The New Friend Expiration Date

On Saturday, Matt and I went to dinner with some couple-friends. In between samosas and chicken tikka masala (yum!) these friends shared a story about their botched attempt to befriend their next door neighbors.

The story goes something like this: The neighbors moved in, and my friends realized they seemed relatively normal. Cool, even. Sometimes that’s all you need. They talked about asking the neighbors over for a drink, but never really got around to it. They didn’t see much of each other, though with a bit of detective work my friend realized the female half of the couple works in web production, as does she. She still didn’t say anything.

Months turned into a year, and that year turned into two. There were nods in the hallway, friendly waves, but nothing more. During the big Chicago blizzard, they saw each other outside and exchanged those classic “we should get together!” pleasantries. And yet again, nothing.

Now three years have passed since the neighbors moved in, and my friends say they’ve missed their shot. The befriending window has closed. They’re perhaps a little regretful, but as my friend said, “The neighbors are equally at fault.”

I told my friends they should just bite the bullet and invite the neighbors over for a beer. “You probably both meant it when you talked about getting together,” I said. “It just sounds like one of those situations where no one ever got around—or everyone was too embarrassed—to do the asking.”

Oh, didn’t you hear? I’m a regular friendship therapist.

I get the sense that my friends and their neighbors will carry on as usual. That the moment has passed and the relationship won’t be pursued.

I know that I’ve been studying friendship for over a year now, so my take is different than the average Joe’s, but I say there’s no time stamp on friendly overtures. I completely understand where my pals are coming from—the invitation would probably require some recognition of the passage of time—but I hear plenty of great stories of people who went to school together for four years before becoming friends at the end of senior year, or ladies who lived in the same building for a decade before becoming BFFs.

I get the sense, through emails and the like, that many people who read this blog go through the same thought process as this couple. You have someone you’ve always wanted to befriend, but since you didn’t move on that friendship at the get-go, you feel like it would be awkward now. I’ve been there. During my year of (aggressive) friending, I emailed people I had met 12 months earlier but never had the guts to contact. And more often than not, the response came back like this: “It’s so great to hear from you!” Or this: “What a pleasant surprise” Or this: “I’m so glad you got in touch.”

Just saying, people like to feel liked, no matter how long it’s been.

Thoughts? Do you shy away from reaching out when you feel like you’ve missed your window?

10 Comments

Filed under The Search

10 responses to “The New Friend Expiration Date

  1. katieleigh

    I definitely struggle with the “expiration date” thing – actually, my husband and I have intended to invite our neighbors over, but never have done it. (Of course, it’s only been eight months – clearly it’s still early in the game!)

    Thought-provoking post, as usual.

  2. Kristen

    I recently started to follow your blog and I really enjoy it. I have the most difficult time making new friends and it was a great relief to discover I’m not the only one.

    I do shy away when I feel as though I’ve missed my chance, but I must admit that it’s my shyness that prevents me from taking the chance in the first place. As I read your blog I’m realizing that potential friends are most likely thinking the same thing as me and probably don’t know how to proceed with the friendship-making process. I also realize that I have a real shot at making friends if I can just get over my shyness. Any friendship-making advice for someone that is extremely shy?

    • When I started this search, I thought of myself as shy too! Not with people I knew, but I was really uncomfortable approaching new people. And basically, I just had to suck it up. I just decided to brave it, and figured that the worst that could happen would be that someone would think I was a weirdo. Not the end of the world, especially if I might never see them again. And usually, they really didn’t think I was a weirdo, and were please I reached out.

      I found when I was super shy, I would couch my invitations in lots of “I’m new in town, I don’t know many people” which always came off wrong. Either desperate, or awkward. Once I decided to at least play the part of the cool confident girl–asking people out as if it was no big thing–the bought it Suddenly, I had confidence! So I say just try it, the worst that can happen isn’t so bad….

      So glad you are enjoying the blog!

  3. M

    I don’t think it’s ever too late. My problem is that I’m usually a last minute sort of person which is ok with our current friends but I don’t want new friends to think we only invited them because we had nothing else to do.

  4. Ana

    We’re kind of in the same situation with our neighbors….we’re thinking a good way around it is to have a big(ish) party & just invite them to it. We’ve actually never had a party in this house before, so it’d be a new “excuse”. If they come, hopefully it’ll be a chance to make a connection that may lead to another “date”. Its not really about the time period, its just more awkwardness or shyness on my part.

    I don’t think there really is an “expiration date” anymore…there are no rules of manners around these things like there used to be (i.e. welcome neighbors with a casserole & invite them over for coffee & cake). I think both parties would LIKE to get together, someone just has to make the first move & just overcome that inertia!

  5. Lorrie Paige

    I’ve never missed my window; if I think there could be a connection,. I always go for it.

    I think if a person REALLY wanted to get together with someone else, they would have gotten the courage to do so. The failure to get a calendar date to go out means they really aren’t that in to each other. I would think the relationship would go sour soon….

    They can give it a shot….worse things happen in life.

  6. Betty

    For my DH and I, I think it comes down more to a connection issue vs. an expiration date issue with neighbors. When we first moved into the neighborhood, we did the basic chatting with the new neighbors, and we were told by two different neighbors that they wanted to invite us over for dinner one day. I got the impression that it was mostly because they were being polite to us vs. that there was an instant social connection that they felt with us, and the actual dinner invitations never materialized. DH and I were okay with this because we’re the type of people that don’t want to go out with people just for the sake of going out with people. We have to feel some level of personal connection/bond before we want to hang out with someone. We didn’t feel that we had much in common with these neighbors, and it would have been really hard for us to spend time making awkward, forced conversation with them. We’re just not very good or comfortable with that type of situation. On the other hand, I’ve met a new neighbor up the street who I’ve gotten to know because of our dogs, and I really enjoy talking to her, so I’d like to eventually exchange phone numbers with her the next time I see her so that we can make a “date” to go walk our dogs together one weekend afternoon.

  7. Pingback: More Friends and Neighbors… | MWF Seeking BFF

  8. Megan

    My first class at the school I graduated from was with this guy. We had several more classes together – even worked on group projects together – for two years. Nothing. A week before graduation, we started hanging out. Now, he and his wife are some of my best friends. So I agree – there’s no “time window” for friending!

  9. Pingback: The Hard Facts: This Is Your Brain on Friends | MWF Seeking BFF

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s