How to Make New Friends
Sample E-mail Question and Answer by Carol Agnew, MA, LMFT
I am 36 years old, married with 2 wonderful children. Anyway, my problem is that I don't have any close friends. (My husband also) Sometimes I get lonely, because I just want to hang out with a friend and don't have anyone that I can just call and chat. I am not a very outgoing person, I am more of a one on one type person. My husband and I have invited couples over for the evening to hang out and talk, but then we never get an invite from the other couple. Last year we had a Halloween costume party and supplied all the drinks, but we never get invited to anyone else's gatherings. I feel we are a very normal couple and I can't understand why we don't have any close friends. We belong to a country club and my husband plays golf with the men at least once a week, but that's it. I play every now and then, but that’s it.
This town is hard to make friends, it's like high school and you have to be in a click. We have the teachers, realtors, sorority, business owners, and people that grew up together.
Can you please give me some advice on how to make friends at my age?
Friendless in Kansas
Dear Friendless in Kansas,
In this day and age of technology where we can be in constant connection with each other, we are becoming more and more isolated. It definitely is harder to create those close friendships as you get older. When you are in high school or college, there are opportunities to interact with people every day, from living in the dorm, to seeing them in class, to there always being a million parties to go to. Friendships happen naturally in those settings. After college it may take a little more concentrated effort. It sounds like you have made some good efforts in that direction, but probably need a few little tweaks to your methods.
I really like how you, being self-described as not very outgoing, have tried having people over and the Halloween party. I am sure that felt like a big deal and you sound pretty disappointed that it didn’t result in more activities. It also sounds like you did these activities with the goal in mind of fostering closer friendships, which may have been a little presumptuous, at least for the Halloween party. People come to parties to have fun and relax. Your guests probably didn’t realize there was an expectation tacked on to their attendance that they reciprocate the gesture. That may be true for the dinner parties as well. My guess is that you need to change your attitude about yourself and your definition of friends.
It sounds like you are going about getting friends by showing them what you have to offer, i.e., fun, parties, good food, drinks, etc. Then, in your mind, it sounds like there is an expectation that they will want to hang out with you. My guess is that these people either don’t realize the expectation or they feel your desperateness in your attempts. It does ring true to high school where you are showing off what you can bring to the clique, hoping that they don’t reject you. I suggest you turn the tables and instead of trying to get people to like you, look for people that YOU like and that YOU want to hang around. If you approach it with an attitude of confidence and good self esteem instead of as the victim, who doesn’t believe in herself, you will start to attract a new group of people. You should be the one looking for people that you like, not waiting for them to make the first move. Just like at the high school dance, the girl who takes the initiative and asks that boy to dance with confidence and self assurance will have a lot more friends and a lot more fun than the wall flower girl who sits on the sidelines waiting for someone to see how special she is. We all know that wallflower girl is special, but she won’t get the guy or the friends without believing in herself.
You are on the right track and I think you know where to go to meet people. Now you have to decide what kind of friend you are looking for and invite them to something non-threatening, or find a way to talk to them at a social gathering, like your kids’ school play or at church. If they reject you or don’t accept your invitation to get to know each other better, learn from it, but don’t get too disappointed. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You may end up with several good friends, each with a different purpose in your life. And no matter how many friends you have, keep working to make new ones. You never know when you are going to meet someone amazing.
Also, you may want to look at how you define a friend. At this age, with families, jobs and other commitments, talking everyday maybe asking too much. Would you be ok with talking once a week? Or once every two weeks, or maybe just scheduling time to get together every so often. One of my best friends and I only talk once or twice a month and see each other maybe twice a year. She lives in another state and we both have young children and jobs, so we are both very busy, but she is still my best friend. Do I wish I saw her/talked to her more? Of course, but that doesn’t make us any less friends. We are there for the important stuff and know we can call when we need to. That is what friendship is really all about. Knowing they will support you when you need it most.
If you find there are other issues getting in your way, it may be useful to get some counseling about it to figure it out. I am available at www.asktheinternettherapist.com if you want to talk more.
Carol Agnew, MA, LMFT