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Why do some women have such a hard time making friends: Nature or nurture?

Many women write to me perplexed about why they can’t form close friendships. They try new approaches, put themselves in all the right places, see therapists, and read relevant self-help books. They consider themselves interesting, loyal, kind, and friend-worthy people. But for reasons unknown to them, they have a tough time forming the intimate relationships other women seem to have and that they covet for themselves. Many admit to not having even one close friend.

A recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology offers some clues as to how both nature (personality) and nurture (experience) impact our friendships. Researchers at the University of Virginia and University of Toronto, Mississauga studied more than 7000 American adults between the ages of 20 and 75 over a period of ten years, looking at the number of times these adults moved during childhood. Their study, like prior ones, showed a link between “residential mobility” and adult well-being: The more times participants moved as children, the poorer the quality of their adult social relationships.

But digging deeper, the researchers found that personality—specifically being introverted or extroverted —could either intensify or buffer the effect of moving to a new town or neighborhood during childhood. The negative impact of more moves during childhood was far greater for introverts compared to extroverts.

“Moving a lot makes it difficult for people to maintain long-term close relationships,” stated Dr. Shigehiro Oishi, the first author of the study, in a press release from the American Psychological Association, “This might not be a serious problem for outgoing people who can make friends quickly and easily. Less outgoing people have a harder time making new friends.”

Families often have to relocate—across town, across the country, or across the globe. Yet, in many cases, their kids and young adolescents haven’t yet built up a bank of friendships or garnered sufficient experience at making new friends and at handling rejection. So the conventional wisdom is to try to minimize moves for the sake of your child, whenever possible, and to move at the end of the academic year. Additionally, parents are advised to monitor and, if necessary, help guide their children’s friendships during the first academic year after a move, which generally is the most difficult.

Moves during childhood affected adult friendships differently because of the unique interplay between nature (personality type, which is determined in part by genes) and nurture (in this case, the moves) for different individuals. That makes the answer to the question of why some women are more successful than others in making friends extremely complex. And this study raises the question of how many other factors come into play that we haven’t even yet considered.

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Category: MAKING FRIENDS

Comments (1,098)

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  1. vee says:

    Hi, I have the same issue and lately I have noticed it more or paid more attention. I don’t have any girl friends. To be Honest I don’t understand why either, I am kind and caring. I am a single mom and I am very independent. I am very honest and maybe my honesty has gotten them upset but I don’t like to lie to them, I like speaking the truth because I want the same from them. My guy friend told me the reason girls don’t like me is because I am attractive, I am fit and most girls get jealous of that. I always try to motivate my friends in going to the gym with them and compliment them when they look good but they always ignore me.

    • martha howard says:

      I am sooo glad to see that other women have the same problem–I thought I was the only woman in the world that did not have friends- I am 56. I was very shy and introverted as a child and was brutally teased. I truly like people but always get nervous when they get too close. The women at work socialize together, and it makes me so sad to be excluded. They are nice to me and include me in conversation, but never invite me to go with them when they socialize outside work. I am usually a quiet person and have a hard time keeping conversation going. after so many years of rejection, I prefer the company of my cat and my husband. I wish I could make friends, I feel like a freak for being a loner.

      • Darlene says:

        Hi Martha,

        I’m not as sure about what may be happening with vee, but I am fairly sure about you. It seems clear, from what you’ve written, that your shyness has put a barrier between yourself no others. They obviously like you, but likely don’t invite you to do things because they sense your discomfort.

        It’s hard to change that, but it can be done. You may have some self confidence issues to a point that it may be worth considering seeing a therapist. I’ve done that and it can be very helpful. The idea is to find ways to improve your self confidence, so that you are more comfortable with yourself and with different situations. At the same time, you can try reaching out to these ladies in small ways, like asking a few of them to go for a coffee break with you and then trying to relax and enjoy being with them. You sound like a nice, likeable person, with a little help and effort on your part, this situation can improve for you. Best of luck!

        • Bronwen says:

          Hi I am also in my 50s and marthas story sounds very much like mine. I am very shy and an artist who is somewhat unconventional. I also get very nervous when people get too close to me and I think it is due to past rejection. ironically, once I started to accept the fact that maybe I am just too different from most people that I gained confidence. I am joining an artist studio in hopes of finding other women who experience life in a different way. I am lonely, but would rather be alone than be hurt again.

    • Darlene says:

      Vee, I gave this a bit of thought. Not sure what’s going on, but suspect you are rubbing some of the women you meet the wrong way. I am not a very mainstream woman and I can’t relate to a lot of women (nor they to me) so I ended up needing to find people I could relate to more. That turned out to be other independent women. Maybe you just need to find your people, people who would enjoy your independence and respect your honesty.

      I would also suggest treading very, very lightly about motivating others to go to the gym….that would be a very touchy subject for most ladies out there. :)

    • girl123 says:

      Vee-
      I’m sorry you have to deal with that. I could have written your post, and it makes me sad.

