Making Friends as an Adult Is Harder Than I Thought

The other day I tried to make a friend.

It was awkward to say the least.

Not for her, at least I sure hope not, but it was for me.

It was a Friday night and I was tired of spending another night scrolling in vain through Netflix titles. In a moment of pure desperation I did the unthinkable.

I asked someone to hang out. On a Friday night. At the last minute.

It was a recipe for rejection.

What have you done?! You’re exposed! Now she’ll know you don’t have any plans you loser! Surely she’s busy because she’s cool and cool people have plans. Just check Instagram if you’re ever in doubt.

I texted her and I immediately regretted it. Surely she would decline my invitation.

My hands were sweaty, knees weak, my palms were heavy. I didn’t vomit on my sweater, thankfully, but I was in panic mode as I anxiously awaited her response.

Turns out, she was sitting on her kitchen floor eating cereal, secretly hoping not to spend the rest of the night alone. We hopped in the car and discovered a hole-in-the-wall beer market and swapped stories at a picnic table under some string lights by the river.

Which, last time I checked, is what friends do.

I know it sounds trivial, stupid even, but it was a really big deal. I learned a lot that night, not just about my new friend, but about making friends in general.

If I’m honest with myself I have to admit that making friends as an adult has been hard.

I thought it would be easier. I thought I would be better at it by now. When I pictured my life in my mid-twenties I imagined myself surrounded with deep, rich community. I thought my husband and I would have couple friends that we vacationed with and stayed up way too late with sharing our favorite bottle of wine. I thought my girls and I would have each other over for dinner and talk about work while swapping new recipes. I thought I would be in a huddle or community group or a pod or whatever the hell Christians are calling it these days.

Do I have great friends and people who know me well? Absolutely. I’m so grateful for them and for their willingness to put up with me as I stumble along this adulthood journey.

But things don’t look the way I thought they would. Maybe I had too high of expectations. Maybe I’m just awkward. Maybe making friends as an adult takes more time, energy, and patience than I initially expected. But just because things aren’t going according to plan doesn’t make them bad. It just makes them different.

And I’m learning that’s okay.

But just because it's okay doesn't make it easy. Honestly, why is making friends as an adult so hard?

Making Friends Feels Foreign

For starters, I must admit I’ve never really had to make friends before. My friendships came pre-programmed because I spent all day every day with the same people who were interested in the same things who also happened to be on the exact same schedule. If that’s not a recipe for community I don’t know what is. While not diverse (which is not good) it did offer a common space and place to interact with people and forge friendships simply out of convenience.

It’s easy to say there’s not a good place to start but unless you work from home and order all your groceries online and are therefore a modern-day hermit then there our lives are brimming with people. While they might not share the same passions, interests or schedules we do have a few things in common. We’re all lonely, we all want to be known and we all want to be loved.

We’ve lost the art of making friends because we never really had to practice putting in the time, energy and effort it takes when those surface-level commonalities have been stripped away and we have to work a little harder and dig a little deeper to connect in the places that truly matter.

We’re new at this whole friendship-making thing. If it feels foreign it’s because it is and we can either lean into it and get comfortable being uncomfortable or we can run away and hide. But hiding is only fun for so long. Isn’t it always such a sigh of relief to finally be found?

You Have to Put Pants On

Making friends as an adult isn’t convenient. You have to put pants on and no one wants to do that after a long day at work. It’s so much easier to come home and zone out on the couch or fake being social via social media. I’ll be honest: I’m exhausted. The last thing I want to do is meet new friends when I could just as easily spend time with F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

On top of that, just getting to the restaurant or the bar is an entire work of art in and of itself. Adult friendships require genuine effort and commitment on both sides to make plans, clear calendars, and initiate intentional conversations. I don’t know about you but none of those things come naturally to me and sometimes I get discouraged before I even start.

But here’s what I am learning: Adult friends aren’t convenient because they are a choice. Choosing another person time and time again, despite schedule conflicts or tired eyes means we’re already one step closer to the deep, rich friendship that’s brimming right under the surface. It means that when you spend time together it’s no longer out of obligation but out of necessity.

When we sacrifice our time and energy for one another we’re looking at each other and saying, “You matter to me. You’re important. You have value.” Sacrificing our time is the greatest gift we could possibly give one another.

Relationships Are Risky

Ultimately making friends as an adult is hard because the stakes are so much higher. We now know what it feels like to be rejected and wounded and called out. It’s terrifying to take the risk of being vulnerable enough to invite someone in let alone invite them out for a drink.

So we hide behind our curated Instagram content, our Hulu subscriptions and our “I’m good, how are you?” comments. It’ll always be easy to choose those things because Netflix won’t show you where you suck. Curling up with a book won’t call you out. And Instagram will definitely make you insecure, but at least not in front of a group of people.

Relationships are high risk high reward. The value of something is determined by how much the other person is willing to pay. How much of ourselves are we willing to risk to be known? What lengths and commitments and awkwardness are we willing to endure to cultivate relationships?

The answer is different for everyone. But I’m starting to find out just how much good community will cost me. It will cost me my time, my energy, my insecurities, my fears, my hopes, and my dreams. It will more than likely cost me everything and I’m slowly settling into the fact that it’s a price I’m willing to pay.