adult friendships man repeller haley harling swimmer's ear bundle repeller
14 People on How They *Actually* Made New Friends as an Adult
06.20.19

I

‘ve read enough think pieces and essays about making friends as an adult to recognize that any friendship forged amidst the hurdles of work, physical distance, dating, social anxiety, and preconceived notions is—to some extent—unlikely. I also know that it’s this precise element of rareness that makes them so worthy of the pursuit. There’s a wealth of advice for how to conquer the challenge (sign up for a pottery class! DM people on Instagram!), but very little literature on how the implementation of these protocols actually pans out.

We launched a bundle of earrings earlier this week that we’re calling Swimmer’s Ear but which actually encapsulates the simultaneous difficulty and unlikeliness of adult friendship (albeit in the context of marine life). According to lore from under the sea, dolphins are smart as hell and very, very social while turtles prefer to navigate the water in solitude, slowly and steadily. It’s a different mentality, a philosophical fork, but for whatever reason, when the relationship is stricken (my ear can attest!) and it works (again, my ear can attest!), it is powerful. Meaningful. I might be overreaching but it’s a metaphor — a reminder that the tension of the difficulty and unlikeliness makes for the kind of joy you can only embody with the gift of experience under your belt. The recognition of its rareness, the pursuit of something more. So! In the spirit of investigating what actually works (no, really!) when it comes to making, and keeping, friends as an adult, I asked the Man Repeller community (you?) to share how they (you?) made their most recent, genuine adult friends and what takeaways were gleaned to inform subsequent friendship endeavors.

You know what they say — the best stuff bubbles up in the most unlikely of places. Let your ear remind you of that the next time you’re at a pottery class.


“It’s an Automatic Friend Group”

How did you make your most recent genuine adult friend?

My most recent adult friends were made at my gym. I do CrossFit, which I know is notorious for having a “cult-y” vibe, but it’s truly a wonderful community for making friends. I switched to a new gym a year ago after moving, and in the year since, I’ve made approximately half a dozen new GOOD friends. And a dozen more friendly friends, who might not get a wedding invite, but whom I could call for happy hour.

What efforts did you put in to help the friendship take root?

Initiating the first out-of-gym hang was scary, but I could tell we were all edging around the idea. Once we eventually initiated plans, it was easy after that.

How do you maintain the friendship now?

Since we see each other at the gym five or six days a week, it’s really easy to keep in touch. You don’t have to go out of your way to make time for someone when they’re at a place you already go to. PLUS, it ends up being good incentive to go to the gym when that’s where your friends are! Also, it’s an automatic friend “group” as opposed to just one friend. So it’s more fun.

What did this experience teach you about making friends as an adult?

It’s definitely a strange breed of relationship, and feels very different from high school/college/law school friends. But it also can, at times, be more fulfilling, because these people know more about my life as it is NOW, versus what my life was five or 10 years ago. I think it’s important to have both old and new friends!


“We Actively Check in With Each Other”

How did you make your most recent genuine adult friend?

We met at a woman’s church event. I went alone and didn’t know anyone and I ended up meeting her and hitting it off. This past weekend she was the maid of honor in my wedding!

What efforts did you put in to help the friendship take root?

We had an automatic friendship connection. We both realized that we had potential to have a lasting and meaningful friendship through our faith, where we were at in our lives, and how complementary our personalities were. We made effort to see each other right off the bat. But what stands out is the fact that she was dating someone who didn’t have the same beliefs as her and was vulnerable enough to discuss that openly with me despite being strangers at the time.

How do you maintain the friendship now?

We make time to see each other still and have since introduced each other to our other friends so that we are active members of each other’s lives. We intentionally check in with each other and try to hang out at least once a week.

What did this experience teach you about making friends as an adult?

It does take work to maintain adult relationships. Life can be very busy and as we get older and get married etc., it’s very important to put the effort into growing and maintaining existing friendships. Also, I think it’s important to remember that it’s healthy and sharpening to be friends with people who are different from you and it’s important not to expect them to be like you, but instead celebrate them for being who they were created to be.


