It can be difficult to make friends as an adult. It was simple when we were children: find the closest kid to kick the ball and get involved. Adults do not have the same privilege. Going to the adult playground (i.e. a bar) and sitting at random tables will only result in strange glances and dirty looks. Men (and women) both need to be part of a community.
Data from YouGov shows that three out of ten millennials feel lonely and one in five say they don’t have friends. According to Lori Kogan and Christopher Blazina, a psychologist, 62% of male dog owners stated that their dog’s relationship is “almost always” secure. Only 10% said the same about their relationship with their closest human.
Why is loneliness so prevalent? Is it especially true for men? This is especially true for men who are not as social or work too hard. Many men fail to see the value of male friendship and to acknowledge the benefits of emotional courage. They even neglect to try to find men’s groups. It’s difficult to build a community without having the courage, communication, and confidence to play. But it is very important to build friendship and community. First, let’s see why it is difficult for man to make friend.
- WE DON’T GIVE A CHANCE TO OURSELVES
Hopes and Fears was told by Daniel Wendler, a student in clinical psychology. “I think that a lot of adults don’t give theirself many opportunities to meet new friends.” Many adults live a daily routine: work, home, repeat. It’s difficult to accept that there isn’t enough time in the day. These beliefs can make it seem like we have everything we need, but without a supportive community, our lives won’t be fulfilled.
- NO STRUCTURE
Making friends as adults is difficult because we don’t know how to do it. Sometimes friendship just happens. Maybe you do the same activities or work together. It is the structure of our lives that allows us to form close friendships. We’re all kind of lost without that structure.
- DIFFICULTY IS TO ACCEPT TO OURSELVES THAT WE NEED FRIENDS
It’s also difficult to admit to ourselves that we are lonely and need friends. It’s easy to forget the lack of relationships in our community when we reflect on ourselves. Instead, let us focus on the many relationships around us. However, the number and quality of our friends online or in real life doesn’t necessarily reflect the number and quality of our close friendships.
- WE CLOSE UP
We have learned to put up walls around ourselves as adults. This doesn’t only affect our relationships with our partners, but also how we build our friendships. As children, we are unable to understand how and when we should share our emotions and thoughts. Therefore, it is possible to form relationships that are based on mutual expression. It’s impossible to make friends as an adult without removing these barriers. This is especially true for guys.
Add all the reasons why it is difficult to make friends as an adult, plus decades of tradition masculinity that has led to a male loneliness epidemic. The result has been devastating for men around the world, with many suffering from social isolation, anxiety and depression.
- CHILDHOOD EXPECTATIONS
Author Niobe Way explains in Deep Secrets: Boys Friendships, and the Crisis of Connection how friendships between boys can often crumble as they get older. Way has spent years studying the relationships of boys and visited middle schools all across the country to find out that there is a culture that encourages boys to be emotionally attached to their friends. Forbes reported that Way said, “Not flipping the hierarchy so stereotypically feminine behavior sits on top and male behavior is at bottom.” It is enough to stop gendering core human capabilities and needs and sexualizing them. Talk must be about disrupting stereotypes, listening to young people tell us that these stereotypes are false.” Adults can change the narrative surrounding building strong male friendships by normalizing young people’s behavior of showing love and affection to their friends. Change begins in adolescence.
- COMMUNICATION TYPES
There are three main forms of communication: self reflection, communication with friends and how we communicate within our relationships. When it comes to masculine communication styles men often build relationships with others men through external connections. They don’t always go beyond superficial friendships. Many men describe male friendships as being shoulder-to-shoulder. Geoffrey Greif writes that men approach friendship differently. “80% of men who were interviewed for my book admitted to participating in sports with friends. No women answered that question, though some did. The key to building friendship through sports is the fact that the emphasis is on the game and not on communication or increasing intimacy. It’s difficult to bond with friends when you are busy doing your own activities. Building male friendships is not about activities. Men are held back by a lack of follow up.”
Because of traditional masculinity’s lack of vulnerability, making friends as an adult man can be difficult. A study of Australian prostate cancer patients showed that men fear being weak in front other men. Researchers found that men struggled to be completely vulnerable and express their emotions no matter how close they were to sharing their stories. Niobe Way stated that boys become more culturally isolated as they get older. This is because they are less likely to show affection. Men are afraid to be vulnerable, which can lead to shallow friendships.
