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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.
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”.
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.
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