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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 (4,429)

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  1. Heidi says:

    I dunno. All of it strikes a chord with me, I am sorry to say. Listening to Joyce Meyer (televangelist) today and she said if we are continually struggling with a problem, and it is not sorting itself out, take a break, and soak in the Word of God daily and let it wash over us. All I can do! Currently, I spent money to pay for a future daughter-in-law’s shower, plus a very big gift and she didn’t speak to me at the shower and when I went over to her, she rolled her eyes and laughed at me. Me? I hardly ever see her, have never bothered her at all, am always polite and friendly to her. I am a friendly person, well-groomed and attractive and I enjoy and appreciate other people’s good qualities. She is spoiled, arrogant and she is marrying a great guy in my son, whom we produced! Talk about ungrateful. A pox on her house, I say!

    • LauraSL says:

      Your DIL is going to be your pipeline to your son and your future grandchildren. Maybe her behavior will change as she matures? I would take the high road, be kind to her , and model good behavior.

  2. Gypsy says:

    I divorced after 20 yrs. Lonely in marriage. Bad move as I lost everything. Including my kids love for several years. Moved back to home area and live with and care for narc dad and alcoholic mom. I tried making friends but this area of people seem to think I am effed up. Not where I used to live, though. Scared of angry people. I try not to confront people when they blow me off because they get mad and dont feel they have to be accountable. So I ignore it and they steamroll me and I get repeat performances. In therapy and I am pangender. Went back to school and working on MA. People at work are mostly younger and completely intentionally exclude me from conversations to carpooling. One woman my age has decided I am smart and might ruin her rep as the queen know it all and has ousted me over and over. Ended up in mobbing behavior by other more younger co workers who are afraid of her. My boss is scared of her too. She wont help me. I hate my life and I pray God will give us all what we need in love and support

  3. Gilbert says:

    Am so lonely and alone sometimes i think if i died in my room now it would take 3 years for people to discover am dead. Like no one calls me to check on me. Am an introvert surely but have never learned to live with it. I’ve tried to connect with those around me, joined clubs to socialize but it seems only to be getting worse, and when i get disappointed i extend further away from people, i’ve tried drinking it off, smoked a lot of cigarettes, slept a lot, but this makes my situation worse. The other day bandits broke into my room and took staff but no one checked on me, my neighbors didn’t even bother. I felt like committing suicide but just dropped the idea. Always know you are not alone in this situation, but i believe God will make a way one day and people will look for us because they need something from us.

    • I used to have a life says:

      Hey Gilbert, I read your story bro and i see a few things i can relate to. First of all im glad you decided against suicide and i hope you never ever follow through. secondly i want to thank you for saying such a simple line (that i for some reason never thought of) that i feel has helped me understand my own situation…Because i too am an introvert who hasnt yet fully learnt to live like one. I grew up on a busy council estate with lots of friends and i used to have a good social life with what i thought were lifetime friends (people i grew up with) but over the years being an introvert (without realising) slowly but surely killed off my normal way of living. things quickly started to go wrong in all aspects of my life and all the closest people in my life soon faded away. I fell into depression and buried my head like an ostrich to not only help deal with these strange uncontrollable feelings but also to hide it from people due to embarrassment. When i finally pulled my head up from the sand, i felt estranged from all my old closest friends, i have met up with a few since but i feel my situation has left me a shell of my former self and i find it hard to converse with them…everyday i struggle with self destructive feelings but i know after everything ive been through and underneath all the crappy thoughts i still have a vision of how i want my life to be and i can see you haven’t given up too. I imagine there are millions of people in a similar situation, some keep pushing through until they get where they want to be and some unfortunately give up….10 years ago nothing would have fazed me, today i needed to hear the words from a man like Gilbert to help me realise i am not unique and to fight the self pity that usually consumes me daily and pushes me to make devastating mistakes….Keep your chin up people & i hope we all find that natural inner peace we all seek

      • Melissa says:

        I like your name on here b/c, for whatever reason, we are all saying how we “Used to have a life”…I know this is how I am and I bang my head against the wall trying to figure out where I changed and why. I know moving forward is the answer here but I need to know what happened to me that did this so I will be more conscious of it from now on.
        I had a fairly decent life up until 2002…From that point, I can say that I ended up moving back to my old hometown after living 600 miles away for almost 30 years and I felt (and still do at times) ashamed and I let myself down. I too, buried my head in the sand so to speak and while doing so, I allowed lots of time to slip away from me. All the while, I was getting more frustrated, angry and just plain old fed up with my actions or should I say Inaction…Then I fell into drinking and figured out that was not working, so got rid of that…I have had many physical issues going with my knees and that lent itself to being less and less apt to go out and try to do much b/c I was always in pain…So, with all of that said, I fell into depression and have been struggling with that since….
        I feel as though I will never “fit in” around this place b/c A), I’m a lesbian, B) I cannot relate to the ways people think around here b/c they are very conservative and I, well, I definitely am not…
        I leaned on my mom for 13 years until she got sick and died less than 2 years ago….I feel so alone and confused on what to do and how to get there…You mentioned how some people keep moving along until they figure out how to get where they want and/or just feel better….I guess I just have not been able to accept the fact of where I allowed myself to be and not having $$$ to move, I feel completely stuck…So, being that and emotionally restrained, it has not made for a happy life….Maybe someone else can relate?

  4. John says:

    Nice words from people who I see are the same situation as myself. I grew up with some close friends who have drifted apart over the years. I find it hard to meet new friends these days , I am shy around new people and find it hard to talk when in new groups. I would love to lose that shyness but I know it’s part of who I am. Maybe this is the start of a new path when I found this site.

