Are you struggling with making friends as an adult man? You’re definitely not alone.
I’ve never had trouble meeting people. I’m the super extroverted guy chatting about baseball and the weather in line at the grocery store. Throw me in a room full of strangers, and I’m usually leaving with a cool group of new friends. I’ve done this in all four corners of the United States, and in every country I’ve visited.
Then I got married.
It’s a bummer, but it’s true: You lose a lot of friends when you get married. I wouldn’t trade my marriage for anything, but I do miss having more friends.
While I’m still the life of the party, what I have trouble with these days is making real buddies, pals, compatriots, cronies. The type of guys you go out and have experiences with that are alternately life-changing and regrettable. I made friends like that after I graduated college and moved across the country twice, but once I got married, my good-timing man-friend reservoir dried right up.
So I started spending a lot of time hanging around the house with my wife, my dogs, my turntable and my liquor cabinet. The wife and I would stay home with the dogs, hang out, and play games. We’d talk, listen to records and do married couple stuff. Which was awesome, really — my wife and my dogs are my favorite people to hang out with, my record collection is amazing, and my booze is better and cheaper than whatever they have at the bar.
And yet, something was definitely missing.
And I wasn’t sure how to fix it.
Because even though I missed having close friends, for a long time I wasn’t doing much to rectify it. I was just complaining a lot. I’d meet people, we’d get along, but we’d never follow up. What was my problem?
My problem, I now realize, was that I had become comfortable in my rut. Sure, it sucked not having any guys to get into trouble with. But it was easy to have just another night on the couch with wife, dogs, Laphroaig and Led Zeppelin. Because I didn’t live in a geographically small city and because I wasn’t taking classes or working at a regular job, I had to work harder to meet guys, make friends and have fun.
The problem wasn’t my age or my lifestyle: The problem was me. I just didn’t want to put the work in to rebuild my social circle.
Then something happened that lit a fire under my ass: My wife had to go on a trip to visit her mother in the UK to handle some family business that would put her out of town for a month. My options quickly became:
- Sit around being miserable for a month, drinking myself into a coma.
- Start actually following up on recent contacts I’d made and scheduling some big boy play dates.
And that’s when I started making friends as an adult man.
Here’s how I did it.
First, I looked at what I was already doing.
I quickly realized that I didn’t need to create new opportunities to meet cool people. I was already doing lots of stuff that put me into contact with potential new friends. Like a lot of older guys, I had just become complacent and stopped seeing those moments as opportunities to connect. For example, I get tattooed about once a month or so. My tattoo artists and I get along splendidly. (You have to get along with someone who’s sticking needles in your arms.) Why wasn’t I having bro-hangs with those guys where there’s clearly a mutual interest and respect?
So I started asking my tattoo artists to meet up at events I was already attending, like gallery showings and cocktail parties. It’s a small step, but if I hadn’t made it, it wouldn’t have happened. Because just about every guy has some kind of hang-up about making new guy friends. And someone has to take the initiative to say, “You’re cool, I dig you, let’s hang out.”
Reddit meetups became another great activity. I’m big into raw denim, so when there was a raw denim meetup here in LA, I got in my car, drove out, chatted with guys, bought a round and made friends. I didn’t want to hang out with everyone I met, but I did go out of my way to get some time in with the ones I did. And I made sure they had my social media contact information, because let’s face it, asking a guy you just met for his phone number can feel a little awkward. Best of all, the meetup had people in every stage of life, from high school kids to other old married fogies.
The biggest lesson I learned here is not to be afraid to take the initiative. Approaching guys you don’t know can be even more intimidating than approaching women. When you approach a guy, there’s always this “what the hell are you talking to me for?” vibe happening beneath the surface. You’re under even more pressure to not come across as a spazz or — and this is surprisingly common among men, especially ones who are social and outgoing and open enough to chat up a stranger — like you’re hitting on this guy, when you’re really just trying to make a new friend. I discovered that being open, honest and confident usually cuts through all that, and that most cool people respond well to the guy who takes the initiative to connect.
After that, I began making the effort to ensure those plans materialized. Los Angeles, where I live, is a notoriously flakey city, so this was extra important. But in any city, you might have to do a little additional hand holding in the beginning to actually make things happen. This is especially true of older guys who have more going on in their lives, from partners to kids to careers. I don’t mean you need to be all over your new friends. I just mean that it’s important to confirm the day before, check in the day of, and do what you can to help if he runs into issues along the way. The last is the essence of being a bro.
Then I created a regular event for my new social circle. Once a month, I now have guys over to watch wrestling. What can I say? Some things that I loved in my youth won’t ever go away. Maybe you prefer UFC, football or a cooking show. Maybe you’d rather shoot pool, go bowling or play poker. Or maybe you want to hike, lift weights or work on your cars together. Whatever you choose, the important thing is to get all these guys you know together to do something fun and communal. Playing host will make you a man people want to know again — a man who knows other men whom men want to know. Once you build that reputation, you’ll have a far easier time meeting new people.
And that’s how I broke the cycle of being an isolated, lonely married guy. It’s been truly fun and fulfilling rebuilding my network.
There’s no one universal answer to this question, but the main takeaway is to keep it simple. You probably don’t need to create additional work for yourself — you only need to look at your life in a new way. Be present in the moments you’re already participating in, then approach the guys who are there. Your phone and Facebook are probably full of cool people you’d like to hang out with. Why aren’t you two getting together?
It might be hard to take the initiative, follow up and do the legwork involved. If you’re like most guys, it won’t always feel natural or fun. You might even be scared. But at the end of the day, someone has to strike up a friendship. The risks (possible embarrassment, or a few minutes wasted) are minimal, and usually illusory. The rewards — great new friends — are huge. So what are you going to do this week to start making friends as an adult man?