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Having a hard time forming close friendships at college?

Published: September 28, 2016 | Last Updated: September 28, 2016 By | 7 Replies Continue Reading

College offers opportunities both to practice friendship skills and to get expert advice.



I have a hard time with interpersonal relationships and have had very few friends over my 21 years of life, and no friendships that lasted very long.

As a child, my only friend was my cousin. Then, in my early teenage years, I met a friend who liked the same kinds of music but he took a long time to warm up to me. That friendship ended badly over a lie someone told him about me.

Then, my previously mentioned cousin and I met another boy at school who we got along with and we were good friends for about a year. I had a falling out with this boy, but he continued to be friends with my cousin.

Years later, we reconciled. My cousin and him are best friends today. When the three of us get together, we seem to have a lot of fun. Sometimes it’s just me and this other friend (not my cousin), and we seem to get along really well. However, they rarely contact me for a get-together. I usually have to initiate contact.

I’ve made some casual friends at college. One girl seems to think I’m interesting enough for her to hang out with at times.

Then there’s this other friend, who is similar to me in many ways, and we’ve had casual conversations for about a year. Then last week, we had a really deep conversation and began texting. She is, however, TOO clingy. She wants to talk all the time. She keeps telling me how important I am to her, that she’ll always be there, getting too personal, and it’s only been a week!

Look, I’m starved for love. I’m all for having a really good friendship where we can express our appreciation for one another. BUT not like this. It’s too much and it’s too soon. It’s not subtle at all.

I should also mention that I’m always in my head, always judging situations as they are happening, thinking about the greater meaning of even the smallest events. I rarely get attached to anyone, as I always judge other people as having some “deal-breaker” kind of flaw that makes me not too thrilled about them. It seems like people are only good for me at the surface, but never good enough once I have their attention. So much so, that I have only loved one romantically. I can’t seem to be blown away by anyone else. It drives me crazy.

I HATE not being able to connect. I feel lonely. I feel nobody is good enough. I feel like I am not good enough. I feel like there is something fundamentally wrong with me. I feel like there is nothing to live for. I feel like I’m gonna die alone.

I’d just like to read your thoughts about this. Thank you.

Signed, Marcia


Hi Marcia,

Reading your letter, it’s hard to figure out from afar what’s blocking you from getting close to other people. However, this problem can be self-perpetuating because it can make you feel self-conscious and judgmental of other people.

Perhaps, your expectation of a friend or romantic partner who will “blow you away” is setting the bar too high. If the friendship you are wrestling with feels too intense, are there some strategies you can use to set boundaries, short of dismissing this potential friend entirely?

Your last comment about feeling like you have nothing to live for raises the possibility that you might be depressed. This, too, can interfere with making friendships.

College offers a wonderful opportunity to practice the skills necessary to make and keep friends. People at the same stage of life, many with similar interests, are thrown together and most are as eager as you are to make new friends.

Since you are describing a problem that seems to be persistent, it could be worthwhile for you to reach out to someone at the school counseling office to help you figure out how to break this cycle.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Comments (7)

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  1. ronni says:

    Dear Marcia
    I hear you and send a big hug to you, things will get better, I’m 30 years old and dealing with this issue myself In my case I found I had difficult with people because I felt not good enough with my own self
    I think it’s good that you conscious about judging situations and people – this is the first step! I suggest not judging yourself rather send to yourself compassion, understanding and love to all the parts inside of you that need healing, in time the more u love yourself the more it come easier to connect,
    I Found that is also important to believe I can change and also have a determination on my intention and also attention
    to your thoughts and remember that u don’t have to identify with all of them, its A job that require practice of awareness, meditation is a wonderful tool (I recommend of headspace application)
    hope this help
    good luck and remember you are good enough- we all are 🙂

  2. Kimberly says:

    I was once that clingy woman because I was abused and hurt. I wasn’t a evil person nor rally someone to avoided. What I needed was what I never had. Love, attention. Over the years I had lots of therapy and I did my homework. Now I’m not needy or starving for love. But not everyone sees this and changes. Once you see why you are a. Certain way you can understand and work on yourself. I wish people could judge less and understand more but until then I can only share my life experiences.

  3. Kimberly says:

    I could of written this 25 years ago when I was in college. My entire was lonely and ESP while in school and living with my abusive family. It will get better and it will take some work. You do want to be selective when meeting others and I understand what you mean. You seem to have no boundaries set up and that tells me much already. I had none myself. I was either fearful of people and never shared or had mannerisms that showed I was fearful or just not really interested.
    For me, growing up with a bi polar mother and Father who was a narcissist, it made me a prime candidate to be lonely, sad and used by others.
    It was when I stepped back and got into therapy that I had learned that I was investing in people like my mother mostly. I had always had issues with women friends. Because I learned sadly everything in new from her and I wasn’t protecting myself. And I was hurt badly too.