“Don’t Be Embarrassed About Seeming Desperate”

How did you make your most recent genuine adult friend?

I had recently moved back to the city I grew up in (London) and started a new job. A client introduced me to this girl via email as she thought we would get along. Turns out she grew up around the corner from me and our lives have followed very similar paths.

What efforts did you put in to help the friendship take root?

I would regularly text her to meet up and get drinks. Or tell her about different events happening that I thought she would be interested in.

How do you maintain the friendship now?

We try to see each other every two weeks or so in person, and in between we email interesting articles or designers and artists that look cool. We used to hang out more regularly at the pub after work but she just had twins so her routine has changed a bit these days. Our last hangout was a gallery visit with the babies in tow.

What did this experience teach you about making friends as an adult?

Don’t be embarrassed about seeming “desperate” when trying to establish a relationship with someone new. My mother is almost 70 and made some of her closest friends in the last 10 years, so I know it can happen at all stages of life. My fiancé really struggles to make new guy friends as he feels lame getting in touch with someone on a weekly basis. I keep reminding him to check in with people so they know he’s thinking about them and actually listened to details in the last conversation they had.


“I Make Sure to Text Her at Least Once a Week”

How did you make your most recent genuine adult friend?

I met her on Bumble BFF. I had just moved to a new city and was lacking genuine connections with people outside of work and my everyday life. I had nothing to lose so I made a profile on Bumble BFF and she was the first (and so far the only person) I went out with.

What efforts did you put in to help the friendship take root?

I definitely went outside of my comfort zone! I’m not very shy and love talking with people, but I feel vulnerable reaching out to hang out one-on-one with the intention of deepening a friendship as opposed to just staying acquaintances. But I realized I was seriously lacking in the female friend department and did not want to become complacent in that.

How do you maintain the friendship now?

I make sure to text her at least once a week and try to arrange a plan to see her whenever we both have the time. We are both in serious relationships and work in the same field so thankfully we’re very understanding of each other’s schedules.

What did this experience teach you about making friends as an adult?

Theres no harm in putting yourself out there! The other person is likely just as nervous as you are.


“I Messaged Her to Invite Her Out for a Drink Saying, ‘We Should Be Friends’”

How did you make your most recent genuine adult friend?

I met her at a party and knew I needed to be friends with her, so added her on Facebook right away. When she accepted, I messaged her to invite her out for a drink saying, “We should be friends.”

What efforts did you put in to help the friendship take root?

A friend of mine believes you’re not really friends with someone until you spend time with them on three occasions outside of the context in which you met them. I have taken this to heart and tried to organize catchups at different times of day/environments.

How do you maintain the friendship now?

Facebook messenger and regular beers.

What did this experience teach you about making friends as an adult?

I moved abroad a few years ago and at first it was hard to make friends, but I eventually succeeded by literally telling girls I met that I wanted them to be my friend. When I went in strong like that, it charmed people, and it made subsequent meetups more relaxing because we had already established we would be pals.


“I’ve Made Several Friends via Instagram”

How did you make your most recent genuine adult friend?

We had been introduced a couple times by other friends but never really hung out. We followed each other on Instagram, so I reached out once and said we had lots in common and should get drinks. Now we’re great friends. Since then, I’ve made several friends via Instagram by reaching out.

What efforts did you put in to help the friendship take root?

We’re both gay females in the south, so there was a pretty big connection from the beginning. The more we talked, the more we realized how much we have in common. Our relationship mostly consists of laughter and Real Housewives talk as opposed to serious heart-to-heart conversations, though.

How do you maintain the friendship now?

She needs space—a lot of it. We’ll go days without speaking, and I know when we go out, it’ll be a fairly short hang. Our relationship has been a lesson in the importance of understanding others’ needs.

What did this experience teach you about making friends as an adult?

It’s okay to be a bit forward and to ask people to hang out with you.


“Adult Friendships Are Not a Myth”

How did you make your most recent genuine adult friend?