Seven Tips to Making Friends As an Adult Man
According to research, a healthy social network of men leads to a healthier life. This is why it is so important to learn how to make friends as an older man. These seven simple tips will help you make new friends and reconnect with old friends.
RECONNECTING WITH OLD FRIENDS
This is probably the most difficult and comfortable option at the same time. You don’t have to think about making new friends as an adult. Instead, try rekindling a friendship from years ago. It’s over with the awkwardness and hard work of introducing oneself. It is still a difficult task to reach out again. Suzanne Degges White writes that “reach out to your old friends because you want to connect from where you’re at now in your lives, not expecting to be able to reconnect in any way that doesn’t reflect how you have changed over time.”
This is part of the beauty in reconnecting with old friends. You can share your personal growth and they can do the same for you. Reconnecting with old friends will require a period of reintroduction. You and your friend may not be the same person as before. This is a good thing. It’s not possible to guarantee that your friendship with old friends will be the same as before. However, you never know what could happen when you reconnect with an old friend.
TRANSFORM WORK FRIENDSHIPS INTO SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS
You can also look at the relationships that you have with other men to find out how to make friends as an adult. It could be a friend from your team or someone you work with. They may share some common interests and you already have something in common. Now it’s time for your friendship to grow. There is a difference between a work friendship and a real friendship, regardless of whether you are aware of it.
Dave Kerpen, author of The Art of People suggests that spending time outside of work is the key to turning a work friendship into something more meaningful and real. This could be going out for lunch, having a drink after work, or inviting them to a dinner party. You can build a stronger friendship with your coworker if you aren’t working at your job.
FIND A COMMUNITY
Humankind is dependent on community for its central experience. Strong communities foster support, reinforce positive behaviors and help build connections. If you are looking for friendships as an adult man, it is worth looking into communities that share your beliefs. According to Wellbeing People, which provides wellbeing services, “being part in a shared space, physical or virtual, gives people a chance to be inspired and solve problems, share humors, vent their frustrations, and share their successes.” Structure is also a key element to friendship building. Structure allows you to schedule regular, consistent time with your friends. You will be more likely to make new friends as an adult if you spend more time in a group.
There’s an art to vulnerability and, most importantly, emotional courage. Sometimes, however, confidence can be mistaken for vulnerability. According to The Good Men Project, “Mistakenly however, men consider confidence to exclude vulnerability when in reality, the foundation for true confidence is our ability to feel real and vulnerable.” Take a look at any man who can be vulnerable. You’ll be amazed at his friendships, romantic relationships, parenting skills, and even his parenting skills. People who have emotional courage are more effective leaders. It’s important to be open to vulnerability when learning how to make friends as an adult male. You want to get beyond the shoulder-to-shoulder relationships we mentioned earlier and move into something deeper and more meaningful. You can do this by thinking about these topics in depth and incorporating them into your conversations. By showing vulnerability, you’re showing that you are open to investing time and effort in your relationship.
PUT IN EFFORT
It’s easy to lose sight of your family, work, or quarantine obligations. If you want to make friends as an adult male, you will need to put in effort. This means reaching out to people, setting up meetups and most importantly, following through with those plans as often or as little as possible. According to “Friendfluence: How Friends Make Us Who we Are”, Daniel Hruschka reviewed research on friendship conflict and concluded that time commitments are the main cause of most friendship disputes. Spending time with someone shows that you value them. No one likes feeling undervalued.”
Friendship should always involve both the other person. A friendship that isn’t nurtured will not last. Reach out to someone the next time you want to reach out. Choose a date, time and activity. Stick to it. Accept rejection. Rejection sucks. Rejection hurts, whether it is at work, from a friend, or from a partner. There is always the possibility that your potential friend won’t be willing to make the effort or, worse, can’t show the vulnerability necessary to form a healthy friendship. To build close friendships, however, you must accept the possibility of rejection. You can look at the bright side and see which friendships are worth building and which ones should be discarded.
A healthy relationship will require listening. It’s still vital to be curious. This means being open to listening to others, even if they have different views and beliefs. The human experience is universal, despite differences. We have a tendency to see things in black and white, which leads us to disregard others based on our first impressions. We might not agree with everyone. And, more importantly, not every person makes for a good friend. If we want to make new friends, we will be more open to discussing and hearing other people’s opinions if necessary. It is not easy to make friends as an adult, but it is possible. A strong social network is crucial to living a happy, healthy life.