• Few or No Friends

In the Media – On midlife loneliness

Published: September 26, 2015 | Last Updated: September 26, 2015 By | 38 Replies Continue Reading

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Screenshot - The Telegraph

Screenshot – The Telegraph

September 26, 2015

Writing in The Telegraph (UK), journalist Maria Lally writes about midlife loneliness. Although her life seemed perfect, the mother of two explains how she began to feel isolated and alone.

She writes:

No one would consider me an obvious candidate for loneliness. I’ve been with my husband Dan for 10 years (married for seven). I’ve got two young daughters, a close group of friends from school and several others picked up over the years through work, mutual friends and NCT classes.

Yet two-and-a-half years ago when I moved out of London to Surrey, I felt very lonely for the first time in my life.

She spoke to several experts including The Friendship Doctor:

Irene S Levine, psychologist and creator of thefriendshipblog.com, thinks women’s friendships take a back seat during the frenetic years of juggling work and family.

‘During this time, women tend to relegate friendships to a lesser priority,’ she says.

‘They may feel their responsibilities to family are obligatory while friendships are self-indulgent. Then at some point they realise there’s no one to share with because their friends’ lives have veered in different directions.’

You can read the article in its entirety in the The Telegraph.

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Category: Coping with loneliness, IN THE MEDIA

Comments (38)

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  1. Kelly says:

    Has anyone ever unfriended someone on social media after a break up? My now “ex friend” is still on my Instagram ( I am not on Facebook or any other type of social media).

    Our break up was quite recent( I was taken by surprise when I realized she had quietly but passive aggressively left the friendship) but we still follow each other on Instagram. She never likes or comments on any of my photos and I do the same for her. I feel like if I blocked her or deleted her from my Instagram that I would look like I have issues. At the same time I’m tired of seeing her profile picture staring back at me , and her posts have annoying hashtags on them that I feel are directed at me like #besties #bffs and #truefriends. Maybe they are not directed at me but it still hurts my feelings and makes me feel excluded. Any body have experience with this?

    • Kath says:

      Just delete her. She’s not your friend.

    • Jen says:

      I agree with Kath. If your relationship was passive aggressive, maybe this is just another way of her being passive aggressive. You still follow each other but obviously there is something going on there…resentment, jealousy…whatever it is, that has led her to leave. But she’s not going to tell you of course. She’s just going to slowly disappear and make you guess and be unsure of yourself. Which is exactly what you’re doing. Either get the guts to write to her and ask her directly or simply delete her. This is 4 years after your initial post so I wonder what you ended up doing.

  2. Tracy G says:

    I relate to lots of things being said here – I find friendship with women to be challenging to the point it’s not even worth the energy. Wish it were different – it is especially hard for older women like me who never married and are childless. Married women don’t want you around – threat to them about “husbands.” Even after women’s kids are older, family time is Now involved with “grandkids” – I live in a rural area where there is stratification around friendships – are you rich and retired like me? Did you grow up here like me? Do you own a business like me? Are you married like me? Do you go to my church like me? See what I am saying? I do not belong to any category – I tried when I first moved here – three tons of parties, invited neighbors over, cooked, served wine etc. Not once was there ever any reciprocity. I won’t go into detail but I tried again two years ago and had awful comments made behind my back – by guess who? Women. Catty, mean, demeaning – and these are so called upstanding citizens who own businesses here, married bla bla bla. I just gave up. I watch TV 10 hours a day and take care of my dog. I never see anyone or go anywhere due to lack of full time employment and have no money. I wish I had friends but it is what it is.

  3. Ggirl27 says:

    I am constantly hearing throughout these blogs that “friendships take time.” However, at 9/10 women I’ve ever been close friends with, did not take so much time to get there, in fact, we usually “clicked” pretty instantly.

    That’s the thing…in the larger town near ours, I have two female friends. We just, met, and just became friends…there wasn’t a lot of “effort.”

    While here in the much smaller town I live in, in 3 and a half years, I have not met one woman, where we just met and soon became friends. Not one! So…what gives?

    In my smaller town, if I go to the park, I hardly ever just find myself in a conversation with another woman, even if I try to strike one up. However, when I was in the larger town next door, if I go to the park, it just seems…easier. Women strike up conversations. I do think some places are harder. It’s harder in small towns where everyone has known each other for a long time.