They are my partner’s partner (in polyamory we consider that a metamour).

What efforts did you put in to help the friendship take root?

Becoming friends with someone that is extremely important to your significant other can be scary, and attempting to build a relationship outside of the existing one (through our mutual partner) can be even more so (talk about respecting boundaries!). Accepting their offer to hang out for the first time without our mutual partner there was scary for me, but I’m so happy I did. Now I have someone in my life with whom I can talk about polyamory, relationships, works, dating, and life in general. And we have such a similar view that our conversations flow without a beat.

How do you maintain the friendship now?

We happen to be neighbors, so maintenance isn’t too challenging. Small-town catch-ups, dog walks, etc.

What did this experience teach you about making friends as an adult?

It has taught me that adult friendships are not a myth, and while they can come from unexpected places, the people who want to be in your life will be.


“We Don’t Text Often, But When We Do Talk, It’s Deep”

How did you make your most recent genuine adult friend?

I was in a graduate program and she was an incoming first year. I reached out because we went to the same school for undergrad, but had never met (she’s several years older than me). After a few years of catching up more regularly, we are now very close. I’m going to her wedding in July. 🙂

What efforts did you put in to help the friendship take root?

Consistently reaching out! I realized what I had to give, and that she wouldn’t necessarily ask, but that I could keep giving. And I knew that by giving (my time, advice, support) I would ALSO feel supported and loved.

How do you maintain the friendship now?

We don’t text often, but when we do talk, it’s deep. I think that’s the thing with adult friendship—we don’t have as much time to constantly chat/text/meet up (we also both have partners), so when we do text, it’s typically a sustained conversation catching up on something important. And when we do make a plan, we do so with the intention of hanging out and talking for hours.

What did this experience teach you about making friends as an adult?

A) When you want to make a friend, you have to go for it. You might even have to reach out several times for it to stick. When someone declines a proposal to hang out, it’s generally because they’re busy, not because they’re rejecting you. B) Adult friends might not do/be EVERYTHING you want a best friend to do/be. Maybe they’re great for meme exchanges on Instagram. Or meeting up for yoga. Or deep chats over wine. Or shopping for your next interview suit. (I just described four separate adult friends of mine.) But they almost definitely won’t be all of these. And that’s okay!


“Moving From Seeing Her as a Potential Friend Rather Than Potential Partner Was a Bit of an Ego Blow”

How did you make your most recent genuine adult friend?

We met on OkCupid, both testing the waters as bi women who had only ever dated men. We had a lovely first meeting over coffee where we talked in depth about our past relationships/friendships/how we care for others, and about her fairly recent departure from a long-term relationship. During our second meeting, she informed me that she and her boyfriend were going to get back together. Almost two years later, she’s one of my closest friends, the closest by far that I’ve made since college, and I’m excitedly watching as she plans her wedding!

What efforts did you put in to help the friendship take root?

Moving from seeing her as a potential friend rather than potential partner was a bit of an ego blow for me (though she’s credited something I said to her on our first meeting with helping her give her partner another chance). I had to come to terms with wanting to stay in her life and making that effort.

How do you maintain the friendship now?

She’s very good at checking in regularly/making sure we see each other regularly, and that has pushed me to do the same. Checking in when we know it’s a rough time for the other, expressing genuine happiness for each other, and making time to show up for both one-on-one hangs and group events (her birthday party, where I didn’t know anyone else, comes to mind, and in turn she came to a show I was working on with less than 24 hours notice after hearing how hard I had been working on it).

What did this experience teach you about making friends as an adult?

You have to be willing to put in the work. We no longer have the luxury of living down the hall from each other in a dorm, or sharing classes or bus rides or kindergarten snack time, so it can be a bit of a rocky start. You have to keep showing up and learning new things, as you don’t always have the benefit of a shared history. But pushing myself to bond with someone who I don’t have some work/school/etc proximity to has made my life richer. Having someone around with a similar heart/head to mine, but with a totally different day-to-day life has been a good demonstration of what it means to make a genuine friend as an adult. Which is not to say that you can’t make close work friends (and I have!), but instead that sometimes the best friendships aren’t the most convenient ones. Just like any good relationship—romantic, platonic, or otherwise—you have to put in the work to get the reward.


