Making friends and maintaining friendships after 30 – ABC Life
I wanted to find out how to make friends when you're an Australian man over the age of 30.
Because for me, 30 is rapidly approaching. And while we all experience loneliness, it can hit men hard.
me, many Aussie men aren't satisfied with the quality of their relationships. Turns out most of us think it's normal to lose touch with friends, or see them drop off as we get older.
Even more concerning is that almost a quarter of us don't think we can rely on anyone outside our immediate family… for anything.
As our lives continue to pick up pace, finding time to connect with new people only gets harder.
So with a seemingly inescapable friendship void looming in my future, I set out to see if there was any way I could dodge what awaited me, and spoke with the experts.
With all the respect in the world, most of the advice sounded something you'd hear from a loved one trying to make you feel better.
“You'll find someone. JUST PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE,” they said.
If it were that simple, many of us would probably be killing it in the friend department right now. But it isn't. And “put yourself out there” isn't going to cut it.
Besides the inevitable boredom of your own company, loneliness is a mental health risk factor that should be taken seriously.
So, what can we actually do?
Rebecca G. Adams is a sociologist and gerontologist at the University of North Carolina. In 2012, she told the New York Times that since the 1950s, sociologists have agreed on three crucial ingredients of close friendships: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.
Thing is, a lot of us are moving around a lot.
Grant Blashki is lead clinical advisor at Beyond Blue. He says while changing circumstances play their part, when it comes to the depth and richness of friendships in later life, the way men talk to each other is also a major factor.
“Broadly, there are cultural issues [around] masculine identity which affect how we, as fellas, communicate with each other,” Dr Blashki says.
“I think the difference is in our socialisation. Women are seen to be more willing to be more vulnerable with members of the same sex to make friendships. For men, that's still a bit awkward,” says clinical psychologist Trish Purnell-Webb.
She says when it comes down to it, we should try harder to maintain the closest friendships we have.
“Do what you need to do to maintain those friendships. Try to not lose touch with each other,” Dr Purnell-Webb says.
Share how you met a new friend and bonded with them. Email your story to email@example.com.
Dr Purnell-Webb acknowledges that while it's harder for both men and women to make friends after 30, it's especially hard for men because of the nature of male relationships.
Dr Blashki agrees, saying men are “parallel communicators”, rather than face-to-face communicators.
“Men's relationships, typically, tend to centre around activities,” Dr Purnell-Webb says.
In other words, a purpose or, as Dr Blashki acknowledges, even a “pretend purpose.”
Whether it's playing video games, excessively consuming food and drink, playing sport or watching sport, male friendship dynamics often revolve around a “reason”.
The trouble is, as our lives change and we partner up and focus on our careers, it becomes more difficult to form and/or maintain friendships in the same way we once did. Life gets busy and keeping up with everyone becomes more difficult.
“Make an active effort to plan a catch up, preferably in a routine way, and try and frame it around an activity,” Dr Blashki says.
One-off arrangements come and go, whereas if you set a regular meeting time, it gives people an opportunity to schedule and form a routine, Dr Blashki adds.
It's all well and good that your friends are your partner's friends, but what happens if you break up? Who gets custody of your shared mates?
Dr Purnell-Webb says it's often one partner who drives the pair's social life. Your social circle becomes their friends and their friends' partners, which can make things a little awkward, especially if you've moved and don't have your close family friends or school friends around you anymore.
She adds that while it's important to maintain mutual friendships with your partner, make sure you have other people to turn to outside of that immediate social circle, just in case.
If you've ever considered adopting a pet, age 30+ might be the time. Dr Blashki says one of his patients had a lot of success meeting people through a mutual love of pets.
“It's been brilliant for him because he walks around the neighbourhood and everybody wants to chat to him [about his dog], letting him connect with new people,” he says.
“Join something. Whether it's a club or volunteer group, you're more ly to make a real friend than if you were at a bar, hoping someone's going to talk to you,” Dr Purnell-Webb adds.
Dr Blashki recommends existing online services which let users create groups and lets people sign up for in-person events. What's good about these is that you can choose what to attend your interests, so it's safe to assume you'll have at least one thing in common with the other attendees.
“Anything where you're creating an opportunity to chat with other people is going to be a good thing, volunteering, for instance,” Dr Blashki says.
All of this is the best I've got for you. Keep the mates you've got, get a dog, volunteer or join a group.
Or, be me and feign interest in crossbows with one of your partner's friends' partners. Important stuff, just not the top pick for banter on a Sunday afternoon.
When all else fails, just make your own friend: have a baby.
I joke, but there is some truth. Dr Purnell-Webb says that having a baby is the next life stage after school, university and work where you get to bond with a new group of people over a shared experience — a characteristic of a good friendship.
Posted 3 OctOctober 2019, updated 5 FebFebruary 2020