artphoto by splunge
artphoto by TheophileEscargot
artphoto by Kronos_to_Earth
artphoto by ethylene





Mecha Wiki

Metachat Eye


IRC Channels



Comment Feed:


23 June 2010

How to make new friends and keep the old I've lived in this city for a few years and was lucky to make a great group of friends almost immediately. We share common interests and have fun. But I haven't developed the deeper relationships I want.[More:]

I haven't found the closer platonic friendships I've developed in other towns, and I'm also still single. Most people in this group are already in a long-term relationship, which seems to limits the opportunity for deeper connections (and for dating, obviously). And I never seem to meet anyone new through my existing friends, so there's not much gradual expansion of social circle as I am used to.

I've found some clubs that seem to have more single people in them and have been participating enthusiastically. I worry a little about leaving my old friends behind. I still like them and I'm not close to any of the new people at all yet. I know I don't have to choose in totality, but really we all have limited time and I have to make lots of individual decisions and sometimes I am torn between the excitement and possibilities of meeting new people and the comfort of the folks I already know.

Have you found yourself in this situation? How did you keep a balance?
I've moved a lot as an adult. Four or five times, every three to five years. So I've thought about this a fair amount.

I think it's one of those things where there are two separate sets of issues: one set which you can control (what you choose to do, actions you take) and one set which you really can't (what is the community like, demographically and culturally). Even when the community isn't offering that much, there should still be some things you can do to connect with new people.

And then there are developmental changes and personal habits that come with changes in life stage and situation.

Much as with dating, you need to know what you want and then associate with people who can provide it. If you want very intimate, close platonic friends, you will need to find people who have the bandwidth for that. In a lot of cases, once people are in a long-term relationship and have a job and/or children, they lose a lot of the free time the formerly enjoyed, and also sometimes lose the need for having many intimate non-family relationships. That's definitely just a life reality to recognize. When people are heavily occupied with their family relationships, it simply consumes emotional energy and time that they might otherwise apply toward friendship. I don't think this is always a bad thing. There's almost nothing that impacts your long-term emotional, physical, and financial well-being like your family life, so once you have one, it does deserve attention. When people aren't putting out a hand to really develop closer relationships with their acquaintances, it's usually because there is something else in life they need to be working on right now (not some failing in you). In friendship as in love, timing is often everything.

Not everyone finds that family life cuts off their interest in close friendships, but a lot of people do. So, if you are finding your present set of friends just doesn't have that much availability for you, then it may help to look at people who are not (yet?) in a partnered relationship and who don't (yet?) have children. There are a lot of adults in this situation.

Fortunately, those are also exactly the kind of adults who want more intimate and sustaining friendships and who have more time to get out and do stuff. So what you are doing - bringing yourself into new social settings where you can meet people who are interested in meeting new people - is right on.

I wouldn't fret too much about "leaving" your old friends. They aren't going anywhere. In fact, they might even be feeling guilty that you want to do stuff more than they can manage, so by adding to your social circle you might actually be relieving them of feeling like they are letting you down. After all, they have established a comfortable circle and would probably be the first recognize that you should have the right to do the same.

With my friends that are partnered with kids, I find we email/Facebook every week or so, and then we get together no more than a few times a year. Short get-togethers work well for them: come over for appetizers, meet for coffee, meet and go shopping, go to a specific event (concert, game). They are less likely to do long projects, extended hangouts and roadtrips, regular volunteer work and those kinds of things that keep you alongside someone long enough to develop real closeness and intimacy. They are less likely to do spontaneous hangout/drop-in of the "So what are you up to tonight?" kind. Usually their lives involve more structure, routine, and negotiation, so they just aren't as freewheeling. And of course that does limit how well you can get to know them in a short time. It seems to me that the kind of adult friendship that forms during the 'partnered years' is much slower-growing, but on the other hand, can be very long-lasting and meaningful. Time goes by and before you know it, you've known someone 20 years and shared a lot - it just didn't happen in an intense, post-adolescent period.

