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You know when you’re little and all you have to do is offer a few strands of your Big League chew to your hide and seek partner and you have a friend for life? Well, try that when you’re 27. For starters, you can’t find big League Chew anywhere. And secondly, they don’t offer hide and seek as a group class at 24 Hour Fitness. But you get the picture…

Having moved to a new city with my husband less than a year ago, we’ve found that making new friends is way harder than it used to be.

When you’re in elementary school, everyone is your friend. I think that’s also part of the sugarcoated kid philosophy that “everyone is a winner”. Then in middle school, you flit in and out of groups based on how long it takes to get your braces off, or when you have your growth spurt, or if you have early or late lunch. But by high school, you’ve established a group of best friends you’ve now known for years that you have similar classes, sports, and interests as. And by the time graduation rolls around you see your friends way more than your family. (That’s also because parents are super lame in high school. Amiright?)

Enter college, when life is one big blind date and party rolled into one. All you have to do is meet someone at a house party, have three too many drinks, and you’re declaring your friend-love for each other. “You like wearing sweatpants? I like wearing sweatpants! We have to hang out this weekend. You’re my new best friend! Give me your number, I’m calling you tomorrow! I’m sorry, I should totally know this, but what’s your name again??” Come on, we’ve all had those conversations that make you cringe a little the next morning… And while most of these encounters may not stick, the sheer amount of times they happen guarantees that you weed out at least a few besties from the plethora of crazy.

Cut to your late 20′s, when even one too many drinks equals three consecutive days in bed and a morphine drip. (Not really, but totally.) You can’t rely on parties and cocktails to make you “feel friendly”, as my best friends and I used to  say. You have to find new ways to meet people. And once you do, it’s almost as if you’re dating them… First it’s asking if they want to get a drink. If you’re lucky, you find that you actually like them and a few happy hour dates may eventually lead to a dinner. And before you know it, you’re standing outside the restaurant wondering if a hug would seem like you’re coming on too strong. And you’re thinking “I really like you but I don’t want to seem like I really like you because I don’t want you to think I’m weird and scare you off”.

Adding another layer of difficulty is the fact that it’s not just me anymore. As a married person I tend to hang out with my husband a lot (marriage happens like that) so there is also the desire to find couple friends. And don’t even get me started on those first dates, because now not only are you wondering if the girl likes you, you’re also wondering if the guy likes your husband and the husband likes you and the girl likes your husband.

Sigh…. It’s exhausting.

Almost a year deep into our life in a new city, I’m realizing that the easiest way to approach friend dating is to use the word “friend” more loosely. It doesn’t need to have the same meaning that it did in high school and college. It actually shouldn’t have the same meaning it did back then. As long as I still have my best friends, regardless of where we all live, there’s no pressure to find someone in my new city to give the other half of my yin-yang necklace to quite yet. Priorities change and people change so it’s okay to be a bit pickier, but it’s also okay to realize that you don’t have to love each new person to infinity-and-beyond… just so long as they have the same adoration of sweatpants that you do. Sweatpants and Bloody Mary’s.

You can read more from Shawna Thompson on her blog.

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  1. I agree that once an adult, it is difficult to find friends to associate with; especially for women, i find. Im 30 and within the last couple months i have found (finally) a really close friend! we connect in so many ways. I didnt even take alcohol. we are both sober and have most everything in common; i almost feel like a kid again. I have lived in the same place all my life and that hasnt helped on keeping friends and relationships for me, but today i feel like i have a bestie!

  2. This article has really struck a chord with me and my military spouse friends. It is hard already to make friend as an adult and then tack on having to move every 2-3 years and starting all over again. I’ll be honest, it’s exhausting. I was a military brat and now a military wife and it hasn’t gotten any easier although it’s the life I’ve always known.

  3. It’s difficult to be caught in such a weird “stage of life limbo”. My husband and I have several wonderful married-couple friends in the States, but then we left them and moved to Vienna, Austria where we have no friends our age, and the only married-couple friends we do have are between 6 to 10 years older than us and all of them combined have 9 kids for us to talk over and/or babysit. They’re past our stage of life, we’re certainly not ready for their stage of life (the daily exposure to 9 kids is great birth control), and we’re separated from the ones who are in our current stage of life. So we’re kind of floating – continuing to keep in touch with the best friends we do have and hoping we’ll run into some friendly Austrian couples during a language exchange who are willing to put up with our beginner’s German and like my homemade Schnitzel.

  4. Definitely can relate to this. I even went so far as to join a website to meet other women to be friends. Worked out well, and managed to meet someone who is awesome! (And, not crazy like some of the others on the site)

  5. Omg, I can SO relate. After moving back to America from London (I was there for 6 years), I found I had TWO friends left in my city. Then I got pregnant, and couldn’t even find time fief THOSE friends at first (and as they didn’t have kids, they had no desire to come to burbs to see me with.a baby!). Cut to now and I’ve been.back here for 8 years and the only friends I have are a few other moms. Oh, I DID make a new friend on my own, the barista at Starbucks (super adorable and cool). It’s kind if sad, really. :-\