How Do You Make Close Friends?

Has anybody cracked the code of making close friends as an adult?

We have plenty of friends in our computer, and we are grateful for modern technology for allowing us to keep up with them so easily. However, the Boffin and I have been here for 4 years, and we really don’t have anyone with whom we have become really close locally. Of course, we have socialized, but it has been scattershot. After moving so much, have we just run out of steam in the friend-making department?

The Sprog? She has friends out the wazoo. It’s so much easier for a kid. They don’t have all the hangups that adults do. She showed up at the first day of first grade and a mutual love of My Little Pony was enough to form everlasting bonds.

I don't think I could pull off something similar.
I don’t think I could pull off something similar. “Bronycon 2014 cosplay contest” by Douglas Muth from Ardmore, PA, USA – DSC_8749. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The standard advice we received when we moved into the area was “Make friends through your kids”. Well, a lot of the kids are into the soccer/Little League/football things. The Sprog wanted nothing to do with them. Girl Scouts? No. Karate? Tried it. She just wanted to kick things, and that’s it. Dance? Not her style. I did make friends with her violin teacher, so that was a good start, but busy schedules and all that…

So school volunteering? Well, I am not PTA material. I managed to torque off one of the Queen Bees by questioning why she would want to ruin Valentine’s Day by giving her husband a relationship quiz that she thought was fun. It was made subtly clear that I was not wanted in any prominent role and will never be invited to any bunco nights.  I am crushed.

Hey, Karen, why don’t you pursue your own interests? Take classes or join a club? There was the running/walking group that was OK until the organizer had other commitments. And there was the knitting class that ended up being ruined by an evil bridge troll. She vocally advocated child abuse, and, long story short, the administration decided she could stay as long as she gave a half-assed apology. I was gone.

To add another layer to it, I have depression, and contrary to what the commercials portray, depressives do not walk around staring out of windows looking like their cats just died. Most of their emotional energy is put into trying to act like normal, functioning human beings. This also means that asking a couple over for dinner or even texting someone to go to Starbucks is especially arduous. It isn’t a case of “Hey, let’s invite the Johnsons over.” and you just text and be done with it. I have to build up the courage to do it and make sure I allow myself enough emotional energy to make sure I can follow through with the plans, so I don’t flake out and put too much burden on the Boffin. Meanwhile, I am trying to remind myself that I am actually a pretty cool person to get to know, even when, deep down, I don’t really believe it. Now, I don’t want anyone to feel guilty or sorry for me, nor do I expect anyone to say yes to my invites because of this admission. All I want is honesty in others’ responses.

But, thanks to therapy, I have someone to tell me that it isn’t completely me. Sorry, Northwest Suburbs of Chicago, you have many things going for you, and I am glad we are living here, but helping newbies assimilate into the area is not one of your strong suits. My therapist has a list of clients who struggle with the same issues. One thing about where I live is that it is a multi-generational area. When people have families and high school chums in the same place, a fair number of them take their social networks for granted, and they don’t think to include the transplants. It is a place where people are very friendly in superficial day-to-day interactions, but it is very hard to crack the shell and get into the club, especially when my ringtone is the Queen repeating the words “psychoactive drugs”.

Of course, I have to take responsibility and the initiative for my own social life. I have to be understanding of other people’s busy schedules, time commitments, scattered brains, and life’s problems too. But it doesn’t make it any less hurtful or lonely when I keep trying and failing.

I can’t stop trying though. I am going to make more of an effort to make the connections I have made deeper. Maybe we can be less of a novelty act at the temple. Maybe there is more I can do through writing. Not all avenues have been exhausted.

So, how do you make close friends? Is Bronycon the answer?

33 thoughts on “How Do You Make Close Friends?

  1. Oh, this really fits with what was discussed at my last book club. The book was Where’d You Go Bernadette, which is an excellent read. The only discussion was about how lonely people felt moving to new areas. It really is difficult and I have no real answers now, but I will think about it and let you know if I come up with a solution!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Years ago we moved to Connecticut, the state I grew up in. Only we were in a much different part (near Hartford). Just about everybody had grown up there, slipped over the border into Mass or VT for college and returned to repopulate the species. If you hadn’t gone to kindergarten with them, they didn’t want you.

