. And that is when you REALLY wish you just could keep your close friends with you wherever you go so you’d never have to make new friends again.
But we do.
So here’s what ended up really helping me and what hurt me:
Taking the first step. For most of us, it would be so nice if another person pursued our friendship but if you are the person who is looking for a friend, just realize you’ll have to make the phone call. Coffee or dessert is always a great first friend-date but walking or hiking is good too.
Give the friendship time. Decide that it will take months of get-togethers with a person before you know if they will make a good friend. I’ve been really surprised by people – often the people who make a great first impression or not who you think they are and the people who are a bit slower to shine are REALLY the gems. And sometimes it’s exactly what you thought from the beginning.
Developing a “Gypsy” mentality. I moved nearly every two years in my 20’s and I noticed about two years into my marriage (at age 32) that I was ready to move again. I had gotten into the habit of not putting down roots. I kept my dearest old friends from high school (and earlier) but I treated all the newer friends as pretty disposable, which is terrible. Once I realized what I was doing (as a married woman who was NOT moving anytime soon) I started really investing in people and caring like I was going to be around for a long while. Wish I’d done that always.
Discounting married people from the friendship list. I just figured, “Oh, she’s married, she doesn’t need friends!” but now, as a married lady, I love it when a single friend calls me to go out for ice cream. And I call my single and married friends to get myself out and get them out. It’s SO necessary for people to have friends and I don’t care if you are married or single. And now I know this, I wish I had gotten to know my married girlfriends better – I just kind of overlooked them because I thought they didn’t need anything. I was wrong.
Like Mary Oliver says so wonderfully, loneliness takes some grace to endure. If you are in a lonely season, I hear you. That is the pits. If you are in a season full of friendship and happiness, I hope you feel “sufficient gratitude” because that is SUCH a wonderful place to be! Either way, or somewhere in between, being human requires all that we have to give it…which, to bring us full circle, is why I’m reading poetry these days. I’m hoping it will help me “live enough” and “love enough”.