• Keeping Friends

Finding friends in the middle of nowhere

January 3, 2011 | By | 6 Replies Continue Reading
How do you find friends if you live in the middle of nowhere?

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I just found your site while looking for a safe place to talk to someone who is as lonely as I am. We recently retired to the middle of nowhere in Illinois. No neighbors, no friends. My husband is very happy playing with tractors and hunting.

I feel like I am just waiting to die. I’m only 59. I shouldn’t feel this way. I can go weeks without talking to anyone other than my husband face to face. Is there a safe place to find other women who are looking for friends? Thank you.

Signed, Pat

ANSWER

Dear Pat,

Both moving and retirement are major adjustments that can be disruptive to friendships and other social ties. It sounds like you are lonely and may be depressed.

Give yourself some time to get to know “nowhere” and you may find that there’s more there, than it first appears. Perhaps you can find out where the nearest town is and explore whether there are any book groups, clubs, or organizations that you might join there. Make sure you take some walks to get regular exercise, and maintain healthy sleeping and eating routines, which can help bolster your mood, too.

Are there any interests or hobbies you have that you didn’t have time for while you were working? Are there certain types of books that interest you? There are even online book clubs that might bring you in contact with other people in similar situations.

A recent article in the journal Personal Relationships points out that for many of us, workplaces have supplanted the roles once played by neighborhoods. Both women and men make close friendships at work. Losing this peer group can be very destabilizing emotionally. Try to maintain contact with some of your former neighbors and colleagues by phone, mail, and the internet. You can even try using Skype so you can see each other when you speak. Can you periodically make plans to visit friends or relatives back home?

One other thought: Are you able to speak to your husband about your feelings? Do you have any shared interests? If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or find that you are unable to garner support from your husband, you might benefit from speaking to your internist or a mental health professional so you can get help during this difficult time. You are a relatively young woman and if your health is decent, you may have another 40 years—so it’s certainly not too late to plan for and change the future.

I hope this helps.

Best, Irene


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Comments (6)

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  1. Kimberly says:

    I too have moved around the country for the last 18 years…since getting married and starting our family. I have never found friends who wanted anymore than lunch once a week. And it was at these times when these friends would discuss their other friends and all the fun they shared. Like dinners and vacations and etc. I had invited people to my home btw but l got the hint after two years of friendships that I would never be that kind if friend. I never had a close friend…always wanted one. I feel I am a kind decent person who is somewhat interesting who try’s to be a good friend …I shower too. It never worked out. I am now 48 and honestly I just given up. I now deal with fibro and anxiety not to mention I seey teenager now feeling isolated too.
    I been there. I allowed people to use me cause I was lonely. I used to attend church and do volunteer work and etc etc. It never did much in a way of making any true friends…light chit chat and free labor was all I ever was.
    I really have given up..I am finished with bring lonely around people who half I don’t even respect much. I think most people are shallow and just social climbers. I wish I thought differently but to lie tots elf seems wrong.
    I garden and take care of my family and pets and try to be thankful fir what I do have..I have a great husband and sweet child. She is not into drugs like most of the people she met here. A very upscale tiwn where what you have does seem to matter alot here.
    At least she talks to me and as a mom I am so thankful my child choose not to get into the wrong crowd…she is alone because if that.
    I think all anyone can do is be thankful fir what dies work and try to be ok with that that is not working.
    I feel sad and then feel quilts for being sad.
    Lonely but content.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This post also hit home for me. After 20 years in the New York metropolitan area, where most of my friends derived from my historical work places, my husband and I moved to rural RI. As you’re 59, I assume there are no kids in the house. We were in our earlier 40s but childless — and children are one of the few things that could bring strangers together, but which we didn’t have.

    I immediately plunged into volunteer work, tried various places of worship — but nothing worked out. While people were polite, I felt I was really, really not welcome. The woman who led the local writing group was a queen bee and felt threatened by me and my greater accomplishments. I’m a colorful person physically and verbally living in what feels like a wasteland of uptight puritan Yankees.

    I knew it wasn’t “me” when I took a trip to Russia and immediately felt more at home in a country where I barely knew the language! And everytime I went back to New York I struck up conversations and have made new friends back there. Being isolated made me reach farther and wider for friends.

    I vigorously invite friends and relatives to stay with us — which is easy in the summer as we live near the beach. I stopped expecting to make “real” friends — over the years, I’ve become friendly with various people — mostly at the Y where I swim, a few through writing and arts activities. But it’s been slow.

    I had to come to terms with the fact that here, people keep to themselves and the families that have been here for generations. I’m not going to make the kind of Seinfeld/Sex And the City friendships where I’m on the phone and doing things with friends every day, as I did in NY.

    But I do have good and sometimes deep chats at the Y, and have come to be friends with — surprise surprise — other people who’ve moved here from NY and other locales, who’ve had the same experience as me. If you can afford it, and have time and permission from your husband — I’d do a bit of traveling on my own. I go on yoga retreats, to writers conferences, etc. When I get out of town more, it helps.

    I came to understand I’m never going to be a Rhode Islander. I pretend this is my vacation country home, but still think of myself as a displaced New Yorker, and revel in that identity — sometimes I wear my leather jeans just to bother people. I embrace my “difference” — I realize that my mistake was trying to change my identity to fit in. I wasn’t presenting an “authentic” self, being so eager to please and fit in. Now that I’m my outspoken NY self, people may peg me for that, but at least they see the real me.

    I never in my life liked volunteer work — so why do it just to make friends? I like to be paid for what I do, and I like paying people for good work in return. I know this sounds like a cliche, but I’ve actually come to appreciate my commercial interactions — as with my hairdresser, who is also married and childless and feels out of place for that, though she’s native.

    And the more I’m comfortable with myself, the easier it seems to attract company. And of course — I spend too much time online — like everyone else!

  3. marciejoy says:

    Hi, Pat,

    Just a thought. . . Have you ever used Skype, the free video “visiting” service? Maybe you could visit with your friends from your old home town. Or maybe you could make some e-mail pen pals and start Skyping with them.

    Best of luck with your situation. I know how hard it can be, after living in the middle of nowhere in northern AZ.

    Marcie

  4. Irene says:

    I will make that a topic of an upcoming blog post.

    Best,

    Irene

     

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for answering my question.
    However I have done most of the things you suggested. I find that I just don’t fit in here. This is a close ranked farm community where outsiders aren’t welcome.
    So again, I am looking for a safe place online where I can meet other women who are looking for friends. Maybe even pen pals.

    • Brielle says:

      Hello, could you email me? I think my mom would be interested in a pen pal. She is living alone and an outsider in her community. Hope you’re doing well. pinkmobile(at) gmail (dot) com

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