  2. rafa says:

    It is amazing how hard it is to get a woman attention and interest in a conversation, is almost impossible to establish a friendship with them, I’m talking about woman in the US in general even woman from another nationalities that are living here for some time. I’m a 50 year old latino male I go to bars, the gym, the restaurants, at the office, on the street, I tried to be friendly and start conversations, very few woman say a word or 2, I feel they always think I’m after something else, I just sincerely want to have a chat and get know them a little be . I consider myself clean, decent, considerate, respectful and average. I usually do NOT write on this forum but is kind of frustrating dealing with US woman.

    • Tom says:

      I disagree, women are for the most part happy to talk. Perhaps it is your approach or the setting. It is easy to pick the people “on a mission” and do not want to talk versus those who would be interested in conversation. I have better conversations with women than men.

  3. LaTrice says:

    When I was growing up, I didn’t have a difficult time making friends. The most challenging would be to keep my inner circle-even though I was judged based on my physical appearance. Because of those judgments, the actions of others had made me feel extremely insecure about myself.

    I knew that I wasn’t like everyone else, and I had to learn how to embrace myself as an individual-which took some getting used to. Not only did I had to learn on how to be my own best friend, I needed to accept myself for who I am. Just because I didn’t have a closet full clothes and shoes, I didn’t frequent the hair salon on a regular basis, and I was constantly wearing my hair in a ponytail, the actions of others didn’t justify how poorly I was treated. Their behavior was atrocious, and it wasn’t something that I should have to tolerate. I decided to change my inner circle of friends, and get rid of those that refuse to support me-due to their own selfish reasons. Honestly, my efforts had made a HUGE difference!!

    Friendship is something that can’t be taken for granted, but it’s important to love, respect, accept, and support each other-no matter the differences. It feels good knowing that I’m surrounded by those that love me to the moon and back, and I will continue to cherish those friendships for the rest of my life.

    • Darlene says:

      I really like your message, LaTrice. You found your people and refused to be friends with others who weren’t treating you well. You also made friends with yourself…great message. :)

      • LaTrice says:

        Thank you, Darlene. It took a while for me to accept myself for who I am as a human being, so I had to learn how to embrace my own individuality. I feel that there’s no need for anyone to try so hard to be someone’s friend, so why bother begging?

    • Cristina says:

      Bravo! LaTrice. It sounds like you are not “beggar” but what if instead one is a “beggar”, in this case one cannot choose friends Any advice?

      • LaTrice says:

        Friends shouldn’t “beg” you to be a part of your life, as well as begging to be your friend. If they really love and care about you, they would take the initiative to get to know you as an individual. Actions will have to speak WAY louder than words, so allow their actions to speak for themselves. Be yourself, and embrace your individuality. There’s no one like you on this planet.

        Be friends with those that not only like you for who you are, but will accept the differences about you. I’m talking about those who are supportive, and positive people. They’re going to encourage you to be your best, and to bring out the best in you. They will NOT judge you based on your overall appearance. For those that are negative, stay away from them, and their energy will bring you down.

        I hope that my answer helped you, Cristina.

        • monika says:

          Cristina, you are so correct, I believe women are very judgemental and quite critual towards each other and I put it all down to sheer envy and jealousy. Over the years I never take note of people that much in terms of what they think of me and the reason for that is that I don’t allow anyone to put me down or I don’t need one’s approval to do things. i just get up and do things and get things done and get my life sorted out while my friends having partners and husband and kids are struggling. They never ask me how I manage all on my own but yet their first remarks is that I am lucky, no, my life was never a lucky one but a very HARD one, full of obstacles and disappointments pain and sheer sorrows. They were never there to support me, not even a phone call. I made the effort in sending txts or ringing them to find out if they are ok. Sometimes I rang their house and was told they are just going through the door. They never return my calls, in the end I embrace myself as an individual, change my number and continuing living my life with the thoughts that I may not have close friends but such is life. I rather to be alone than to be unhappy with fake people around me.

          • Neeta says:

            Wow..you are so strong. I have a very hard time forming relationships with women and I feel I try so hard. When I was in the corporate world they would often gang up against me. Never invite me to drinks after work. It was so weird. I am sort of quite and introverted but very intelligent and know a little about many things. The feelings of rejection I feel are difficult to deal with. If only I could just giggle and laugh and be that glowing personality I see them as. In any case I was touched by your comment and could relate. I too have had a difficult life and sometimes I wish I was “happy go lucky”..Ok ..I off to be alone.

  4. arlene says:

    I have read much of what you have to say. I am friendly, outgoing, and have many positions including interior decorator, real estate agent and psychic. We can go from A to Z on any topic.

    When puberty hit, I realized friendship was down hill. Boys came first, getting ready for boys came first, sitting by the phone waiting for boys came first, and should your friend get dumped, well the friendship was on the go again until another boy came along. It is a lonely time.

    When I was in my thirties, I discovered that boys were now replaced with housework, housework and more housework seem to come first. As my husband was a travelling salesperson and was off a few days every week, I was often sitting alone at home with my daughter because there was no one available. Even the woman next door told me I could use her pool but she was too behind in her work to come and join me. Obsessive cleaning.