“It Helps to Figure out What Your Friends’ Love Languages Are”

How did you make your most recent genuine adult friend?

I’ve made three close female friends at work. We work in different departments at a 200+ employee engineering firm, and were able to meet because I was asked to fill in for one of their team members on a couple of projects. Engineering is a male-dominated industry, so there aren’t that many females in the office to begin with; it’s awesome when you do get to meet another female who rocks at their job and shines—and wants you to shine, too.

What efforts did you put in to help the friendship take root?

I had many friends until I came to the U.S. for college at 19 and left them all behind. I lost touch with everyone because I didn’t make enough of an effort. I spent my twenties mostly surrounded by random acquaintances here and there. Once I settled into adulthood, I told myself I would make an effort to cultivate real friendships. I started by saying yes to most social things I was invited to. I expanded my circle by trying out random activities where I could meet new people (book clubs, sailing classes, cooking classes, etc.). At work, saying yes to projects outside of my department and outside of my comfort zone helped a lot. At first I did it thinking it would help my career, but lo and behold it led to meeting some awesome people.

How do you maintain the friendship now?

The older I get, the more keenly aware I’ve become of my shortcomings and strengths, so I leverage that to maintain my relationships. I’m a bit of a natural loner and a homebody, so I make up the difference with my more socially active friends by playing on one of my strengths—thoughtfulness. I never forget a birthday and will totally go overboard on your gift, balloon, cake, card, mixtape. If you invite me to your dinner party I will bring you wine and your pet his favorite treat. I’ll remember that June 6th is your one-year anniversary of breaking up with Jerkface McDoucheberg and will make sure you don’t spend it alone. This is going to sound super corny and lame, but it helps to figure out what your friends’ love languages are. For real! I have one particular friend who loves physical affection, so I just randomly drop by her desk daily and give her a hug. She loves it. Another friend is really service-oriented and loves volunteering, etc. I try to help her out by volunteering for her causes when I can.

What did this experience teach you about making friends as an adult?

It helps to realize that most people feel just as nervous, scared, lonely, shy, socially inept, weird, etc. If not more! Don’t be afraid to make a move and send that text or that invite. What’s the worst that can happen? They may say no. If someone makes you feel silly or shitty about your friendship advances, that’s someone not worthy of friendship to begin with. Just move on. Like with sweaters, quality over quantity is key. I’m happy knowing I have a couple of organic, timeless, reliable, warm friends that I will keep forever instead of an endless pile of bargain-bin, scratchy acquaintances who won’t be there when I need them. Good luck!


“It’s Like Online Dating Where I Just Put Myself Out There”

How did you make your most recent genuine adult friend?

I was flying solo at the first Man Repeller Good Evening event. I liked her style, told her, and we hit it off. I’m now in fashion but we both have backgrounds in economics and realized immediately how similar we are, in all the right ways.

What efforts did you put in to help the friendship take root?

We followed each other on Instagram and responded to each other’s stories for a while, and then she reached out about brunch. Relatively new to the city, I was excited to meet a kindred spirit and jumped (but not TOO eagerly) at the offer.

How do you maintain the friendship now?

Instagram, exchanging puppy photos and articles about economics and women empowerment, and heading to other events around the city!

What did this experience teach you about making friends as an adult?

It’s really hard. I’ve been to maybe 15-20 events in and around the city in the last 16 months and made three great friends. It’s like online dating where I just put myself out there and hope that the worst-case scenario is a mildly interesting conversation, even if we never exchange contact info.


“It’s Those Intimate Conversations That Really Help Build the Foundation”

How did you make your most recent genuine adult friend?

We met at work where she was actually my manager and I was just a part-time stylist. We had the same sense of style, and she was genuinely kind. The first day we worked together we talked the whole time. I knew that I just wanted to hang out with her.

What efforts did you put in to help the friendship take root?

I was invited to go to a concert with her and a bunch of other girls. I don’t usually love concerts and I didn’t truly love a few of the other girls, but I felt like if I didn’t go, I was setting a tone that I wouldn’t go to anything ever again—which would really ruin my chances at having a true and deep friendship with my manager. So I went, and I actually had a really good time (we saw Haim AND Lizzo AND Maggie Rogers at Red Rocks!) and I felt that on the drive home we had hit a new milestone of having “gone out” together and talking about stuff that wasn’t work-related. It felt like an introductory phase into being real-life friends outside of work.

How do you maintain the friendship now?

I think a big part of not letting a professional relationship slip into a work-acquaintance-only kind of thing is being vulnerable and talking about intimate stuff instead of just trash-talking your coworkers (although we love doing that, too). I told her about stuff with my husband and my family and details about me, and when I asked her about the same things, she was open and honest, too. It’s those intimate conversations that really help build the foundation for true friendships.

What did this experience teach you about making friends as an adult?

You have to be willing to go out of your comfort zone. It isn’t like being in school where you can count on seeing them in class or next period. Adults move, have lives, have families—and you have to work within those limitations to show that you’re invested in them and want to be there and with them. For me it was actually going out in a group to show that I’m willing to do certain things for the other person. It’s a lot like dating. You have to meet people halfway.


“We Put Together Happy Hours and Workout Events Around the City”

How did you make your most recent genuine adult friend?

I met her at a Yelp event.

What efforts did you put in to help the friendship take root?

We made a conscious effort to go do things that the other person enjoyed. We also started a group chat.

How do you maintain the friendship now?

We’ve started traditions together, like an annual chili cook-off, and our annual Christmas cookie party to involve our other friends and significant others.

What did this experience teach you about making friends as an adult?

It’s hard, but group events make it better. We started an Instagram called @wine.dine.repeat to help women in Baltimore who are out of college come together and do fun things. We put together happy hours and workout events around the city for people to come and meet others in the area. Alysha January does a similar thing (you can sign up to hear more about her events here).


“I Just Kind of Awkwardly Hung Around Her”

How did you make your most recent genuine adult friend?

I met her at an improv jam at UCB East Village after moving to the city and knew we’d be a great match. I just kind of awkwardly hung around her every week and tried to make (cringe) small talk until it got to the point where we were comfortable around each other. Now we’re going to be roommates in a month!

What efforts did you put in to help the friendship take root?

She is on a two-person improv team where she and her partner eat an entire cake by the end of their set (Cake Kids, check them out), and I just kept going to all of their shows, and her class shows, and other improv shows she was in until she was tricked into thinking we were already friends. Her existing crew would often go out for food after shows and I would linger until they invited me to join. Once we were friends, but not yet good friends, I had to go out of my way to invite myself to larger group activities and force myself to remember they wanted me around, they just didn’t always have me on their mind because I was a new friend breaking into a long-existing group. It can be uncomfortable to send a message asking if you can join a super bowl party, but chances are if you want to be there then whoever is hosting it wants you there too! When she invited me to join everyone at Coney Island a couple months later, I knew I was in and I was so happy I called my mom.

How do you maintain the friendship now?

We try to set up monthly girls nights with our other girlfriends because so many of our mutual friends are men. It gives us a moment to connect in a different and more substantial way. We also see each other weekly for our improv group practice and will hang out before, or will sometimes try to get lunch. We also have a ladies group chat!

What did this experience teach you about making friends as an adult?

It takes so much more effort than making friends at school. I moved to NYC knowing no one and had no choice but to make friends, and I didn’t feel like I had genuine lifetime ones until about a year in. You don’t have the structure of forced friendship through clubs and classes like you do in university and you REALLY have to go out of your comfort zone and be persistent and patient. But after you have a couple friends it gets easier and easier to make more.

Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi

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