The Difficulty of Adult Social Life

I was talking to one of my best friends about how hard and sad the social life for adults begins to be. High school, college, and young adult communities are more spontaneous. In some ways… more thrilling. But then you grow older and have to work hard at community.

You go through a season of married life in a cave. You have young children and suddenly a trip to Target is the highlight of a week. My wife and I have sometimes forgotten what “adult conversations” are like. We sometimes have the kids stay quiet for 5 minutes at the dinner table just so we can have one. We have been so exhausted at the end of a week that it has been hard to enjoy a date. This is worse in seasons where we have let our schedules become too busy. We need margin.
Now we have to plan most of our social encounters — sometimes weeks in advance. A calendar notification pops up: “Breakfast with…” You have to drive 25 minutes to see your friends. Your relationship circles get smaller. This problem is much worse for singles or those in fledgling churches. Or those in areas of the country where friends are more geographically disparate.

Weekly scheduled time together with a few key friends — this is now the rhythm of social life. Occasional dates with my wife and, individually, with my kids. A walk to Dunkin Donuts! A bike ride around the block with a 7-year-old. A playful romp on the living room floor with my 1-year-old. This is gold. Worth more than diamonds.

Friendships that last don’t merely run on the gas of shared context or shared life-seasons or shared boredom. I have friends now that are 30 years older and 15 years younger than me. The local church — especially via non-Sunday-service meetups — is more and more central for communal life and relationship. Computer programming puts me in an amazing community with people that have very different backgrounds — we delight in what we work together on. Hockey connects me with really neat people. And through evangelism I get to meet people from around the world.

I wouldn’t want to go back to any of the earlier seasons. I remember being so afraid of being alone in high school. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself, “Everything is going to be OK. God will take care of you.”

And I should be grateful: my loneliest seasons have been formative for my relationship with God. I cried out to him and he answered. “I am continually with you; you hold my right hand… Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73:23, 25) I remember sweet moments of blasting this song in my car.

But there were social and relational perks to youth and young adulthood. One hope I have for the resurrection-community is being able to sit down with friends and say without any urgency, “So, what do you want to do today?”