Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

How to Make Friends as A Grown-Up

In the last few years, I’ve made some pretty enormous changes in my life. First, I moved from Chicago to New York to be with Drew, leaving behind a wonderful circle of long-time friends. Then, I started a stay-at-home freelance writing career. Then I got married. Then I moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn, and then I got pregnant. To say my social life has changed as a result of all this would be an under-statement. Recently, I’ve realized an overwhelming need to not only work harder at strengthening the friendships I’ve made in New York, but in making some solid new ones — especially with people who are at similar places in their lives as I am (i.e. stay-at-home folks, self-employed people, other pregnant ladies and new parents).

Perhaps it’s a coincidence, or maybe it’s just me noticing the topic more, but at exactly the same time I made the realization that I need a stronger social circle for my emotional well-being, it seems like more and more people are writing to me with questions about how to do just that. Through a variety of life transitions, many of us are experiencing a need for new friends, but we’re realizing that forming those bonds isn’t as easy as it may have been when we were all in school. Luckily, I wrote an article a couple years ago all about making friends as grown-ups and my tips and suggestions still hold true and are worth re-visiting if you need a little motivation. And if you have any tips or anecdotes you’d like to share, please do so in the comments!

48 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Lindsay May 25, 2011, 12:15 pm

    It’s funny that you post this today because I’ve been contemplating a big move and have been worried about leaving my friends. I moved across the country right after college three years ago. It took a while, but I have a lot of really great friends who I’m sad to leave.

    At first, I had only a couple of friends from work, but I’d hang out with them and meet other people. When new people moved here, I made sure to be friendly to them and many of those people are my close friends now. I also got involved with things that I found interesting (a community garden, etc.) and now I live with a handful of people who share the same interests.

    Now, I’m trying to remind myself that even though I’ll miss everyone, I can do this again somewhere else. I think in the back of my mind it seems like luck or it seems like this just was a good place for making friends, but I have to give myself some credit for getting out there and trying, which will serve me (and anyone) well in a new place.

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    BoomChakaLaka May 25, 2011, 12:19 pm

    Keep in touch. As we get older, we all follow (or at least try to follow) our life passions and that may take us emotionally and physically away from each other. Going to boarding school and then school out of state, many of my friends are currently in different states/countries, but I try to make the most of those friendships through facebook (messages, threads, rando wall posts), texting and phone calls.

    Of course, nothing beats a visit, so whenever I have free time, I try to make a trip to see those friends that are far away (usually Boston, Philly and DC, but hopefully Cali soon!). And if they are in town, I try to free up my schedule to take them out for a dinner/drinks.

    I don’t see my friends everyday or even every month, but I feel really close to them because of these small sparse actions. I know that with time, it might go to years before I see them, but I will continue “keeping in touch.”

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  • avatar

    HmC May 25, 2011, 12:20 pm

    From Wendy’s article:

    “Don’t force it. Making friends is like dating — sometimes you meet someone who’s perfectly nice, but for whatever reason there just isn’t chemistry. Cut your losses and move on. The only thing worse than not having any friends at all is having a friend you’re bored by.”

    I really like that, and it made me think of something else. Sometimes, I notice very well-meaning girls coming on way too strong when trying to befriend other girls. It’s like they think that because it’s friendship, and not a romantic relationship, that certain social rules don’t apply. But just because someone is the same sex as you, doesn’t mean you don’t have to give them a little space, as you would under dating circumstances. People don’t want needy friends any more than they want needy dates. Make effort, for sure, with someone you think could be a good friend. But remember that every type of relationship, romantic or not, should involve reciprocation, space and respect.

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    • avatar

      TheGirl May 25, 2011, 12:29 pm

      Yes! I’ve totally had that happen to me. We just met. I don’t need a call or text from you every day or the full details of every guy you’ve ever dated. Lets just start with getting together once a month to do something.

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    • avatar

      francesk May 25, 2011, 1:39 pm

      Loved your second paragraph. There’s a new girl in my office who is trying really hard to force her way into a friendship. At the end of the day, she packs all her stuff up and waits at her computer until I leave so she can walk out with me. She also posts an unnecessay amount of things to my fb page. I understand she wants to be friends, and she’s perfectly nice, but space is required.

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      • avatar

        IdaTarbell May 25, 2011, 7:47 pm

        Be easy on her. 🙂 It’s super hard to start over, and you may be the only person she feels comfortable befriending. Maybe introduce her to some of your acquaintances or invite her out on a girls’ night with your friends.

