• Keeping Friends
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No friends: Don’t tell me to join a group

Some people are joiners and others aren’t. There are other ways to meet new people—but you need to discover how and it may take more time and effort.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I am a forty-something woman, no kids. I used to have friends, a life, and a career. Then we moved to a rural area for my husband’s job (I am in the UK, by the way) and five years on, I seem to have nothing.

I was so desperate I tried therapy, and the only ‘friend’ I have made is my ex-therapist (different setup than the U.S.; don’t panic, I checked her out with professional organization before asking to stay in touch). However, even she is as cold as ice and only contacts me when she feels like it, which is rarely. Kind of sums up the whole area really – lovely on the surface but sooo hard to love and will never ever love you back.

Please don’t suggest ‘joining’ groups – have tried that many times. Maybe it’s just not my path to have close friends. If so, how do I deal with that and be satisfied with very little?

Best, Ella

ANSWER

Hi Ella,

There are a few strikes against you that make finding friends more difficult: You live in a rural area; you have changed residences; and you are no longer working. Even if it’s ethical, making friends with a therapist can be pretty tricky. You started off with her knowing so much more about you than you knew about her and it sounds like she wasn’t very forthcoming afterwards. I wouldn’t count on your former therapist to change her stripes and become a bestie.

You’re not the kind of person who likes groups so let’s dismiss that as a source of finding friends. I’m not sure what the answer is in your case but you do need to get engaged in something—perhaps a part-time job or volunteer position—some interest that puts you in contact with other people. Are you interested in online forums as a way to meet people that live nearby? Did you read Laura Kelly’s experience about finding a way to meet neighbors?

Right now, you seem isolated and unable to easily find friends. So use the time to cultivate your own interests (reading, writing, gardening, working out, etc.) and they will likely lead you to meeting kindred spirits over time. You’ve made friends in the past so I think you’re a good candidate to make more friends in the future.

Hope this helps a little bit.

My best, Irene


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Category: HAVING NO FRIENDS, KEEPING FRIENDS

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  1. friendship and retirement planning : The Friendship Blog | November 8, 2012
  1. Irate says:

    I don’t think half the response-writers read the original post in full—including Irene.
    She NEVER said she “doesn’t like groups”.
    What she DID say was that she’d already tried groups. Meaning, she has tried the “joining groups” thing already, and it hasn’t helped her make any friends. I know exactly what she’s talking about, too!
    There’s little point of staying with a group if everyone there wants nothing to do with you. It’s kinda pointless.
    She never said she doesn’t like groups!

  2. Kimberley T says:

    What an informative site. I am a single mom with now 2 teenage boys. I’m now in my late 40’s. We moved 5 times in 6 years. However, the last 4 moves were within the same city. The majority of people living here grew up here and still have their friends from grade school. Most of them are also married. They are all in their own little clicks and are not willing to let anyone new in. I have tried. I have even tried the dating websites. I even put an add on Kijiji. Nothing seems to work. Before I moved here I had a circle of amazing friends. We got together most Sundays for brunch and Saturday nights for drinks.
    I just googled city socializing. It is only in the UK. I’m in Canada. I’m wondering if I can get something like that going here.
    Everyone already has a busy life. I seem to be the only one sitting home reading the internet. smiles everyone

    • Friendship Doc says:

      Hi Kimberley,

      I like the idea of taking the bull by the horns and being an organizer! Have you heard about Meetup groups? That’s one possibility. Also, there is an organization called GirlfriendSocial.com in Canada that you might want to check out. If you have any interest in books, they are great way to bring women together. A local bookstore or public library could help with recruits.

      Just remember, you are NOT the only one.

      Warm regards,
      Irene

  3. Anonymous says:

    As a 40-something woman, I can relate to most of these posts. I long for a small group of female friends. I am an introvert; so 2-3 would suit me just fine. Some pals to catch a movie with or share a glass of wine with. I used to be social! I worked in an industry that put me in contact with interesting people and colleagues. I took a break to be with my small children. I don’t regret the decision; but I now find myself lonely and isolated. Our neighborhood has no one my age or my kid’s age. Since I am not working, the only option is the other moms at my son’s school. Some of those moms all live around each other and socialize daily. My home is in an isolated area; so I feel like an outsider. I know I can come across aloof…my arm up silently saying, “don’t get too close.” I have gone out of my comfort zone and joined groups and organizations at the school. It helped a little bit; but my social anxiety kept people at arms length. Another issue is my children are outgoing and long for social interaction…it’s very tricky. Isolation can play mind games on me too…I start to tell myself no one would want to be my friend and I am destined to be alone. Facebook just makes me sad and envious at times. I appreciate this site! Knowing I am not alone in my struggles helps so much!