    Go slow and do what the poster above mentioned. And stay away from people who want to use you, they usually are selling things or want a minion to do free labor for them. Avoid these people at all costs, cause they can smell you a mile away.

    I’m 50 now and I’m still friendless but it’s by choice.i just recovered from late stage cancer and I don’t have time for drama. I have my own little family now, actually found a good man despite it all…
    And my time and energy is there. But I admit I wish I had one decent safe friend…
    Still looking at times! Lol!

  4. jenny says:

    I relate. I am 38 now, but when I was your age and started college I had hoped a world of fulfilling relationships would open up because I felt so ready to meet people. But I kept just meeting strange people, who would eventually do something weird like steal something petty, if they were men they just wanted to somehow get in my pants. What a every lonely time it was. I would observe college kids all around me who appeared to have the kinds of relationships I wished I had. They looked genuine, fulfilling. Most of all, it seemed like other people had people who cared about them, but I didn’t. I just had misfits and weirdo’s when I was fully capable of real friendship. Some people may advise you to not have such high standards, to find the daimonds in the rough. I would have to say, I disagree. Have you heard that saying “don’t waste the pretty?” It’s the same with friends, a bad friend can suck years of your life. Sure, an odd person may turn out the be the most interesting friend you ever met but frankly odd usually just translates to odd. Look for clear eyed, interesting, motivated people who have manners, morals think critically and independently. There is no exception to this rule for meaningful relationships. People are probably going to think I am mean and nuts, but as a matter of survival at your vulnerable, impressionable age, you don’t have time to waste on misfits. You are the company you keep. You should be extremely picky. You should be slow to make friends and get to know people because it’s awful to have to back out of friendships and you don’t want the weirdo’s to get to comfortable, they will just get takey. Be cautious, don’t be driven by loneliness to settle for weirdo’s. I spent a lot of time around artists, musicians, stay away from these people, they are mostly user’s and narcissists. Look for interesting women you can relate to as mentors of different ages. Don’t trap yourself in your age group, your extremely unstimulating cell phone fb addicted age group. You don’t have to hang out with youth, the most misguided age group. Your inability to connect is a compliment because you are surrounded by idiots. There, sorry everyone, but if you found your way to this site, you know it’s true. Join clubs, like golf or book clubs, not political or cause oriented. I liked singing, the most interesting, exciting thing I ever did was fly out of the country to a voice conference. People don’t blow your mind, information does. Find people who share your interests and values. Don’t find out the hard way (by being kicked around by misfits) what your values are. Put yourself around people who think. Learn to identify people who have something to offer and develop yourself into someone who has something to offer. Your age is a lonely time, it is a time of building. If you look around and your peers seem to have it all, they don’t need much because how interesting could they be at their age? This is called peaking early. Don’t fall into frivolous weak minded companionship. Read. Go to a conference on an interest you have and ask questions to people who know more. One day you will be a wife and a mother and you will have the most stimulating companionship you could have ever wanted. Right now, work to get yourself into the presence of decent people you can learn from. Friendships are more fun if they are based on shared interest I think, not just someone to waste time with. If things go well for you, you’ll never have a girl-friend anyways (untill you’ve both gotten married and had babies) because girls are so jealous. People are complex and you can’t really build your life around them. They are just catalysts in a way, for growth. So which direction do you want to be catapulted?

    • Kimberly says:

      Great post!

    • Kimberly says:

      I have had those uncomfortable moments when you must let someone go who isn’t healthy for you. And I’m still bad at letting them go and not having some kind of backlash. I been accused of being all kinds of things that weren’t true when I had to pull away from unhealthy people. This also sadly keeps me from even having coffee.

  5. Amy F says:

    I second the idea of school counseling. With persistent issues, sometimes an objective person with an outside perspective can help develop an individual develop insight and skills. Being starved for love leaves you at an emotional disadvantage, so be cautious you’re meeting people out of mutual interest and affection rather than loneliness. Most friendships start off as acquaintances, so rather than looking for insta-friendships, make small goals of getting coffee with a classmate or talking to new people. Going slowly allows friendship to develop organically and you’ve got a better shot at forming a healthy, withstanding relationships. Try to notice red flags, without being super-picky. Too clingy, like the woman you describe is a huge red flag for me.

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