How do you make the leap to ask out a potential friend? (Image: Unsplash/ Eli DeFaria)
Making friends as a grown woman is hard.
Once you leave behind high school and college, the easy ins for female friendships suddenly dissipate. To be honest, I wish I had worked a little harder to make and keep friends during those adolescent years.
Getting engaged at 18 and married at 20 meant I spent a good deal of my college days wrapped up in wedding planning during my off-work and off-school hours. Since I lived with my soon-to-be husband, I didn’t forge the deep bonds that roommates sometimes afford.
By the time I was a full-fledged adult, I had looked around and realized I didn’t have many friends.
Sure I had plenty of online acquaintances, but all the social media friends in the world don’t make up for the real life friendships you need to thrive. But how do you make the leap to ask out a potential friend, and how do you navigate from proposal to first-date and beyond?
There didn’t seem to be a real rulebook out there for making grown-up friends — and to be perfectly honest, it appeared to be a lot more confusing and harrowing than romantic dating.
Despite my slight fear and anxiety, I decided to do the legwork myself. I knew if I wanted to have healthy social bonds, I would need to step outside my comfort zone and figure out how to make friends as a grown-ass adult. I spent the better part of a year going out on friend dates, with people whose coolness I’d secretly been pining over. And you know what? It wasn’t as hard as I thought.
I figured out a few tips on how to set up successful one-on-one friend dates, as well as how to handle the territory of a budding platonic relationship with another woman. Here are a few things I wish I had known about making grown-up friends before I started my friend-date crusade.
1. Friends of friends can be your friends, too.
Sound confusing? It isn’t. The easiest way to make new friends is by starting in the outer circle of people you already socialize with from time to time.
You know the girl you always feel drawn to at your friend’s parties? The one you know you would get along with if only you could invite her to your house with the express purpose of killing a whole bottle of wine? That’s probably the person you should be asking out on a friend date — and you’ve already got an easy in.
Do a small get together with just you, her and your mutual friend — then take it into one-on-one territory the next time. It’s not as creepy and stalkerish as it sounds, I promise.
2. The longer you wait, the harder it is.
I spent a long time psyching myself up for asking potential friends to hang out with me, and as a result, my anxiety soared whenever I was around them. I wish I had just asked first and fretted over the date later.
Once you decide you want to do a friend date with someone, ask immediately and make the plan concrete (and soon!) so it isn’t hanging over your head. The first “date” is always nerve-wracking so don’t give your anxiety too much time to fester.
3. Other people want friends too.
A little bit of perspective goes a long way. Even though I felt like I was the only friend-starved loner in the world, the truth is everyone wants friends.
Social media accounts may make it seem like everyone you know is always out doing something fun, but you have to remember that you’re looking at a bunch of highlight reels. The people you choose to ask out probably want to hang out with you too, so try not to feel so weird about being the one who is forward about it.
4. Don’t overthink it.
It’s easy to retreat inside your head and start reading into every interaction you have with a potential friend. From your pre-date conversations amongst mutual friends to the first time you actually hang out together alone, try not to overthink it.
Remember, you are making grown-up friends, which means you ought to be past the drama of high school cliques and worrying that someone might not like you. If you aren’t compatible, it’s not worth beating yourself up over. Simply push forward and find other people who share your values and like you for you.
5. Let your gut be your guide.
I went on one friend-date that left me feeling really uncomfortable. I couldn’t quite place what about her made me feel uneasy. I thought maybe I was reading into our conversation too closely (there was slight condescension, a little one-upping, intense put-you-on-the-spot questions — or was it all in my head?). Ultimately I decided to stick with my gut and call it a bad date. When she came out as a raving Trump supporter a few months later, I had my “aha” moment.
If you get an iffy feeling about someone after you hang out solo, make sure you pay attention to your gut. Just because you’re on a friend date doesn’t mean you should ignore red flags you’d be looking for in a romantic first date.