    • moodus says:

      Hello John…I think many of us are in the exact same boat…You have a lose acquaintances…I would not consider anyone a friend if they can just leave/disconnect like many do.
      I am also quite shy, but I think most would say lacking confidence in ourselves as the reason. Hey, I have made many attempts at connecting with people. For me, however, my location has hindered my interest in some people and the activities they offer around here. It’s a small town that has had the same families here as when I grew up in this place. Thankfully, I left 2 days after graduating high school and made some friends up where I moved and lived for 30 years. I have explained my situation on more than one occasion on here, but feel, until I am happy with me AND move away from here, I will endure the fruitless ventures of trying to find friends. I can only hope I can keep myself as positive as possible to continue my journey.
      Anyway, we all have similar problems with making friends as we age and it’s discouraging sometimes when you try, but seemingly get nowhere. But alas, I will keep trying and I hope you do as well b/c we were not meant to be alone….It hurts…A LOT

  5. Julie says:

    I don’t really have any friends other than my partner’s friends. About 7 years ago I had a best female friend but when I started going out with my current partner her behaviour towards me changed even though I did ask her at the time whether she was interested in my current partner and she said no. The following year she sent me an incredibly nasty email saying that she didn’t consider me one of her close friends and that she had told her psychiatrist various things about me and they had said that the way I behaved wasn’t normal. I simply texted her and told her that our friendship was over and I wished her good luck for the future. She asked if she could call me later that evening but I said no and reiterated that the friendship was over. I do not need friends like that. I prefer people who have a more positive mindset to life and I felt she wasn’t very positive as a person. Yes everyone has problems and difficulties and challenges that they have to overcome but if you have a positive mindset I do think that makes a difference. I also helped her move house a few times and no thanks was given for this and I gave her my bed to sleep on as she didn’t have a bed in her flat. She ignores me now when she sees me but I have accepted this. There is no going back now. I know now that I want to be friends with people who are a little bit more positive.

    • Julie says:

      I should say that before I ended our friendship I did ask her if we could meet up and talk things over which she refused to do and she said she preferred email. Hence the reason why I sent her an email ending our friendship not a text as I said above. I made an error there.

    • Monique says:

      Same here, at least you have a partner by your side. I felt so insecure within myself all I attracted were negative angry people. The funny thing is people say I make them laugh, I’m always smiling, I’m modest, very nice, and try to get along with everyone. I just truly do not know how to build relationships with other women.

      So, please know that you are blessed to have a partner that allows you into his world of friends so that you can have the support that we all need.

      • peter says:

        I am no expert of these things, but if you can make people laugh then you really shouldn’t have any problems with making friends its not you that’s the problem carry on with smiling and stop trying so hard with other people who are so negative that’s their problem (enit) then right when yu don’t expect it bang the right one spots you and you wont be able to shake him off problem No2 ha ha joking,its a sad world we live in today so gotta be ready to bump into a lot a sad people to stay good.

  6. Sam Chapman says:

    I know what it’s like to be an ‘outsider’, feel lonely and envious of how other people around me, seem to find it incredibly easy to make friends. I’ve had these feelings since I was at least 6, and I’m now drawing my pension. I’ve never got really depressed about the things that as some people have, but I have seen the impact it has had on those who became seriously and Clinically depressed. My situation arises from one of the three disabilities I have always had, which I feel utterly ashamed of, many people around me being unaware of me having, because it’s also invisible and un-treatable.

    One thing I’m pretty sure of, is that over the past 2-3 decades, people are expected to take on board more things like social networking sources such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as pressures imposed on us by our peers – some of whom expect everyone else to conform to what they perceive as being ‘normal’ day-to-day experiences.

    Some people ‘rebel’ due to these impositions and end up being manipulated by those who are actively looking out for people they can manipulate, usually via drugs and booze, or playing very nasty mind-games so that individuals can be abused physically and emotionally.

    The Media in general has a lot to answer for due to the either bombarding us with ‘ideals’ that are to many unattainable, whilst ignoring ‘Ms Average’ because they are not interesting, unless they can be lured by the the incentive of ‘fame and fortune’, only later on, to be dropped like a hot potato when whatever led them to be placed on a pedestal has ‘they think’ become boring or something more to their liking comes along.

    I suppose I could go on citing many other examples but these are probably variants of the ones I have already mentioned. Maybe by considering yourself to be like that man in China, who stood up in front of a row of tanks. He didn’t have to, no-one else dared to, yet though what he did, sparked something far, far greater. It doesn’t have to be anything as dramatic as that. Who he was and what happened to him, is still unknown.

    You dear reader, are in many ways like that man, but just don’t realise it. You may well think that what you post on here, has little impact beyond this thread, but I can tell you, that this is definitely not the case, because what you have write, will help others and like a dripping tap, will eventually lead to a flood, that WILL impact on others attitudes in a very positive way.

  7. anon says:

    i acually feel happy and relieved reading this. did anyone notice the ages ( 50) is the GEN-X generation? we are the most lonely and smallest demographic too. i joined many meetup groups,single and women only to find its NOT ME. I made all the moves,invites,and NADDA..crickets… i also have advice..make “friends” with neighbours! i have amazing life saving people in my local area. we do DEEP conversations,about life..i hug them,we suffer through fires,or complain,and give hope..i dont need them to “hang out’ i need emotional love. they give it.
    for you gals..”choose allies” not the old fashioned friends. choose ANY AGE people. i love 20 somthing.college is nearby..chat em up..friendship is not the same since 2000. its just needs adjustment. its GREAT..but go with new format. nobody calls me. i dont care. i can LEAN on people in my area code. F** em

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