The Hard Facts: Movers and Shakers

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“The number of people who changed residences declined to 35.2 million from March 2007 to March 2008, the lowest number since 1962, when the nation had 120 million fewer people.” (“As Economy Slows, Americans Are Moving Less,” New York Times, 4/23/2009)

I guess it’s no surprise that Americans are moving less these days. It’s hard to sell your place in this market, and relocating’s a pretty expensive undertaking. Still, despite the research, I’ve gotta say, it feels like everyone is moving.

According to the 2000 census (and also common sense), the majority of people who move are in their 20s and 30s. No big surprise—moves come while you’re still figuring out your life. You relocate for love, a job, school. Before you grow up and decide to settle down. This is all well and good for the movers—I was one of them once—but it’s really rough on someone who’s trying to make new friends.

I can’t tell you how often I meet people who tell me they won’t be here much longer because a) they’re applying to business school, b) they can’t stand Chicago winters or c) they’re in a long distance relationship. I shouldn’t complain since I was a relocater myself not too long ago, but now that I’m feeling settled it would be polite if my new friends would just stay put.

A reader told me a potential friend once said to her, “Are you planning on staying here in San Antonio, or do you think you’re going to move elsewhere sometime in the future? Because if you think you might move, then I have to rethink being friends with you.” It’s an absurd question to ask someone you hardly know, but I can understand the sentiment. Making new friends takes a significant amount of time and effort. If a year later that person’s not going to be around, you have to decide if the work is worth it. Run that good ol’ cost-benefit analysis.

When someone relocates, it’s not like they die. You can still be friends, obviously. But who needs more long-distance friends? Really. All my BFFs are long-distance! That’s how we got here!

Unlike the San Antonian, I don’t write off potential pals who might move. I pursue, and then just say “moving is stupid!” like a ten-year-old and hope it charms them into staying nearby. But the prevalency of moving is the primary reason why, when all’s said and done, I’d like to emerge from this quest with a good handful of local best friends. I need a cushion when a few leave. Even if less of them are ditching home than used to.

17 Comments

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17 responses to “The Hard Facts: Movers and Shakers

  1. The more I read about friendship, both on your blog and elsewhere, I’m amazed by how rude some people are about it. Truly, who are all of these tacky people making preemptive statements about friendship?…The girl who uttered the San Antonio comment now joins the ranks of the couple who once told a new acquaintance that they had a one in/one out policy with friends (can’t remember if I read that on here or somewhere else?). Meaning, until one of their current friendships ends, they won’t take on a newcomer (time, and not geography, was the issue there)…Indeed, if the intention of these people is to keep new, potential friends at bay, they are doing a fine job of it with such comments.

  2. april

    Wow, that is so weird! Just yesterday I went out with a new friend (we had a great time), and she told me that they are moving next summer. Although I know we can go out & do things until then–I agree w/your post that we can still be friends, just not local–I had to fight the thought that I was wasting my time investing in something that would not be an in-person friendship by this time next year. I even thought, I wonder what Rachel would have to say about this situation? Such a coincidence that your post is about it today!

  3. Megan

    Moving is part of life for military families, yet we still manage to make friends. Even though I have lived in our last three homes for only 8 months each, I have found a handful of fabulous friends. I guess when everyone around us is moving, we realize that is not enough to hold us back from developing meaningful friendships. Who else understands this moving chaos better than my sweet neighbor next door about to do the same thing? Some of the best advice for marrying into the military I ever received was to treat every base like you would be there forever (i.e. get involved, make friends, etc.). Otherwise you’re setting yourself up for unhappiness. Plus, you never know if you will get stationed there again or run into old friends somewhere else. We can hope!

    • Megan, I like that advice! It would be easy to not get involved since relocation is somewhat inevitable, but how much of a difference it makes to make the best of wherever you are.

  4. I have multiple good friends moving away in the next couple of months, and it definitely brings out the foot-stamping, pouting ten year-old in me, too. But I’m also excited to watch their adventures from afar, keep in touch, and share all the different ways our lives are changing. It’s kind of exciting, right?

