• Making Friends

Making friends: Why can’t I get close?

Published: October 29, 2012 | Last Updated: August 1, 2015 By | 12 Replies Continue Reading
Having a “wingman” can be a useful strategy if you have have a hard time making friends.


Hi Irene,

I find it difficult to make friends. I’ve got some friends and had some in the past but when I analyze how we became friends it’s almost always either via someone else (usually a friend of my husband or brother) or because they made friends with me (and are generally extroverts who love the sound of their own voice). So the actual making a friend bit wasn’t my doing if you see what I mean.

I’m quiet and was painfully shy as a teenager but have mostly got past that now. I’m good at making acquaintances and am willing to get out there and meet new people but seem to struggle to make the final leap to friendship. I do make requests to spend time with people but often they are either evasive or never seem to take us beyond the reason we met (e.g. our children).

I’ve seen reports that moving a lot as a child can affect this ability and this is certainly true of me as I moved 5 times before the age of 13. What crucial social skill have I failed to develop and how can I learn it now?

Signed, Patsy


Hi Patsy,

It’s difficult for someone who doesn’t know you to speculate about what’s wrong in your specific situation. You’ve stated that you are shy and often need a “wingman” to bring you out. That sounds like a pretty adaptive strategy and I think you deserve some credit for making those friendships happen! Not everyone is outgoing and comfortable, and hanging out with people who are can help you connect with others is a useful approach.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post titled: Why do women have such a hard time making friends: Nature or nurture? It was one of most popular posts on this blog (with 539 comments and still counting) so the problem you are describing isn’t yours alone. That post cites a study suggesting that frequent moves in childhood are one factor that may influence a person’s ability to form friendships later on. Being shy may compound that difficulty but, truthfully, many different factors may come into play.

It’s good that you are focused on looking forward, rather than looking backward. If you feel you are missing certain social skills in getting close to others, you can speak to your husband or brother (or someone else you are close to) to see if they have any ideas about what might be wrong. While it isn’t likely, it may be something that is obvious to others and they might be able to offer you some clues.

Alternatively, you might find it worthwhile to speak to a mental health professional to help you figure out what’s wrong. For example, you may be making bad choices of friends; acting in some way that inadvertently interferes with your goal of forming deep and rewarding friendships (e.g. trying to get too close too quickly); or not giving these friendships the time and nurturing they need to develop.

Hope this helps a little.

My best,  Irene

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  1. Joanne says:

    I’m 43 and I have a hubby, 3 young kids 1 grown up a good job but no social life.

    I have been told I need need to slow down when building friendships?

    I am fine at meeting new people but I just can’t format friendships which are consistent.

    This gets me down as I see myself as an empathetic person.

    Please help

  2. mplo says:

    Developmental problems can also get in the way of making friends, and, the more I think about it, although I have afew friends, I can certainly say that my developmental problems left their impact on my ability to learn, process info, socialize, converse, and, in general, ability to communicate with others, as well as my ability to make friends.

    I quickly discovered, however, that being together with other people with developmental problems didn’t work for me, either. First, we ended up just feeding off of one another. Secondly, none of the people I was in contact with had any kind of interests. Thirdly, while some of them were nice enough, their problems were way too severe for me to be able to form connections with. Fourth, there were others in that particular group I was with, who, in addition to their problems, were just simply not likable as people.

    I quickly became close friends with one of the other girls, we really fed off of each other, and I learned that she really wasn’t such a nice person, after all. A couple of others that I formed friendships with were rather short-lived; they weren’t meant to last. So, I’ve decided that I prefer my own company to that of people that I either really don’t like, or can’t connect with.

