Social Question

WolfFang's avatar

How is it that very few adults seem to have "friends"?

Asked by WolfFang (835 points ) April 20th, 2010

I know this does not apply to everybody, don’t want to generalize, but most adults I know never have actual friends. Maybe acquaintances or “colleagues” they talk to or use in business manner etc. but never true friends. I always thought of it as a sad, lonely prospect, add one more reason to my list of never growing up. This is especially a case I see when the adult is espoused, and this more applies to older adults(like over the hill or approaching doing so). My older bro, who is late twenties though, seems to be heading down that road. It seems that adult life is significantly more business, less leisure, leaving less time for “real” friend relationships. Why is this the case that adults seem to not have friends? Is there something that makes up for it?

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81 Answers

DarkScribe's avatar

You must know some strange people. All adults who I know have friends, good friends, but real friends, not just mobs of like minded acquaintances like many teenagers. I have not so much as heard of any friendless adults.

bob_'s avatar

It’s basically what you said: less time to “have friends”. As an adult, you work, and that takes most of your time. Then if you’re also married, you spend time with your spouse, and with your children, if you have them.

WolfFang's avatar

@bob_ yeah I guess so… @DarkScribe it’s just all the adults I know are like that. Professors, my friends parents, my parents, my parents coworkers…

Blackberry's avatar

I know what you mean, but to be honest, there’s no time to make friends when there is money to be made lol. Everyone is trying to live, which results in everyone working their butt off and not having time for real friends. We will meet people along the way, but things will change once the individuals grow internally, some become different, some move away etc.

The_Inquisitor's avatar

Family is a big part of a lot of adult life. The friends that they have, are true friends, but that does not mean they will always get the chance to meet up and all, since some will have a family. Maybe they just grew distant with their past friends. (this is my theory anyways..)

My parents have friends, but not too many.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’ve been an adult for several decades now and I’ve found my friends spend a lot of time in text/e-mail land because as others say, once I’m done with work then the time leftover is what I give to my partner and family. I’d love to be able to gather with my friends once a week or at least every few weeks to sit together for a meal and a few hours of decompressing together but distance, schedules, and life changes make it kind of crazy.

As much as I used to be cold to facebook and sites like that, I know see the value in people being able to pop in during the day to load up some pictures, type a few blurbs of what they’ve been up and tell their friends they still exist, they’re still thinking of everyone but life is going. It’s exciting for me on fluther when I know several friends are also online. We kind of feel together and sharing even though we’re just typing.

Adults also end up with a lot more acquaintances because of work. You often socialize with your co workers and their families because you don’t want to hole up like a hermit and these are people you see all the time and form some commaraderie with. Once people have kids then they want to be able to hang out with other couples with kids, new romantic couples want to hang out with other positive loving couples, leaving the singles and partiers to go on with their thing.

WolfFang's avatar

@Blackberry yes that is what I feared. Its really sad, I mean, the way our social structure is built, with everyone trying to “live” they become farther apart. Like @curiouscat was saying probably adults do have real friends, but have drifted apart, thats what I’m, i guess you could say, afraid of

squidcake's avatar

My parents like to say that they became each other’s best friend.
But, then again, my mom is an elitist malcontent and my dad is a introverted sociopath, so they wouldn’t have many friends anyways.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I have real friends. More than a couple. And I’m over the hill. It’s a problem that people don’t know how to maintain relationships or that they allow the detritus of their lives to keep them from relating to others on a more than superficial level. I watched how my aunt basically put people off with her “Oh, I don’t need anything or anyone,” non-trusting personality, didn’t return phone calls, and keep way too much to herself, with the upshot being that she was so lonely, she used me as a confidante, a job that a child is not supposed to have.

I was determined not to live that way, and I think I’ve succeeded.

