Why Making Friends in Midlife Is So Hard By Katharine Smyth
(Link – article on The Atlantic): Why Making Friends in Midlife Is So Hard
I thought I was done dating. But after moving across the country, I had to start again—this time, in search of platonic love.
January 12, 2021
[The author discusses meeting with some other adults and feeling socially awkward at moments. She mentions breaking up with a guy she moved cross country for, and she found herself alone again.]
…But I saw now that I would have to start that dispiriting process over again, this time in search not of love but of friendship—and at the age of 40, no less, a decidedly late time in life to be seeking new soulmates.
According to “The Friendship Report,” a global study commissioned by Snapchat in 2019, the average age at which we meet our best friends is 21—a stage when we’re not only bonding over formative new experiences such as first love and first heartbreak, but also growing more discerning about whom we befriend.
Even more important, young adulthood is a time when many of us have time.
The average American spends just 41 minutes a day socializing, but Jeffrey A. Hall, a communication-studies professor at the University of Kansas, estimates that it typically takes more than 200 hours, ideally over six weeks, for a stranger to grow into a close friend.
As we get older, the space we used to fill with laughter, gossip, and staying up until the sky grew light can get consumed by more “adult” concerns, such as marriage, procreation, and fully developed careers—and we tend to end up with less of ourselves to give.
…If our 30s are “the decade where friendship goes to die,” as the science journalist Lydia Denworth notes in her book Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond, then it’s no wonder that making friends at 40 is more akin to dating than I had anticipated: It’s dependent not only on chemistry and common interests, but also on a shared vision of what your new relationship could provide.
Half the struggle is finding someone who wants the same thing you do, and at the exact same time.
[She discusses that friends she had already gave her a list of people they knew she could possibly befriend once she moved to a new location]
…Unfortunately, these contacts [her friends suggested she meet for friendship] weren’t as eager as I was about the prospect of new friendship.
I passed a pleasant afternoon talking conspiracy theories with the veteran, and a pleasant evening talking snowmobiles with the retired couple.
But the adventure dad never returned my email, and the equine healer suggested a date many weeks in the future.
[She signed up for the Bumble app, but used it to be matched with friends, not boyfriends]
…I matched with only one person who actually intrigued me: Steph, a blond woman with tattoos and a lovely smile who had recently moved to Bozeman from Salt Lake City.
“Very into good conversation, progressive thinking, flexibility, and genuine connection,” she wrote in her profile, though what really got me were her two sphynx cats, perched like adorable aliens upon a truly exceptional leather couch.
When we met for drinks a few days later, we talked fathers, divorce, and our ambivalence about motherhood, exchanging vulnerabilities and laughing like we’d known each other for months.
This—the shock of recognition and affection, the giddy attraction, the spreading sense of possibility—was what I had been missing.
…Looking out the airplane window at the great blue sky, I thought about how making friends in midlife, while challenging, might also be a gift, a chance to enlarge one’s world and one’s self.
It sometimes feels at 40 as if our lives have assumed their final shape, entrenched as we so often are in our careers and cities and relationships.