How to Make Friends in Your Forties

Lynn Schreiber

No, you aren’t imagining it. It really is harder to make friends when you get older. When I look back at my teens and twenties, there was always someone to go out with, friends to meet for lunch. Even later, after the birth of my kids, I had plenty of friends. When my kids were babies and toddlers, I would sit outside the house with my neighbours, drinking tea and chatting while the children played in the communal courtyard. At some point though, after the third house move, it got more difficult. And I’m not alone in this.

Particularly for those who have gone through a life-changing event, such as a house move or a divorce, it can be difficult to find new friends. The kids are more independent, and don’t need taken to and from school anymore, so no school gate chatter. Playdates are arranged with drop off and pick up, rather than come over for coffee and bring the kids, as we used to arrange when they were younger. I also found that when you move to an area, you drop in to existing friendships and communities. They don’t NEED new friends, they’ve got plenty.

So what to do? How can you make new friends in your forties, and beyond? Here are some tips!

Get Out of the House

You may find that your online friends are enough, and you are getting plenty of stimulation and chatter, but there is something to be said about RL meetings. It’s easier said than done, but work up the courage to join a gym, or a dance class, or walk the dog at the same time every day. You might well bump in to someone and get chatting.

Be Patient

Don’t overwhelm your new friend with plans and suggestions, let the friendship develop gradually.  You don’t have to be BFF right away – if you are proper kindred spirits, you will get there in the end.

Be Kind … but Not a Doormat.

There’s a great German saying, “Wie man in den Wald hineinruft, so schallt es heraus”,  which literally means “When you shout into the woods, it echoes back”. The English equivalent of “What goes around, comes around”.

If you meet parents from school, offer to take their kids for an afternoon, or exchange numbers so that if they are late, they have someone who will wait with their kids. Be willing to do a favour or help out, but don’t let yourself be treated like a dogsbody, always available to pick up kids, or babysit at short notice. It’s great to help each other out, and no one needs to keep score, but stay away from unequal friendships.

Be Forgiving

Your new friend won’t agree with everything you do/say, and will have different habits. If you are a demon for punctuality, and she’s always 15 minutes late, don’t take offence. It’s not a reason to dismiss a burgeoning friendship, if you get on well with her otherwise.

Be Willing to Let Go

You may have made some friends in the baby years, and bonded with them over discussions on nappies and sleeping. As the kids grow older, you notice that you actually don’t have very much in common with your new friends, aside from having kids of the same age. It’s ok to take a step back from friendships that aren’t going anywhere.

Use Your Interests

If you’ve grown out of your childhood friends, and moved on from your new-mummy-friends, start looking around for those who share your interests. Find out if your local wool shop does craft workshops, join a local book club, find a cooking group… whatever it is that you enjoy, doing it with others will make it even more fun.

Imaginary Internet Pixies

I have a huge group of online friends, some of whom have become close and treasured friends. We manage to meet up every now and then, which is really great. Online friends are great for those who live in more remote areas, of if you have niche interests. Often online friends can become offline friends for life. Check out some of the wonderful Facebook Groups (such as the Jump! Parents group), or search for a group to suit your interests.


Further Reading

Friends of a Certain Age

As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends.

No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now… Read More

The Real Problem with Making Friends in Middle Age

Having difficulty making friends isn’t an age thing, it’s a matter of life situation. Friendships are, at their simplest, unions in which each person gets something of value from the other; if you don’t need what a friend is giving you because you get it elsewhere—or you simply don’t need it at all because your life situation has changed—they might end up getting cut from your life. Further, if you can’t find anyone you like or relate to, maybe you don’t actually need to like anyone that badly. Singles who don’t have “built-in” friends and social networks like spouses and kids probably prioritize external friendships a bit more than do the marrieds, because they need them more… Read More

Friendship at Midlife – Are the Days of BFF Over? 

Middle age can be incredibly liberating. We might stop basing our choices on the needs or desires of other people. We stop saying “yes” to every request. We’re more discriminating when we decide how to spend our time — and with whom.

Looking back over the past several years, I realize that many of my social relationships were built on the shifting sands of proximity or shared experience.

When I was much younger, I had several “best friends” in the neighborhood where I grew up.  I recently reconnected with one from high school, and we were both thrilled to find we’re just as compatible today. But most of my girlhood friends have moved on or lost touch… Read More

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