    Yet, even on that note–I remember years ago, I would drive from Tucson, where I lived, to Bisbee– a small artsy isolated old mining town several hours Southeast of Tucson, I’d sit in the cafe, and I had people all over the place striking up conversations with me, and inviting me into their homes for a drink. That almost never happens here in B.C. I just find people more reserved up here. Regional culture often has at least something to do with it.

    I digress. It shouldn’t have to be so hard or take so much effort. None of my true friends took so much darn effort!

    • Paula15 says:

      It’s ironic you would say that because I come from Alberta and I find that people here are not as friendly as I would like and I am thinking of moving to BC where I sense that people are just friendlier. At least they were the times I went, specifically to Vancouver Island. You seem to have experienced good and bad in small towns, one in States, the other in BC. It must have to do with the type of people that populate the place. Isolated artsy mining town suggests that people to see a lot of new people so they’re happy to hear about what’s going on in a new person’s life. Your experience there reminds me of the east coast in Canada. Same type of experience. Yet you’re in BC and I would have thought it’s not that difficult to strike up friendships. Just curious – if you’re willing to tell – which area of BC are you in? Or more specifically, what’s the population of your small town. Maybe there needs to be enough of a population to get all kinds of people. I do agree that when you click with a person, you just know it and it shouldn’t take much effort. At least that’s the type of friendship that I think lasts longer. Also helps if they don’t have that ‘other’ friend that gets jealous or doesn’t like to share.

      • Kelly says:

        I agree that people in BC are not friendly. People keep to themselves, most people have been friends for years it is tough to break into a circle of friends. It is easiest to make friends in BC when you have full time employment. The only way I have ever made new friends in BC is through work.

      • Jen says:

        I’ve heard over and over again that Vancouver can be pretty isolating amidst all it’s glamour and excitement and beauty. People are very much into cliques and unless you arrive knowing someone who can get you into one of those groups, you’re left alone a lot of the time. Yet when I went to Vancouver Island, I really enjoyed myself. Maybe it’s the island life that’s different vs mainland life? I don’t know. But I felt that if I had wanted to strike up a friendship on the island, I could. Even the desk clerk at the hotel I stayed at offered to show me around the town I was in and introduce me to people if I decided to move there. Still thinking about it.

  4. MM says:

    Actually to say it’s loneliness is an understatement. This is why people don’t have kids until their friends do and why I’ve found people RARELY want to make new friends and stick with their CLIQUE.

  5. MM says:

    I am totally feeling this. I’m the only mature aged student at uni with a toddler- so I’m always left out. And I live in the city instead of the country, where people have children young.

  6. Ben says:

    Loneliness definitely sucks but in talking with others in my bailiwick I know I am not alone. That helps some. Being true to oneself is also helpful knowing to your innermost self that you are doing the best job you know how. Also knowing that there is nothing you can do about the past but learn from it. Increasing self-esteem also has nothing to do with what others think or don’t think about you is also helpful. I exercise daily and have eaten more healthy and improved my overall health. I’m not going to blow smoke and try and say life is grand, but I know there are many people worse off than me. I was more fortunate than some to have had adopted parents who communicated their love for me that was seamless. I cannot ever remember any point in my life that I did not know that I was loved by them. They loved each other and they loved me. I know what love is and what it feels like and what it looks like. I guess it’s my lot in life at this point in my life that loneliness is just my cross to bear. There are many heavier cross’s to bear. I don’t like it and it has it’s own set of emotional pains that don’t seem to subside but I know I am not the only one and I like who I am.

    • Irene says:

      I’m hopeful that you will find a kindred spirit, Ben, because you seem to have a great deal of self-insight; express yourself beautifully and are helpful to others. My best, Irene

    • Kelly says:

      I really liked how you said your parents loved you and you always knew you were loved. What a great foundation for you to know what that feels like.

      I practically raised myself from age 13. I have no stable foundation and I’ve always blamed my inability to make friends on my parents. I also battled an alcohol addiction that didn’t help matters either, I was basically a train wreck until I became a parent.

      Now making friends isn’t easy, I am 40 and a stay at home mom. I have three people who I would call friends, but it is common for them to cancel plans with me.

      I figure the same thing that I need to just accept I won’t ever have friends. Maybe it is better that way, at this point to make and lose another close friend would be too hard.

      I took myself off Facebook because I was so embarrassed at the lack of friends I had on my profile while it seemed everyone else had literally hundreds of friends, and when it was my birthday nobody ever bothered to wish me a happy birthday. Lol. I will just try to concentrate on the things I enjoy, friendship doesn’t seem to work out for me and I always feel used and bitter when it crumbles apart.

