Maintaining friendships in the adult world can be tricky.
Adult, committed, love relationship break-ups are hard. There’s the crying, the questioning, the plodding, all before reaching the acceptance stage – time to move on. We all want to win the break-up, but none of us want the fight.
But what happens when a platonic friendship goes bust? Well, it’s pretty much the same. You delete their number, you hang out with all your cooler friends and try to move on. When the mate-love’s gone, it’s gone and things can get toxic, fast – especially if you’ve known that person for most of your pre-adult life.
Melbourne psychologist Michael Hines believes there are benefits to maintaining long-term friendships, as long as they continue to provide positive aspects to your life.
“High school friends can be valuable in that there is a shared sense of history and memories that will always make the friendships meaningful. However, I don’t believe they should be held on to simply for the sake of it. They are only really worth maintaining if they continue to be a source of enrichment and vitality,” Mr Hines told The Newsroom.
Michelle Radar, a 24-year-old arts graduate, has definitely felt the impacts of toxic friendships and realising when it’s time to cut ties. But it wasn’t until she graduated from her arts degree that she realised that she might have to let the majority of her eight-girl-clan go.
“When I left high school, I found that a lot of my friendships had drifted,” she said. “Everyone was kind of just … different, and when we all hung out it wasn’t the same. A lot of the friendships had decayed by the time we were in uni. We were all pursuing different things and didn’t have much in common anymore.”
Mr Hines also stressed the importance of not making friends just for the sake of it.
“Troubled relationships are also the most common presenting problem in therapy, so it’s important to get it right.”
But what if the love never existed in the first place?
Picture this: you’ve just moved to a new city; you’re excited; you’ve got a new job or a new school to go to. You’re keen to get out and experience your new life, paint the town red, but then it dawns on you that you have no one to hold your hand, no one to giggle with, and worst yet, no one to help drown your sorrows.
“Adult exposure to a vast amount of people is limited, if available at all. Most friendships are established already in adulthood unless you find yourself in new surroundings,” says senior Linking Youth And Family Together (LYFT) worker, Christine Green.
“There is an expectation as an adult that you should already possess the skills to be able to establish a friendship.”
Jessica Kirby, a photographer who moved from Brisbane to Melbourne four months ago, admits she was intimidated when it came to the prospect of making new friends when she moved.
“I moved to Melbourne for the culture; the city is alive. No network, new job?! I was a bit scared but determined,” she said.
“Work has made things a lot easier. Everyone is really friendly … The only issue is most of the friends I make leave for travel or go back home because they’re backpacking.”
Mr Hines said kids have it easier than adults, not only because adults lack the structure of school groups but because we gain a new fear of social rejection: “We all want to be liked and accepted, so there is a risk involved when it comes, to asking an acquaintance or work colleague to hang out in an attempt to build a friendship.”
So what should we do if we’re having trouble making friends as an adult?
Here are Mr Hines’ top tips:
1. People are attracted to authenticity and it will also mean the friends that you do make like you for who you really are. It’s also important to be willing to take risks in regards to being proactive and building friendship, and to be willing to make room for the anxiety that may come with it initially.
2. Be open to making new friends rather than spending all your time lamenting the absence of the friends from your old city. Be curious and interested in people, for example asking co-workers or fellow students what they got up to on the weekend or what they are doing this weekend coming.
3. Finally, put yourself out there and be proactive, which may involve taking small risks that may generate initial anxiety. For example, asking a peer from class or co-worker if they want to grab a coffee or lunch or go check out the new Bowie exhibition sometime – despite the natural fear of rejection. – Taylor Yates
Top photo from Wrote’s Flickr photostream.