    Now in my sixties, nothing has changed. ALL THINGS COME BEFORE FRIENDSHIP, except now it is still the obsessive housework, the grandkids, the retired husband, the adult kids moving back home, etc. and as a divorced woman, with no grandkids, life is lonely. Woman ask me all the time to give them a call, and I do, but it is between Housework Project A and B, basically a small window and the whole time they are not present, they are worrying about if they get home on time, did they miss a call. They were better off to stay home.

    BASICALLY, I think women do not value friendship. They talk about it, see therapists about it, read books about it, even put ads on Kijiji, but given the opportunity to take action, they muck it up every time. I would love a female friend, but the dribs and drabs they offer are not worth pursuing. I too agree, men have the right idea, YES I CAN MAKE IT, NO I CAN’T…not a big song and dance that I have to wait and see just in case the dog gets a cold, or the fridge stops running.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Arleen, I totally agree with what you’ve said and thank you for articulating my feelings exactly. I grew up in the same house at the same schools until I left home at 18, pregnant to move in with my boyfriend. I was so glad to be out on my own as there were issues of violence and abuse I couldn’t wait to be away from. What I didn’t realize back then was that these issues can manifest themselves in any relationship with people that have various personality disorders (of which I knew nothing about). I’m now 44, divorced 5 years ago and have not a good friend in the world. I say good friend because I mean a friend whose willing to give you the time of day. I have found throughout my adult life the only people that actively seek out friendship & make the effort to build a relationship have turned out to have major personality flaws & their motivation for establishing the friendship wasn’t genuine by that I mean they had an agenda. So because I’ve been hurt in many friendships, by family and in relationships I’ve now decided to cut people off who exhibit these traits that I’m so good at spotting now, and only try to establish a connection with like minded people. Well so far I can say it’s a good thing I don’t mind my own company and the TV is…well, effectively my best friend, that is until I find a real one. Good luck & I hope you find the love & friendship you truly deserve. :-)

      • Dani says:

        Hi Elizabeth,
        I hope you keep trying to find the friends you deserve. I, too, have ended friendships because I felt exploited, dumped on, overlooked for people who had “more to offer,” etc. But I feel that I do have a small group of loyal, worthy friends now. I think it is very normal and healthy to decide that some people simply aren’t worth it, despite how much they want you to believe they are and claim you’ve hurt them by establishing boundaries. I wish relationships were simpler a lot of the time. I’ve also come to accept as an adult that the big cluster of friends I had during my high school and college years simply aren’t typical for most adults. We have too many competing obligations, including our families, and they are the ones who deserve the most attention anyway. Anyway, keep your standards high, but allow people to make mistakes in friendship, too. We all let each other down sometimes.

    • LaTrice says:

      I have to agree with you, Arlene because not too many women value friendships today. Although I can’t speak for everyone, I feel that some women would use, manipulate, and abuse those are trying to be supportive of them. Add disrespect, overstepping boundaries, jealousy, and control to the mix. The results will be catastrophic!!

      I’m thankful to have my best friend, and my closest girlfriends in my life today. It’s difficult to find good friends in this day and age. I don’t friendships for granted, and it will ALWAYS be something that I can cherish for the rest of my life. :-)

      • Rosanna Mitchell says:

        I completely agree with you Latrice I have friends whom I cherish both male and female. But I think in some instances women not always but sometimes can be very nasty to other women I don’t really know why. Jealousy and control does seem to be a big factor. I had a friend who I knew for over 10 years we where very good friends al of a sudden she started to try and control my life telling me what to do etc. I had started a relationship with someone and she did not like it at all. And if I didn’t dance to her tune she became very nasty with abusive comments. I warned her if it didn’t stop our friendship would cease. I become very anxious and started to experience panic attacks. Meantime my so called friend got in with another group of women and dropped me like a ton of bricks. I was upset at first but I then thought I am better off without this person. I now have two lovely friends whom I cherish no nastiness just great times together. Don’t put up with abusive relationships with other women live is to short lots of nice friends out there I found some myself.

        • LaTrice says:

          I don’t understand why women have to be so mean and nasty towards each other. It seems that some women don’t know how to be supportive and respectful of each other’s goals-especially when someone doesn’t know how to be a friend.

          You did the right thing, by standing up for yourself, Rosanna. Although I don’t know your former friend at all, she seems very insecure and controlling. Her negative energy and attitude can weigh you down, so her dropping you like a hot potato is good news. She did you a HUGE favor!!

          I’m glad that you were able to be surrounded by friends who are good to you.

