How to Make Friends as an Adult

People laughing an a group togetherPhoto by Helena Lopes

Friendships are complicated. I’ve never met another person who didn’t also struggle with them.

As it turns out, we’re all out at sea, bailing water and figuring out how to paddle and just trying to keep our own boats afloat while (maybe) finding each other.

I wish I could give you a magical formula for finding friends as an adult. Instead, I can offer three things I’ve learned about friendships after decades of trial and error.

Hopefully, one of them will be what you need to hear.

Maybe Romantic Relationships Aren’t the Pinnacle

Maybe it’s the music I listen to or the Disney movies I watched as a kid or maybe it’s something entirely different, but I grew up sort of believing my romantic relationship(s) would be the most important in my life.

Two women laughing with each otherPhoto by Omar Lopez

Now, I’ve learned that’s not at all what I want from my life. I love my now-husband and prioritize our relationship in many ways, but I’ve learned that it’s not the only relationship that I need nor the only one I want.

In fact, the older I get, the more I’m learning to value and cherish my friendships with other people, especially women, as some of the most valuable, defining connections in my life.

Great Friendships Take Work

We have a huge amount of language and resources for our romantic relationships, but so little for our friendships.

two people talking one on one by a lakePhoto by Aarón Blanco Tejedor

And while friendships can truly make life worth living, most of us don’t understand much about how they work. One of the greatest gifts I’ve given myself is permission for friendships not to be easy!

Good relationships take so much time and effort. When they don’t happen magically, it’s not always because you're doing something wrong!

The pandemic brought conflict into many of my relationships, and I’ve had many, many difficult conversations with friends and loved ones over the past year. It was tough to deal with and not every friendship made it through, but I learned a lot about how much time and effort good friendships take.

Now, I view those difficult conversations as investments in our relationship and I strive toward the payoff that working through conflict together in a healthy, productive way can bring.

Know Who the Real Best Friend Is

I love what Mindy Kaling’s mom told her:

“You have to be your own best friend. If you always remember that, you will always have someone there with you.”

The more I’ve sat with, learned about, and welcomed myself, the fuller and healthier my friendships with others have become.

Another benefit of prioritizing my friendship with myself is that I know what I want from friendships!

For example, I am an introvert and while I’m endlessly fascinated by people, I only need deep relationships with a handful of people. My life looks pretty boring on holidays (like, really boring) but I have a handful of always-down-for-a-deep-conversation friends, and I’m very much ok with that!

Women holding hands in a circle

More on friendships:

8 ideas for celebrating your friendships

Really beautiful reader comments on friendship

Activities to do with friends:

Flower pressing

Go on a dérive

Make seed bombs

Sarah Guerrero
Sarah Guerrero
Sarah Guerrero is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She has a degree in international business from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and writes about sustainable business practices and ethical living.