      Sorry if my comments are a bit all over the place

      • Ben says:

        I took myself off facebook because it increased my sense of loneliness because I saw all those other people who had great families and relationships.

        It was great to have loving parents but that doesn’t mean I through affirming thoughts for myself from the word go. I had very negative thinking patterns from around age 5 that had to be deconstructed and reconstructed starting around age 34. Even in the midst of a religious community I never felt equal to anyone. It’s only through 12 step recovery that I got rid of my secrets and then learned new ways of coping but I just learned how limited my ability to know what I need to know. Someone I noticed and heard speak I felt I really liked her but there was some gut pain around it. I couldn’t figure out why but I would not ask her out from that uncomfortable feeling. One day not do far back she approached me and asked if I would like her phone number. I was very honest with her about how I felt and could not discern that she was interested in me. We dated, both felt drawn to each other but the major problem was we came from two different places and different ways of looking at ourselves and ways of looking at the world and it did not go well. I learned a valuable lesson though that it’s important above all to feel comfortable with the other person and if your gut tells you there is something that doesn’t add up there is probably something that doesn’t add up. It was good for me in one respect. I liked her from what she said and how she carried herself and I did not feel hesitant about telling her how I felt. You just never know what you don’t know…

        • Kelly says:

          Ben thank you for your insight , you seem very wise and matter of fact which I really like. I couldn’t have said it better about Facebook- this is exactly how it made me feel too! You express yourself well on this platform I wonder if you were looking to meet someone special if you would consider on line dating.

          No you never ever know what you dont know so true.

          • Ben says:

            If your asking me if I have tried online dating, I have. I have been a paid member of eharmony more than twice. I have tried Plenty Of Fish, Match, BikerPlanet. None of these sites has worked. It usually leads to no contacts. A male is a visual creature by nature. Having read enough posts by women I don’t think they are very different either. In my brief last relationship, the downfall was due to not knowing character traits before entering into a relationship. If you have ever dated someone with narcissistic tendencies and not been able to identify them for what they are. It would be nice to have perfect insight into yourself and others. Hope this answers your question…

          • Ben says:

            If you were asking to talk further I do not not know how (other than through the forums) converse about topics one posts on this forum? I am certainly willing to publicly exchange thoughts..

            • Kelly says:

              Thanks I am following another thread on here that you posted on that was very helpful for me, about being the best person you can be and to become happy with yourself in order to attract good people in your life. I agree and I think I need to spend time doing this.

              Desperation is a stinky cologne (a line from the movie Singles). People pick up on it and if they sense you are needy of their friendship or time they get turned off and run. Much better to concentrate on yourself. Agree 100%.

              I find strength in music too. Today I listened to a song that is one of my old favourites called You Don’t Know Me by Armand Van Helden it is about someone who is fed up with someone judging them and being hurt by them, and it has a line in it ” I decided that I’ve got to be strong what makes you think that I needed you” sometimes like when I listen to this song I get glimpses of strength and even though it just lasts a second it makes me feel ok that I have hardly any friends.

              Sorry not really on the topic of this thread. Social media is so isolating.

              • Ben says:

                I strongly believe that feelings are a barometer for me. While suffering with Major Depression I recognized the things that made me feel a little better and those that did not. It took from age 5 to 34 to finally get into a situation which took me from being fully functional to being a basket case within a three month period. 10 years of suffering with the effects of Major Depression. Now its about still recognizing and changing ineffective habits. In my case self-help groups have been at the core of that effort. We are taught in self-help groups that feelings are neither right or wrong they just are. Feelings tell me things about me. I like feeling good and happy so if I recognize that something legitimately makes me good and happy I do more of it. conversely if I find myself doing something that makes me feel sad and lonely I got to get rid of it. For me all social media is loaded with psychological traps. You asked me about online dating? Dating for me is about liking the “whole package” in someone else. You can like what they say on an online dating website but have no physical chemistry. Can you imaging dating someone you have no physical chemistry with? I used to read women’s profiles where they say physical looks are not important.. LOL Having read enough profiles and seeing and hearing women in real life I know that statement about women not thinking that looks matter is a bunch of hooey. I like watching the “Bachelor” show on TV and find it interesting the how that process defies the normative procedure of finding one person and developing a relationship with one person. Looking at the long term success rate of the couples matched on that show I would say that a better title for that show would be “Suspending Reality Fantasy Hookups.” This is one example of how the media twists convention to make us think they have a better idea.. LMAO… What person in their right mind dates someone who makes out with someone else right in front of them????? Talk about suspending reality…

  7. lua says:

    While I agree somewhat, child free / childless are often left out. It can be quite isolating when friends are starting their families or have small children. I understand they need to spend time with family obligations. Or the limited time you spend with childed friends, the conversation is mostly child centered. While being told to find new friends without kids, it’s harder to make new friends in 30s and 40s.