Trillian's avatar

As an adult, I have adult friendships. We do adult activities and don’t congregate in gangs in the mall. We don’t have a need to be loud and draw attention to ourselves, or meet with each other on a daily basis. We also do not have a need to have pesudo friendships with great numbers of people. We’re happy with a few real friends. We have things to do during the day so we meet for lunch, or do things after the kiddies are in bed. Just because you don’t see adults acting like children, do not presume to make generalizations about what we do.
You have no idea.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Because much of the point of friendship is companionship. Once you’ve gotten married, you have a companion for life – someone to always be there to go to the movies or mini-golfing or farmers markets with. You don’t need friends as much. Once you have a family, much more built-in companionship. Plus, the last really great place to meet tons of people that have the same interests as you (so NOT your co-workers) is college, and then after time you drift apart or move away or stop wanting to be their friend. If you have the time in between work and family, you can try things like book clubs and dance classes to meet people, but it’s often not that much. With so little time and the decrease in energy as you get older, most are much more content to just go home and fall asleep watching a movie with their family than trying to go out and constantly make new friends and maintain the old ones.

WolfFang's avatar

@aprilsimnel thanks. Its great too hear that there are exceptions. And certain things like, facebook or email, (no offense @Neizvestnaya ) do seem kinda superficial. I know the digital social envirionments aren’t always like that being superficial, but there is a significant difference between them and the real type of friend relationships I was describing.

lilikoi's avatar

This is something I have experienced transitioning from college to professional life. No one wants to be your friend when you are a professional. Every hand shake is a business deal. Everyone is trying to make money off you, get ahead. I don’t know how people make friends after they leave college.

Coloma's avatar

I’m all about friendship, but, it is true, as we get older friendships can scatter due to lifestyle discrepancies, schedules, relationship attention, etc.

I’m there now.

My 3 best freinds are all either neurotically spurred by their own inner stuff, in new relationships that take up all their time, stuck in their routines.

I have been trying to drum up new social pals for the joys of human communion but it is not an easy task at 50.

One does not just go to the park, strike up a conversation and ask a person if they want to come over and see your dog, the way it was when you were 9. lol

Right now I am happily single, have tons of interests and just want to talk about ANYTHING other than personal drama, but, alas, all my friends are in relationship crisis, or too busy to get together much.

Fortunetly I am resourceful and self entertaining…if I was a needy person it would suck. lol

Fluther has been a fun fill in the last month or so. :-)

WolfFang's avatar

@Trillian please don’t assume I presumed to make a generalization, because I didn’t. Second don’t generalize me or my mode of thinking as any of the things you described. I wasn’t saying you had to have massive amounts of friends, and I didn’t say you had to “act like children” in any way. I was talking about real friendships, actual, heart to heart connections with people, besides the ones people may be espoused to, but actually going out and connecting the world through frienship. It’s just some adults, their “real” friends are actually only acquaintances, they have lost the true essence of friendship

Trillian's avatar

@WolfFang ”...but most adults I know never have actual friends.” This is a generalization if I ever saw one. How many adults can you possibly know? I say again, adults do not have the need to act in their friendships the way people your age do. This does not lessen the friendship. on the contrary, adults are capable of and enjoy friendship on a deeper level than the superficial BFF thing. What you see on the outside of how adults act gives you no real insight to the adult mind and the adult friendship. If you live long enough, you’ll come to enjoy adult friendships yourself, and you’ll get what I’m talking about.

lilikoi's avatar

He did say he didn’t mean to generalize…

susanc's avatar

I have a lot of friends from all the stages of my life – deep and true.
Family is family, but it has its limitations. And actually, now that my children are grown, I think they like me as a friend in ways that they wouldn’t if I hadn’t been developing my adult friendship skills in the years when I suppose I COULD have been paying attention to parenting. heh heh

plethora's avatar

True friends are few and far between and most people are fortunate to have a half dozen, if that, in an entire lifetime. Life is made up of many threads, and as we get older the “mobs of likeminded acquaintances”, (re @DarkScribe) fall away (thank goodness) and we tend to focus on fewer, but deeper relationships, spouse, children, fewer friends, etc.

We also become more discriminating in our relationships. George Carlin said it all, commenting on class reunions. I don’t go to class reunions (per George) because I don’t like the people and I already know what the captain of the football team is doing…..mowing my grass.

