Inside: Have you lost touch with all your friends because you’ve been too busy to keep in touch? Learn how to make friends in midlife from scratch.

Wake up…go through morning routine…fight traffic…work…fight traffic again…wolf down dinner…spent time with the family…zone out with your favorite streaming service…take the dog out…and crash in bed.

Wash, rinse, and repeat. Again. And again. 

In the good old days, there seemed to be endless time to hang out with friends. But as family and work responsibilities multiplied, you lost touch with most of them. Now, the word “friend” is not part of your regular vocabulary, except when talking about your kids’ friends.

If good friends are a distant memory in the rearview mirror, you’re not alone. In our modern society, many adults find it difficult to find and maintain friendships. You may have heard the expression, “The 30s is the decade where friendships come to die.” 

Sadly, there’s truth to this. 

Why Making Friends in Midlife Seems So Hard

One study showed that people tend to make friends up until the age of 25, after which they start losing friends. The number of their friendships drops steadily after that.

According to a New York Times article, sociologists have identified three elements crucial to making close friends:

1.     proximity

2.     repeated, unplanned interactions

3.     a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other

Based on these three criteria, high school and college make the ideal people-mixing, friend-making melting pots. For most of us, that was the last time we experienced all three elements in one place. Many of us name our best friend as someone from high school or college, even if we haven’t seen them in years.

Fast forward to our thirties. In our modern society, we prioritize work and family over friends. Friendships take a backseat to careers, raising children, and (later) caring for elderly parents. Fixed work schedules remove the possibility of repeated, unplanned interactions. 

In our geographically mobile society, the element of proximity also disappears. People uproot their existing lives when they get married or change jobs. Our closest family and friends now live in distant cities, rather than down the street. 

As we get older, interests also drift, and people change. Online churches, Zoom work meetings, and virtual communities have further increased the barrier for people to make face-to-face social connections.

We find ourselves without settings where we can let our guard down with other people as in high school and college.

How to Make Friends After 40

But there’s good news. Now that we know the key ingredients for making friends, we can use this knowledge to increase the odds of making friends in midlife. Things won’t come as easily as in high school and college, but it’s not impossible.

The key is intentionality. 

1. Pray that God will give you a strong desire to make friends.

It’s easier to maintain the status quo than to make new friends. Given the intentionality required, we must first have the persistent desire to make friends. That desire needs to override our tendency towards inaction, comfort, or vegging out on the couch watching Friends on TV instead. 

Slow down and get in touch with any loneliness that may lie buried beneath everyday busyness. Know that there’s no shame in it, and God doesn’t condemn you for it.

Loneliness signals that we lack authentic social connectedness, just as hunger signals a need for food. You may find it helpful to pray and journal about this area. 

Then give this loneliness to God. Ask Him to fill these areas of your life—first with Himself, then with friends. Ask Him for a burning desire that surpasses your desire for comfort and convenience. 

Don’t bury the unpleasant feelings of loneliness with distraction and busyness. Use them instead to propel you to take action.

2. Pray that God will bring you friends.

Friendships are a gift from God, just as a spouse and kids are. Sometimes this is easy to overlook because our society emphasizes marriage and having children. Let’s not forget that friendships are gifts that we can ask God for. 

Matthew 7:11 says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (NIV).

3. Make the process of making friends a priority.

Friendship-making must be a “goal” that you prioritize like any other career, personal, or health goal. The goal is not how many friends you make, but that you make the process of making friends a priority. 

For example, your goal might look like the following: “By the end of this month, I will look for, join, and actively participate in one reoccurring group.” We must do our part to take active steps in faith, trusting God with the results.

4. Get plugged into your local church. 

God gave us the local church as a provision for our needs. In 1 Corinthians 12:21-26, Paul emphasizes the necessity of each part of the body, whether it be an eye, hand, or foot. He writes, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Other people miss out when we are not active at church, and vice versa.

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” When looking for friends, let’s begin with our local church, for this is God’s intention.

Start by joining a small group, attending a midweek class, or volunteering.

5. Join community groups of interest to you.

In addition to church, look for community groups, including exercise classes, hiking/walking groups, and hobby meetups. Volunteer with an organization that interests you.

For busy parents, consider play dates, parenting classes, sports groups, and the local PTA. Look online through meetup.com and Facebook groups.

Finding the right group will take consistency and persistence, but the reward is well worth it. Think outside the box. Be open-minded, flexible, and even creative. Groups exist for anything and everything nowadays! If you’re daring, start your own niche group. 

6. Prioritize nearby groups that meet regularly.

Remember the proximity principle. Prioritize people, groups, and organizations that are closer to you. We’re more likely to keep up with friends when we don’t have to drive across town in traffic to see them.

And to increase your chances of success, pick groups that meet regularly (at least twice a month), rather than one-time.

7. Bond over kids, pets, or a hobby. 

If you struggle with social awkwardness, kids and pets are great tension diffusers, giving us something to bond over. Hobbies make it easier to bond with someone by providing a shared interest to begin with. It’s also easier to deepen a friendship while doing an enjoyable activity together.

8. Take the initiative. 

Start a conversation with someone. A recent study shows that 58% of U.S. adults struggle with chronic loneliness. People are craving connection but don’t show it. Chances are they will be happy to talk, especially if you join a group where other people are also there to make friends.

9. Think about how you can serve the other person. 

Focus on the other person, rather than what the other person can do for you. Most people are happy to talk about themselves. Ask the other person about his or her day. Find ways to bless them.

10. Keep an open mind everywhere you go. 

Often, people stop making friends because they get set in their daily routines. They don’t bother opening their social circle anymore and stop looking. Studies show that as people get older, their number of friends decreases, with seniors making the least number of friends. Don’t let that become you!

Be in a “open-to-friendship mode” wherever you go, even if only to the grocery store.

11. Reconnect with past friends. 

Sometimes it’s easier to reconnect with a friend from the past than to find a new one. Reach out to someone from your past. The chances are that they will be glad to hear from you, even if it’s a simple text message.

A recent study showed that people who texted a friend significantly underestimated how much it would be appreciated. The longer the time the two people had not heard from each other, the more the friend appreciated the text message.

12. Adjust your expectations. 

Perhaps you still long for your high school or college days, desiring a group of similarly aged friends in the same life stage. We might nostalgically wish for the way things used to be. As painful as it might be, let go of this expectation. 

God may answer your prayer in this manner—or He may not. Be open to people who might be older, younger, or look different than you. Unlike in high school and college, the body of Christ is not filled with people like us, nor is our local community.

Pursue the friendships God does bring across you path–you never know who they will turn into.

Let’s prioritize friendships once again as we did in the past. Instead of abandoning friends to the wayside in the daily grind, let’s make them part of our lives once again.

You won’t be sorry that you did.

Recap: How to Make Friends in Midlife

1.     Pray first that God will give you a strong desire to make friends.

2.     Pray that God will bring you friends.

3.     Make the process of making friends a priority.

4.     Get plugged into your local church. 

5.     Join community groups of interest.

6.     Prioritize nearby groups that meet regularly. 

7.     Bond over kids, pets, or a hobby. 

8.     Take the initiative. 

9.     Think about how you can serve the other person. 

10.  Keep an open mind everywhere you go. 

11.  Reconnect with past friends. 

12.  Adjust your expectations. 

Where do friendships sit on your current list of priorities? Do you need to make any changes? If so, what’s one step you can take?

This is a multi-part series on midlife friendships. To read about the ideal number of close friends that people can maintain amid their busy lives, read here.

Reflection:

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another:
“What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
–C.S. Lewis

Photo by Baard Hansen on Unsplash

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