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  • avatar

    kdog May 25, 2011, 12:40 pm

    I think making friends is a lot like dating…except for me it’s always been MUCH easier. Be open. Ask questions. Get involved in groups that you’re interested in. Ask more questions. If it’s female friends you’re looking for, we’re all suckers for someone who takes an interest in our life. Especially keep your eyes and ears open for someone with similar interests. Don’t be afraid of a little small talk at first. If you really have friend-chemistry with someone it will naturally evolve past that…if it doesn’t than you probably don’t want to put the little extra energy you have into it.

    And I really like Wendy’s advice about bringing more to the table than just dinner/happy hours. At first they’re the perfect go to, but you can learn a lot more with a lot less pressure if you’re going to a concert, riding a roller coaster or checking out Chinatown.

    As far as screening goes, I think it’s also important to be able to tell your new friend no occasionally and see how they respond. It’s just a good way to set up boundaries when you’re busy or lacking a lot of extra energy. Of course, you can’t be surprised when they stop asking you to do things if you repeatedly decline invitations without offering an alternative hang-out session.

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  • avatar

    DramaQueen224 May 25, 2011, 12:45 pm

    Once you find someone you think you might want to be friends with (at work or through clubs or wherever), ask them out on a friend-date! See if they want to go grab coffee or see a movie or whatever else might be fun. I know being the initiator can be kind of scary, but it’s important if you want real friends and not just friendly acquaintances. I remind myself that I’m always flattered when someone wants to get to know me better, and then I suck it up and ask away!

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    • avatar

      BoomChakaLaka May 25, 2011, 1:44 pm

      This is the scariest thing to do. I’ve never asked anyone on a friend date (or even on a romantic date for that matter). I just wait for it to happen.

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  • avatar

    Sarah May 25, 2011, 12:59 pm

    Oooo, this is the perfect forum to ask for advice. I work at a place that hired this girl and she and I really clicked. For her first two weeks working here we would have so much fun talking and going out to lunch. It was wonderful because a few other girls there thought I was too weird to talk to and I loved having someone who didn’t feel that way too. Unfortunately, she got fired after about two weeks for a variety of reasons (her boss was an ass, the co-worker she worked with was intimidated by her and constantly would complain about her to her boss, she had a bit of a sassy attitude when being talked to rudely that I admired, but they did not). Anyway, its been a few months now and I really want to reconnect with her, but I’m wondering if would be weird for her with me still working here. Do you guys think its rude for me to initiate contact with her again?

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    • avatar

      MissDre May 25, 2011, 1:14 pm

      I say go for it. Ask how she’s doing, what’s new in her life since she left the company?

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      • avatar

        spaceboy761 May 25, 2011, 1:39 pm

        Sarah is actually fortunate to have come across somebody like this. People in my office are a bunch of weiners and gonads.

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      • Budj

        Budjer May 25, 2011, 1:45 pm

        haha…must be a common thing because I have about one friend in a facility of 2400.

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      • avatar

        dobby May 25, 2011, 5:38 pm

        At my office they are stupid weiners and gonads – I swear I work with some of the stupidest people on the planet… The one intelligent coworker I had quit. But we’re still friends outside the workplace so it’s cool.

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    • avatar

      spaceboy761 May 25, 2011, 1:30 pm

      Absolutely go for it.

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    • Budj

      Budjer May 25, 2011, 1:36 pm

      Absolutely not. Go for it.

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    • leilani

      leilani May 25, 2011, 3:12 pm

      I would totally try to reconnect with her. Especially considering your view on her firing…you could be a great person for her to commiserate with!

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    • avatar

      Sarah May 25, 2011, 4:52 pm

      Thanks guys, I will!

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  • avatar

    TECH May 25, 2011, 1:27 pm

    This post could not have come at a better time for me. I was thinking about my Memorial Day Weekend plans, and what my boyfriend and I will do. I realize I only have one friend other than my boyfriend who I hang out with. This is not because I only spend time with my boyfriend ( I see him about three nights a week, and have the other four free.) It’s just that I had a major falling out with a close friend over a year ago, and my other friends have moved to various places across the country. Compound that with the fact that I’m shy by nature, and it’s tough to make friends! I think the toughest thing is that I find friendships are built over shared history. My closest friends I mostly went to high school or college with. A couple of people from work I’ve kept in touch with. But it’s so hard to meet someone new and just become instant friends, because you’re missing that closeness. If you’re really serious about making friends, you really need to put effort into it, kind of like finding a partner.