  5. Chloe says:

    Darlene and Tanya, thank you so much for your replies! You are both so kind to take the time out to write the above.
    It is so nice to know I’m not alone. Last night I bought two books on amazon on your advice Darlene. I also read up on social skills and one thing I read was that it’s hard to not like someone who smiles, it said to smile at someone every hour, I’ve smiled at everyone today and had a great day, I feel like something so small has made a big difference in a small space of time. The thing is I think I do find it easy to get excited and for change to happen, it just never seems to stick, so I’m going to try my best to be positive, smile, forgive myself and love myself. I think you may have hit the nail on the head both of you. I think I need to find a way to like and love myself, with more time and more things I enjoy and hopefully the rest will start to follow, sounds simple doesn’t it! Ha
    I do have a beautiful daughter and a loving husband who is also my best friend so I am very lucky, I just want to enjoy my life for a change and not be bogged down with this crap anymore.
    Onwards and upwards, I’m glad to have met you both, what a brilliant blog and wonderful people
    Xx

    • Darlene says:

      Something tells me you will be just fine Chloe! It isn’t easy, but if you keep working at it, slowly but surely things change. When I have a “setback” now, which doesn’t happen very often anymore, I do something meaningful to remind myself why the world is a wonderful place…it works!

      All the best to you and your wonderful family

  6. Chloe says:

    Thank you so much for your reply and your advice Darlene, you are an angel..
    I did work with a therapist a few years ago but since I’ve worked with a couple of life coaches.
    They help for a while but then the horrible feelings of self hatred and feeling sick with myself come back, feels like a broken record just playing over and over. I agree that I do need to learn to like myself and to learn some social skills. I love reading books and get really excited when I read different strategies and learn more about how we work. I just need something to stick! I’ve read about telling yourself you love yourself in the mirror every day, I just need to keep doing it, I guess I have been looking for a quick fix! I have this thing which is kicking in now from my childhood telling me I don’t know how to start helping myself, my mums voice is in my head telling me I am stupid and thick! Which kind of makes me freeze if that makes sense.
    I honestly hope I can get somewhere for once, I keep taking steps backwards, there must be a way out. At work I make an effort, always say hi etc, they all just seem to get on better with each other, a girl who sits in my pod is much quieter than me and even she gets asked to lunch etc, the arrange lunches without asking me, not that I’m desperate to go but it would be nice to be asked. I just feel like I’m an outsider.
    X

    • Darlene says:

      You sound like a sweetheart, Chloe! But if you don’t believe it, others will have a hard time seeing that. Everyone thinks differently, but the idea I gave, working on and succeeding at something challenging is a powerful way to silence those voices of self doubt. The idea is that It should be something that is hard for you to do, either technically (say like oil paintings) or physically, like learning to ski, or even emotionally, like giving a voice to your feelings to someone in your life (for this one you may want some professional guidance for it to be safe and effective). I am an outdoorsy type, yet was fearful of heights…so I set it as a goal to push a little out of my comfort zone on the ski hill and master that before pushing again. It creates a sense of competence, of value….those negative voices just can’t argue with that!

      It takes awhile to create a new habit, of any kind, they say it takes 6 weeks to change a bad habit, by doing something consistently better instead. Maybe put together a plan, where that time is devoted to building yourself up. That could mean, for example, avoiding negative influences (bye mom for a little bit? :), signing up for kayaking courses (or some such challenging activity), group therapy geared to building you up, etc. I realize you have obligations, but your free time could be devoted to you for a set period of time….and countering the negative messages. Maybe you just need a real, serious jump start, then you can keep working on this at a less intense pace, so it sticks. You may need to schedule some time regularly for the rest of you life to keep you on track, but even if you do, the payback is worth it, in my opinion. :)

      This is tough, Chloe and it is pretty crummy to feel this way, I get that, I really do. But I feel very confident in saying that if you want this, you can do it :)

    • tanja says:

      Hi Chloe, I could have written this post. I have not gotten help. For some reason, people can tell when you lack confidence and may not want to be around long. My sister says she can see it in me and I don’t always know how it comes across. It may help to focus on some positive things such as you have a husband that loves you. It is like the quote in the little prince “to forget a friend is sad. Not everyone has had a friend.” I tend to count my blessings when I feel sad and think about the people I do have in my life. One being my husband, that is my best friend. In spite of all that, negative thoughts can still creep up. How is your relationship with your mom now? My mom would say the same things at times. I try to think of it that she grew up in a different time. Her intentions are good, but when it comes to giving me advice on raising my own children, she has no clue. She did best as she could given her circumstances at the time. Keeping this in mind, helps me still have a relationship with her and try to be more empathetic and understanding to her situation. My mom did not have it easy. So, now being 36, it is my job to work on my confidence and not my mother’s. It is my responsibility to try to get out of these self deprecating moments by taking a walk, practicing in the mirror as you mentioned or doing a hobby such as painting or taking time away from technology all together to read my kids a story, point to pictures, make a game with them or simple watch elmo with my youngest. Your right, though that negative thoughts will still creep in, but the point is to minimize how often it happens Sometimes, around the time of the month, it is the worst and I cry and cry and cry. You need to be forgiving with yourself as well and allow yourself to cry tears and then say that is okay, tomorrow is another day or there will be a next moment in that day that could pick up, That moment wasn’t so good, but next moment will be better. Nothing wrong with having a good cry either. It helps rejuvenate and feel like you can move on to something else. Another thought is to ask your husband to cuddle, I sometimes have my husband just hold me for a long time and I feel better to start doing things I am supposed to such as resume, paying attention to my kids. It also helps to organize an outing once a week whether it be an art class or a coffee date with a girlfriend or a playdate if you have kids, or join a group, volunteer somewhere once a week. I try to tell myself these things and there are still some weeks that are pretty bad, but the weeks that are good I pat myself on the back. Hope it gets better and thank you for writing your post, I don’t feel so alone now.

