Making and Losing Friends in Your 20s and 30s

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One thing that I am commonly asked is how do I make friends in my 30s?

Well, let me tell you. It is no easy fete. But it can be done.

You will never be BEST friends with everyone you meet. If you find just one person where the connection is truly genuine, then you’re already on to a winner.

I remember when I was in my teens that it was a big deal to have a lot of friends. When Myspace, Bebo and Facebook first started, it was a competition to see who had the most friends. As you get older you soon realise it’s the quality of the friendship, not the quantity that matters.

What I have come to realise is that friendships that you thought would last a lifetime are put under strain mostly in your twenties. SO MUCH HAPPENS in your twenties. People meet their future husbands/wives, some get pregnant, some have high flying careers, some move abroad, some become unwell and some sadly pass away. It’s the decade you are probably going to be most aware of because adulthood kicks off with a bang.

Your own life experiences will shape how you respond to these situations too. You might find that you transition from being the most attentive friend to being the most flaky. You may find that you can’t cope with people’s problems and walk away. Or you might find that you become an even better friend. You can’t predict how you will turn out, no matter what your intentions are. What you must be aware of is that you are going to be required to be flexible.

Only you can judge whether someone is taking the p***. Some friends will only come to you when they have a problem. Can you live with that? I know that I have a couple of friends who only come to me in a crisis, but I still enjoy their friendship and I expect it from them.

One useful hack is to try and expand your friend base by one or two people so you can ‘bounce’ between. If one of your friend’s gets married and runs off to have loads of babies, you’re going to need some back up.

There’s a common belief that the friends you make at uni are your friends for life, and in my instance this is true. This is most likely because you go through an incredible bonding experience together of moving away from home and working out how to use the oven to more serious stuff like holding you when your heart has been broken or clearing up your vomit after a messy night out. The key to a good friendship is letting someone in. Tell someone something personal about yourself and let your guard down (obviously it’s up to you how personal you get) and hopefully that person will respond back with something personal about themselves.

The rules of high school no longer apply – you don’t have to be the class clown or the most promiscuous. Be yourself. Those who like you will stick around, those that don’t, won’t. And remember, it REALLY doesn’t matter if not everyone likes. Not everyone will like you. Do you like every person you’ve ever met?

Work friendships are tricky business. You already have a lot in common because you both work at the same place, but you have to be mindful that if they spend 37.5 hours at work with you, they may not want to see you outside of work. Also, if they (or you) move jobs, it’s a strong possibility that you will lose touch afterwards. That has happened to be a lot. But you know what? I’m ok with that.

Now there is also nothing stopping you befriending the people you go on dates with but it doesn’t work out. One would hope that if you had agreed to go on a date with them then there was some common ground, and perhaps you even enjoyed each others company? Forgive me if online dating is just for sexy times and I am misinformed.

Join a club – yes you can still do that in adulthood. Join a gym and go to the classes, go to language lessons, dance lessons, cooking lessons – there’s always an opportunity to meet someone. You could also volunteer.

Another great way to bond with people is to go and do something with them. A bit like dating. Sitting staring at each other trying to make conversation increases the pressure like nobodies business. Where do you even start? However, going bowling or paintballing gives you something to discuss which can then lead on to other chat.

Just remember, that friendships will come and go. And that’s ok. But don’t ditch the old friendships for the new ones unless there’s a suitable reason to do so!

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