    That being said, I’m pretty sure these pals are nearly irreplaceable.

  5. Several of my BFFs have moved away recently, and now I’m the one moving. It’s hard to know that we’ll all have to shift and adjust – friendships are just different when you live in different cities.

    That being said, I’m definitely trying to soak up the time with my local friends before I leave. And I love Megan’s advice about getting involved no matter where you are.

  6. Ha, just about every Chicagoan I know says they’re moving away because of our winters. And yet we all still live here, crappy winter after crappy winter…

    The only good thing about friends moving away is that you now have another place to visit! I get your point about having nothing but long-distance friends though. My best friend and I have lived together, lived in the same town, and lived anywhere from 4-6 hours away from each other during the course of our 15 year friendship, and it never once occurred to me to not be friends with her because we might not live near each other. I definitely wish we were still local friends, but neither of us is moving anytime soon. And those few times that we do get together, it’s like we just saw each other yesterday.

  7. This is exactly why I’m looking for new friends. Literally everyone I know has either fled Chicago or is actively trying to. Is it really that bad here? It’s frustrating when you connect with someone, put the time in to become friends, and then they up and leave. (Though I do have one friend who’s always been long distance who is actually moving here! I’m so excited — NO ONE ever moves here!)

    Long distance friends definitely have their advantages (free crash space when traveling!), but considering that I already have so many of those and virtually no one who’s local, I really need some girlfriends with whom I can get together in person. As terrible as this sounds, I would think twice about putting in the effort to forge a close friendship with someone who was trying to get out of here asap. I’ve gone through this so many times in recent years, I’m just burned out on it!

  8. As someone who relocated recently, I’ve found that many people are using AZ as a pit stop. Most of the people I’ve met are still not committed to AZ as a place they may permanently settle. It is disconcerting to make friends, knowing someone may move, but I think it is possible to have great friendships with people long distance as long as you have established a good foundation. Also, I don’t think you can over think these things. If you have a genuine rapport with someone, you should cultivate that friendship even though he or she might move in the near future. Friendships are complicated as it is – why make the grounds murkier with other elements, like an impending move?

  9. Jenn Andrlik

    This is my number one problem. I meet a potential friend, put the time and energy into building a friendship with them, get to the point I can actually say you’re a BFF, and they move! And yes, as you said, I can still stay friends with them, but let’s be honest, when someone moves far away (unless in the rare occasion they’re say a childhood friend) you tend to grow further and further apart and eventually lose contact. It’s really sad.

  10. Ana

    I’d like to say…yes, put in the time and effort, friendships are great no matter where the friends may be, etc.. etc… but I agree with you, it sucks when you finally meet someone you could really get along with and they up and leave to join the ever-growing ranks of far-away friends. I’ve had a large proportion of my local friends move recently…seems that I, too, live in a transient city…and I’m back to square one on the friends’ front.
    I don’t think I’d totally rule out a potential friendship if there was a possibility of a move, but if it was for certain, I’d be less inclined to put in a lot of effort.

  11. Just wait until you’ve been here long enough and you can add one more reason why people move … because when they have kids, they don’t want to raise them in the city. Here’s the thing. We live in a mobile society. And all the benefits we get by living in such a society far outweigh some of the more inconvenient ones. And sometimes that means, people we grow to love leave us for jobs, family, love and so on. It’s probably why these skills you’re gaining now? Will carry you through a lifetime of making friends.

  12. megan

    I gotta say, I don’t like ‘seasonal’ friends I tou know, the kind that are just in your life for a little while. I don’t like starting over! I had a friend once who I’d known since before I had siblings, and we recently ‘broke up’. It sucks – you can make new friends but you can’t make new lifelong friends. :-(

  13. JenD

    Funny, I’m actually thinking seriously about relocating for a BFF who lives clear across the country. I just have to convince my husband this is a sensible idea. Any suggestions?

  14. Fanfan

    I guess what is frustrating is not the fact people move. For me, it is people who don’t really stay in touch. Once those people moved away, they vanished forever!

  15. Pingback: Just When You Think The Search Could Be Over… | MWF Seeking BFF

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