    • Sue says:

      Hi Chloe, you mentioned that you feel like your mom is still like a voice bringing your self-image down,etc. Something that has helped me so much is the work of Peter Gerlach at sfhelp.org where he breaks down the therapy called IFS- Inner Family Systems. Discovered by Richard Schwartz not long ago, it is a phenomenonal idea that has helped me understand my negative thoughts or “self-talk” about myself or my shortcomings. Before discovering my “inner family,” I just put-up with terrible shame over any little thing I thought I had done wrong or had irrational fears etc. Now, however, I have a method of quickly discovering why I’m feeling or thinking such untrue things about myself, and getting my True Self – the wise part we all have inside – back in control and back to feeling clear, optimistic, compassionate and curious.

  7. Sandra says:

    Funny, the women I see with many ‘friends’ tend to not always be the nicest people. Often times, its about what you HAVE and your experiences I.e. cottage, shalet, trips, etc. Not really because you’re a great friend. We live in a very materialistic society and the closer to the big city you are, the worse it is. Sometimes its better to be true to yourself and have 1 true friend then follow these types of women and have 1000 pretentious friends. Be strong and keep reaching out.

    • Ann says:

      Something about what you say rings very, very true!

      And if you feel compelled somehow to not be your “true” self, then you have to wonder what person the people you call friends are friends with?

      In any case, life is way too short for (true) “frenemies” (imho).

  8. lb says:

    Women over analyze EVERYTHING. And I mean everything and that makes a horrible combination when you get two or three women together. I’ve noticed that men can get together on a whim, or invite their best friend over the day of. Women always have to think about whether the house is clean, do I have food and drinks for company , do I have a baby sitter,etc. etc. All things comes first before friendships. What we don’t realize is that most of that stuff doesn’t mean anything when it comes to friendships. I’ve had a situation where my boyfriend had planned a surprise dinner party for me. Three weeks in advance he invited all of our “couple’s” friends and many of our single friends. Most of the men showed up, and only one female came. These are common friends not just mine or his. He told me that the females all sent lengthy emails every single week saying things like,,,, I may,,depending on this and that and this and that, what attire,,should we bring anything, is it formal or informal and then at the last minute would say they CAN’T come. All the guys said definitively yes or no. He told me out right, he doesn’t know how I deal with them. The one thing I disagree with on most of these comments is that friendships don’t “JUST” happen. Just like marriages, you have to work on a friendship, you have to invest in a friendship. If the cleanliness of a house is more important than having a good friend over to talk, then guess what you are most likely not going to meet with your girlfriend much. We need to value the intimacy of a friendship more than our obsession with analyzing.

    • Darlene says:

      You are right lb, I smiled when I read your post! We women do make our own lives more complicated for ourselves. Men are smarter about these things, think

  9. Jenell says:

    No mention of asperger’s?

  10. karen15 says:

    Hi

    I have read most of these replies. And here is my input. What we have is what has been given to us from nature and from nurture. My mother nurtured me to be a ‘ghost’ and not a person of interest – i was the cleaner, the counsellor, the one who should be hidden, the one who did not need to be defended. my brother kept telling me i was adopted. and my father was off making money. my grandmother loved my brother – gave him everything but made me work for it. it was easier to hide then participate in the family. i was made a joke of consistently by my brother. my mother never went that issues – she thought it was sibling interaction. though she never had that when she was growing up. and basically she was ignored. i truly believe that my family had an enormous impact on me.

    nature – was i shy to begin with? I don’t believe any one is shy, i believe some are more introvert but can be loved out of that and i certainly wasn’t. it kept me in my place. I am a large woman – i passionately would rather be small but that will never happen. certainly experiences when i was very very young left profound scars. they are only coming to light

    the journey – my personality was reinforced by my ex husband who interacted well in the beginning when it was just him. the children came and he started to drift because my attention was on the children and that made him angry. he was playing around for years. If he had waited, he could have had a great long marriage but he got angry, he abandoned the family and was nasty about it. sort of like my brother…

    so now i fear relationships but yet i want someone to help me through this. friendships take time and many times they are false because they say one thing and do the opposite. everyone that i seem to know is looking out for themselves and do not really look at who actually might be suffering. i have asked to join things when i have been in real need but have been refused so it keeps hitting in the gut-

    but i will carry on after i have run it through my brain for about 2 days because i know that i am a worthy person and i can do things differently.
    it is my choice.

    • Lauren says:

      Yes, you are a worthy person Karen.I am sorry about your childhood. You were treated badly and you did not deserve that at all. YOu made a good point about nature or nurture. Yes, when it is nature AND nurture, the outcome can be so much more painful. You were treated badly, AND you were a sensitive child. That made it doubly difficult for you. As grown ups, we often tend to unconsciously repeat patterns from childhood.