    • Kelly says:

      The main reason that brought me to this forum was because I got dumped (quietly and passive aggressively) by someone who I thought I would be friends with for life. It has crushed me but I am starting to make sense of our break up now.

      She doesn’t have any kids by choice. I think having a kid had a lot to do with our break up, I could have done a better job at keeping in constant contact. I thought we had the kind of friendship where we didn’t have to see each other or talk to each other all the time, but I was wrong.

      I can say that her life seems (or seemed) so much more exciting than mine, and as a stay at home mom when I saw her I would often feel like I really didn’t have anything interesting to say or add to the conversation.

      It is funny because I feel like it would be easier to make friends if I had a job to go to every day. I can’t talk to my husband over and over about this stuff it is nice there is this forum where I can quietly and anonymously type.

      I have a really hard time making friends with other moms. I had my son in my late 30s so I got a taste of what some moms can be like. Moms can seem preoccupied and like their lives are THE most important. Moms can be late and quite unapologetic. But you must never mess with THEIR time because it is so precious (yawn). I cannot stand it when moms use their kids as an excuse to be absurdly late!!! Sorry I went a bit off topic

      • Ben says:

        Haven’t heard from you in a few days. Hope I didn’t say something that upset you…. 🙁

        • Kelly says:

          Thanks for checking on me…Im still around I thought I responded to one of your posts the other day. I do feel a little loser-ish lately and minorly depressed so maybe I havent been replying to comments as much 🙂

          • Ben says:

            Your comments and compliments really brightened my day. I am sorry your feeling down. Sometimes loneliness dogs my step at night. When something feels good I want more of it. Part of my journey is I am fortunate to be able to share my experience in facilities I used to be on the inside looking out. When I feel I am making a difference I know my life has meaning. Your comments gave me that sense of meaning. I thank you for that. As a trained computer tech it is possible to attach a cable from one computer to another and pass information without data loss. With people it’s not that easy. One of the books I read when I was depressed that helped lift my spirits was “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning. Brennan was a Catholic Priest who took his first name from a foxhole experience in the Korean War. His friend Brennan was in the foxhole with him and a grenade was lobbed into the foxhole and Brennan looked up and winked and the grenade went off. Brennan took his first name and wrote books on the unconditional love of God. Take away the word God and the concept of unconditional love still exists. Brennan’s books worked for me because he used poking fun at his own character defects to show his humanity and wonderful illustrations of his God showing love to him. Again I am sorry your feeling down and I am grateful for the comments you made about my posts. Thank you for raising my spirits… 🙂

            • Kelly says:

              I will look into this book. Thanks for your kind comments it is rare anyone notices me especially on line. I took myself off email notifications for threads on this site , I found I was replying or commenting on too many posts and it was taking up a lot of my day so I unsubscribed to a lot of them but I didn’t unsubscribe to this one which is why I replied. So that may be a reason I am not commenting just because I’m not following threads like I was before.

              I came to this site because I lost someone who I thought was one of my best friends and she dropped me and it has ruined my self confidence that I was rebuilding after many years of self sabotaging friendships and being drawn to people who were selfish and narcissistic.

              Although I am grateful I found this forum it still depresses me that at 40 years of age I have no friends that I could really truly count on, and I have to be on a Friendship Forum perusing the No Friends threads. It makes me think what the hell have I done with my life I am such a loser.

              And lots of people on this forum seem like they have a lot of friends. (A lot of friends to me is more than 2.) I feel like I am the once in a while friend to so many people. At the same time I wonder if I am comfortable with distance, and maybe I like people more when they don’t like me.

              Don’t worry too much about me though. My pattern is I get really down for a few days, then a few days later I am fine and right as rain and carry on like nothing was ever wrong.

              I think this used to annoy my ex friend about me, I would be needy and down one day then she’d check on me the next day and I would be fine.

              • Ben says:

                Well birds of a feather flock together. One of the things I find interesting about you is your capacity for self insight. Those two self-centered traits that you mention about former friends don’t have those capacities. I recently dated a woman who has a very narcissistic personality type and I couldn’t figure it out until I was out of it. I hadn’t dated anyone in eight years and through a series of events this woman kept making motions that she was interested but my gut told me something didn’t add up. She finally asked if I would like her number and I said yes but after the fact I realize it was all about her. I would compliment her how nice she looked but nothing ever came back. Insecurity became more and more for me until I broke free and almost immediately my mood went up about 200 percent and I had more perspective. Part of the double whammy for narcissists is no capacity for insight when it comes to how their behavior is seen by others. It’s all about them. You on the other hand as well as me have the capacity to step back and really think about our parts in life. One of the greatest things I think a human being can possess is the capacity to change. A woman friend of mine who suffers with Borderline Personality Disorder is a very bright person but that character trait ruins every single relationship and keeps her isolated. So I see you in a kindred spirit way. Last year about this time I stopped calling “so-called” friends to see who would call me first. Very enlightening. Hardly any calls. A year later my circle is not what I would have suspected at this stage of my life or matched what I perceived given my personality type. I supposed to some degree I was deluding myself for a long time. The difference between then and now is I like myself today. I had really poor self-esteem growing up and in a large part of early adulthood up until age 34 when life imploded. Today April 5, 2016 is a special day for me. 100 years ago today a special person in my life was born. He entered 12 step recovery in 1954, five years before I was born. He was a power of example because he knew what was important to convey to others and stuck with it through insults and other people’s failures to “get” the program. 12 step recovery is about being able to change and gain self insight. The problem is not “them,” its me. How can I change and adjust to the way things are not how I would like them to be. So I thank you kindred spirit for your insightful remarks. Enjoy the journey, one day at a time. 🙂

                • Ben says:

                  When I was telling that story about Brennan Manning I forgot to type that when the grenade was lobbed into the foxhole his friend Brennan dove on the grenade then looked up and winked. A powerful example of giving up one’s life for a friend…

            • Kelly says:

              Ben thanks for your comments and support. I feel alot better today. I got email notifications and read your posts but when i try to go back to the thread to respond sometimes i cant find the post i want to reply to.

              I will look into this book you mentioned, now I understand what you meant about the wink.

              I think I am in the denial stage of accepting the loss of a friend .

              I feel better today thanks for your kind words and support

              • Ben says:

                Thanks… Two blessings I want to share. Today would have been a mentor of mine’s 100th Birthday and I got a call from a company I applied to. Tomorrow a physical and drug test and if all goes well start work next week. ???? After many rejections it’s nice once in while to be accepted!!

                • Kelly says:

                  Happy anniversary or birthday to you and your friend ???? and big congrats on the job. ????????????????????the drug test will go fine taking those tests is never fun.

                  • Kelly says:

                    The question marks were supposed to be emojis 🙂

                    • Ben says:

                      Yes I understand, I tried to use exclamation marks and it came up question marks. The mentor was actually a 12 step sponsor. He taught me alot by his example and his words. He died in 2011 but his example lives on.

                      I am not afraid of the drug test at all. The last time I smoked pot was in 1982 and I have never failed a drug test ever. I had to change my diet and exercise and I have done both for a good amount of time. Sometimes because of other previous bad experiences with taking physicals I get nervous but I have no need to be.

                      You mentioned grieving the loss of a friendship. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. I cannot count on two finger full hands or toe full feet how many friendships I have lost because I realized how much energy I was putting into them and how little I was getting back. I understand what you are saying in your posts and some of the struggles. I don’t presume to understand how a woman thinks because as you can probably tell from my name that I am not a woman. Do you have any hobbies or interests? Hope your mood continues to be lifted up. I enjoy reading your posts and hope we can continue to exchange thoughts and ideas. Have a great evening…

                    • Ben says:

                      Unfortunately that opportunity is gone…

                  • Ben says:

                    Just letting you know the physical did not go well. I get white coat syndrome and in spite of having a valid DOT Phyiscal card, the company I was applying to will only accept physicals from this particular facility. I have had multiple bad experiences there but I know I did my best and took every step I could to make it work and when it doesn’t in spite of that it’s beyond my control…. This is one of those things that I just have to accept…

  8. Ben says:

    I’m sorry but I find it hard to identify with this description of loneliness with my own situation. Loss of parents, no spouse, family uninterested in staying in touch. Living in a new area. Finding out after a lifetime of people pleasing not many actually care. Makes me wish I was her….

    • Irene says:

      Hi Ben,

      I understand what you’re saying but loneliness can be a matter of perception as well as situational. Sometimes, people with many friends feel a sense of loneliness at different stages of their lives.

      Best, Irene

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