WolfFang's avatar

@Trillian This is not a generalization. I am talking from fact. The adults I know, not all adults, not the majority, but the ones I know don’t have actual friends. Like @lilikoi said I specifically stated I wasn’t trying to generalize. Once again, I feel I am being labeled as a “teen” or just because of my age I get stuck in some category, you generalize me with this “BFF” term that I don’t even use, and you question my capabilities of my insight, when I have talked to most of these adults about the specific issue in person. I never said that they had to act as people my age do, but there are certain qualities of purity that makes a friendship what it is, and I was stating that it seems to have faded with the conditions and circumstances of adulthood and marriage, etc.

WolfFang's avatar

@lilikoi and @Coloma it seems then, the problem lies in the structure of society right?

escapedone7's avatar

I am an adult and I do have friends. I have different kinds of friends than in childhood. The nature of my more mature friendships is very different than 6th grade best-friends giggling and whispering secrets. I have two “best friends” but I would never disclose to either one of them all of my deepest darkest secrets and thoughts. I wouldn’t even go there with a lover these days. I would however give them my last dollar and “go down with the ship” with them if they were in trouble.

Perhaps what has changed my approach to friendship has been years and years of experience learning human nature. I don’t put a mouse in front of a cat and expect the cat to act any other way than a cat. I don’t put a secret in a human’s ear and expect them to act any way but human. I don’t tempt fate in any way shape or form. I don’t trust like I once did. I keep people at a safe distance. They can visit for a while, but aren’t the center of my world. My life is mine, and I won’t allow pushy needy people to take it over as if I am some human satellite that has to orbit them. I know most people will use each other while it is convenient and disappear when times are tough. I know the real friends are the ones that stick through even the hard times. You might have 40 friends but only 2 show up to the hospital after you’ve been in an accident. Well, they are the only two that count.

plethora's avatar

@escapedone7 Very very good answer

WolfFang's avatar

@escapedone7 So you’re saying experience with human nature has changed your approach to making friends. It makes sense to not be trusting of everyone I guess. But aren’t those two good friends that’ll show up at the hospital for you, the ones who you can trust to share you troubles and secrets with?

plethora's avatar

@WolfFang Only if you are very young and very inexperienced in the wiles of human nature. Couldn’t be said any better than @escapedone7

Rangie's avatar

There are many types of friends. But, what I consider my best friends are 5 or 6. These are friends that I would and have, driven across the country for, if I am needed or just to visit. Some of my friends are closer than some of my siblings. I know a number of them that I could call if I need them. I am a senior, but I also have a few really close friends that are a generation below me. It is like anything else, you get what you give.

WolfFang's avatar

@plethora So you wouldn’t trust the kinds of friends who have been with you for a considerable amount of time and would actually care for you if you were injured? It would seem like that person more than just experienced, but also damaged from being let down by past friends.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

In my case it’s due to Aspergers Syndrome. Not many people want to form friendships with autistic nerds who have no idea how to read social cues.

plethora's avatar

@WolfFang I stick with @escapedone7 No need to try to say it any better. If that isn’t clear to you then my opinion is that you need a few more decades to learn about human nature and to see who really comes thru in the clutch.

Coloma's avatar

@WolfFang

Mmmm…maybe a bit of modern societal structure, but more, just simply, things change, people change and nothing lasts forever.

A good argument for having the emotional health to be your own best friend during times of social drought. Unless you are a barfly that does’nt mind cozying up to any old buffalo at the watering hole.lol

plethora's avatar

@Rangie Yes, and some friends can be closer than one’s child also.

escapedone7's avatar

Adults think quite a bit differently than teenagers. For instance when I was 13 I actually cared what people thought of me. I even worried about how others perceived me, as if other people’s thoughts defined me. Now, I don’t give a crap what people think of me. What I think of me defines me. I don’t need a constant supply of attention, butt licking or back patting. I don’t need my friends to hold my hand and go to the bathroom with me. I could give a rats ass about people agreeing with me. I enjoy being alone. I recover from a crazy day of dealing with constant business by relaxing in the peace by myself.

I do have friends and I do go out, but it would drive me nuts to do it every night I am going out with 3 other friends to a coffee house Friday that is having a very good but little known guest musician that plays acoustic guitar. But Saturday I am going hiking in nature alone, and will enjoy that just as much.

My two best friends are given quite a lot by me. They are the only people besides direct family who have my personal cell number instead of work or message number, and I answer any time they call. I will be there any time they need me, and I actually really pan out for them when they are in trouble too. I give without expecting in return and almost anything they ask, they shall have. But no, I do not place my well being in their hands.

