Where Logic Meets Love

Life After College: Where's My Friend Group?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

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Life After College: Where's My Friend Group? | Faith Permeating Life
When I finished college, moved into my own apartment, started a job, and then got married (in the span of about three months), I found myself for the first time not living near any friends. The only person we met in our apartment building was an old woman who died about a month after we moved in. All of my coworkers were at least 10 years older than me. My high school and college friends were scattered throughout the country. And I started to feel bad about it.

I started feeling the pressure of everything I've ever read saying I shouldn't rely solely on my significant other, that I needed close friendships for my mental health. Friends of mine who were still living near their college talked about going out on the weekend with groups of college friends. I had nothing like that. I "got involved" in what interested me, which meant joining the prayer shawl ministry at church and knitting once a month with two or three women in their 70s through 90s. I enjoy it, but it's not exactly the kind of people you go out with on a Friday night.

Finally, thankfully, I had a realization: I don't like going out on the weekends. I never have. Why was I craving this cultural sign of "normalcy"? Yes, the only people I saw in a regular week were Mike, my family, and my coworkers, but I would also exchange e-mail updates with my close girlfriends, comment back and forth with people on Facebook, and gchat at work with my best friend. I've always done better with most friendships one-on-one anyway. I wasn't feeling deprived or lonely. Mike met the majority of my needs for support and companionship, and for everything else, I could use technology to connect with other people.

I still need to see my friends occasionally, but as I've been putting more effort into it, it hasn't been too much of a problem. My friend who lives on the East Coast was in Chicago for an interview in the fall, and we went to dinner. I've gotten together for lunch a few times with my friend who teaches about an hour away, and I sometimes judge speech tournaments where her team is competing, and we catch up then. When my family flew out to Colorado in the spring for Ultimate nationals, I called up my friend who lives out there and got to catch up with him for an hour or two during one of my brother's games. My friend who works in Alaska has to make trips to Ohio and Indiana occasionally and always tries to arrange a layover in Chicago so Mike and I can pick her up for dinner.

There are occasional group gatherings as well. One of my friends has hosted a New Year's Eve party every year since high school, and even though he lives in Nevada now he still hosts it at his parents' house because many of us are home for the holidays. Anytime there's a wedding, I get to see many friends. This weekend, my friend who lives in Wisconsin had nine of us up to her house, so two friends who live a few hours south of me picked me up Friday night, we had dinner, and then we drove up to our friend's place.

So it works for me. It's a little harder on Mike because he craves more time with his friends -- to use a broad generalization, women connect more through talk (which can be done online) while men connect more through doing things together. He tries to drive to Indiana at least once a month to see his friend there, and he sometimes gets together with a friend from grad school who lives near us. He joined a volleyball team through our park district and sometimes goes out with the guys after games, but they're all 10-15 years older than him so it's not exactly a peer group. We went out to Pennsylvania in February for a get-together with his childhood friends, and then we hosted them here in June. We're trying to make it work.

For anyone else who may be feeling deprived of a friend group for the first time, here are some things I've learned:
  • Reframe. First, take a step back and figure out what it is you really need to feel supported and happy. Not everyone wants a Friends-style group of people their age to hang out with on a regular basis. Do you like spending time with a big group of friends, or do you prefer one-on-one time? What are the emotional, mental, social, etc. benefits you expect or need from friendship, and which of those are already being met in one way or another?

  • Make an effort. Once I let go of the pressure to make new friends and have a regular "group," I started thinking about which friends lived a reasonable distance from me and how I might be able to see them more often. I sent out e-mails just to say hey, I'm interested in getting together with you, what days are most open for you? Mike really worked hard to arrange a weekend that all of his friends could come to Chicago. And if I knew a friend was going to be in the Chicago area for any reason, I'd try to make time to get together with them.

