How Do You Make New Friends after Divorce?

The thing about major life changes, is that they always affect more than one aspect of your life—they usually affect pretty much every aspect of your life. Divorce, for many of us, means a big change in our social lives.

Of course there’s the initial “I don’t want to see anybody,” curled-up-in-a-ball phase. This is often followed by the “Don’t take pity on me / don’t-need-anybody-but-myself” phase, which can throw another wrench into the gears of your social world.

Eventually, when you crawl out from under your divorce rock, you might find that all of your previous social engagements have dried up, and/or you might realize that hanging out with your usual crowd is going to mean risking running into your ex. Or worse, it’s going to mean putting your friends in the awkward position of choosing between you, and the business of figuring out which friends are “yours” and which ones are “theirs.” 

Embracing your independence, this is quite possibly the perfect time to get out of your bubble and make some new friends.

Making friends as an adult is inevitably a heck of a lot harder than it was to do as a kid. I mean, as a kid, all you have to do is give somebody your Snack Pack and you’re in. With adults, you’re competing with their busy schedules, and with the fact that, to be frank, most adults aren’t looking for new friends.

So how do you do it?

Workout Buddies
Yeah, you probably need to get in shape anyway, right? There’s almost no better foundation for a healthy, motivating friendship than giving each other support, and holding each other accountable, for getting or staying in shape. You might not want to say “Hey, you should get in shape with me!” out of the blue—that could have the exact opposite effect you’re going for—but if someone mentions wanting to get out and be more active, for example, invite them to meet you for a hike or walk in the park.

Making a Friend At Work
Maybe you’re one of those people who initiates after-work beers … or maybe you’re one of those people who avoids those people. If the latter is true, burst through your antisocial tendencies and give it a chance at least a couple of times. Sometimes just saying Yes turns into a friendship.

Play Dates
Use your kids! The funny thing about playdates—and this is something all parents know and don’t talk about—is that sometimes your kids’ friends have parents you’d rather not hang out with, and sometimes they don’t get along with YOUR friends’ kids at all. And you just deal with it. And sometimes, randomly, you’ll find that golden equilibrium where everybody’s entertained—and these are the friends you should never let go. Playdates are also a unique opportunity where you’re achieving something and at the same time you have very little to do, much like being on an airplane. So it’s a great time to just chat and get to know the other parent anyway. It’s a fertile ground for friendship.

Get Back in Touch
We all have those old friends that we’ve just lost touch with, and feel a TAD guilty about losing touch, just enough to keep us from picking up the phone and giving them a call. This can go on for decades. Make a list of your old friends who you haven’t talked to in awhile (Facebook doesn’t count) and give them a call. Be the bigger person. They’ll almost certainly be very pleased that you called first.

If you’re one of those nice people who cares about things, find a cause and start volunteering! You’re sure to find like-minded, kind-hearted people like yourself. Just make sure to pick an activity that involves being with these other people, rather than off doing something on your own.

Professional Networking Events
If you’re a busy professional, going to networking events can be a nice way to kill two birds with one stone—work AND play. Conferences that last a few days are particularly good for making new friends, because they effectively take a bunch of busy people out of their normal routine, and this leaves space for new relationships to happen. Ever notice how people at conferences are more open to chatting? It’s because that’s why they’re there: to meet people.

Join a Group
Joining a group is one of those no-brainer things for adults who want to make friends, because they almost certainly guarantee it. Also, there are groups for everything—from antique appreciation societies to anime enthusiasts—so you are bound to find something that interests you. Groups that meet regularly are the best for friendmaking, because of the consistency, ie. you’re less likely to lose track of each other, because there’s pre-scheduled meeting every week or two. And you already have a basis for a friendship in that you share a common interest, so it’s a winner on all fronts.

Have something you want to add, complain about, share, demand? I’m all ears! Leave me a comment below or tweet to me!

James J. Sexton