  3. Applejaxx78 says:

    Hi, ladies! Well, I’m 35 years old, with no children, and my family lives hours away. Although I’m married, I long for a best friend to share stuff with that my husband just wouldn’t understand.
    I’m a lot like Shoplady in that, as I was growing up, my mother moved us constantly with no notice. I’d come home on a Tuesday and be told we were leaving at daybreak on Thursday! I went to 9 different schools growing up (some I even ended up returning to briefly), so I never had a chance to get close to anyone. I’ve only had one best friend in my whole life, and we met in 7th grade. Both of us had messed up parents, soni think that’s why we clicked. Lol But, as it always went, we moved again and my best friend & I lost touch. I caught up with her 14 years later, but she was a totally different person. :'(
    The hardest part for me was that, growing up, my mother would rather buy a fur coat or a new Camaro than let me go roller skating or go see a movie. She wouldn’t even get cable, so I could never relate to what others were talking about. All I was allowed to do was hang around in the neighborhood. To this day, the people I’m around will talk about all the stuff they did growing up, and when they look at me, I have nothing to contribute which is SOOO EMBARRASSING!!!
    Now I’m living in an area in the mid-south where, if you’re not from here, they don’t want anything to do with you. I don’t have an accent, and I don’t say “y’all” or “ain’t”, so I’m the weird one. Lol It’s hard because everyone here has known one another their whole life!! They just don’t “need” any more friends. And my husband doesn’t have this problem because he grew up in the area and still knows a lot of people.
    What am I supposed to do?!! I’m as friendly as can be, I try to put myself out there to be able to make new friends, but nothing’s working! I can’t relate to mothers because I don’t have kids. I can’t relate to 20-somethings because I’m not there anymore. I’m just at a loss as to what to do. 🙁

  4. KK says:

    Wow reading the above comments made me relieved to know that I am not the only one going through this. I am 29 years old and growing up I moved schools 5 times so there was not a great deal of consistency in my life when it came to friendships, also my parents were strict when it came to attending birthday parties or going over to a friends house. I had my sisters and I was lucky that they became my close friends. I never realised how bad my social skills were until I moved abroad a few years ago and I would always feel anxiety meeting new people. Infact to avoid it I would just choose to stay at home in my bubble, but I started to feel miserable and lonely as I didn’t have any family where I was living and no friends either that I could turn to. So now I am trying to overcome those fears and be social whenever I can, it is difficult but I try to push my anxieties aside and socialise. I have a wonderful husband who supports me and encourages me to go out and about and meet new people. I’m not perfect in socialising and sometimes I do get hurt when the communication isn’t reciprocated but that’s life and eventhough it would be easier for me to stay at home and hang out with my husband but that is not what I want for the rest of my life.

  5. Ambul3r says:

    Hi there. I’m reading all your comments and the blog itself. And I can’t help but notice this is SO ME!! except I didn’t move except once from one state to another when I was 10. But I have Tons of “friends” but they all seem to flake out way too often and it really hurts. I’m beginning to want to stop trying to make new friends because I feel like I made a great friend then all of a sudden the texts slow down.. To where we only might say hey once a month.. When we used to hang out a lot. I try to make friends with people who have a significant other and/or children because I’m married and have a toddler. It happens way too much I can list at least 5 people that this has happened with and I just dont understand what I did wrong..

  6. Shoplady says:

    Hello, what a fascinating blog I’ve stumbled upon! Ms. Applemoon please push yourself now because you don’t want to wind up like me – 58 years old and without any girlfriends to have lunch with or go shopping with and sadly, no men in my life so true love and physical intimacy have long been gone from my world.
    So many of the comments here fit me and my life. When I was a child we moved all the time! In elementary school we moved every year, often just as I was making friends and without warning. Many a time I’d skip home from school on a Friday afternoon to find my mother packing boxes telling me we were moving…oh the sadness I’d feel knowing I’d never see my “best friend” in 2nd or 3rd grade again…that was in the 60’s I didn’t know their last names or if I did I didn’t know where they lived or their phone numbers to even say goodbye…the broken promises my mother made “I’ll take you back there to visit” never came true…
    Those moves were traumatic to me, in many ways that trauma remains to this day…Fridays are days I view with bittersweet feelings, however Sunday nights are the worst…the dread…a fearful feeling something is wrong in the world (my world?) Sunday nights meant preparing for a new school and the scrutiny of new kids…fear of not fitting in…the abandonment of being left out…I was a chubby/fat kid who was poor. My clothes came from the cheapest stores, they were not the latest fashion, nor my shoes…many times they were both old and ill-fitting. In fact, I never had a winter coat or jacket not even a raincoat.
    My dad lived in another state, had remarried and created a new family of children with his new wife…abandonment…
    In my early 20’s I met and married a man who was emotionally distant, it must have been fate I’d found someone like my own family. He abandoned me emotionally then turned out to be a cad, so he further abandoned me through his infidelities, but not before he isolated me keeping me away from my family and what friends I had. My best friends who tried to keep in touch soon disappeared leaving me feeling abandoned only to learn years later it was because he’d seduced them too and their shame as a result of his seduction had made them want to disappear from my life…
    So here I am at 58, I haven’t had a date since 1999, that wall I’ve built is nice and sturdy. No one can get through it or over it. At work, since I work retail I’m seen as outgoing, happy & bubbly it’s all a facade a ruse to make sales to be popular with the clients. I’m truly an introvert who long ago succumbed to a life of solitude, a safe little void that I control where no one can get in or penetrate my world they only think they’ve been allowed in but only at arm’s length.
    Oh how I yearn for a husband/best friend/life mate someone to grow old with…but there is that wall that I’ve built so sturdily that even I cannot get through it or over it…so Ms. Applemoon…do something now, don’t turn out like me…seriously fearful of dying alone one day in my house perhaps not being found for weeks….no one should die that way!

