I finished college, got married and moved to a new community two years ago. We’d heard that making friends after college is hard, so we found a church, joined a small group, and said “yes” to as many engagements as we could. We have met some wonderful people, I would even call them friends.
That being said, Friday nights roll around, or my husband has work when I don’t, and I (or we) find ourselves at home wondering what to do. The college answer of “call your friends and see what they’re up to” doesn’t seem to work. We have one couple we feel we could just call up, but their schedules often differ. Many have kids, and others I am hesitant to call because I feel like they already have their friends and we are just an obligation as part of being “welcoming”.
Is this just the slow reality of developing friendships after college, or am I missing something? Do I need to push harder? How do I do so without being obnoxious?
– Need Friendly Advice
My hubby and I had been married for 6 months when we moved half way across the world so he could start his PhD. Six. Months. And for this gal, who had led a rich, friend-filled, socially-hectic life in Cape Town – those were some of the hardest months of my life. I was lonely, I was bored, I was newly married and trying to figure out so many new things: a new identity, a new community, a new routine, a new room mate (!). Sounds like you are going through a similar set of changes; and I remember praying tear-filled prayers that I would find friends too.
You have two big challenges facing you.
The first is the challenge of making friends after college. College, for all its challenges and existential angst, is still a relatively easy place to find friends as there are a few thousand people of exactly the same age around,and they have similar interests, similar availability, and a similar need to make new friends. Added to that – there are a host of on-campus communities that always make it their sole ambition to find the “new people” and get them “plugged in”. Really, you get the opportunity to just shop for the community you feel most comfortable in, and then the rest is a little like Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate: with a little bit of action on your part, everything gets mixed up and sweet pretty quickly.
Post-college has none of those guaranteed points of similarity: ages vary, schedules vary, interests vary, and there aren’t as many people around who are as desperate to make friends as you are. It takes longer. You have to try harder. In many ways, making friends post college feels a little like dating: you have to take risks, arrange meetings, start conversations. I remember wanting to make friends with my daughter’s pediatrician after we’d met a few times, but feeling like I didn’t know whether I was allowed to make friends in what was, for her, a professional context. Broaching the subject of “would you like to get together?” felt like I was asking her on a date. (For the record, she said yes, and we are still friends). But it was terrifying and it felt risky.
It sounds like you are doing so many healthy things for this life stage: saying “Yes” to invitations, joining a church, and finding a small group. Keep it up. Say yes to opportunities to be with others, and even better – to serve alongside others. And take people at their word: if they say they’d love you to come, don’t second guess whether this is a “politeness” offer. If you like them and would like to be friends, act on it. You have so much to offer as a friend, and they need good friends in their life as much as you do.
Inviting people around and saying yes is not being “obnoxious”: it’s relationally healthy. Keep up your efforts, and as time goes out you will find that the fatigue of always-having-to-explain-the-back-story will fade away: you’ll be able to tell your new friend that “John called and he said he’s coming home for the holidays”, without having to explain that John is your wayward brother, or that his coming home for the Holidays means Walking On Eggshells around him. In time your new friends will know your back stories, and your shared experiences as meals, adventures and service together will build a new web of shared community.
However, you have a second challenge in making friends: you are a newly wed.
The first year of marriage has many challenges, and making friends with a newly wed couple can be challenging because people fear that newlyweds are pretty much constantly in bed, that they would NEVER call you on a Friday evening for fear that they might be “interrupting” something. For sure, the number of “just dropped in to say Hi”, or “just phoned to see what you were doing” calls PLUMMETED once we got married. People assumed we were “busy”, and they wanted to give us “space”.
To counter that – you have to figure out as a couple whether you want an open house/open calendar mood to your marriage, and you will have to work hard to persuade your friends that you still really want them around (and that you don’t spend every minute at home wearing skanky lingerie. Seriously – I had friends that thought that.) Many single friends fear that their newly married friends won’t want them around (wrongly assuming they only want to be friends with couples now), and so they need extra encouragement that they have a welcome place in your life.
Also, there are the new challenges of figuring out his friends vs my friends vs OUR friends. If someone befriends you, are you available to be their friend, or are you and your new hubby a “package deal”? These kinds of questions are tricky for you as a couple to figure out, and tricky too for those in your community who want to approach you.
Again – this takes a little persistence on your part. There are some couples who prefer to hibernate at home together in the evenings, but if you and your hubby are wanting to extend your circles and deepen your fledgling friendships – encourage your new friends to come round, tell them you are thankful for them, use your words and your invitations to communicate that even though you’re a young-couple-in-love, you also two people who want to make friends and be friends… and you want to be their friend.
Being a newly wed and being freshly out of college requires some new habits in making friends, and is also means some new expectations. This is the “new normal”, and it DOES take more time to make friends. But you will.
And in fact, it sounds as if you already are.