  4. Anonymous says:

    The subject line is the name of an acutal book. No , I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club contains one of my favorite lines of all time. It’s something like When you are 20, you think everyone is watching you. When you are 40, you no longer care what anyone thinks. When you are 60 you realize they were never thinking about you in the first place. Anyway, I loved the book and suspect all those on this thread might enjoy it too.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Just looked up this article; thanks for posting it. Note: your link doesn’t always work, so I had to Google it. Want to point out , so everyone knows, that the research behind that article was funded by a Templeton Foundation, which is described online on some sites as a pro-religion, not-very-pro-science organzation.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Every now and then look for events via M. . . Up. I put the date in my calendar and then don’t have enough courage to go alone. I feel if I could take someone with me, then I won’t feel so awkward going alone. I imagine that the others in the group have already met each other. I imagine that the members will ask me a lot of questions that I don’t want to answer. . just yet. I won’t to just talk about the book or drink the tea, or make the craft until I feel comfortable enough to share with you. I am good at starting up conversations once I get there, but do still fear the cold shoulder of “why is she here? what is her story?” I went to an acting class a few months ago–it was interesting. I thought it would be more interactive–I wanted to release some negative energy. I will try to go to a thrift shopping even this Sunday. We’ll see what happens. Keep trying.
    Question: Why don’t we have friends when we want them so badly?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thank sooooo much for this blog. I am going through a very lonely period in life. I’ve had a recent loss for which I was not prepared. I need someone to hold me. I need someone to relate to me and not judge me. My family members are not touchy feely–I am. I’ve had very close friends in college and in grammar school. But after about 30 or 35 years old, my friends started having children. . . so I got left out.
    I’ve never been able to really trust friends as I have in the past. I used to reveal so much of myself, but got hurt by being vulnerable. I believe in being vulnerable with those I love, but it has been such a sore spot of late. People want to put you in a box. They want you to think the way they think and do it the way they do it. If you don’t do it their way, they want nothing to do with you. These are people who love you. I am willing to accept their flaws, but they are not willing to love me for mine. So I just find it easier to be alone or if I get close to friends or even distant coworkers, I only reveal so much. I always get a twinge when I notice that some confidence I have shared (however minor) is used against me. . . then I go back into my shell. I am loyal and expects others to be also. In the FBook generation, people reveal too much that is not important and not enough that is to those closest to them. Nothing is sacred. Relationships are not sacred. How can you have 200 plus “friends” when you won’t even have an honest conversation with the person/s who are right in front of your face. To get a response these days, people send text messages and will get angry when you want to talk beyond a text message Lord help us–the love of many will wax cold in the last days. I am trying so hard to hold on to the love that I have for people. We need help. I need a friend to lean on right now who can allow me to do the “ugly cry” and who won’t post that picture on Fbook. I hope and pray that you find that real friend today. Don’t give up on that dream.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Right – I had 2 friendships in high school that fit the bill, and they weren’t relationships with people in my faith. I think maybe we would have been even closer if it were faith-based, particularly with one friend – the other held values that matched more similarly than mine. But you’re right – the humour and being genuine is what really brought us together and created a bond of trust.

    But if I could emphasise anything, it would be trusting your gut – that is HUGE. Similar faith and values or whatever it is that you’re looking for doesn’t guarantee a connection, and if you’re deep down not really feeling a bond with someone or feel wary of them for ANY reason, run away! That’s energy that can be spent connecting with someone else, especially considering the energy drain that may come with any drama from the dissolution of the ‘friendship’.

    But yes, what you said in this last comment sums things up nicely. Best wishes for your future friendships!

  9. Anonymous says:

    … trusting your gut, being friendly, genuine, reaching out to people with humor, etc. In other words, your friendship successes sound like they prevail not only in and not only because of the church connection.

  10. Anonymous says:

    good for you! i really like that you value quality over quantity. i bet that you’ll be a lot happier in the end for waiting for quality friends rather than accepting the gossipy or domineering friend, only to have to deal with drama and frustration later.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I am introverted and have some social anxiety. I moved to a rural community. I generally do not like to join groups.

    In order to meet people, though, I have attended some art groups and have met people with similar interests. Still, I have not found close friends – no one to call, no one who will just drop by.

    I remind myself that I am the one who chose to move and that the people here are not obligated to befriend me. This helps me be patient.

    I notice that I don’t make friends because I am picky. I have avoided the woman who gossips and the woman who is bossy. Also the ones who talk only about themselves, without engaging in conversation. I am less and less willing to be around unacceptable behavior and this narrows my options.