      Have you ever thought of speaking to a therapist? This may be helpful, but if it is not possible, then do some research and reading yourself. There is a lot of good and helpful info on the internet and there is a good book entitled “Codependence …The Dance of Wounded Souls” by Robert Burney. It may be helpful to you.

      I wish you all the best,
      Lauren

    • Janie says:

      Karen, I agree with you totally. I too was a ghost & my 2 brothers seemed to be more important. My mother didn’t seem to like me & my dad was in the bars & not home till they divorced when I was young. I think the ghost will be with us till the day we die. I had years & years of therapy & it seemed to only make me angry about how I was treated. I don’t feel I got better permanently. I think the pain is embedded in us through out our adulthood & all the therapy in the world won’t change us. I love how some people think that is the end all answer to this pain. I had a horrible marriage that failed & an 18 year relationship that ended in his death. I have 2 boys that really don’t give a crap about me. I think I know why people move to Florida, not for the weather. Anyways I refuse to run away & don’t plan on any new friendships in the near future. I will keep shopping at thrift stores, riding my bike, gardening, going to festivals alone, fireworks alone, grocery shopping alone, walking my dog alone, crafting alone, etc. I never thought I would end up so alone in my senior years but here I am all Alone!

  11. Darlene says:

    Hi,
    Glad to have found this website, there are a lot of insights here.
    After reading these posts, I thought that I should give back to those here and share my journey….I was moved from place to place a lot as a child, my family life was full of stress, chaos and strife. Most of my energy was used up in coping with my family and trying to survive. I had few friends and no resources left over to learn how to make friends. Over the years, I had a few friends here and there, but struggled with loneliness and isolation. I am happily married, but felt like I needed more connections in my life.
    So….in my early 30’s I began trying to learn how to talk to people, by putting myself in positions at work and other places to be with other people, to observe what works for others, to try new things to get along. I’m not talking about being someone I am not, I’m talking about learning about how to connect and give myself a chance to become part of things. I chose people I felt were decent people, that’s critical and tried to open up a bit and to trust (very hard for me, as I can’t even trust my own parents). Slowly, with some therapy, gentle self evalutation (what works, what doesn’t) I discovered the person I should have always been. I am actually quite funny and likeable! Who knew?!? People like me, after all these years. Still a bit of a shock to realize that.
    Basically, I learned to like myself and to realize that I deserve good friends, then I learned how to communicate that to people. It isn’t about being someone you aren’t, or being fake, or anything of the sort. It’s about being yourself and having the tools and skills to connect with others. As hard as this journey has been, I wouldn’t go back for anything.
    All the best,
    Darlene

    • Jen says:

      Beautiful story Darlene! Ours are very similar! And so great of you to share how effective a path of therapy and gentle self awareness can be. It took me many winding years to realize that learning social skills is an avenue for my authentic self, and is not “being fake” at all. Very affirming and inspiring. Best wishes on your life journey!

    • Chloe says:

      Wow, that’s amazing, I would love to achieve this myself.
      I only got moved twice during my childhood but I too am a sensitive person. My brother went to boarding school and I didn’t, so we were treated differently, my mum says that they did what they thought was best for us both which i’m sure is true but now me and my brother don’t have a relationship, I adore him but I don’t think he is that bothered about me. also I had friends when I was little at primary school, but the older I have got the harder I have found it, at the moment I don’t really feel like I have any friends, a couple of people I see occasionally but I feel very lonely, especially when my husband has lots of good friends, I feel awkward in social situations, I try so hard to be friendly and interested in others but it just seems to be the same pattern over and over, I don’t think I have ever really known how to make friends. I just never feel like I fit in, which at the age of 37 is a bit too long I think. Darlene I would really appreciate some advice, I feel so bad about myself, almost sick with myself sometimes as I feel so flawed. I don’t know whether its me, my upbringing etc etc. i also had commitment phobia and worked with a therapist and go through it, my husband thinks it could be something to do with that? I so want to move on from this, I’ve had it for too long. any advice any of you can give me I would be so grateful.

      thanks so much Chloe xxx

      • Darlene says:

        Chloe, I was only a little younger than you when I began to figure this out. It can be done, seriously :). I doubt there is anything wrong with you that learning to like yourself and learning some social skills wouldn’t help.

        Thrilled that you are working with a therapist! From my own experiences and reading other stories on this blog, it doesn’t seem unusual to have trust or commitment issues, either. My suggestions would be:

        Look in the mirror and forgive yourself…you are a fine person with tonnes of potential.
        Find things to do that challenge you and that you enjoy, mastering something challenging does amazing things for your self esteem.
        Read…read and read…books that will help you understand yourself, maybe your therapist can suggest some. Books are meant to get you thinking, no one book has all the answers, but for me, each book I read gave me another piece of the my puzzle.
        Stop looking at how many friends you have or don’t have. Instead, put yourself in a position to simply enjoy chatting with others, no agenda other than to learn to relax and enjoy. I did this with some nice folks at work, to work on my social skills. If you feel that this area is lacking in your life, there are books to help with social skills for adults too.
        Watch your husband and get clues from his successes, men and women aren’t exactly the same, but he has mastered some things, you can learn from this and apply it in your own way.
        Be patient and kind with yourself.

        Every single bit of progress will slowly build, you will fail here and there, but if you are open, those experiences also teach valuable lessons, especially if you look at them as lessons, rather than something to feel down on yourself about.

        I hope this isn’t too preachy, but I believe that anyone can improve their social situation and be happier about that part of your life, I really do. The effort is so worth it, I look back and am deeply thankful that I dug in and figured this out.
        All the best to you!!

        • Chloe says:

          Hi Darlene,

          Having a set back :( I don’t belive I can do this, I have tried so many things so many times. I had such a good few days but then my mum was to nice, I had a few rows with my husband and some people at work were weird, all these things have got me feeling really bad about myself again. No wonder I don’t have many friends, I’m so up and down. I don’t really respect myself so why would anyone else. I feel sick at myself, I just wish there was something that could actually help, not just for a few days or weeks. Anyway sorry for the not very positive message, feeling quite low :(

          • Darlene says:

            Chloe, I cant tell you how many setbacks I had over the years. It’s okay, really and I mean really :). So, it sounds like a few things have knocked you off balance, tested the fledgling self confidence you have and you feel bad again.

            It’s going to happen, over and over and all you’ll want to do is crawl in your hole and give up. Don’t! Instead, soothe yourself by having something nice happen, while you feel this way. Walk the dog, play with your daughter, read a funny book, watch a funny movie. Then, when you feel a bit better, learn from what happened. What exactly happened and why exactly did it knock you off balance. What button did it push? Understanding and awareness is key to mastering some coping skills.

            Over time, you will need these skills less and less, because you will have a more stable sense of worth.. I used to experience pretty much the exact thing, feeling good because some good things were going on, then bad because some bad stuff happened. The key is to figure out why the external world has too much control of you, as it did me. One book I can suggest is codependent no more. I can get the exact title if that isn’t enough. Really helped me with this part of my problem.

            You can do this, Chloe, but it is going to be challenging at times…exhilarating at others. Hang in there, okay?

          • Darlene says:

            Hi Chloe,

            I hope you are okay, I know how hard things can be sometimes.

            Thinking of you.

  12. Edna says:

    I can’t count the number of times my family moved when I was a child, and I know I went to at least 12 schools before grade 9. I’m also an introvert. I tend to appreciate deep, close one-on-one friendships; I’m not much for a ‘girl’s night out’, in fact, I don’t know what I would do if in that situation. Anyway, ten years ago I moved with my husband for his job, and I have been lonely and sad ever since. I work outside the home, and I’m not afraid to join new clubs or to talk to strangers. I’m pleasant–funny, even, and it seems that people want to be my friend. I get invited out often. But I don’t connect to anyone that I meet, so eventually, the calling, the texting, and the emailing from these wonderful women stop. I’m not sure what to do, because, like I said above, I feel lonely and sad almost daily. I want friends, but I don’t want the ‘lightness’ of a casual friendship. I want to feel a connection like I use to have, but I think as you get older, your friendships change and becomes lunch, the gym, dinner etc. You don’t have the deep conversations anymore. BTW- thank you for your site and article. :)

    • Kay Geeguardia says:

      Friendship is like dating. Very rarely, you can skip all the superficial “light” stuff and move directly to intimacy and have that work out. More often, you need to “date” first and build up to more intimate friendships. Like you, I’m an introvert but I can muster extroversion when I’m motivated to. I suggest you put on your most extroverted self and make the effort to go to the events, be part of the activities, and then plan your follow up with the women who interest you most. Be the one to suggest and invite, give it time, and see what grows.

  13. Jen says:

    This is for Islandgirl,

    Hi! I am writing back to your most recent message on my email, but didn’t see it on the blog. So I just hit “respond” and hopefully you will get this….

    Perhaps your area has a higher cost of living? I can’t remember if you mentioned where you live. The midwest in the United States is not too bad. But you are right, it is a BIG challenge! We cook a lot from scratch, hardly EVER shop (!) and when I do, almost everything is used, from Goodwill or Salvation Army or yard sales (except unders and shoes). And nobody knows the difference as long as our clothes are clean LOL. We also get used cars and are blessed that my hubbie can walk to work if/when the car breaks down. The kids have tons of used toys, games, books, etc. We get used bikes from yard sales, etc. The only time it gets really stressful is if a necessary appliance breaks down and sometimes with medical bills. We are so grateful for all we have and don’t need to live like Martha Stewart. ha ha Hope you are getting along o.k. Best wishes.

    • Islandgirl says:

      Hi Jen,

      I’m still trying to figure out how to get around in this site. I don’t know what you mean that you didn’t see my reply on the blog? I see it.

      I do live in a high-cost area. I no longer teach as I’m on disability for chronic illness and chronic pain.

      I’m super impressed with how well you’re doing with managing your family finances and lifestyle, and I’m glad it’s easier for you to do that in the midwest. The other thing is, because of my health issues, I have a lot of expenses that I can’t control.

      I sure do miss teaching though. I love kids. I taught 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades at a public school. What do you teach?

      Islandgirl

  14. Karen says:

    Hi
    I’ve read a number of your comments about the challenge of making and keeping friends and this blog inspired me to start up a meetup group here in Auckland, New Zealand for women wanting to make new friends.
    In less than 2 weeks the group has grown to 82 so there is certainly a need out there.
    A group of 12 of us met for the first time last Saturday at a local cafe and it was great. There’s been lots of positive feedback.
    If you haven’t heard of it meetup.com is a worldwide organisation where people can meet others with similar interests. You can find a group and join it or start up your own if you like.
    Best wishes
    Karen

  15. Islandgirl says:

    Throughout my life, I’ve had friends at times, and at other times, I’ve had to go it alone. I think this is normal and natural given human nature and the changing seasons of our lives. This forum really makes me think more about my past friendships and when I could have been a better friend to others, and why so many of my friendships came to an end. I can see myself in so many of the stories here.

    One thing that sometimes happened to me that might help explain why some of you feel baffled about being left out, is that I have had friends whom I’ve gotten close to, who didn’t want me to be friends with anyone else but them. I know that sounds like elementary school stuff, but believe me, some women are still that way even as adults. Sometimes I chose to drop friends who imposed that kind of ownership on me, but other times, I chose to stay friends with the person, and I would be distant with everyone else.

    Personally, I don’t play games like this with people, but I had no problem accepting the fact that others do, and if I wanted to be their friend, that was the stipulation.

    I think this is why I understand when established friends won’t let me in. It’s human nature….

    “You say why? why? Tell them that it’s human nature. Why? Why? do they do me that way?” – Michael Jackson

    Now I’m chronically ill and in constant chronic pain and I can’t have normal friendships anymore, except for a few email buddies who are in a similar situation. It’s too bad, but that’s just part of life, I guess. For one thing, I’m up all night and I sleep all day, and that’s just one of the reasons I don’t fit in with the mainstream and can’t maintain a friendship in the real world.

    It has been interesting to me to see the same social dynamics play out on the forums I’ve joined for my illnesses. We usually never even knew what each other looked like and yet the same social crap played out over and over again, and that has really made me think. I guess this is just the way people are. Human nature. Heh.

    I’ve gotten solace from reading about Sister Wendy. She’s the nun who taught about art on PBS. Google her interviews, or check her out on YouTube, if you’re interested. Try typing ‘Sister Wendy living alone’ into Google. She seems to have being alone down to an art. I find her to be very inspirational. Maybe her story will help others here too.

    I hope those of you who want friendships will find them soon.

    • Jen says:

      Ilsandgirl,

      You are right, there are people who get very possessive. I had a couple of friends like that in the course of my life and I felt very choked. I totally understand the human nature there, when we find something we like or that’s good, we want to hang on to it and don’t want it taken away. Friendship just really can’t be that, b/c we can’t control others and make them our emotional or phsychological prisoners for our own sense of safety. Friendship by it’s very nature (I believe) is fragile and unpredictable. True friendship is sometimes wounding, sometimes gratifying and above all, is NOT for sissies (insult not intended). So we arm ourselves with a sense of humor, we comfort ourselves when people leave or betray us, we remember we are the only ultimate “steady” in our lives. Even spouses can be hurtful and leave us, as many have experienced. I am in a place in my life where the wounds piled up and got to be too much, so I stepped back. Some solitude has been great, but too much has been lonely and a pain in the rear end. So I am praying and trying to go where the Lord leads me. I am very sorry for your suffering. I suffered for 9 years b/c of mold in our house. We thought we got it all about 6 years ago, b/c we did a remediation and couldn’t find anymore. But after these past 6 more years of suffering horribly, we FINALLY figured out it was just too high of a level of mold for me and was making me terribly ill (the rest of my family has been fine). All it took was putting a few dehumidifiers in our house, which we just recently did, so I am coming out of it and feeling better, praise God!! I feel like a million after years of deteriorating health, and thinking I wasn’t going to make it thru. I hope your situation improves!! I appreciate the “pen pals” here. Thank you for your insights and wisdom. God bless you!!!!

      • Islandgirl says:

        Hi Jen,

        Thanks for your reply. What you’ve written about friendship here really helps me and rings true to me. I’m sorry to hear you’re going through similar circumstances too. You seem to have gained a lot of wisdom from your experiences and I admire that.

        I’m so glad you were able to identify that mold was at the root of your health issue and that you were able to get to remedy it with humidifiers. That’s awesome. Isn’t it amazing that some folks react that way to mold, when others in the same household have no problem with it? I’ve heard about many others with that same issue. I don’t think they knew to try humidifiers though, that’s good to know.

        Thanks so much for your support, too. :)

      • Nathalie says:

        Jen, you worded such a complicated concept so eloquently and simply. Thank you. It really does seem to boil down to what you describe and I resonate with. Personally, I don’t push or force anything. I believe the right people will appear in my life at the right time, as I will appear for them in theirs’. I witness way to many people fill their lives with empty friendships in hopes of obliterating loneliness, when really, only we can do that. I’ve recently realized: Love yourself, be your own fried….the rest will fall into place…

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