It’s not that I don’t trust. I do trust. I trust humans to be fallible and imperfect creatures and I choose to treat them as such and love them anyway. I just take safe guards.

You are at an important time in life when you are supposed to be socializing a lot. Learning what to expect from people and how to deal with people will serve you later in life. It is as important as learning to walk was when you were a baby. You are developing your people skills and that is important. Your brain is hard wired to place a lot of importance on your peers at your age because it is a stage of development. Later on the skills you practice now will serve you in all areas of your life. As an adult your being able to compromise with your spouse about a disagreement or calm down a disgruntled customer might all come down to the people skills you learned while socializing as a teen. You will learn your lessons too, and now is your time to learn them. Later on you will be in other phases of growth and development. Your thinking will change some with time.

WolfFang's avatar

@escapedone7 GA, but i think you’re reading me wrong on how I am personally though. I don’t define myself as a teen, and I’m not as social/self-conscious as you described yourself as being in your teens in your first paragraph, in fact, the way you described yourself presently is not entirely different from how I am now. Even if I grow older and become more aware of the ways of human social behaviour, I’ll try not to become jaded and I won’t stop making friends.

susanc's avatar

@WolfFang: no, never stop making friends. xoxoxoxox

plethora's avatar

@WolfFang We are perceiving you as you present yourself here. If you are different, there is no way for us to know that. We can only go on what you give us. In addition we see you through our own experiences and temperaments. You may be an extreme extrovert and literally need lots of people whom you can call friends, and that’s ok. I would go nuts if I had lots of people I called friends and had to maintain those relationships. My personal time is equally important to me as my few friends. Although, for those few friends, I would put my personal needs aside if they needed me. The friends that I have don’t require a lot of maintenance and our roots go so far back I cannot imagine how they could be torn asunder.

anartist's avatar

Besides a few long-time friends who can go back as far as college or even grade school, people do make new friends and some of them are from work and the friendship lasts after someone leaves the job and some of them are neighbors and last after people move away and some of them are from a sailing group or a religious organization and maybe some are met on a cruise or in a pub. Older people do have friends.
The most noticeable change I notice is marriage/divorce/singlehood—friends couples have often shift about after a divorce and the single people meet some single friends. People who have not married tend to have fewer couple friends.
And people with children are usually friends with their children when they [either] grow up.

WolfFang's avatar

@plethora well I didn’t mean to come across that way hope you all can understand my position a little better now. My friendships almost mirror the ones you describe. I rely on them and vice versa, but not extremely, like you said, being an extrovert. My best friends(I have only 2) go as far back as kindergaden. @anartist nice insight, also, a sailing group sounds pretty fun!

Brian1946's avatar

I’m 63 and I have some great friends, especially my wife, our niece, and me. ;=)

WolfFang's avatar

@Brian1946 awesome, and that’s the way I hope I can be, friendships unaffected by age and whatnot. :)

anartist's avatar

@WolfFang “more applies to older adults(like over the hill or approaching doing so)”
What’s this all about??? What is “over the hill”?
BTW people can have friends of all ages.

WolfFang's avatar

@anartist no no please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that adults over a certain age can’t have friends or maintain good friendships. I meant that the adults that I have seen and talked to tend to be over a certain age and married. I just wanted to ask the question to get input to see if this data was consistent. I gather from the responses though that age isn’t the main factor here.

plethora's avatar

@WolfFang Let me talk from the other side of my mouth for a moment. I noticed, from a very young age, teens, that older people did not model the type of friendships that I wanted, although I could not put that into words. I over time had friendships with men a generation older than I, and I found those friendships very rewarding and was impressed with the fact that when I was older I could have rewarding relationships with people much younger than I. And it has worked out exactly that way. My dad and I were friends (father/son also), but the father/son relationship began to take a back seat to the friendship that we had.

The same has happened with my son and me. We are father/son, but that relationship has taken a bit of a backseat to the friendship that we have. And now the friendship that I have with his wife.

I appreciate your asking the question. I have done some thinking on this tonight that I had not done before.