  7. applemoon says:

    I find this to be my life. I’m going to be 37 in 2 days and I have no friends other than my live in boyfriend of 3 years and my dog. I have tried but when I feel myself getting close I pull away or I find faults with the person, not to mention the woman I do meet get attached too quickly. The older I get the more of a recluse I’m becoming. The idea of friendships and lunches, gossiping about boyfriends lives in my psych but I don’t want to make it happen. As a child my family didn’t move around it wasn’t until I turned 17 that I started my life journey way too fast for a young girl wish I knew that then. I have always felt more comfortable with strangers and I do know why I’m scared of intimacy. To the average person they see me as an extrovert which in fact I’m an introvert. It’s nice to see that I’m not the only woman in her thirties that has no friends because sometimes I do feel left out in a world full of people.How do I begin to form bonds with other woman @my age?

    • Sinead says:

      I feel where you are coming from, I’m the same age it’s almost impossible as people have their clicks already

    • Louise says:

      I am 42 and a single parent of 2 children.

      I mix with the mums at school but only for 10 mins, some
      days they are the only people I talk to in a day. moved to
      a small village but its very gossipy and everybody knows
      everyones business, so you have to watch what you say,
      never talk about personal stuff.

      I don t work because to fit round kids.

      I have a nice neighbour that i meet with once or twice
      a week but she is about 24 years older and we are not
      going through same stages in life.

      • Nat says:

        I really thought I was the only one feeling like this. I’m in my 40s and have a child. I separated from my partner a few years ago after being together for 13 years. He was my best friend and the only person I could talk to, he’s now gone on and met someone else and Now hardly any contact. I read all these books on how to move on and meet new people so joined new clubs etc which fit around being a single mum. I enjoy this as I feel l needed me time again but apart from the polite hello and weather can’t seem to make friends. Colleagues at work see me as bubbly and outgoing and I’m always helping people out and trying to get social things going but I just feel on the outside all the time even when with family. I have had a few friends in the past but felt it was not genuine just for what they could get out of me they never called or text to invite me out I only heard from them if it was for their benefit. Others felt they could gossip and be off with me and when I stuck up for myself I was in the wrong. I feel so alone if I’m being honest, if I was a horrible person then I could understand it but I’m not. It’s so easy for people to say forget the past and move forward but it’s easier said than done. I would love a boyfriend or someone just to go out with to the cinema etc but just find it so hard. Someone once said because I always do my hair and makeup and make an effort people just assume I’m ok I’m strong. I make an effort to feel better about myself and I’m happy around colleagues cause after work I don’t really have much adult conversation. When I am home I’m always upset and I just feel so on my own I’m not as strong as people think. I would love just one friend, someone for coffee. I dread weekends as more alone time. Sorry to go on

    • Jeanie says:

      I understand, I have the exact problem. I am 67 and am married to a very social man. He grew up in the small town we live in, and his 6 siblings know everyone and have a huge extended family. I joined this family over 25 years ago, they are very nice people and I care deeply for each and everyone of them. I was transplanted to the area in a very unusual way. My sister lived in this town with, a aunt and uncle, we were in many homes since we were very young. Sometimes we were in the same home and other times we were separated. lt as though my sister was my mother. I had no memory of my birth mother

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