"I feel lonely. I would like to be in a relationship. It's difficult to make substantive friends in your 30s, besides most of my friends are married. Friendship looks different when you're in your 20's because much isn't required then".
Ella*, a 34 year old single graphic designer is athletic, intelligent and has a great sense of humor. Most times, she ends up spending her weekends alone or hitting up her married friends, and rolling like the 3rd wheel.
"I really love my married friends," Ella tells me, a hint of apology in her voice, "but they aren't interested in the same things I am and, hell, they're a team. They like to stay at home and have dinner together."
Ella would love to have some new single friends to spend time with, but as a career woman, there isn't enough time to create the kinds of intimate friendships that she had in her twenties. This is especially true in a competitive city like New York where career advancement often means grueling hours spent in the office. For many professionals, weekends are meant for refueling and the emotional energy required to making new friendships can be strenuous.
Why is it that finding close girlfriends feels so much hard later in life? Like Ella, if you're single, 34 and find your social life dwindling, you may be wondering if it's you or a proverbial "them." Well, the research suggests there might be something larger going on. According to a recent study, your social network shrinks after the age of 25. Researchers Bhattacharya K, Ghosh A, Monsivais D, Dunbar RI, Kaski K say, "Because family dominates the inner layers of most people's social networks, this would suggest an increasing focus on family and close friendship relationships with age."
But, is the situation really hopeless? In actuality, it's the extra time spent in isolation that begins to breed the hopelessness. Most single women value and desire friendship, just like you. When they want to take a weekend off from the dating drama, they yearn for shared activity with a close friend who gets them so they can relax and be themselves. Humans are social beings. We all look for mirrors and validation from others. It is easy to look around you and imagine that everyone is happy and connected and joyous, leaving you as the sole survivor, the only friendless person in the room. In truth, there are others - just like you- wishing for a close friend to take vacations, drink wine and talk for hours into the night.
And while it is true that making friends is harder when you are older, it is also true that you are better equipped to make friends and probably have greater capacities for intimacy. Your tastes are more refined, you've developed stronger opinions and you know yourself better than ever. And according to the census bureau, there are more single people in the US than ever and the numbers seem to be increasing every year. If you allow yourself to take some chances and put your emotional self into the process, a strong community of supportive friends is there for the making.
If you're ready to put your relational money where your mouth is and find your new bestie, try these tips!
5 Steps to Find your New Bestie After 30.
1. Select an activity that you love and find a group that's doing it. Whether it's taking a photography class, wall climbing, or attending the latest political rally - don't isolate. Make it something that you've always wanted to do, something different that excites you so it'll be easier to get out and go. And do it in a group, one that meets regularly so you'll have the opportunity to really get to know each other. As humans, we want community, shared activity and shared experiences. Even if shy or introverted we tend to be social beings. It helps us to understand our world to share experiences with others. And starting a conversation while sharing an activity is much easier. Worse case scenario, you've learned something new.
2. Keep your mind open. When you do meet people, focus on what you share and not what you don't. The most exciting thing might be to make friends with people you wouldn't expect to, that don't look like the friends you've had in the past. Shared age, gender and resume not required!
3. Network where you don't belong. Go to a networking event to meet people - but one that isn't necessarily in your chosen profession. Make sure it is an event that you will find interesting and fun, or maybe another career in which you've been longing to work. People there will find you brave and interesting to have stepped out of your comfort zone and will love to tell you about themselves (and hopefully hear about you).
4. Take stock of your existing friendships. Who is in your life with whom you'd like a deeper connection? Be brave and hit them up, ask them about their lives and suggest a movie. Let them know you're interested in more and share your life in a deeper way. While you're at it, think of how you can be there for them.
5. If all of this seems too overwhelming, get some therapy. If you find yourself isolating, it could be useful for you to learn what you might be contributing to the problem. Is this a page from an old playbook that seems way too familiar? Or an inconsistency that you just can't wrap your mind around?
Anais Nin put it beautifully when she said, "Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."
It's all about taking risks and stretching yourself in ways that might not be obvious and comfortable. This is how you grow, get seen and really become your best self. You do it all the time at work, how about taking a chance and doing it for yourself?
*Identifying information changed to ensure confidentiality.
Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934