  • Maintain friendships from a distance. Part of the reason I know when friends will be in the area is because I've gotten better about e-mailing friends more often just to see what's new with them. Sometimes I get no reponse, but sometimes I have really great exchanges. Since I'm not the kind of person to share every detail on Facebook, it's nice to have one or two friends in the loop if something big is going on, so I feel like I have someone I can call if I need to and it won't be out of the blue.

  • Feed your needs in other ways. Not all of your needs have to be met by a close friend or significant other. Mike likes getting out to play volleyball once a week even if it's not his best friends he's playing with. I appreciate that my boss and I always chat about our weekends so I have someone to share with (other than Mike, who was probably there) if something interesting happened. One of the things Mike and I love doing with friends and family is playing games, so we've started playing Scrabble over Facebook with my mom and aunt.
I'm interested to know your thoughts and tips! How do you make sure your needs are being met when it comes to friendships? How do you maintain old friendships or make new friends?

17 comments:

  1. It's crazy - I was thinking about writing a post recently about this topic as well. It's nice to know that some people have the same types of friendships as I do. Part of me has always been sad because I don't have a "Friends" or "Will and Grace" or "How I Met Your Mother" or "Sex and the City" group of friends outside of college. But that doesn't mean my friends aren't as close or as dear to me. We may not all live close together and go bar hopping on weekends - but they are still full of love. <3

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  2. @Emmy
    Exactly! Not all friendships look the same. It's been helpful for me to reach this realization so I know what to say when people ask, "So do you have a lot of friends in your city? Who have you met there?" But it's good to know others have had the same experience as well! I'd love to read your thoughts on it if you decide to do a post.

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  3. We are totally in the same boat. I have one best friend who I really keep in touch with and that's because we've been friends since we were 3 and 4 and she's more like my sister. We are REALLY close to our families but since moving over 600 miles away we have not really developed a friend base. But...we aren't all that upset about it either! We're happy together and content. But when we have kids (which appears to be happening sometime next year!) we will feel more pressure to develop a social group. I at least have the girls I work with who would babysit and I can trust them but community in general becomes more important, to us anyway, when you have a child. But the real question is...how do make new friends after college? Where do you go?

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  4. These are great tips, and I'm glad you've come to some peace about your friendship situation. I'm surprised, though, that--here at Faith Permeating Life--you don't mention joining a religious congregation as a way to make friends. Maybe it's because your own church hasn't been a source of friends for you?

    For me, it didn't seem plausible to make real FRIENDS at church when I was 23 and almost everyone else there was either under 18 or over 30, but I did stay for coffee hour and chat with people, attend events, and join committees. My church is near my home, so I'd see people I knew from church on the street, in the grocery, on the bus, etc., and I began to feel like part of their community. By the time I was about 28, I had friends I'd met at church that I was getting together with socially outside church functions, as well as one friend I met when she visited my church although she then decided to be a Buddhist! Another decade later, almost half the people I'll invite to a party are people I met through church. I don't have time for a lot of parties or even one-on-one get-togethers, though, so I'm grateful that my church has regular potluck dinners and other events where my family can socialize without having to do all the planning and clean up our house!

    I do/did have an advantage in not having to start over on friendships after college because I've always lived 1-2 miles from the campus, as do about 1/5 of my college friends. It's nice!

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  5. @Caiti
    I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of my mom's friends are parents of kids who are or were at some point friends with me or one of my siblings. For whatever reason it seems to get easier to meet people when you have kids, so I bet you will probably find that for yourself. Congrats again on your baby news!!

    @'Becca
    Our church makeup, from what I can tell, is about 80% people 70 or older, and 20% families with children who go to the church school. We go to the Saturday night Mass since Mike works on Sundays, so there's no coffee hour afterwards--I'm not sure if there's one on Sunday. After Mass a good number of the churchgoers get on a bus back to their retirement home.

    We've both "gotten involved" in what interests us at church, which for me was prayer shawl ministry (as mentioned in the post) and for Mike was leading 8th grade teen club. (He co-leads with the same 75-year-old woman who runs prayer shawl ministry, actually. It's hard to get people involved at our church.) Neither is a source of people anywhere close to our age. We just got a new music minister and I'm hoping they may finally start a choir, which I would definitely join.