    There was a playground near my house, and the public pool was there. One really hot summer morning, all the other moms were complaining that the pool was closed for maintenance. “I have a pool,” I said. “Everybody is welcome to hang out at my house and cool off.” I offered. NOBODY CAME. I was crushed.

    Finally, I found other folks who hadn’t grown up there either, and we became fast friends. It was through our kids, but …

    Is there a “newcomers” group? I know that sounds lame, but imports need friends and so do you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ouch. I am feeling crushed on your behalf. I grew up in a similar area where a good chunk of people made their friends in school and did not leave room for new ones. The Lehigh Valley has its ready-made social network for me too, and I could still be hanging out with a few old friends and my family, if I stayed. But the world became larger for me for a variety of reasons.

      If there is a newcomers group, it isn’t well-advertised. That is the sort of information that realtors would have in their welcome packets or prominent on a newcomer’s resources page when you are researching utilities, if the group were really on the ball. And I am writing as someone who used to work in real estate advertising.

      The problem is that initial friendliness builds your hopes up. You get the whole “Yes, let’s get together. Let me check my calendar/with my husband.” and then you never hear from the women again. Some of them are blowing me off, and I just don’t bother. However, I truly believe some of them are not trying to blow me off, but they are firefighting their way through life and I end up “out of sight, out of mind” because of other priorities. They want to get together, and they are being polite. It would be more honest to just say that they just don’t have the time. C’est la vie.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It really is hard to get together with folks. Our son is grown, and now it is work getting in the way. And fatigue. And feeling like we make all the effort. That last one is the worst trap. Who cares who calls who Made?

        Call your realtor — they like to keep in touch and he/she will know if there is such a thing.

        Or start a book club … Then you’d at least have something to talk about!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a tough situation, does this make you want to return home at times? I am from Michigan and have been in Las Vegas two years now. Just recently has it begun to feel like home for me as change isn’t easy.

    There are groups here that gather once in a while who are from Michigan. I have never attended one, perhaps this is possible for you where you live? I suppose this is a ‘click’ thing but it may break some ice for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting idea, but there are not too many Pennsylvanian transplants in the Chicago area. Pennsylvania is one of those states that retains its natives.

      Regardless, we both lived in several places, before and after we got together, before moving to Chicago, with last one being a stint in Massachusetts. Home is where the Boffin and the Sprog are, so home is here.

      Thank you for the idea, John, and for responding. It really does help.


  4. Oh my word it’s not just me. I’m here in the NW Chicago ‘burbs as well (moved here from Alaska four years ago) and the only reason I have friends is because my husband grew up here and had a pre-existing group. I can’t make friends on my own to save my life! And this really bugs me because although I really love the group, I would like some diversity of interest and thought in my friends, to be able to connect with people on more levels than I do now.

    When I was in Alaska I had no problem randomly making friends. Just something about the culture there. But here, everyone is so closed off.(*) Even people I meet through getting involved never get past the friendly acquaintance stage. It’s like it’s assumed that everyone already has their group and isn’t open to any changes. I’m happy for them and all, but it does make it very difficult to be new.

    For what it’s worth, I’m open to getting together since it looks like I’m around the corner from you. I understand if you don’t, but if you want my gmail is athena.r.carson9.

    (*) Side note – when we lived in Alaska, I would often invite my husband to get together with a person / people I met and he would just clam up and not do it. I either did stuff alone or not at all, which frustrated me, but moving here I see that’s just how people are here for whatever reason.

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  5. In my experience, it has a lot to do with being in the right place for you. Some places just aren’t easy–and the more you demand of a friendship, the harder it is to meet people you can share one with. And I don’t mean that in any critical way. A lot of friendships I’ve seen seem to be two people in the same time and place but on parallel tracks, which just doesn’t do much for me. I’d say something cheery about how it’ll all work out, and it probably will, but I’m worthless at that cheery upbeat stuff. What I’ll say instead is the it’s lonely, it happens to lots of people, and you shouldn’t think there’s something wrong with you because of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely understand what you are saying, Ellen, and it does help. Thank you. That’s why I make offers once, and don’t pressure with any follow-up. I figure, if I am a priority, they will make the time.

