"Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends," Alex Williams writes in a piece in The New York Times.
"Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends," Alex Williams writes in a piece in The New York Times. Sean Locke/iStockphoto.com
Making close friends after college can be challenging. As the days of dorm life, dining halls and synchronized schedules fade, it can be tough to form solid bonds. Once marriage and children enter the scene, adults have even less say in choosing friends.
In a piece for The New York Times, writer Alex Williams explores his own changing friendships and his sometimes failed efforts to connect.
As we get older, Williams tells NPR's Jennifer Ludden, busy schedules force us to adjust our expectations for relationships and categorize friends into different categories. "Maybe I just have to downgrade and have ... a tennis friend or a cocktail friend or whatever," says Williams. "But you're not going to make those absolute ... best friends for life."
He talks about why actual close friends — the kind you call in a crisis — are in shorter supply as you get older.
On the necessary conditions for good friendships
"Since the 1950s, sociologists have been looking at this issue, and they've settled on basically three important conditions in order to make close friends that have to exist. One is proximity; one is repeated, unplanned interactions; and one is you need to be a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.
"And, obviously, college is perfect for that sort of thing. You're thrown together. You're going to run into same people day after day.
"But in adult life, you really don't have that. I mean, you might make work buddies, you might go out for drinks or whatever with the guy, you know, every three months. ... You have to have scheduled it. Sometimes, it's three weeks out. Sometimes, it's three months out. And at the last minute, you know, one person always seems to cancel because of a work conflict, and so that's what's missing. It's that environment. It's friendly toward making friends, which it's tough to achieve as an adult."
On the inspiration for the piece
"About four years ago, my wife and I had dinner with some — a couple friend that we sort of — they're acquaintances. The guy and I in particular hit it off to just a spectacular degree. I mean, halfway through the dinner, we were finishing each other's sentences. We had all the same taste. We liked all the same lines in movies. We liked all the same music. And I remember it was just such a strong sensation that I remember walking away from the dinner thinking, you know, if I had met that guy in college, he might have ended up the groomsman in my wedding.
"... But, you know, it's been four years, and we've basically seen each other four times. And it's not that, you know, we're both interested in being friends but, you know, it's very difficult to get that momentum going after a certain age. He's got kids different ages. I've got, you know, we're in slightly different industries. ... Life gets in the way."
On prioritizing relationships
"The easy answer is that ... life is more hectic, life is busier. But I don't think its laziness. I think mostly it's just a matter ... [of] having to re-prioritize things, not putting friends as the third or fourth priority but bumping them at least to ... first or second.
"...The work days are getting longer, and people are always connected through their iPhones and BlackBerrys and that sort of thing. And it's really tough to take any break at all. ... That is all part of the changing landscape that complicates things."