For friendship’s sake

Professional psychologist and resident expert at the JUST DILIJAN IT! international family camp Artem Mitryakhin talks about how difficult it is, but you can still make new friends after you turn 30.

Did you know that a recent study showed that 52% of people aged 25 to 55 have less than 90 minutes of free time per day, and 29% have less than 45 minutes in total. This is barely enough for watching an episode of “Game of Thrones”, and yet you expect to find time to make new friends?

Why was it so easy to make friends in your childhood?

It’s all about consistency. We spent most of our time with the same people: some were sat at nearby desks, we spoke to others during breaks and mingled in the same circles with them, some we hung out with during the summer or chatted with them before lights out in the summer camp. Shared time together – the most essential element for any friendship – was by default built into our lives, and we needed very little effort to make new friends.

What’s more, we were open to new experiences. We didn’t have to follow the social norms that strictly, we weren’t afraid to show our true selves, and we hadn’t had the time to acquire the fear of being betrayed, misunderstood or deceived.

Why is it so hard to make friends after 30?

Friendship isn’t a necessity any more. When we were younger, it was through friendships we found our place in society, understood who we were in this world and learnt how to engage with it. By the age of 30, these questions have been answered, more or less, and at the same time, having gathered a bunch of complexes, we no longer have the requirement or desire to see our reflections in each other to understand ourselves better.

In addition, by 30 we usually take on the burden of additional responsibility: we have kids that are getting bigger, parents that are getting older, a partner, boss, or even our own business (as demanding as an extra child in itself). Of course, when a colleague offers to play tennis after work or go to the cinema, we prefer to return home early to do family stuff – play with the kids or finally cook that long-promised meal for our partner.

There are two more reasons that prevent us from making new friends – namely the feeling of shame from our inner loneliness and the fear of being rejected. Research shows that our middle age – the so-called midlife crisis – is the loneliest time for most of us. However, by this time we have the skills to “save face”, build barriers and do everything to “seem” and not “be”. We go out of our way on our social networks, at corporate parties, and meetings with classmates to avoid the accusation that, God forbid, we might be lonely.

So what’s the solution?

First: recognize the problem. Yes, this is the first step on the path to any remedy.

Second: understand your daily routine – what really requires your time and what you can safely delegate or even cut out altogether. Homework with kids?..
Are you sure that doing homework together is really helping your child? Are you sure they can’t do it on their own? Do you want to help them or not? This is a good enough reason to check. Cleaning and cooking? As you know, time is more valuable than money, so finding a budget for weekly cleaning and the delivery of prepared food for each day will earn you more than you spend.

Third: block out concrete days, so your family understands. Make it that on Wednesdays and Saturdays Mum and Dad are not to be disturbed! Whatever happens, these days are yours: it’s your right! Ask yourself, what are you really interested in? Dancing, yoga, acting, business training, volunteering, running? Great! A large number of studies says that consistency is one of the requirements of a healthy relationship, and in order to make friends, you just need to spend time together with others on a regular basis. This is how attachment works, which is why we often make friends with colleagues we wouldn’t otherwise be friends with. Therefore, choose a “circle of interests”, focusing on what you have chosen to pursue. Everyone else who has also signed up for this “circle” has a high probability of becoming your new friends.

Fourth: do some travelling. But not alone. Ideally, go to a family camp, somewhere you can take the children to spend time not only with the family, but also with similar like-minded parents. Common leisure time organized in order to bring you closer to each other creates a sort of community, and the experience will be an excellent foundation for further friendship between families.

And fifth: try to open up to the world. Look at the people around you through the eyes of a child. It’s totally fine! And when they do the same, just suggest a game of tennis after work or a trip to the cinema. If not, what was it that you never had time for?