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    • avatar

      HM May 25, 2011, 6:52 pm

      I feel ya, but one of the best things about meeting new people is the clean slate idea. Start by talking to strangers at the grocery store. You can get used to talking to strangers by joking with people in line as you wait to pay (just wait for eye contact mixed with a friendly smile first or they might think your crazy or not know you were talking to them). Then try joining a club or hanging out with friends of friends.
      I make it a point to talk to people but I think I get that from my dad and the fact I’m southern. Apparently people in DC aren’t like that so much (as I recently discovered). However, nearly all people are open to chatting with friendly people, even if it is uncommon in their local area.

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  • avatar

    sweetleaf May 25, 2011, 1:29 pm

    Oh my, I had this exact conversation with some strangers I met last night. I asked, how do I make new friends at close to thirty? I’m going to check out your article right now.

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  • avatar

    SGMcG May 25, 2011, 1:38 pm

    Personally, I like to attend events that gauge my interests – classical music (either singing in a choir or attending a concert), cultural ancestry (either mine or my husband), politics, religious faith, geeky pursuits (comics or cosplay), arts and crafts, etc. I find that I can easily find potential friends from pursuing those interests alone. The hard thing is finding appropriate venues and events for those interests – and that’s where a google search becomes your friend. Putting in the research to first find similarly minded people is necessary even before one considers making friends. In my experience, if you fuel your passion, the friends come to you.

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  • Budj

    Budjer May 25, 2011, 1:42 pm

    After college it was really tough…even with going back to my home town afterwards. For me it took a band…which involves something people enjoy (music), ambition, and a common goal; those guys are the best friends I’ve had to date and we have pretty much combined our social networks into a “mega-network”.

    Other than that…it’s mostly the few people I ran into the most in social situations and had something in common with. I’m self-admittedly not easy to get to know (kind of shy at first) which reads as stuck up to a lot of people so if I can make friends successfully the odds are in other peoples favor.

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  • avatar

    NOLAGirl May 25, 2011, 1:43 pm

    Seriously, I had this same problem. Still do actually. I’ve moved with my husband and have had a ton of problems meeting people. Well I meet lots of people, and those people like me, but I haven’t had a good girl friend since grad school. All my best friends live far away. I’ve done the volunteer organizations (belong to 2) and get out with my hubby a lot. But I dunno. I’ve thought maybe trying a book club. I really don’t know. I’m not terribly discouraged, it just seems odd not to have those good girl friends around locally that I’ve had in the past.

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  • avatar

    francesk May 25, 2011, 1:48 pm

    I love this article. About three years ago I moved from Florida to Chicago. My sister lived in Chicago and I had a couple cousins, so they were the only people I knew. It took about a year, but I have a variety of friends I enjoy going out with. One girlfriend I met through work and we clicked.

    I also used this site http://www.meetup.com and I developed a couple more group of friends. This site is great because you can easily find people with your same interests. And remember, everyone is in the same boat. I no longer use it anymore because I met some people I enjoy hanging out with. Its purpose worked. Also, Consistenly showing up at the same places, or taking a class is a great way to meet people.

    Anyway, new friendships take time, but it can be done. This is coming from a former shy girl.

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  • avatar

    LolaBeans May 25, 2011, 3:13 pm

    after moving to toronto over a year ago, i’m FINALLY making and maintaining about 4 really close friendships with some women; a few i work with and another two i met through my boyfriend… we’ve gotten really close. and it DOES take a lot of work to make new friends out of university.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom May 25, 2011, 4:48 pm

    We’ve met our best friends through our kids. We met one couple through our son and one couple through our daughter and almost instantly just clicked with each couple. They both had personalities that meshed exceptionally well with ours and we have been friends for years. I think the most important thing for us was that we were able to chat with the other couples over a period of time and got to know each other and had enough fun together that we kept inviting each other back along with the kids. Play dates often involved adults as well as kids.

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    • avatar

      NOLAGirl May 26, 2011, 8:58 am

      this is totally a reason for me to jump on the babymaking bandwagon (just kidding!)

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      • avatar

        kali May 26, 2011, 1:10 pm

        No need to have babies – I’ve met some of my best friends through AKC dog events. We all have the same breed and enter shows and field events and go training together. The dogs dig it and we all (two-legged and four-legged beings) get lots of camaraderie.

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    Allissa May 25, 2011, 5:21 pm

    Its pretty hard when your single too. I don’t have a boyfriend or husband. I do have kids, but their friend’s married parents are not friendly to a single attractive lady. I work with two old men (70’s) and that’s all. No chance to meet anyone at work. I feel like a pariah sometimes!