    The one success I have had is making friends on-line. I took an on-line art class and have enjoyed writing back and forth with some of the students.

    At first I discounted this. Then I thought about what life was like before instant communication, when there were two posts a day and people only traveled by carriage or train or on foot. Many friendships were conducted entirely in writing; it was accepted.

    Perhaps for me making friends through the written word is the best solution. I like to stay home. I love writing. I have social anxiety. I live where there are few people. Perhaps I will be blessed with a face-to-face true friend; perhaps not. I’m pretty content with my situation at the moment.

    Best of luck to all of us who are seeking true friends.
    –birdie

  12. Anonymous says:

    That’s a really interesting question, and I’m glad you asked it – it made me stop and think about what it is that makes my good friendships work (and, conversely, why other relationships haven’t worked out as well). The insight I gained can only help me.

    I think one thing that’s helped in my friendships is having common values. I don’t think that’s something that needs to be faith-based. It doesn’t mean that my friends and I are carbon copies of each other, or that we would necessarily handle each situation the same way, but we have basic core values in common that we’re pretty serious about sticking by, that we can support each other in sticking to. My friends aren’t going to encourage me to or even tacitly support me in doing something that’s incongruent with my values.

    I’ve had friendships in the past where (probably well-meaning) friends were insistent about me going down a path that was pretty far off from my values. No, they didn’t put a gun to my head and make me take action, but their influence was definitely not a force for the good. In time, those relationships fizzled out. So I came to accept that shared values is an important foundation. For me, those values happen to be related to my religious beliefs, but there are plenty of people who don’t participate in organised religion who have important values they won’t compromise.

    Common values, however, don’t guarantee a lasting friendship. There are plenty of people who see eye-to-eye with me on certain moral matters, who, whilst nice enough, I’m not really interested in becoming close with. My friends and I have certain traits in common.

    Absolutely, positively indispensable is a sense of humour! I would rather take a witty person with a good heart, who can be impatient, over a person with the patience of Job whom I can’t laugh and joke with.

    I don’t know – I just try and be friendly and ‘myself’, and go out of my way to be kind, and see who I attract. I also trust my gut. If I’m in the early stages of building a relationship with someone, but sense that there is something ‘off’, some reason that I feel uncomfortable around them, then I back off – even if it seems like things got off to a good start. In the past I’ve ignored my gut, and it’s come back to bite me 100% of the time.

    So I guess to sum up: I’m friendly and genuine and reach out to people around me who have a sense of humour, that I get a good vibe about as I’m developing the friendship. This has been the case even though I’ve moved 5000 miles (about 7000 km) away from my home, to a different country and culture. The basic formula seems to work regardless of location!

  13. Anonymous says:

    But here are some questions to ask yourself, as perhaps, a journaling exercise:
    * why do I feel judged or self-conscious in group setting?
    * what do people do or say that elicits the response in me?
    * have I had traumatic experiences that I associated meeting new people?

    And never be afraid to consult with a qualified therapists. There are even phone-based ones that your national mental health association might be able to suggest.

    Perhaps an online group as a first step in an interest of yours might be something to consider.

  14. Anonymous says:

    on that factor that that yielded friendship – “Desire for community — Study participants want a sense of moral community and behavior, even if they don’t agree with the religious reasoning.”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111201132524.htm

    So just being around people that you find pleasant and life-affirming might be the glue.

    Even taking an online class that has a very big discussion component – like classes on comparative literature, religion, philosophy – might yield some friendships.

    Even gardening groups or other interest groups might yield friendships. And start looking at people who are friendly no matter what their age and station in life. Do you have some preferences that you might need to let go of or evaluate in order to cast a wider net of possible friends? I know I did need to do that.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I have also found all of my closest friendships at church…right now i am in the position of finding a new church…which I am choosing to view as exciting since I know it will means new friendships are in my future!!!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Yes I totally agree..I had a work social event tonite..and I got a chance to visit with some co-workers that I thought had friend potential but after tonite realize that they have a VERY full friendship plate…me not so much:-(

  17. Anonymous says:

    To the Devon poster…you make a good point about some people just not having space in their lives for new friends” so no matter how hard you try to be friends with them, it probably won’t happen. I would add to this that sometimes people don’t have space emotionally to make new friends, are too shy or have been burned and are too scared to try again, or are too insecure. These very same people might say they want to make friends, may take some steps, but in the end they fail to be able to commit. I understand these people as I have been like that at some spaces in my life. Thank you for telling us about CitySocialising. Is that UK only or other countries?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Hi Ella, I’m curious what kinds of groups you have joined – were they specifically aimed at people looking to make new friends/widen their social circle?