So stay in touch with your settled friends, but definitely begin exploring those new environments. Look for people who have time and energy. You'll often meet people in their 30s and 40s who are single for whatever reason, some newly, some who just are in between relationships or not especially relationship-driven. You will also meet people who are partnered but remain really active. I think the key is being in those environments that attract people with time and energy to spare. And definitely look for things that offer you an opportunity to meet the same people regularly - like a recurring jam session, or trail work or a Tuesday night paddle or cycle ride, or soup kitchen, or what have you - because what you need to develop solid new friendships is repeated exposure to the same new people over time, so you can more naturally get to know one another, and not expect to start a lifelong association from just a happenstance one-time meeting.
posted by Miko 23 June | 14:12
I think about this question a lot: in the past decade I've lived in three towns, quit jobs, started school, moved into a different field, and every time I left some friends behind.

And I agree that very often new parents are so busy and just plain tired that they can't keep up the demands of friendship. Because friendship is demanding: it requires some time and attention to maintain. People living in a crisis (e.g. a new baby, a serious illness, a financial disaster, a new house) don't have time or attention to spare.

But it's okay for friendship to be fluid. When a friend is in crisis, happy or sad, I try to give support without making demands, and when stasis returns, those friendships often rebound stronger than ever. A little flexibility, a lot of patience, and an assumption of mutual goodwill: that's what keeps most of my friendships strong.

My childhood friend Elli (with whom I share a blog) and I have known each other since we were seven, but since we were teenagers, we've lived at a distance of miles or continents. Pre-internet, we had many periods when our friendship went dormant for a while, but it always came back. I've learned to trust that strong friendships can run silent for a bit, biding their time underwater, to resurface when they're ready.

I have one beloved old friend who is dreadful at keeping in touch, but whenever he comes East for business, he adds a day and makes a detour to sleep on my floor and drink my beer. Every three or four years we have a volley of emails arranging details, then he walks in the door and we pick up our chatter as if he'd been out of town for a week, and we both feel it. It's amazing to me how resilient friendship can be.

As much as I have GRARRed about Facebook, I use it, mostly because it keeps in daily touch with one or two distant friends (and with my nieces and nephews). That conversational back-and-forth feels very immediate in a way that email doesn't, especially since it's open to their (or my) more immediate social circle, too.

When The Fella and I got married last year, compiling a guest list --- though a very happy task --- was also a reminder of how many people have vanished from my life, one way or another. Of course, deciding whether to invite old friends also proved to be a pretty solid measurement of my remaining feeling for them: would they care? would they feel obligated to attend, but little joy? what is the residual essence of our friendship?

And I also know that new friends pop up in unexpected places. If we count the faceless ether creatures I know only online, I've made dozens of new friends in the last few years. A few of those have also blossomed into face-to-face friendships. (I don't think face-to-face friendships are more "real" than online friendships, but it adds another dimension.) Only some of the people I know online are real friends, just as only some of the people I know face-to-face are real friends: people who have celebrated my joys and supported me in grief and who share their joy and grief with me and let me stand by them, who make me happy and thoughtful and angry and cheerful, and whose jokes make me snorf milk out my nose.

And I want to thank you for posting this. In between paragraphs, I shot off an email to an old friend I almost never get to see... and got an immediate answer saying that she'd love to come visit, and sharing some amazingly good news. I'm all teary-eyed over her happiness, and I might not have contacted her without that little nudge.
posted by Elsa 23 June | 15:27
Thanks for such thoughtful comments! It's good to know I'm not alone in this. It's not like I'm leaving my old friends alone, but I have to admit I feel a twinge of guilt at going out to meet new people instead of inviting my existing friends over.
posted by punch 23 June | 19:48
Wow what thoughtful comments Miko and Elsa!

I came to chirp in that for friends who have new babies things change very quickly so while there may be a quiet time in your relationship with them all too soon down the track kids go to school and your friends are more available again. So don't write them off totally - just put them in a different basket for a while. Also arents are still desperate to speak in full sentences so creative outings involving large outdoor roaming areas are good to go to.
posted by gomichild 24 June | 19:08
Earthquake. || Good lord,