WolfFang's avatar

Thats cool @plethora glad to have inspired some thought. nice that you can have a relationship like that with your dad and you with your son, it would be very hard to get to a level like that with my parents

Sophief's avatar

Friends are time consuming. I have others and other things I would rather give my time to.

DarkScribe's avatar

@Sophief Friends are time consuming. I have others and other things I would rather give my time to.

You must have an empty life regardless of how busy it is – that is a very sad thing to see someone claim.

Sophief's avatar

@DarkScribe I don’t have an empty life at all, granted, it’s not the best life, but when I got rid of my last friend I felt I could breathe again. She wanted every bit of my time, I had no time for me.

DarkScribe's avatar

@Sophief when I got rid of my last friend I felt I could breathe again.

Then she wasn’t a friend at all, just someone who was intruding or putting pressure on you. Real friends are comforting to have around, not stressful.

Sophief's avatar

@DarkScribe Then I’ve never had a real friend then, so not missing out on anything. I have things to do in my life, I have my boyfriend, I don’t need anything else. I’ve never gone out looking for friends, I don’t try to make friends. I like my own company.

DarkScribe's avatar

@Sophief so not missing out on anything.

I think that you are missing out I hope that one day you have cause to discover this for yourself. At least you have your boyfriend – to have that status in your life he must be at least one friend for you.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Adults have a harder time balancing out each other’s schedules. With the demands of work and family, there is often not a lot of time for friends unless it’s scheduled, and even then, competing interests can eat into that time. My time is pretty much taken up by work, either at the office 50–60 hours a week, or doing housework. I’m usually on Fluther at odd hours, because most people I know aren’t up for socializing at 10 pm or 4 am.

janbb's avatar

I have always had friends but certainly during the years when I was raising kids and working, I had less time for them. Now that my kids are out of the house, I have several really close women friends, one of whom I see and talk to (and walk with) several times a week. We have also have many couple friends that we sail with and socialize with. This has evolved more as we have moved on into middle age. But I do know the phenomenon you are speaking about and I think it has a lot to do with people’s balancing of work and family life.

slick44's avatar

@Sophief… so you dont consider all of us your friends? I have made friends on fluther. Or at least i would like to think so.

wonderingwhy's avatar

Quality over quantity?

Sophief's avatar

@slick44 Yes I do but it’s different. This is why I like Fluther, I don’t have to meet any of you. That’s what I don’t like about ‘friends’, I don’t want to meet up with anyone.

slick44's avatar

@Sophief oh ok, lol im not sure if we should be flattered or insulted,. but ok i accept that.Friends with out commitment.

Sophief's avatar

@slick44 It really wasn’t meant as an insult.

slick44's avatar

@Sophief .. ok then i wont take it as one. :) all is well.

bob_'s avatar

@Sophief So, like, friends without any kind of benefits? XD

Sophief's avatar

@bob_ Yes I guess so. When I’ve had enough I can just switch off instead of having to think of a lie to go.

Coloma's avatar

I am actually excited as my oldest friend ( we met on the first day of 2nd grade & grew up together a block apart)
may be moving back here due to her husbands work project. We went house hunting together a few weeks ago when they were in town.

The circle of life! :-)

Ponderer983's avatar

I have friends, but the ones that I hold near and dear are those I have known since childhood. I have met a few good friends since leaving college that I do hold in high regard, but life gets busy and making friends isn’t always in high priority. Job, family, and life just kind of get in the way.

ajewel's avatar

You know my husband and I were just talking about this last night. I feel like once i got married all of my priorities changed, my focus was on my husband and soon after our children. The truth of the matter is he is and should always be my best friend and visa verse, and once the kids came along they took up most of our attention. So now it feels like we hardly have any alone time for each other let alone friends.Also it is very hard to find true friendship, the kind that last the test of time, that kind or relationship takes time and effort to establish, and now a days with the need for two working parents in a household, and all the extra activities our children are involved in we just cant find the time to make those investments. Hell I have 1 best friend from high school that i still stay in touch with, we’ve tried very hard to remain close, but with both of our busy lives it has become more and more difficult, we haven’t seen each other in over a year and haven’t talked for months. The one friend I have contact with is my ex sister in law, but even that relationship is primarily a phone one, we talk every day, but only see each other for church occasionally or to get our boys together. my husband and i do have friends we go out with but they are other married couples with children, they are kinda in the same boat as we are. I would also like to add that i personally think it is healthier to a relationship when your spouse and you share friends rather than having friends of your own or friends that are single or childless. I mean he is my best friend above all the rest so wouldn’t they need to be friends of his as well?