      All I know that until the Sprog is a bit more self-sufficient, I am kind of stuck as far as schedules go. However, I did sign up for the Chicago Writers’ Conference in September, so we will see what stems from that. I went last year with my head up my bum, but I know better what I want out of it this year. The Boffin has flexibility for me to get into the city more with some planning. Hope is not lost.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ahhh – you sound so much like me. I’m not depressed now although I’ve had major depressive incidents in the past so do completely understand the hesitancy to expend energy opening yourself up to others.

    We have moved 7 times in about 18 years. I do have one ‘new’ adult close friend who I met on a cruise. On paper, our friendship should never work, but we did just click. Unfortunately she lives in London, and I’m in Atlanta so we talk on FaceTime and will visit a couple of times a year – but she can’t be the friend I would have lunch with or shop with.

    We do not have kids, and for years I said that we didn’t make friends because we lacked the introductions that children naturally provide. But for the last several years we’ve lived in a community where there are virtually no kids and I don’t really have a group of true friends – just lots of acquaintances.

    I belonged to Newcomers groups in 3 places but found they were cliquey, just like high school. When we moved to this neighbourhood I started a Bunco group because I wanted to develop some female relationships. The group is now successful (offer wine to a bunch of women and they’ll come running), but I’ve found that they’ve all bonded, but I have not. That’s partially because many are retired and I work, and a bunch of them have dogs so they walk together. Sometimes I think it’s just me.

    The only time I felt like I made a couple of true friends was when I joined a church choir. Maybe it was this particular church, but the women (and men) were really welcoming and kind. I hadn’t been a churchgoer for years, but the choir made dressing up on Sunday mornings worthwhile. Unfortunately we moved, just at the point when I really felt like I’d made a friend.

    So I don’t know a magic bullet or an answer, but if you’re ever in Atlanta I know really good shopping and there’s a new wine place I want try.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are lovely, Janine. Thank you for sharing your story, so I don’t feel so alone. It does help. I have moved when I have felt settled too, and it is tough.

      I have family in Marietta, so I do get down to Georgia every so often. Your offer sounds very appealing.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I have alot of the same issues you do…..trying to convince myself to get out there and that I’m pretty worth meeting and all that. I had a goal with this last move which was setting up a new writing club in my new area. While that hasn’t come out exactly as I thought it would when I began that quest, it is the thing up here that is all mine and gives me a good sense of not only belonging but also of bringing something to my new area that wasn’t here before. It’s a win-win thing. I would suggest you do the same….think of one of your passions, writing, reading, photography, whatever, and get a group going…..start out at the local library…librarians are chock full of enthusiasm, information, and energy for stuff like this and they can usually help with getting the word out. Soon enough you’ll be surrounded in a whole new world perhaps even better than what you went into it thinking. The other thing I’m doing here is volunteering,…local hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living centers, schools, all these are great places that can use you and where you can meet new people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All good ideas…I am just working myself up to get the strength to do those things. The Black Dog and all that. It took me months to even create this blog because I was convinced I was a hack. I know I will get there, but I need more help to get to that self-starting point. Thank you for sharing. It means a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve seen many blog posts by people facing this same issue. I don’t have any answers because I’m no expert on forging new friendships. All my best friends live in my house, and I’m fine with that. I think what you are experiencing is a common problem in the modern world. I don’t know if there’s any comfort to be taken by the fact that you are not alone, but you certainly are not.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A made a lot of my friends through work, Karen, in the workplace itself, and at the places I visited around the city via said job. Good luck. You can do it. You’re an interesting person, and that’s very attractive in friend-making!

    Liked by 1 person

          1. My suggestion, Karen, is to go online with a vigorous search now and send electronic query letters to all Chicagoland publications and sites that interest you. Strike before everybody else gathers at the conference, and you’re more likely to get assignments.

            Liked by 1 person

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