• Making Friends

Making friends at midlife: Ties that bind

Published: December 25, 2012 | Last Updated: April 2, 2016 By | 20 Replies Continue Reading
At midlife, making friends can be more difficult. It’s not a function of age, per se, but has more to do with opportunity.


Hi Irene,

I’m a 57-year-old and I think I should have been able to figure this out by now! I have moved many times in my life. Consequently, my friendships are brief but I have had a few that lasted years.

Now that I am settled I seem to have problems sustaining friendships. I must be doing something wrong. I don’t feel that I am insecure or depressed or even needy! But after a few months my new friendships seem to just stop. I wonder if I am too independent? Or maybe I don’t respond or contact them enough?

I do know that I’m getting a little gun shy. I’m also finding other events and at home projects and volunteering to fill the void. But I hear about fun dinners or lunches that I’m not invited to and I feel a sense if loss. Not every time though. I just wonder why it is so difficult for me to have solid friendships! What do you think I’m doing wrong? Ideas? Thank you!

Signed, Eve


Hi Eve,

When we reach midlife, the thought of making new friends can be daunting. One reason why: Unlike women who are going to school, working or parenting, there isn’t a steady pool of people to choose from who are at the same stage of life, doing the same thing at the same time, with many of the same interests. For example, if someone finds a new friend at school or at the office, there is an opportunity to see each other day after day and to allow the friendship to blossom and deepen naturally over time, as the two get to know each other better. Opportunities like that tend to be more elusive at midlife.

When we meet people under less consistent circumstances, it requires more initiative and self-confidence to keep the friendship going. No matter what our age, it’s always a bit awkward to initiate calls or emails and to overcome the fear of being rejected. Even though it may have nothing to do with us, it tends to feel personal if the other person isn’t available or doesn’t want to get involved in a new friendship to the same extent we do,

Also, as we mature, we become more discerning about our choices in friends and more protective of our time. At midlife, many women would prefer to spend time alone than making superficial chitchat or spending it with the wrong people.

I suspect that the people having those fun dinners or lunches might have some common thread that ties them together. If you feel like you are missing out, you need to continue to extend yourself and find ways to connect with people. Anything that brings you in contact with the same person or persons consistently can build the foundation for a true friendship.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

Some other recent posts on The Friendship Blog about making friends at midlife:

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Category: Finding friends at different ages and stages, MAKING FRIENDS

Comments (20)

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  1. pariah says:

    I am thanking the blog gods for letting me vent. I noticed, however, that the most recent post here and on the other forums is from 2013. Is anyone other than me reading these. I feel even more alone than I did when I came here.

    • Irene says:

      Some threads fade into the background as others become more prominent. Hope you’ll take a look around. There are more than 15,000 comments and people interact daily on the Forums section of the blog.

      Best, Irene

  2. judith says:

    I divorced a year ago after 30 years of a loveless marriage. My husband (a lawyer) anticipated our break and managed to keep me from most of the assets we had together. I moved 600 miles away, to get rid of the taint of our split on friends and his colleagues. Big mistake! I have no friends and I’m 65, struggling with loneliness and depression. I think of suicide often, but don’t want to fail and be worse off than I already am. My sister lives in this town, but one person can’t be everything. I’ve been trying to establish social connections, but most people have their own little group and don’t have room in their lives for anyone else. I think this attitude is just plain cruel. If you see a person all alone in a new town, a truly good person would reach out. Some day they might be in a similar position! I have two grown children, but as a result of our divorce, they don’t speak to me. They were always pretty self-absorbed anyway, so I haven’t lost much there. I feel a sense of urgency; I don’t have 20 years to slowly get friendships started. I’m considering dating sites, but the idea is scary and I don’t want to be hurt again. There are days when I don’t think I can struggle any more. Thank you for listening.

    • jacqueline says:

      Hi Judith:

      Does your sister have friends she could introduce you to?

      Have YOU thought of reaching out to the group of people you run into? Telling them you are new in town and would love to make new friends?

      Is there a church or synagogue nearby? Maybe you could speak to the priest/rabbi and tell them your situation? They could steer you in the right direction. Talking to them would make you feel better. Maybe they would suggest counselling to help you with the depression, loneliness, and sense of urgency that you are feeling.

      If you are suicidal and really cannot go on any longer, I strongly suggest that you speak to someone who is trained to help you.

      Judith, have you considered volunteering? At a church, synagogue, animal shelter or nursing home? You would have a sense of purpose and meet people just like you!

      I urge you NOT to try the online dating sites. There are too many predators out there. Please don’t take the chance.

      Judith, you deserve to be happy. Spoil yourself. Do things just for Judith. Maybe take a course or exercise class, for example.

      Unfortunately, as time goes on, it seems everyone goes their own way. It is very difficult to meet good people.

      Judith, you are not alone. I really hope I have helped you.

      Sending you big big virtual hugs.

      • Ms P says:

        Hi Judith,
        I am sorry to hear of your situation. If I can share a little with you. I am 58 I moved from my hometown over 28 years ago. Never really had a close bond with brother 17 years older. Had career which totally absorbed me,made no friends Had to retire early from job due to husband illness and my severe depression, was unable to save for retirement. I have no one

    • Steve says:

      Judith, I understand myself how loneliness can lead to hopelessness. But as long as you have another day and another breath in you, there is hope. There must be something in your life worth living for. As a Christian, I encourage you to seek out a bible-believing church in your area. A good church can be a wonderful place to meet others.
      Jesus care personally for you.
      Judith, I have never responded to a post before, so there must be something special enough about you that God led me to do so.

      The best of luck to you.

    • Irene says:

      Hi Judith,

      Just wanted to say that I’m so sorry that you are feeling down. It’s quite common for people to feel this way around the holidays when they have the idea that everyone else is joyous and happy. This simply isn’t the reality. Moreover, feelings of depression can be exacerbated when someone is living someplace new and feels detached from his/her family and community.

      Since you have a history of depression, it’s very important that you see someone as soon as possible to evaluate and treat your condition.

      In terms of your psychiatrist pricing himself/herself out of your market, if he/she doesn’t take insurance and you can’t afford the rates, that individual has a responsibility to provide you with a referral to individuals/clinics who provide treatment on a sliding scale.

      I previously offered some advice to another reader about how to go about finding mental health care when funds are low. Please read this post: https://www.thefriendshipblog.com/can-depressed-friend-get-help-2/

      I hope you will take advantage of help because depression is a treatable illness and there is no reason for your to have to feel this way.

      If you begin to feel suicidal or need to speak to a trained professional, a free 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) is available for people in crisis (or their loved ones) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Calls are routed to local crisis centers.

      Hope this helps!

      Best, Irene

    • pariah says:

      Judith, I’m with you 100%. I’d love to talk to you. I’m in a similar situation. I wonder every day when will I die because I want it to be soon. This world is no place for me.

    • Lynne N. aka Smith says:

      Your situation like mine, except my husband is not a lawyer thank goodness. Mine has been 24 years.
      This is my second marriage. After this one, I am done. I don’t think I would want to even try again, because at my age (57) I finally want to do what I used to do. My hobbies.
      I would love to hear from anyone here. And I was just sent a post from this sites Facebook site, telling people where you are from. Thank you so much for the sight!
      I know there are several sites from England, but not much here.
      My name on there is Donna Smith,( I have used another name because of people that tried to stalk me, especially google+ ) In Arkansas. Yes..I know…but I am origionally from Texas..I put that on there.
      It is pretty here, but I have no friends at all due to a controlling husband.
      So, if you look me up on the Facebook page..write me if you like. Anyone…. it doesn’t matter what state you live in. I would certainly enjoy the company. 🙂 My icon is a black and white horse.

      • Lynne Smith says:

        Sorry, the name I go under is Lynne Smith.
        I don’t like using my real name because I have had some people even try looking at my IP address. ..Nosey….
        That was on a penpal site too…

  3. Pat says:

    Irene, I reread your reply to Eve. I have first hand experience with the “lack of consistency” that offers opportunity for friendship. So true.
    Age creates a problem.
    When I divorced, I moved to a new state, new community. I was naïve in thinking I would finally end a loveless marriage and give both of us a chance to move on. I thought I could finally find the love I sought. I had not considered age as a factor. I didn’t feel “different”, and I didn’t expect to be treated differently. I was unprepared for stereotypes and discrimination. Age, is a huge factor on many fronts. As you point out there are many reasons women do not want to extend themselves. There is also the reality of “older” men wanting either younger women, or passion without commitment or responsibility (for many, they “did that”, “been there”). I still look for deep connection and the “safety” of consistency. That doesn’t mean restriction to me; it means shared energy and comfort, stability and excitement, reliability and risk-taking. I believe two people with their own interests can also share experiences and add to the enjoyment of life. 1+1= 3! or 5!
    On top of that, I have the added pressure of the realistic awareness of time passing. Time is the enemy; aging adds to the urgency. I want to have fun physically, sexually, while I still can – while I feel no different than I did 10-15+ years ago. I want fun before the parts wear out. I have available time now and I am in better shape. But, I have to consider “living wills” (I have no children), and who can I ask to pick me up at the Drs after minor eye surgery (not a minor task, and I am not allowed to take a taxi.) Should I move from here – my planned retirement location – because I have no relatives, no close friends, and no partner? There is a set of practical considerations that are real and age related. Time is ticking. It’s the battle of fighting stereotypes, accepting the realities of aging (which until a year ago was not a problem – until I felt the externally imposed restrictions), and accepting that love and connection (basic human needs) may not be fulfilled because of aging. The isolation and lack of emotional intimacy is not satisfied with superficial, inconsistent social activities. I never thought I was destined to have a “C” grade life.
    P.S. I am seeing a therapist. I have seen a couple in the last 2 years. The current one is older than me, currently single (though she has children and grandchildren). Given my situation, she says my pain is real, not imagined, not exaggerated.

    • Friendship Doc says:

      Hi Pat,

      You are absolutely right that aging is difficult, especially for women, in terms of making connections with both women and men.

      How long have you been in your planned retirement location? It takes time to establish roots. Also, is it the type of place where you are likely to meet other people? Are there a fair number of newcomers? singles?

      If you read some of the other posts, I and other posters have offered many suggestions for ways to meet new people. You have to keep at it!

      For example, have you tried some of the online matching services for people over 50 (assuming you are)? Have you tried some MeetUp Groups where people are seeking out new friendships with people with similar interests?

      I don’t think you need to resign yourself to leading a “C” grade life. I don’t mean to trivialize your situation at all but it is a little bit like selling a house. You just need one buyer to change things completely. Similarly, making one or two connections might make you feel very differently.

      My best, Irene

    • Lynda says:

      I have never felt so lonely as I do at this stage of my life. I am 60 years old, unmarried, no children and work full time. The current position I have doesn’t offer many opportunities to develop friendships outside of work. For various reasons, I have lost friendships that I had in the past. My sister and her family live in another state and don’t stay in touch on a regular basis. I have put a lot of effort and energy into maintaining more interaction, but my sister “gets distracted” or “lazy” as she says, and doesn’t reciprocate.
      I worry that nobody is here if I needed help. Just as you said Pat, even asking somebody to take me for a medical test is difficult.
      I want to have a few good friends who I can connect with or go out for dinner, see a movie with. I am trying to look at options of places to make new friendships but it’s so limited.
      I’m glad to be able to share these feelings on this site.

    • Liz says:

      We have family but they have been so cruel we find ourselves in the same situation you are in. My husband and I have moved to a new area and it is very lonely and difficult to make friends. I’ve been involved in political volunteering canvassing etc. The inevitable separations or divisions I find are that many of the people we used to know have as they have gotten older begin to be very ‘death’ oriented or obsessed. We are not and do not see this as the end of our life and many have become so religiously obsessed it is hard to get past. To add to it, recently my health took a temporary turn that caused further isolation. Wee also began to ask how do we find commiseration in our age bracket.I was always willing to take a neighbor to the doctor or store. I find this area is not so empty nestor friendly. Having conversations that would be heartfelt and sincere without the feeling of being ‘used’ or someone having an ulterior motive is also something we are trying to find. We have tried gardening groups, book events, and you are right, it seems like there is no place to find a connection unless you are looking to date, ‘hookup’ or find a soul mate. Friendship seems to have gone by the wayside for some reason. Social clubs for our age for friendship alone seem to be rare is not absent. No, we never expected to have a “C” grade life either and we are working hard to change it. If I find a key to this abstract reality, I will surely forward anything I find. WE live in Michigan and I am surprised with all of the clubs events and sporting available that we find so few others like us.

  4. Pat says:

    Meeting needs of love and connectedness when older…

    It is my experience that opportunity is key and is scarce.
    I was in a 23 marriage that lacked emotional intimacy and passion. I finally became depressed enough to leave it. During the marriage years (no children), I used work as a substitute for partial fulfillment. 3 yrs after my divorce, and in a new state, no relatives near by, I met someone who painted a fairytale of the ideal relationship. Then after months of “committed” “love”, dumped me in an email. That sent me into a tailspin. More importantly, that year of “love” opened all the desire for love and connection I had numbed for so long. Now that Pandora’s Box is opened, I can’t nor want to close it. I’ve tried to move past the devastation of the heartbreak only to find that at my age (60+) men want women 10-15 years their junior, and women don’t understand why I want a heart-connection “at my age”. Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy seems to not apply to older women. Well, it does for me. I am/was energetic and vital, loved personal growth and exploring… I am so tired of doing all that alone – isolated. It is extremely difficult to make female friends as well. Women seem too busy or uninterested in starting a new relationship. I do attend superficial social groups but “superficial” does not fulfill the core needs of love and connection. Flitting around like a social butterfly just makes me feel ungrounded and more aware of the pain of isolation and loneliness. I retired from an executive position early – big mistake. I do volunteer, I’ve taught online, I “breathe”,… all those are temporary substitutes.
    I want to love and be loved, to share life with an emotional/romantic connection and for the last 1.5 yrs, I’ve had that laughed at. I feel beaten. Statistics and experiences say the probability of having love and connection form at this stage of life is nearly “0”. Yes, basic human needs are unmet and I feel needier as a result. With no children, I see emptiness behind me and no hope of connection in front of me. Not even with a consistent friend to have coffee, or have a phone call returned in less than 4-5 days.
    Advice for the “older” woman?

    • Lynne Smith says:

      As bad as it sounds…. a pet is much nicer. They love you unconditionally. I am closer to my dog than my husband. I cook food for my husband…he complains even about that. My dog on the otherhand, thanks me everytime by licking me after he has ate. Sad huh? But that’s just the way it is.
      I tell my dog that someday…we might get out of here. Out of this crazy house where he thinks all is his.
      What’s bad is I have to apologize to my poor dog.
      All the animals here are so sad….I see it in their eyes.
      I have no money…so..what can I do? Nothing I suppose.
      I have worked in a nursing home before and I have NEVER MET anyone so whiney, gripey or as complaining as ” him.”
      I know love is supposed to mean something. But I guess it isn’t for me now. And if he were to pass away..I would still be shell shocked for years probably…
      I do not know where a person is supposed to be looking at to find a “real” person….I wish I had the answers for you.
      Take care,

  5. Sheryl says:

    Although I need – and value – my friendships, I’ve never been one to have one big group of friends, but rather, friends from all different walks of life. I feel I am so much more able to relate one-on-one or one-on-two than to a large group. Being around a lot of people doesn’t necessarily mean not being lonely for a friend; a connection. As a woman in midlife, I am surprised by (and feel grateful for) the ability to make new friends at this point.I find that age and experience makes me more able to identify the type of person I can be friends with and cut through a lot of the unnecessary glitches.

  6. jacqueline says:

    Excellent response, Irene! How true, that as we get older, we do not want to waste our time and are therefore more selective about who we chose spend it with and on what.

    Eve, having a large group of friends won’t make you happy. Nor will be invited to all these events, which can make you feel more alone.

    I am no different than you at this point in my life. I am 58, semi-retired and have two good friends. One goes away for 6 months to Florida, (so we skype each other weekly and send little emails all the time) and the other, I see on a monthly basis. So, I am lucky to have a partner who is my soulmate and someone I enjoy spending most of my time with.

    It is usually me who initiates the get-togethers, but I feel the people in my life are worth the time and effort, and I do not worry about rejection.

    New friendships take time to develop. And most of them fizzle out because they were probably not the right friend for you. Better you found this out earlier in the relationship as opposed to years later, after having invested so much time and energy.

    I say, don’t give up, Eve. You never know who is BFF material. Maybe it’s that nice lady you keep bumping into and saying “hi” to. Maybe invite her for a coffee?

  7. Bronwyn says:

    I really liked this response. It’s validating in many ways & explains things from a very practical standpoint. Obviously, a number of us struggle with this or there wouldn’t be a need for anything called The Friendship Blog. It’s somewhat reassuring to learn that not having a large group of friends does not mean we aren’t good friendship material.

    Thank you, Irene.

    • Friendship Doc says:

      Hi Bronwyn,

      It really requires more concerted effort to make friends as we age. Having a large group of friends is even more difficult!

      Warm regards, Irene

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