    I only ask because I’ve been making efforts to widen my social circle in the past year or so and I’ve found that no matter how much you hang out with people, if they don’t have space in their lives for new friends it doe not go anywhere. I did lots of volunteering and although it was a great experience and very worthy it never led to new friends, at the time I thought it was me but have come to realise that some people simply have enough friends already and don’t have the inclination to make new ones.

    Have you tried specific friend making groups like CitySocialising? As I live in rural UK (Devon) I’d like to suggest them as it worked for me. The thing with a specific social group is that it is aimed at people who want to make new friends – if nothing else its nice to meet up with a group of people with this same aim. For me it was so lovely to meet up with a group of people who were actively seeking friends – I often felt like an alien at things like book groups as others were there only for the books and had no interest in developing any kind of friendship.

  19. Anonymous says:

    For reasons I will not go into, I have never been a church goer. So I can comment only about what I have observed, not experienced.My mother and best friend both had the same good luck you did with their church friends. They each made lifelong strong female friendships from their church. It was an almost cradle to grave experience, except their church friendships were formed when they each were newly married and moved from their hometown to another area.But this isn’t necessarily true for others. I have read so many stories on The Friendship Blog where church and a shared faith has not yielded deep friendships. So I wonder if there is another component unrelated to church and faith that has made you, my mother, and best friend successful at forming longtime friends? I and others probably too would like to hear more from you about this, if you have any ideas.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I know that you said that you don’t want to try joining any groups – I get that. But if you’re religious at all, attending services of the religion of your choice could be helpful. All of my current friends are members of my religious communities of past and present. That works well for me and I’m really happy with that – I’d probably struggle to go the extra mile to seek out friends if I had to join some outside group. But because my religion is important to me, I couldn’t help but be present with these folks, and I was able to connect with some of them in time and develop some strong friendships I wouldn’t trade for anything.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Great post, you have pointed out some wonderful details , I like wise believe this is a very super website. 

  22. Anonymous says:

    I’m originally from the U.S. but when I lived in England, I had the exact same experience as Ella. For many years I found it hard to connect with others or sustain any connections I managed to make. I volunteered. I joined groups. I hung out with a few other ladies in my neighborhood. I worked. Nothing produced any new deep friendships. I made lots of acquaintances and got some invites to stuff and had some good involved chats with with people, but I couldn’t say I actually made close friends there. It was all rather superficial, even if me and the other person were confiding in each other. I never felt like they knew the real me – and not because I didn’t want them to know me, just because they didn’t seem to care all that much about me.

    The closest friends I’ve had in my life, I’ve had because we had some sort of shared experience that kept us together (like marriage or school). We sort of grew to depend on each other. But I’ve found that when I’ve really hoped to make a new close friend it hasn’t happened for me. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s depressing. I’m happiest when I just live my life appreciating what I have and doing what I like to do. True friends happen organically.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I also don’t like joining groups because there seems to be so much pressure on me to meet others. I’ve been seriously thinking that in the next few months, I’ll volunteer someplace. I like the idea of combining what you love to do (I love working with kids) with volunteering. When volunteering, the pressure is off to meet new friends; it may just happen naturally because of a shared interest. This is my hope! Thanks for another interesting article, Irene~Fireflies

  24. Anonymous says:

    I joined so many groups e.g. book club, recipe club, bible studies… but eventually dropped out of most of them because I didn’t find genuine support and friendship from people that meet just once a week or once a month. I find that one on one friendships are easier to form/maintain as I get older. I don’t like big groups now … too much noise. The closest friendships I’ve been able to maintain are those where the friend has various common interests as me.e.g. bible study, sports, gardening etc. Because of an impending move, I’ve lost interest in trying to meet new people but I would retry other book clubs or supper clubs because that might be fun and a good way of making new friends in future.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I can relate to Ella’s lament about not wanting to join a group, though I’d like to hear why she doesn’t want to. I’m frankly too insecure, shy, and self-conscious; I feel judged. Not always, but often enough. Practice has NOT made perfect. I have never gotten to the place where I can make myself choose to go out of my comfort zone because of the potential for making a friend. So I have no answers for Ella, only commiseration. But I do agree that getting involved in groups or classes about things I’m interested in is important, whether or not friendships are formed. That just adds to the quality of my life, and gives me some hope that by casting my bread upon the waters, I will increase my chances of finding kindred spirits. I wish Ella the best, and I hope someone else has some constructive advise for her and for me.

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