Making friends

 

Hi Wendi,

I have a hard time making friends.  I know that is somewhat normal for adults, but it has been an issue my whole life.  Usually, I will meet someone or a group, be friends for a while and then they will disappear or will kick me out of the group.  Five years tends to be the maximum.  My best friend lives in Oregon, so it’s not quite the same with him.  On bad days, I assume if he lived near me, he would vanish too.  My husband is the only person who has actually stayed with me.  In general, I don’t mind being alone, or just with my husband.  But I would like to find a female friend with similar interests (pretty hard as my interests are rather eclectic) who won’t just leave after a few years.  I do have one female friend right now, but she is extremely conservative.  Usually it’s not an issue, but lately her views on race are making me less inclined to spend time with her.  I also assume she will probably ghost soon too.  At this point, I have to assume the problem is me.  Any suggestions?

From

A

Dear A,

First, I want to agree with your point that finding good friends as an adult is tough.  Unless you work with cool people who want to hang out after work or you have super friendly neighbors, it’s hard to have the time to build friendships.  Often our closest friendships are forged during the high school and college years because there is a key ingredient that seems to never be available again in our later and busier years.  Time.  Time to hang out and do nothing together.   There’s nothing more bonding than doing nothing together at the same time.

It sounds like you are having a bit of the “find friends as an adult challenge” but there might be something more going on here.   One way to figure out what it might be is to go through all of your friendships chronologically and explore each one of them.  Write it all down.  How did the friendship start? How long did it last?  What did you think you did right in the friendship?  What did they do that made you want to keep being friends with them?  What happened in the end?  What did they (and you) do or not do to keep things going?    Then look at all of it in the aggregate and see if there are commonalities.   Are there similarities among the people you have chosen to be friends with?  Do you have a “type”?  What seemed to be missing in all of them?  Now talk to your husband.  He loves you and likely wants to help you with this. Talk through what you’ve discovered in your analysis.   See if he has any insight to share.

Then comes the hard part.  Remember the old saying “To get a friend, be a friend.” ?  Armed with what you’ve learned about yourself in friendships, come up with a few things you can try that are different from what you have tried in the past.  Now go out and try them.  Go to meet-up groups, join a club, volunteer somewhere – get out in the world and meet people and practice your new ideas about building friendships.  You might want to pay attention, specifically, to what you learn about friendship maintenance.  Try new ways to make sure to keep friendships going.  I promise there are many people out there in the same position.  They may just be waiting for a friend to come to them.

You got this.   Best of luck to you.

Warm regards,

Wendi

P.s. Here are a few book recommendations to boost your plan.   The first two are classics and the last one is pretty new.   I’ve heard good things about it but haven’t read it yet.

Making Friends by Mr. Rogers

How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie

 

The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane

 

 

3 Comments

  1. I just wrote Wendi with the exact same issue, A! You’re not alone. I’m 44 and have a great daughter and husband, but no friends. Part of the problem is that I like my own company; part of it is that I’m not the kind of person to have a lot of superficial friendships. That works for some, but not for me. I’m also dealing with depression and old anxiety that I’ve been hauling around since I was a kid, worrying that everyone’s judging me and that I’m a freak who doesn’t deserve friends. As my husband is even more introverted than I am (but without the negative baggage that imprisons me), I get no help there.

    Like you, I’ve been burned by past experiences, and it’s hard to put out the psychic energy that goes into meeting new people when some part of me assumes they’ll get bored with me or just drift away.

    It’s frustrating and lonely. I hear you!

    1. Thanks to S! It helps not being alone. And thank you Wendi for responding. I realized the other day that there is something I didn’t address in the original email. I was emotionally abused as a child, and was therefore extremely isolated most of the time. I can count on one hand the number of sleepovers or birthday parties, or anything, really, that I attended. I often couldn’t call my friends, much less see them. There were a few years where I had a little freedom, but most were before I can remember, or after puberty. So most of my friend experiences and learning came from school and school alone. Is it possible that I never really learned how to be a friend? Is that something I can remedy, or is it yet another way my step-mother screwed me over? Thanks!

      1. YES – that is something you can work on . Definitely. The first step (according to G.I. Joe and myself) is knowing the problem, which is half the battle. You’ve hit upon a major reason creating friendships is difficult for you to do. Dig into that. Figure that junk out and see how it has impacted your friendship building skills level and then work on improving your skills without all the extra baggage. P.s. Evil step-mothers don’t get to win. Not this time! 🙂

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *