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Ask the Friendship Doctor

Why would someone have no friends?

There are a host of reasons why some people have no friends…and it is more common than you might think.

QUESTION

Hi there,

I am so happy to have found your blog! I have a problem that has been ongoing for my entire life, pretty much. I have no friends. Well, let me restate that: I have no friends who keep in touch without me doing all the effort and even then it is spotty! I am 35 years old.

A little history, in case it is applicable to my current problem: in middle school, I had a very close best friend but she dumped me, which was really tough. Then, in high school and into college I had some best friends that I ended up dumping abruptly over the littlest thing, which I have since realized was due to trust issues that I have worked through now. So why can’t I keep friends?

I have a group of three friends whom I have known since I was about 21. They don’t call me or email me really, but if I email and rally everyone for a get together we have fun… but then nothing. And I hear from them that they have gotten together in the meantime. I don’t get it- what is wrong with me?

Around the neighborhood I chat, make meals for the new moms, etc. but then nothing. And the other moms get together without me. I have female cousins who are really great, we have fun when we are together—but they never call or ask me to get together. It always has to be me.

The fact that this is a pattern in all my female friendships troubles me and makes me think that I am doing something wrong, but I don’t know what. I am a caring person and go out of my way to ask people about their lives when I am having conversations. My therapist has said that there is nothing wrong with having to be the one to always initiate a get together, but then I see my others who have a group of close friends who get together and really support each other, and I wonder, why not me?

I am an only child and sometimes just feel very alone. Other times I feel okay with having no friends. But all in all, I wish it were different. Do you have any advice for me?

Signed,
Amanda

ANSWER

Hi Amanda,

Ouch! It sounds like you feel like you’re a pariah. It’s impossible to guess why your friendships don’t “stick” and there’s no uptake by others but the problem seems to be a pattern rather than a one-time occurrence—and something you want to change.

Can you self-identify your specific problem (s)? Here are some of the possibilities why people don’t have close reciprocal relationships with friends. I’m sure other readers will add to the list.

Temperament – Are you shy and uncomfortable around people? This can make people around you feel uncomfortable too.

Insecurity – Do you feel like you can’t measure up to the people you want as friends? Are you able to trust other people? These may be barriers that create distance between you and your friends.

Preference – Are you introverted? When push comes to shove, do you actually prefer being alone rather than spending time with friends? Do you think people know this when they’re around you? Or, are you extraordinarily social—so preoccupied with making lots of acquaintances that you lose out on making close friendships?

Psychological Issues – Do you have a history of difficulty establishing intimate relationships with others? Are you uncomfortable with people knowing the real you?

Lack of Experience – Regardless of age, some people lack the skills needed to make and maintain friendships. Do you think you have what it takes to be a good friend?

Situational Obstacles – Do you live in a geographical area where it is particularly difficult to connect with people? This might include living someplace rural where there are few people or because of a history of frequent moves, being someplace where you feel like an outsider.

Disabilities – Do you have a mental or physical disability? Unfortunately, because of stigma, people shun individuals with mental or physical disabilities. In addition, being homebound can limit the opportunity to make friends.

Personality – Is there something about you that others find grating? Are you too needy? Too pushy? Too talkative? Too controlling? Are you fiercely independent—wanting to call all the shots regarding what, when and where? Sometimes, there is something off-putting about a person’s behavior and the individual lacks awareness of the problem.

Communication Style – Do you respond to your friend’s overtures as well as initiate contact? Are you available on line or by phone, depending on your friend’s preferred mode of communication.

Time Management Problems – Do you have a hard time juggling all the responsibilities and demands placed on you? Do you consider making time for friends selfish or frivolous?

Unrealistic expectations – Have you led your friends to believe that you will always do the organizing? Do you have an unrealistic, romanticized notion of friendship? Do you expect all friendships to be perfect and last forever?

Talking to an objective third party is a good way to gain insight into something you can’t figure out about yourself. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a therapist; it could be your spouse, a sibling, or someone else you trust.

Since you are already in therapy, perhaps this list will provide a useful starting point to explore various possibilities with your therapist. I agree that something is amiss given the scenario you have described and your desire for more reciprocal friendships.

Hope this is helpful.

Warm regards,
Irene


Prior blog posts that touch upon having no friends:

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Category: HAVING NO FRIENDS

Comments (4,069)

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  1. Sunny says:

    I have very similar story to original story by Amanda. I cannot figure out what is it in me that I cannot have friends.

  2. Shell says:

    Hi Amanda I’m in the same boat as you I had friends who turned and to just wanna bully me in the end they wouldn’t even talk to me but only laugh out me … Again I was the one trying to fit in I left school and made some friends but again pushed out they never called me nor came over I’ve done it all … And these days I’ve moved to a place I don’t know to be with my partner I’ve no friends I don’t really go out no one to talk to but the walls … I’d love to have what other people have in friends but I just don’t think my face fits I’m easy going and will help anybody if I can …. Even my own mum has done the same to me my dad doesn’t really say much … My sister and boys only wanna know when they want something …. So in all I live in a place I’m unhappy with no friends and no family and a partner that talks to me like I’m something on his shoe that’s it really … I’m a nobody and not missed xxxx

    • Ellie says:

      Hi Shell, I can also relate. I don’t tolerate two-faced frienemies and bullies. Unfortunately, my experience of friendship so far is controlling, wolf-dressed-in-sheep’s clothing types. I wonder about what you’ve said and if you’re a very honest person, perhaps very pretty and just a generally lovely person. Although long term male friends have been difficult to make because of the obvious challenges around knowing for certain they’re platonic (unless they’re gay, of course), female friends have been impossible to make because even if they start off ok they become critical, snarky, spiteful and sabotage within a short space of time. Those sorts of friendships are not healthy and I won’t stay around dysfunctional people because I’m not afraid of being without friends. It would just be nice to have them. A lot of people, even those who enjoy a lot of solitude, like to have friends and it doesn’t mean you’re not a rounded person with your own interests or needy. It’s part of what makes life more enjoyable, even if you’re perfectly capable of being alone for long periods and you’re happy in your own company. I’m very independent, intelligent and educated but it can just be a lack of compatibility in terms of interests. I met one woman years ago who I didn’t pursue a friendship with – but neither did she – who’s company I enjoyed who it might have worked out with had I had the life experience behind me I now have. I met one other woman who was also well educated and we shared our passion for psychology but circumstances didn’t permit a friendship due to the requirement to maintain professional boundaries. It’s unlike me ignore boundaries, but in hindsight I think she might have been worth the risk. Who knows, it might have backfired as it often does but now I’m older I think sometimes risks are worth taking even if you get burned once or twice. My assessment about people I meet is spot on these days, but back then I had less life experience and that lost me a couple of opportunities. I think it’s important to be honest about what we want from friendship and not try to fit in or people please. I hope you find friends soon and don’t forget to join us on Facebook.

      • Ellie says:

        Meant to add to the comment about you being honest, pretty and lovely – that maybe that’s the issue for the bullies in your life who are insecure and dislike seeing those positive qualities in you. It can also be why some people don’t want to be friends with you. Jealousy is less obvious but more common than a lot of people realise.

  3. L.B says:

    I am 22 years old and in my 4th year of college doing a post graduate degree. I have anxiety which is well controlled (I think?) with medication. I am also an only child. From the time I was a kid I have had problem making and keeping friends. Even at school I am often excluded from group work (last one picked) or am the last one to have a partner to work with. I have tried…..I invite, offer, organize, am friendly and try to be positive…..all of this gets me nowhere. I have now retreated and decided that I will keep to myself. Nothing else seems to work so I am trying hard to concentrate on school and not much else. I am worried about my upcoming co-op placement. If I feel this much rejection from people who I am familiar with what will it be like with total strangers. I just have no idea what I can do differently and its discouraging. If it wasn’t for my boyfriend (3 years plus) I would have nobody at this point.My mom is my best friend and biggest cheerleader but whose mom isn’t lol. Social media like facebook just attacks my confidence. I post things and despite having 500 fb “friends” will have no likes or comments. Other people in my program post 1 thing and I see them get instant responses and likes. I know FB is vapid but it is the unfortunate territory of social interactions for Millenials. I am just looking for someone to reach out to me.

  4. Bridget says:

    Thanks DarleneH for your positive comments. As my mother used to say… “No one can make you unhappy unless you let them>”
    She is soooo right and I try to think that way. Doen’t always make it, but I try.

    I had an aunt who loved to discuss the history of the universe, creation and deep interesting talks. As others hve said my conversation pieces are not the general gab fest. I do enjoy talking with those who like the shows I like. We have good conversations.

    My vocabulary level was college in the 7th grade.The way I talk seems normal to me. Thanks again. :) Happy face and giggles.

  5. Kays says:

    Thank you Irene,
    Yes I’m new here & I was just warning Sue ,I don’t want to make friends,may be later.
    I don’t trust facebook,it is full of hackers.I’m just confused because I don’t know what or who to trust now.I just like this blog it keeps me busy.
    Thank you once more for your kindness.

  6. Kays says:

    Hi Sue,
    It is good to make friends online,but be careful,this world is full of evil & some people are not what we see them.
    I don’t know this blog either but some sites have people who are not what they look on pics we see, so as you are looking for friends,pray over it you find real people.
    I was almost scammed,but thank God I survived that.
    Stay safe & be blessed.

  7. Kays says:

    Hi Sandra,
    Sorry,I’m new here & I have been enjoying people’s comments which are now keeping me busy, though I don’t complain of not having friends now.
    I tried as well to make friends but I only found wrong ones who were not honest & some landed me into trouble,that has made me be alone now.I feel bored with no friends but I have accepted the way things are to avoid what I went through.
    Friends are not easy to make & trust,so don’t feel bad about that,you @ least have a husband to talk to when you are bored,now imagine I have no husband,mom & my sisters have gone back & I’m just alone.Getting used though….Smile & take time to find a true friend because some mmmmmh it is bad news!!
    Stay safe & be blessed.

  8. Sandra says:

    I’m about to turn 41 and I too have no “friends.” If I ever want to do something with someone it’s usually my sisters, aunt, or mom but even that is rare and far between. This was really never an issue until I got married and had kids. I think this happens to a lot of us because we get busy with our family. It would be nice to have someone to grab a drink with after work. Or go shopping, even if it’s just window shopping or just have lunch. Just someone to hang out with. In the last few years I’ve attempted to build friendships but they have all been a fail. I have finally decided that I rub people the wrong way and have given up. Also my marriage is not the greatest so this on top of being friendless makes me feel alone and bored. Because of this I’ve learned to do things by myself. I go do my nails, get my hair done, shop, enjoy a glass of wine (or two) by myself, even go to the movies on my own, and etc. I would love to have someone to do these things with but I figured if I sit around and wait for that, life is just going to pass me by.

  9. Sandra says:

    I’m about to turn 41 and I too have no “friends”. I never really had an issue until I got married and had children. I think this happens to so many of us because we get so busy with our families. If I ever want to hang out with someone it’s either my sisters or my aunt or mom but even that is rare and far between. Also I would love to have someone that I can go grab a drink with after work. Or go shopping even if it’s just window shopping. Or have lunch, get nails done etc. Just someone to hang out with. It’s just hard to find someone you click with. In the last few year I’ve attempted to form friendships but they’ve all been a fail. I’ve finally decided that I just rub people the wrong way and have given up. Also my marriage is not the greatest so having no friends on top of that makes me feel even more alone and bored. Because of this I’ve decided to become my own best friend. I go get my nails done, my hair done, shopping, even go to the movies by myself, etc. I’ll even enjoy a glass of wine (or two) by myself. It would be nice to have friends to do things with but I figured if I wait for that to happen, life is just going to pass me by.

  10. Lalanonymous says:

    I’m at the point where I wish I didn’t have any friends. There is a freedom in having only acquaintances, no bosom buddies. While I don’t struggle with the word “NO,” I struggle with being extremely loyal and extremely guilt-ridden. I am unsatisfied with the friendships I have, but I feel that I can’t ditch them because they could be a lot worse. The problem is that I still don’t want to hang out with people who I’m unsatisfied with, so I try to put off gatherings and meetups. Then, the loyalty and guilt kicks in, so I know that after saying “no, I won’t be able to go” 5 times, I’ll eventually have to say yes. Then, by saying yes once, I know I’ll have to say yes another time in the future. I just want all of them to completely disappear so I won’t continue this cycle of guilt and loyalty. I know I need to put myself first but I just don’t know how when I have this cycle of struggle. What’s ironic about this situation is that I didn’t realize how unsatisfied I have been with my friendships until I made a stronger effort with them in 2014/2015.

    • Jt says:

      Hi Lalanonymous,
      I would advise you to be careful what you wish for. I was in a similar situation and pulled away from those I felt obligated to and dissatisfied with. All you end up with is no one. It is very lonely, it is very hard. Yes, it is freeing to only have acquaintances, but it also means you have a lot less understanding and love in your life. If you make friends easily, take that for the blessing it is. Read any blog on here- most of us desperately want that ability.

  11. Melissa says:

    Wow, the more I read the posts, I feel more okay. It’s always true though and my mother always said this to me..Don’t ever be upset about what you don’t have b/c, it’s what you do have is what you need to be grateful for. Well, I am grateful and I miss my mother every single day as she was my light and inspiration. I have had, what I thought, were a couple good friends. Of course, time takes away everything or maybe it is space. I don’t know. I do know that each of us creates what we live in and with. I have chosen to seclude myself b/c I did, at one time, not do that. It has its ebbs and tides. We all go through times that challenge us and they are there for the lessons we need to learn. I do want friends now and feel that glimmer of hope within myself to go back out there and find some happiness. I just wish it were easier, but then again, nothing ventured, nothing gained…JMO

    • Ellie says:

      My empathy goes out to you for the loss of your mother. I am glad she was your inspiration. It’s also good that you appreciate everything you have and are focused on those rather than what you don’t have or perceive yourself as not having. We don’t all create what we live in and with. Some people are disabled with long term illnesses and cannot control other people’s perceptions of them and reactions to them. Many of these reactions and perceptions are based on erroneous assumptions and their unwillingness to understand and communicate, so why they choose to unfriend them because they’re no longer able to partake in activities in the same ways they used to is nothing to do with the disabled ill person who finds themselves abandoned. Some people have no family, some people experience jealousy, petty ostracising behaviour and others are misunderstood because a lot of people are judgmental. With insight, it gets easier to see why people end up with no friends but frequently they did not create that situation. In fact, after reading many of the comments on here it is clear that many people without friends have made a tremendous effort to make themselves available for friendships but due to a variety of circumstances this just hasn’t happened for them.

  12. Kays says:

    I don’t know why people become depressed when they have no friends,I feel it lessens problems some untrue friends can create.
    I once tried to make friends but alas,I brought problems near me.The only friends I have now are my mum & sisters only.
    This world is full of evil & so difficult to make friends,I want friends but I meet wrong people.

    • Rachelle says:

      I totally agree with you!

    • Sue says:

      Looking to make friends in ct or anywhere

      • Sue says:

        I always had a lot of friends, until I started dating, then my priority was about them, I am 60 years old divorced, 2 grown sons, I have family and that’s it. I no longer date men. I want a couple of good female friends. I live in ct. Sue

    • Anon says:

      Kays, I stopped hanging out with my group of friends last year from March-may. Just a slow drift off because they were solely concerned with partying and sleeping around and clubs, no reciprocal texts, invited etc, only me who was making an effort, when I did get a text it was because they needed something (ex. After no contact for a few weeks, One of my best friends from middle/high school who went to college out of town texts me and says hey will you take the online math entrance test for the community college I’m going to this summer, I’ll pay you. Keep in mind for that since we were 13 years old we’ve been best friends and spent at least 2-4 nights a week with each other for 4+ years in highschool). I had to let these three girls go. I’m a nursing student and when two of them do drugs and have shitty jobs and no aspirations and I do. I had to remove myself for personal/my future reasons. i would text the other girl (from above math test) and ask when she would be in town and she would say this day and I would be super excited and say we need to meet up and hang out just text me when you get settled and we can make plans she would agree but would never tell me when she came in town or make plans. I would see her hanging out with the other girl in our group (one of the ones from above who I dropped for doing drugs) on Facebook and would text her and be like hey I saw on Facebook you were in town! Wanna hang out or go do something? There would always be an excuse I’m going to see my mom, I won’t be able to hang out or I’m going back early. You know through all the stress and sadness it caused me having to quit being friends with girls I had been friends with for close to 8-10 years. The one girl with severe meth addiction had been one of my best friends since I was 7 years old. I’m fucking 20. However, let me say that yes I am in a MUCH BETTER place in life, I’m not used, ignored or walked on, but I have no friends now. And it is the most depressing lonely experiences of my life. I’m not an attention whore. I’m quality WAY over quantity. I’ve had acquaintances from classes and such but those 3 were supposed to be forever, bridesmaids, old ladies ramming into each other’s wheel chairs type shit. But now, I’m about to start my junior year in college and everyone has their own clique and friends and I have a few acquaintances from highschool and classes that I speak to on the go at school and I try to make a deeper connection with the girls and they seem receptive in person but over the phone it’s bare minimum replies to a convo that I start. Half the time we will be in the middle of a convo and We’ll get on the subject of the gym or something and they will offer it out that they like to go so obviously wanting to be friends I say let’s set up some times to meet i really need to get in shape I get no reply. I try to talk to people and be receptive to them and be nice and not overly obsessive I don’t double text if I don’t get a reply.
      I don’t text 16739 times a day or week. I don’t confront these girls on how they act, I don’t stalk them on social media, I don’t overly like their things and rarely ever comment, Maybe they don’t want to be seen in public with me or whatever but I don’t see why I mean I’m not drop dead gorgeous, but I’m decently pretty/average looking, I have great hygiene, small amount of acne on chin, not an oily mess, I know it seems like the over thinking could be a problem hindering me in convos, but I’m literally throwing out all options right now trying to think why I have problems maintaining friendships because I’m a decently funny person who contributes to the conversations, nice person and listens and genuinely responds to convo. I don’t make things about me, I ask them about things in which they mentioned in previous convos to let them know I’m genuinely interested in being a friend. I know this turned into a book, kinda just needed to get this off my chest.. What I’m saying is it can drive you nuts when you try to be the “best friend” by incorporating actions that people would want their friends to exhibit. Having no friends is so lonely and depressing especially in college. I literally go to school and come home every day and do homework and play YouTubers just to hear human voices.. It’s the same with my family, I make the effort and I get NOTHING in return in fact my family acts worse than the people I try to be friends with. I text my
      Female cousin wanting to hang out she says she’s not home but that I can come over when she gets home. She gets home and I never receive a text and haven’t talked to her since (3 weeks ago) I feel like I’m a bother even though I don’t text all that often bc I want them to know I care and want to see them with out being overly clingy.
      If it wasn’t for my super supportive loving boyfriend I seriously don’t know if I would even be alive at this point. He’s the sunshine in my life. I’m forever grateful. He’s the only thing easing the pain and anxiety.

      • DarleneH says:

        Anon, you sound like a person who can definitely make friends. You want to get along, you are willing to try lots of approaches. You are doing something worthwhile with your life. You have lots of the pieces in place.

        What could be missing is self confidence and polishing your social skills. People can sense any level of neediness in others and it makes most people uncomfortable, they will avoid that. Reading between the lines a bit, it sounds possible.

        Everyone feels unsure of themselves at times, believe me. I’ve yet to meet anyone who is completely self assured all the time, especially around people they don’t know. But, self confident people get comfortable and make connections quickly. Partly, I think, because they expect that things will be okay and that they don’t have any expectations of others, aside from a friendly conversation. People are naturally drawn to that, I think.

        I would suggest trying to find things to do that you really enjoy, that build your confidence. Forget making friends for the time being, just do things that help build you up and grow as a person. Join a climbing gym, push your envelope a bit. You can also learn about social skills from books, a therapist, the Internet, etc. Be a student in this part of your life, it’s very worth the effort. And, if this feels like too much for you to tackle, maybe consider counselling, that can really help as well. All the best to you, you sound like a very nice person. :)

  13. Kina says:

    I have acquaintances…unfortunately. I want world peace and I want to give my last to whoever needs. My complextion is brown and yes I know my history but I don’t hate non brown people. So clearly I’m not petty. Hate when brown people ask why. The malarkey????

    I guess I’m an observer. If gossiping occurs I keep my distance while giving the side eye. I’m sensitive to other people’s feeling. So bulling and belittling is a no no.

    I have no friends. Growing up all that was around was weirdness and I’m not weird so I was like nahh I’ll be by my lonesome. Where are all the cool laid back world peacers that don’t smoke crack!? Like in the movies!

    Any way I just want3 best friends???? one day????

  14. Joe says:

    Wow, after reading that depressing post my life doesn’t seem so bad…So what, I’m a loner I guess… That war ruined a lot of peoples lives… I had two Uncles that were in it, they both died years ago from problems related to drinking to much…

  15. Paul says:

    The last real friends I had was when I was in high school. Next I was in the military in Vietnam and having friends was not a good thing, that friend may not be back. Friends were rats, snakes, bugs and of course the viet cong.when I got married wife wasn’t ever happy with my choices. Always had some comment. After years I lost self confidence and just gave up trying. I also lost interest in wife and decided to hide. Now after all these years I have no real friends, nor do I care about the wife. Would feel much better without her. I’m 70 and I have had a horrible life.

  16. Joe says:

    I am 47 and right there with you Amanda. In High School I was one of the most popular guys and looking back it seemed like everyone wanted to be my friend… However, three decades later that is not the case. I have maybe three people that I could kind of refer to as friends, but not good friends and just like you explained the only time I see them or talk to them is if I initiate it and/or make it happen.
    I try to convince myself that I’m okay with not having any friends, but the truth of the matter is I hate it…

  17. tanishi says:

    I no friends at all at my school. Every swears at me and puts up there finger at me. they also say I have Ebola and a disgrace to the school.
    this all makes me upset and sad. this has been happening since year 7 till now in year 9 – the year I am in currently

    • C.j.M says:

      Sorry to hear about that. That is bullying. You shouldn’t have to live like that, Tanishi. I’m sure you are a good person and a kind soul and you deserve much much better. Do your parents know about this sort of behaviour from other students? Does your teacher know? From my own experience, most of the teachers didn’t care and told me to “just deal with it”. Things may or may not be different these days. Although I had one very good teacher who cared, and was there and believed me even when no one else did. He was a great guy and he helped me when it really meant the world to me. I was feeling low and he gave me faith that there are some good people. I had an experience like yours and I know how you feel. It crushes your spirit, your soul, your heart and your potential in life. Do something about it now while you still can. Don’t let it continue, ruin your education and destroy your hopes and dreams. If I could, I would’ve sued for what I went through back then. And even though I struggled psychologically and emotionally for a very long time, I’ve forgiven those people today. People just don’t seem to understand how much bullying can affect a person throughout their entire life. And that’s really sad.

      • Melissa says:

        I think you missed my point..I was not saying that all is included in that creating our own messes..Yes, there are very disabled people who I know and I do know they cannot help what has transpired…I also know many who have had the epitome of bullying going on..I was bullied in school b/c I am a masculine looking woman and was always called sir and mister…Really bad on the ego for sure…I was referring to those who CAN control things allowing obstacles to get in their way…I can say i am more of a procrastinator than a doer, but i try not to be…I also have had other inspirations from friends I had who have since passed, that told me that it is NEVER too late for anyone to try to do things…I saw the guy on TV this morning who is 86 and doing lawn care, etc. It’s a mental thing too…My mother was a great inspiration for me to not allow myself to always feel left out or angry or just try to be happy for the moments you have right now…So, I try…I am sorry if I offended anyone with my blanket comment..I meant no harm…

        • C.j.M says:

          Sorry Melissa. I think you meant to post that to Ellie.

        • Ellie says:

          No, I didn’t miss your point. “Each of us….” is general. If you had said: “Some people” or “I”, that would have given your comment context. However, I do appreciate your amendment to the post stating you meant “to those who CAN control things”. Sometimes control can be a bit of an illusion, after all, we cannot control other people’s responses and reactions to us. Some pro ple are going to actively show disinterest, react negatively – e.g. an unwillingness to appreciate our positive qualities and incessantly seeking fault or will be exploitative – or maybe they will just be indifferent, so that no matter how much effort we make to expose ourselves positively to opportunities to make friends they choose to not be friends in a health way or at all.

      • Kina says:

        I agree.

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