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    • avatar

      fallonthecity May 25, 2011, 6:00 pm

      I’ve noticed this too, married people not wanting to be friends with single women. I don’t know what it is — I’ve managed to stay friends with married people that I was close with when they were single, but it’s very very hard to make new friends out of married people.

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    • mandalee

      amandalee May 25, 2011, 8:20 pm

      I actually noticed the complete opposite problem. I’m the only engaged person in my age group at my new job and as soon as they asked if I was engaged, they were like oh, bummer, we really wanted you to come out with us tonight. It was super awkward. Like is being engaged a disease they didn’t want to catch? lol I told my fiance I should have left my ring at home my first day or two.

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  • Roxy_84

    Roxy84 May 25, 2011, 5:49 pm

    Here’s my question: while I don’t usually have a problem making friends (eventually, sometimes it takes a while) in new cities, how do guys do it? One of my guy friends recently moved to a new city and is bored. I figured the best avenue was to join a rec sports team, since there’s implied beers after, but I can’t really consider myself an authority on guy bonding

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  • Kristina

    Kristina May 25, 2011, 6:20 pm

    My problem is that most of my friends are guys (which is great, less drama most of the time), but sometimes one of my guy friends will have feelings for me, when I do not, and I end up losing a friend because the friendship becomes awkward most of the times. Or I may end up dating one of my guy friends, and end up losing a great friend when the relationship ends (though I very rarely start a relationship with a friend for that reason). I have 2 close girlfriends, but that’s enough when it comes to girls. My guy friends aren’t as needy with always wanting to talk and hang out, since I’m so busy with school most of the time.

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    IdaTarbell May 25, 2011, 7:51 pm

    I’m having this problem now. I’m a recent grad who moved to a new city. I work with many people who are at least 15-20 years older than me with families, and I’m having trouble finding stable people to become friends. It’s really hurting me emotionally. I’m trying clubs and classes, but it gets very frustrating when, time and time again, the only people I’m meeting are 35 or older, married with children or, if it’s some men, just want to date me.

    Anybody have any advice?

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    • avatar

      applescruff May 25, 2011, 11:52 pm

      I met a lot of cool people volunteering at the humane society when I lived in Portland. I also met people through the “young adult” Jewish group at my synagogue, so maybe you can specifically find clubs oriented toward young adults?

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        applescruff May 25, 2011, 11:55 pm

        Oh, and my friend who lives in Denver organizes this group for 20’s/30’s who enjoy theater. They get cheap tickets to shows, and before there’s a gathering with free or cheap food and drinks, and after there’s usually something else related to the show. I went back for one a few months ago. The show was about baseball, and after was a giant wii baseball tournament. Lots of fun, young people. Any sort of young professionals group sounds like it would be good for you.

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    • Roxy_84

      Roxy84 May 27, 2011, 4:38 pm

      A couple of things to try:
      1. A women’s bootcamp…these usually have about 15-20 women you’ll spend a few weeks in classes with, and there’s usually an even spread between 20’s and 30’s.
      2. Professionals’ groups in your industry. Who has time to go to the after work cocktail hours? The people without kids who have time to hang out and make new friends.
      3. Rec sports leagues – most have singles’ teams and the majority of people are in their 20’s
      I would also say that the more active the club/class and the cheaper, the more likely it is to have younger participants.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark May 25, 2011, 8:06 pm

    The best way to make real friends is to find an activity you genuinely enjoy, and pursue it. Join a club, and take a class. Heck, right now I almost have TOO MANY friends, as between my work (freelance production designer) and my writing and comedy improv classes I am constantly meeting new and exciting people all the time that I really anjoy and connect with and want to keep in touch with and hang out with… The end result is that sometimes feel that I simply have too many social obligations to keep up with. Whew…. That said, it’s a great problem to have.

    Just follow your passion, and you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by interesting people you can relate to and forge new and exciting friendships…

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  • mandalee

    amandalee May 25, 2011, 8:23 pm

    Wendy, I feel like you read my mind sometimes lol I just moved to a new city and was struggling with how to make friends at my office (really nice people but they seem kind of cliquey) and I was like I really wish Wendy would post something on this topic, because her advice is always awesome.

    I am terrible at making friends. I’m really outgoing with people close to me, but soo shy with strangers. I’ll have to definitely look into meetup.com or something. Everyone says making friends is like dating, but I have little to no practice with that either, because I’ve never really dated either.

