How Do You Find Your New Peeps When Your Nest Is Empty?
When our kids were younger, it was so much easier to connect with other couples.
When our kids were younger, it was so easy to connect with other couples — at school, on the soccer field, at the community pool. But once your kids leave the nest and you downsize to settle into that new, tranquil “just the two of us” lifestyle, you suddenly look around and say, “Where are my peeps? How am I going to make new friends in this community?”
It’s not easy, especially since your Saturday mornings now are spent lounging in bed rather than sitting on a playing field. And good or bad, life is just a bit more sedentary without kids in the house. Short of the usual suspects — the gym, pool and church (none of which I partake in on a regular basis), how can you find your new CFFs (couple friends forever)?
I’m currently living this scenario. We successfully launched our kids and left the old homestead to settle into a new community to embrace our empty-nest lifestyle. We anxiously waited for all of our new neighbors to arrive at our door with cookies in hand (or welcome-to-the-neighborhood bottles of wine) to introduce themselves. We’re still waiting. We would soon learn that older, established neighborhoods are just that — established. No need or desire for any new entries.
So after a few weeks of solitude and writhing in self-pity, we decided it was time to make an action plan. If we wanted playmates and happy-hour buddies, we were just going to have to go find them ourselves. It felt like what I told my kids any time they went to a new school: “Just go up and introduce yourself.”
At first, we took the passive approach. I would find myself lingering at the mailbox and toying with the flag, pretending it was broken, just hoping for a new neighbor to walk by and strike up a chat. Or I’d incessantly walk the (poor) dog up and down the same streets to the point that even she got bored with the sniffs and scenery. I considered stealing mail out of a neighbor’s box just to have an excuse to knock on their door and introduce myself.
I began stalking people at my neighborhood grocery store. It reminded me of the first night at my new college when I saw a girl across the room who “looked like someone I would be friends with,” so I hovered around her a bit until an introduction occurred (somewhat) naturally. We’re still friends today, by the way.
In an effort to find potential happy-hour friends, I would discreetly inspect recycling bins on my morning walk and make a mental note of the homes with (ahem) evidence of cocktails. Perhaps this would lead me to the Thirsty Thursday crowd at the community pool.
Yard work proved to be one of our most successful meet-and-greet opportunities as we sweat in the Florida sun; someone walking by always had to comment on how gardening was a never-ending task. By the same token, if I saw someone working in a beautiful yard, I would stop and ask about certain plants — just as a way to introduce myself. It took a while for these same neighbors to later recognize me without my sweaty gardening attire and matted ponytail. (Yes, I do clean up well.)
We soon decided it was time to make more of a conscious effort, and we invested in bikes and would leisurely ride the neighborhood. Night after night of seeing the same couples on bikes, it was natural to strike up a conversation. Our dog walking also proved to be fruitful when we realized that dogs are your kids in an empty-nest life. Unlike those early days when your kids are trying to get into the “cool” group, adults are certainly more welcoming and unthreatened to invite you to join their circle of friends. All it takes is one or two new friends and your circle grows exponentially. We now get texts inviting us to happy hour at the pool.
My husband began hitting golf balls in the front yard until, lo and behold, one day someone stopped and asked him if he’d like to join the neighborhood golf group. So I’ve learned that you have to be somewhat of an exhibitionist to make new friends at this stage of life. Wear your heart — and favorite activities — on your sleeve. Be present (in the front yard where you will be noticed). And most of all, it’s OK to linger.