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By Lauren Thomas, MA, LPC

Finding friends was easier during our school years: classes, sports, clubs, and living in the same neighborhoods or student housing gave us several opportunities for building connections. For many of us in the post-grad years, we are no longer living near our peers from our formative days. My closest friends live hours or states away from me. If you’re an adult juggling work and family and wondering how to build real relationships in a busy, transient world, this blog is for you.

Making Friends Where You Are

When you’ve experienced true friendship, it can be hard to feel like you’re “starting over” when it comes to building community. Resist the urge to settle for your long-distance relationships to the point that you ignore the potential friends right in front of you. Remember the Girl Scout song, “Make new friends, but keep the old?” Yes, it is essential to maintain the close bonds you’ve formed over the years; it is a gift to be known and loved by people you’ve shared a lot of life with. At the same time, having support from people close by is also vital. In addition to emotional support, local friends can offer practical support and be available to share in the interests and activities that bring you joy.

“Where do I start?” you might be thinking. The easiest way is to bond over shared hobbies and/or values. Think book clubs, sports, church, volunteering, or events at your local library. Yes, it can feel risky to go somewhere on your own and strike up conversations with strangers, but having something in common will break the ice, and some activities will have facilitators that will help with introductions.

The Case for Intergenerational Friendships

I moved to a small town 4 years ago and have navigated the friend search personally. One of the best surprises was finding fulfilling relationships with women from different generations: some older, some younger. It reminds me of a favorite L.M. Montgomery quote: “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

Here are a few reasons why I think having friends of different ages and stages of life benefits us:

1) The Gift of Perspective

Friends in different life stages often have greater availability and emotional capacity than our peers. For example, I am a working mom who also spends a lot of time in the car chauffeuring children. My younger friends without children, or older friends with grown children, can be more flexible when planning to spend time with me. Plans with fellow moms with busy schedules are harder to coordinate. Likewise, we are not struggling with the same issues. While there may be some overlap in experience, people in their 20s, 40s, and 60s are generally making different decisions and have different goals from one another. This is refreshing, as friends who are ahead of you can encourage you that seasons change and you will get through them, while those behind you can offer fresh eyes on a situation and motivation to keep dreams alive. Either way, we are developing empathy as we enter each other’s experiences.

2) Growing Alongside Each Other

Empathy is not the only thing we can learn as we interact with those in different seasons of life. We often think of mentorship happening from older to younger individuals, but people of all ages can challenge our thinking and help us grow, rather than being in an echo chamber with people exactly like us. Education, skills, talents, and life experience varies greatly, and we have much to offer one another. When we really listen and seek to understand each other, our lives become enriched.

3) Less Competition

Another benefit to spending time with people outside of our life stage is that there is less competition. Even if we don’t say it out loud, many of us compare ourselves to our peers: “Am I behind?” “Am I on track?” Marriage, children, work promotions, buying a house – it’s easy to get caught up in “keeping up” with our peers that we may not appreciate where we are in the moment. Having friends older or younger than ourselves reminds us that our path in life is not always linear; there will be successes and setbacks, and sometimes the unexpected roads lead us to places far better than we originally imagined.

So, if you find yourself in the place where you’re thinking, “there’s no one like me and I can’t connect with anyone,” maybe try casting a wider net. You might just meet the person you didn’t know you needed. In 1785, poet William Cowper wrote, “variety is the spice of life.” I think this applies to friendships as well! Take a risk and get to know someone you might have overlooked in the past.


Get Help Connecting to Others

Lime Tree Counseling offers in-person and online counseling for those who would like to enjoy better relationships. Let us help you deal with the anxiety, depression, and trauma that may be holding you back from trusting others. Whether you’re looking for counseling in the Ambler, PA area or desire online counseling in Pennsylvania or online counseling in North Carolina, our caring team would love to answer any questions you may have about starting therapy. Contact us to schedule a free phone consultation or initial session today.