    So while we love our church, it hasn't been a source of real friends for us. But that is a good suggestion for other people!

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  6. Hey Jessica I saw your post on 20sb.net. I really felt like this was a blessing post for me; I don't graduate til November, but I go to school online and live at home. Because we don't really have much for 18-25 kids in my town who don't drink/party obsessively (through our local community college), I've found it very tough to connect with people.

    I am active in my church, but my boyfriend and I still fall into that awkward age group of nobody else who attends regularly is our age... and our church really is in the middle of nowhere (though it's AWESOME!).

    I wanna keep trying, but it's been rough. I feel like I make a lot of effort and people dodge around my attempts, but I'll keep trying and do what I can for now. I really liked the read :).

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  7. Jess-
    Definitely know what you mean! I've lived here for 3 years, and married for 2, and only this summer do I feel that I've reached the point where I can say I have a friend in town that I hang out with on an almost-regular basis. And THAT has taken effort! Texting, emailing, comparing schedules, finding we enjoy some of the same things, and finally getting invited on a weekend shopping trip really made me realize that friendship is work! We (you and I) were so used to just having friends nearby -- the natural communities of high school, college, extracurriculars, church and student groups, did the work for us -- that it's a totally different ball game when you get into the real world. I think relocating makes a big difference, too. Living in the same town as my husband's college means that he has a much wider network of college friends than I do, and sees them more frequently. As time passes, they are starting to relocate as well, settle down, and he's starting to feel the change and recognize the initiative it takes to make and keep friends.

    Enjoyed the post! :)

    Missy

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  8. @Fin
    I'm so glad you found this post helpful! I never realized until I graduated that being in your 20s can be such a weird transitional time when it comes to making friends, but it's good to know I'm not the only one.

    If you are still in touch with friends who don't live near you, definitely work to maintain those friendships while you're working on making new ones. Sometimes what you need from a friend doesn't have to be in person!

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  9. @Missy
    Agreed--it was so much easier in high school when we literally had to see each other every day! I'm really glad that our group has stayed in touch, more or less, so we can still get back together occasionally. But it definitely takes a lot more work than it used to!

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  10. Yup, totally know what this is like. I need to write a post at my blog as a huge comment to all of these great posts you've written! I was reading them as you were writing/posting, just didn't have time to comment.

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  11. @Rabbit
    I've missed your perspective! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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  12. Gah, I need to do some chores, but I keep finding posts I meant to reply to! Anyway, I also have had issues meeting people post-college. So has DH. And I can identify with what you said about how you & Mike see things differently b/c he wants to DO things with friends, where you can be satisfied via gchat. Same thing at this house :)

    Reasons:
    1) came home and my friends from HS had either left the area, I lost touch with them in college, or just didn't really mesh with them anymore
    2) met DH about a year and a half after I moved back home (my 1st boyfriend) and then he got hurt, so all my time was spent with him...and he couldn't go many places, so it wasn't like we were socializing with either of our friends and friendships drifted off...
    3)I've lost even more friends recently, mostly because I realized that these people had always been rude/toxic when I was younger, and now, I had enough. It's sad, but necessary.

    Where do I go now? Work, home, church, errands. Not conducive to meeting new people--I commented about my church on your church post. I am friendly with lots of coworkers, but if I or they left tomorrow, would we keep in touch? Hard to say. But they provide me with a social outlet and we chit chat about random stuff. It's hard enough to see the friends I have now, even the ones who live close by. The out of state ones? It's been YEARS for some--keeping touch mostly via email and/or Facebook.