janbb's avatar

@arrenarose My husband and I have friends we share and we each also have our own close friends that we do things with. We are two different people and different needs are met by different friends. Sometimes, one of us has made friends with someone on our own and it becomes a couple friendship after a while. I think it is a very healthy situation. However, it is difficult to juggle friendships, marriage and raising young children all at the same time. If you do get involved in some support groups as suggested on your other thread, you may find that individually or as a couple, you are making new important friendships.

meagan's avatar

The more “Adult” you get, the more opinionated of an asshole you are. No one likes hanging out with a bunch of assholes.

slick44's avatar

@meagan… I take it you are not an “adult”.

meagan's avatar

@slick44 Yep. Hate to say that I am. And I’m an asshole.

slick44's avatar

@meagan… how nice for you.

meagan's avatar

@slick44 Yep. Delightful.

Rangie's avatar

@Sophief when I got rid of my last friend I felt I could breathe again. I find this a very disturbing thing to say. Were these good friends, or just acquaintances? I hope that one day you don’t regret feeling this way. I have others and other things I would rather give my time to. I wonder if you will think those things were more important than friends, when you find yourself all alone. There is no guarantee your SO will always be there for you.

slick44's avatar

@meagan…. gee now in jealous, I wish we could all be assholes.

WolfFang's avatar

@Rangie yes I agree, I mean, those were not really freinds, and @Sophief says that she gets along fine without friends, and she says that it’s better on fluther because she hasn’t had to actually meet any of us. That is not true friendship though, and it seems like @Sophief is just anti-social. Don’t mean to criticize, but its better to have an open mind and try out real friendship. The more genuine, not fake, but genuine friendships we make, the more friendly society becomes.

WolfFang's avatar

@meagan at least you admitted it lol…

Rangie's avatar

@WolfFang I think you are absolutely right, The more genuine, not fake, but genuine friendships we make, the more friendly society becomes.
If we all stayed unfriendly with each other, what kind of communication would there be?

tabbycat's avatar

I find this a very sad question. I certainly hope it’s not true that most adults have few friends, but many people seem to agree with your observations, so I guess friendlessness is a common phenomenon.

I am sixty and I have a lot of friends. In fact I currently have 151 Facebook friends, all but two or three of whom are friends in the real as well as virtual world. Among the 151, the youngest is in her early twenties and the oldest is in her early nineties. About half are men, and half are women. And, they come from a great many states, as well as five countries outside the United States.

I’ve met most of my friends through my work, but these are people I socialize with, too, and they include a number of people I could go to with my most serious problems. I should say that I’ve been in the same career for 35 years, so many of my friendships have had lots of time to mature. But aside from colleagues, some of my friends are relatives, and people I’ve met through non-work related activities. I regard friendship as one of the most enriching things in life, and I would have a hard time living my life without friends.

I have to say that most of the adults I know also have a number of important friendships. My 90-year old mother still has phone conversations with a few friends she grew up with, including a lady half-way across the country whom she started kindergarten.

tabbycat's avatar

with whom she started kindergarten.

WolfFang's avatar

@tabbycat that’s good, and yes I think it is a sad prospect too, that’s why I was trying to find out if this was true with most everyone else, and I was trying to find the root cause of it. Thanks for you answer, I need all the input I can get to solve this one :)

Sophief's avatar

@WolfFang Yes that is very true, I am anti social. Luckily my boyfriend is too.

mattbrowne's avatar

One reason is workaholism.

bob_'s avatar

Another one is alcoholism.

Rangie's avatar

Anothr one is: some people don’t want to free up the time to give of themselves to others.

Loner2011's avatar

Well, I am 41 an I never had friends. Just people that would say “Hi how are you?”
That would be it. I have modeled before.
I am very out going. So NOT everyone has a bunch of friends.
It would be nice,but because of my past…I don’t trust easily.

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