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  • avatar

    applescruff May 25, 2011, 11:47 pm

    Oh man, you guys, I moved to Utah for an internship in July and it’s been BEYOND tough to make friends. I live in a small town, and most social activities are centered around the LDS church – and I’m Jewish. There’s a small community of Jews nearby and I love them dearly – but their average age is 45 and I’m 25. Most of my friends are married dudes (because the reality is not a lot of women have jobs in this community) and they’re great, but it’s hard to hang out with them outside of work because there are RULES when you’re hanging out with married dudes, especially when their wives mostly live out of town. I hang out with my dog a lot.

    But I just took a job last week in Boulder. Colorado is my home state, and I’m so excited to be around friends again. The thing is, I feel like if I hadn’t gone through this year that’s been SO tough, I would be more likely to have gone for jobs in new places. I moved a lot as a kid, moved away for college and grad school, and feel like I’m pretty good at making friends. I just don’t know if I have the energy after this year. I think my long winded point is that this is a good and timely conversation for me because I don’t want to be relying completely on my high school/college friends, I want to be able to make new connections in Boulder.

    Keep on keepin on, lovely people!

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    • avatar

      Kate May 25, 2011, 11:57 pm

      Oh man…I feel for you living in Utah. Not a place I would want to live (vacation, yes).

      But Boulder is supposed to awesome, right? My cousin went to UC Boulder and didn’t want to leave! I think it was just rated the “happiest city” in the US, too. Good luck!

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      Painted_lady May 26, 2011, 1:21 am

      Totally understand – just before I finished grad school, I did a short internship at a theatre out of state. Then when I graduated, the theatres who had hired me as a grad student were still employing me, but I hadn’t really made many friends as I had been busy as hell with school and most of my friends were classmates. Then when I decided I needed a more steady income and went into teaching, I had to make new friends there. I was up for a better-paying job in a new city at the end of last year, but ultimately I was relieved I didn’t get it because I was exhausted from the constant starting over.

      That being said, dogs are fortunately good company 🙂 I don’t know what I’d do without my mutt.

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        applescruff June 1, 2011, 12:32 am

        Thanks guys! My dog is the best, she’s the funniest little thing and such good company.

        Any DW readers live in Boulder??

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    Painted_lady May 26, 2011, 1:08 am

    One of the ways I met friends when I started working at my school was by teaching a couple of yoga classes for interested faculty members. When you’re the one in the know, people automatically think you’re cool and want to make friends. It’s something about the confidence you exude when you’re running the show, so to speak, and just like in romantic relationships, people are drawn to confidence.

    Maybe you could start some sort of think-tank-slash-support-group for women freelance writers you know. Get people together for lunch a couple times a month to talk about the ins and outs of trying to make it on your own. I also worked in theatre as a freelance technician for a really long time, and as it was a male-dominated field, the women who worked in my city were all pretty close-knit. We’d get together for drinks and talk about how irritating some of the assumptions the guys made about us could be (can’t lift as much, crying automatically meaning you’re a mess as opposed to pissed off, the constant need to have to defend your own knowledge, etc). So that kind of solidarity makes for close friendships, and if you’re the one initiating these things, then you get to be the cool one everyone wants to be friends with. Obviously, I only know you as a writer, so if there are any other talents/interests you feel qualified to create and/or lead a meeting of minds about, go for that, too! I’m not the most confident in the world when it comes to opening up to people, and by leading that little yoga group, the others ended up doing most of that work for me.

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    MsMisery May 26, 2011, 10:04 am

    I’ve always had trouble making friends. I’m an only child and a loner by nature. I never had a lot in common with people my own age growing up. I have a very small group of good friends. One thing I’ve discovered about myself is I make friends better with people older than me- as in, my parents age and even older. All my peers are having babies and getting married. Neither of these life paths appeal to me. So even of this doesn’t translate to you, just remember that friends can be anywhere. Keep your eyes and mind open when going places and experiencing things.

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    Sara May 26, 2011, 11:23 am

    I am moving to a city where I don’t know anyone (no family, no friends), and my husband is moving to a different city where he knows a couple of people (a cousin and his brother-in-law’s sister). I’m very thankful for the meetup.com tip. I didn’t know that site was out there.

    I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I think that different tactics are required for building/maintaining a friend base that already (partially) exists than are required for building a friend base from scratch– especially when, as in IdaTarbell’s and my case, a small, older work community is not a ready source of friends. When you start out in a brand-new place, you don’t have a hairdresser and a spiritual community right away.

    I will be proactive about this… but I guess I need to psych myself up for how different this situation is from all the times I made new friends in a setting where there were a lot of people around me to be friends with (like college and grad school).

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  • avatar

    Bethany May 26, 2011, 4:45 pm

    We should have “Dear Wendy” meet-ups with other readers who live in our cities!!

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