    We are busy! We have a house and are always doing something to it...it takes up a lot of our time, which I don't think I realized. If we had friends, we could say "hey come help rake leaves, and we'll make pizza for dinner on the grill!" But we don't have people like that... and I know I'm not the only busy person. I'm not s huge "going out" person, but it would be nice to have the types of relationships I did in HS and college, just hanging out, watching movies or chatting or having a snack...more organic type of friendships....I don't know if that's possible when you're an adult and have responsibilities that take up time and you have to schedule in FUN TIME! :)

    I wish we had couple friends, but it's hard enough to meet friends OR partners, nevermind for ALL four people to mesh well. Everyone says "when you have kids, you'll meet people" but why should THEY be the root of friendships?

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  13. @Rabbit
    I'm the same way with my coworkers--we're friendly and I love working with them, but once we go our separate ways someday I doubt we'll keep in touch.

    I always dreamed of doing double dates with "couple friends" post-college, but that just hasn't turned out to be the case. As you said, it requires all 4 people to enjoy each other's company, and you can't force that. We both really enjoy spending time with my best friend and her husband, but they live a few hours south of us and with Mike working on the weekends it's rare that we're all together at once.

    Everyone says "when you have kids, you'll meet people" but why should THEY be the root of friendships?
    I don't think they necessarily should, especially since not everyone has kids, but I think it's kind of the reality that that's how a lot of couples end up making friends. Having kids forces you into a lot more social situations than you encounter just as a couple, and you immediately have at least one thing in common with the other parents there. Given what I'm hearing about how this (not making friends after college) is very common, I think it's just straight-up difficult for childless couples to make a lot of new friends. Which sucks!

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  14. It's interesting because I have this same issue, however, I have lived in the same city my entire life.

    Right out of high school I got into a (pyramid-scheme-but-not-technically-so-it-was-legal) business team that pretty much told us we shouldn't associate with people who didn't believe in our "dream." Kinda messed up thinking about that part of it.

    I distanced myself from my family, my friends and the only people I hung out with were my "business team." Although we never got really close because we were only supposed to speak positively. "How's your day?" "Great!" Not exactly the best way to connect with someone.

    Needless to say, when I got out of the business group THREE YEARS LATER, I had no friends. It was pretty lonely actually. My old friends had their own lives and my "business friends" didn't want anything to do with me. I was working at a restaurant and had some acquaintances there, and still talk to them now, but they aren't exactly leading the Christian lifestyle, so it's a bit hard to relate to them.

    I have tried joining bible studies at church, but I always seem to be the youngest one, or the unmarried one or the non-mom of the group. The younger group that meets is younger than me...so it's just a bit hard to connect.

    I'm still working on making friends, but really it seems my best friends are those I have met through blogging and online social media. This seems to be enough for now, hopefully enough so that I don't burden my boyfriend with all of my issues.

    Thanks for this post! I enjoy your blog thoroughly!

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    Replies
    1. Yikes, that sounds like a rough situation to be in. I definitely know what you mean about being the youngest or feeling out of place. For most of my life I've tended to gravitate toward activities that attract people much older than me -- right now that's knitting and church choir, with a bunch of older ladies. Sometimes I feel like I have to choose between socializing with the people I want to become friends with and doing the activities I want to do.

      Blogging and social media really does help if you can find a good community. I realized recently that I receive so much support from my "Twitter girls" in a way I don't from my "IRL" group of female friends -- all of whom I have great individual friendships with, but we don't regularly communicate as a group. Thankfully Mike has become very understanding about the needs that my online friends fulfill for me :)

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  15. That's great to see people sharing what they learned. Here is one way to make friends : Meetup.com

    I made a 9-page report about how to do it specifically, you can find it here (How to Get 3 Friends in 3 Weeks):

    http://socialcirclepower.com/free-download-get-3-new-friends-in-3-weeks

    See you there
    -Paul

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Paul. I have been using Meetup.com for a few months now but have yet to find anything that is of interest to me and works with my schedule. On the occasions I have found an interesting event it has always been for a group of singles or people over 30. I still get the weekly e-mails with new events. I recently found out about Grubwithus.com via MWF Seeking BFF's post on friendmaking services, and I am extremely excited to try it out.

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