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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 (2,564)

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  1. Gillian says:

    Stumbled on this blog feeling isolated. I’m a 44 year old woman, single and childless, which does not feel like a great situation.

    I can totally empathise, though if I look objectively, I do have friends; good friends, even. However, I do feel that there is an inherent inequality in those friendships that has got markedly worse as I got older. To some extent, I feel this is inevitable, because I am not, like most of my friends, with kids and husbands who are negotiating a different set of issues from me, but I do weary of the (unspoken) expectation there seems to be in which I orbit their lives, rather more than they interact with mine.

    An example – the ratio of cross country visits to see old friends with kids to their visiting me or meeting up somewhere in between is ridiculous. Like 25 to 0. I have stopped doing this now, because it builds up resentment and makes me feel like I have a half life, like a satellite of other people’s existence. I have also noticed that when I do visit, we pretty much do whatever they would do with family anyway. The same things happen when they occasionally visit. Hence, even when they make the effort, I am fitting in around their needs, and no one is supporting my interests and pursuit – like meeting up to go to the theatre (can’t because of the kids) and such like.

    I actually think a poster above might have hit the nail on the head when they mentioned kindness. IF your default is to be thinking of others and fitting in and being generous because – even if you notice the inequality – you actively don’t want to be mean-spirited, chances are your needs always get overlooked by busy and / or more selfish / self-centred people with not so much time or energy. It isn’t necessarily even deliberate. But it is still taking you for granted. I frequently find I’m the person doing the emergency dash when the crap hits the fan, but not the person who’s top of the list for the ‘fun’ stuff, even though I’m pretty gregarious.

    There’s probably some guilt associated with these friendship inequalities too, which doesn’t help – the few friends I still have are full of ‘we must do x and y’ – and since they don’t want to feel bad about what promises they’ve not kept, they take the easy way out and don’t get in touch so often.

    I have learned to look after myself a lot better, which means protecting myself from feeling used and, frankly, I also don’t hide behind polite excuses quite so much, which doesn’t mean I lose my temper or moan, but I do say, ‘no, I’m not really interested in that, I think I shall take myself off to the theatre. thanks for asking, though.’ Taking all the emotion out of it and doing my own thing has actually improved things a lot in some cases – it took some time, but the odd one or two realised that they hadn’t heard from me in aeons and that I wasn’t part of their lives any more. (I suspect they imagined my life was suddenly more interesting and wanted to know what was behind it!)

    I guess what I’m saying is to look after yourself and your own needs. It’s a sad fact to face sometimes, but nobody else is going to. Don’t look for others to play a role that they haven’t time, energy or inclination for. Accept that you may always have to do a bit more work, but do no more of the work than you feel comfortable with and do it entirely without expectation and resentment – martyrdom is very very off-putting. You have to set the limit with what you’re happy to contribute and how long you’ll take the initiative without some form of reciprocity. But above all, be honest with yourself about what you like to do and what you think is fun and get out and do them – don’t short change yourself by rubbing along with everybody in the hope that’ll make you fit in better. At least you’ll met people with minimum agenda and sharing what you genuinely like. Regular shared activity also helps to allow the friendship to develop at an reasonable pace, which can be good if you are worried that you ‘come on too strong’ or are a bit intense because you are lonely.

    weird thing is, when I travel alone abroad, I don’t find it the slightest bit difficult to get to know people and am perfectly happy speaking whatever language and just being with them. I think it is because I feel very open and relaxed and not quite so conspicuously alone, so am more amenable to just allowing opportunities to unfurl without trying to get anything out of them or control the agenda.

  2. Only Lonely says:

    Irene didn’t do a good job reading the OP’s question. She can’t have a sibling as a friend because she is an only child.
    I too am an only child, 30, married, with not a single friend. I too was dumped by friends 3 times; once I saw I was in a completely one-sided relationship and walked away myself. I once came crawling back to my ex-bestie only to get dumped again a year later. I wasn’t cool enough, and my parents weren’t permissive enough.
    I think being an only child is major in this phenomenon. I was out of sync with my peers from my first day in kindergarten. I was used to taking turns w/grown ups; not having to compete for affection; playing by the rules; not being picked on, made fun of, or left out. Kids w/siblings often treat other kids as their siblings treat them. Most of my dumping friends had mean older siblings. I didn’t expect cruelty from kids and took it very much to heart. I didn’t bounce back and sling mud right back at them.
    I was always looking for acceptance because my peers always seemed more picky about their friends than I was. As a result I ended up with some bad friends.
    Women can be competitive with eachother. They seem to want friends that are pretty/hip/successful enough to not reflect poorly upon them, but they’d still prefer these friends to be a little less pretty/hip/successful than they are. Some of my grown ex-pals sent me letters and e-mails to me apologizing for dumping me. One group of friends evidently dumped me because they were lesbians and thought they couldn’t tell me. People do mean things to protect themselves sometimes.
    Anyway, I totally empathize with the OP. I tried so hard to keep my friends. I used to help my bestie clean her room so we could play after. Crazy huh.
    I thought I treated my friends like sisters, but that’s just it. I didn’t. I don’t know how to be a sister.
    I haven’t tried to make a friend since I left university. I’m introverted yet not. I love public speaking and have a blast talking to strangers about you-name-it at dinner parties. People just don’t gravitate toward me. men didn’t either; I had to pursue my hubby.
    I believe in the absence of a large tight-knit extended family or a family heavily involved in some cultural or religious communitt the lives of only tend to be largely lonely. We have lived slightly different lives than most folks. We onlies think we can relate to them, but we can’t really (and they know it).
    I also wonder if modeling plays a role. Did you watch your parents having healthy friendships when you were growing up? I don’t think I did. My parents had “old friends” that got Christmas cards or who sent invites to weddings or anniversary parties, but that was it. Maybe then I tried to model how my parents interacted with one another and with me when I made friends. I don’t know. However, the canned response up top is probably not going tp help. Yes it is fair to expect your friends to care. A one-sided relationship is downright abusive and bad for your self esteem.
    If I was going to look for new friends I would think outside the box. Don’t go for the types of people you normally do because they aren’t good for you. Maybe find a meet-up or organization involving an interest or hobby of yours you didn’t really share with friends in the past. Maybe you join a D&D group or a local political movement. Whatever might help you feel like you are being a true version of yourself. Then you might attract people for the amazing person you are instead of for the activities you plan and the free meals you make them. People will take advantage of your good nature if they know you will “do” for them. THERE IS NOTHING INHERENTLY WRONG WITH YOU. Internalize that. Be your own friend first.
    Good luck to you. I don’t have much access to potential gal pals these days, but when I do I’ll take my own advice. I’m used to occupying myself, as all onlies are, but that doesn’t mean I like it.

  3. Kjell-Øyvind Hagen says:

    The way I (38 Years old) feel, and I think maybe others feels some similar, is that one of the reasons that there is almost no close friends, is kindness. F.ex if you not play on the feelings to the peoples you know, you will get less exciting and unpopular. I was bullied late in my childhood and in my youth, therefore I know how it is to be hurt. And therefor I absolutely dont want to hurt others, and I am not playing with other feelings.To be popular, I assume you have to know how to be exciting for others. But the balancing edge between play with others feeling and hurting can be a challenge. The book “No more Mr.Niceguy” is about beeing too nice

  4. Gemma says:

    Hello! I too haven’t any friends to hang out with but my hubby and mom. I’m 35 and childfree and most of my friends are moms or pregnant so don’t really have time to hang out. I like hiking, dancing, the theatre, staying in, comedy…glad to meet you all. Great blog

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