• Few or No Friends

Is it okay if I don’t want any friends for now?

Published: August 5, 2014 | Last Updated: August 5, 2014 By | 26 Replies Continue Reading
A young woman feels complete without friends for now—preferring to spend time with her mother and husband.


Dear Friendship Doctor,

My general question is, is it okay to just give up on friendships? All my life I have been very popular mainly due to my humor. I have a “love me or hate me” type of personality but I think my beliefs in social justice and my generally extroverted, funny demeanor have led to ne mostly being liked (although women who dislike me are very staunch about it).

When I was younger, I reveled in the attention. I loved partying and hanging out, being the center of attention, and having lots of friends—however shallow the relationships. I also was raised by a woman who always went out of a her way to do whatever she could for me and who felt obligated to help others even if put out by it. I kind of inherited this and feel a responsibility to be thoughtful and considerate of others, but to more importantly protect the rights of others (a quality that has often gotten me into trouble).

As I have aged (I am now 26, sorry I know that’s not “old”) I have almost no desire to be engaged with anyone anymore and feel that I have been betrayed or dismissed by every close female friend I’ve ever had. It has come to the point where I don’t care to have friends at all.

I have a husband and I’m fine just being with him but what worries me is if something were to happen to him. I don’t want to be bothered with any “friends” who will take advantage of my consideration or “move on” when they are in better places in their lives.

It seems that those women who were my “best friends” needed me to support them, rally for them, comfort them, etc. and then when they were “better,” I became unnecessary. My mother is the same way. She is 60 and has no friends because she became tired of women abusing her good nature.

I’m fine not having any friends as of now but I wonder is it okay to feel this way? Should I attempt to have friends if I’m tired of it or is this normal? I just don’t want to feel desolate if my husband was to suddenly die and my mother died and I had no one. But the thought of trying to spend time with some girl is aggravating.

Thank you.

Signed, Chiara


Hi Chiara,

People go through periods in their lives when—either because of their emotions or life situations—they may have more or less need for friends. That’s normal.

You’re fortunate to have such good relationships with your husband and mom that, in a sense, these relationships make you feel complete. Many women in the same circumstances as you might feel they still want girlfriends in their lives. Perhaps, there are feelings or emotions they can’t express to close relatives, or interests they have that can’t be shared with family members. Or, they might want friends to learn from and broaden their experiences.

You may want to consider why your prior friendships have ended so definitively. You seem to have no problems making friends and being a loyal friend but your relationships often turn out to be inherently unsatisfying.

Could you be…

  • Selectively choosing friends who need you to defend and advocate for them?
  • Failing to set boundaries in terms of how much you give of yourself, to the point where you wind up feeling exhausted or abused?
  • Holding back in expressing your own needs to friends so your relationships are one-sided?

If you feel happy and set for now with your life as it is, I wouldn’t be too concerned. You can always change your mind and reconsider your need for friendships at some later time. But you should try to make sure the friendships you nurture next time around are ones that enhance your life rather than detract from it. Talking to a mental health professional can help you gain some self-insight to make sure you don’t have blind spots when it comes to friendships.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Comments (26)

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  1. elian says:

    I am in my mid thirties, and am also tired of friendships, and the expectations that come with them…especially female friendships. I was a family scapegoat, and as a result, most of my friendships throughout my teenage years until now consisted of me giving love, support and advice to my friends. In my family, I was the peacemaker that tended to the emotional needs of others. I ended up developing an ability to sense whenever the people around me were sad, unhappy or angry, and I would try to fix that. As a result of my own unawareness, I would give others the impression that I was happy to do this for them, to say loving and supporting things always and to listen to their problems…and I have recently realized that I have largely created the same dynamic that drains me. THe truth is I dont want to have friends, or at least close friends, unless I heal myself first. A lot of people I am close to do not really want to introspect, or are not ready to. They say they want friendship, and that we must sacrifice for our friends….but they really want to be soothed. I dont expect others to sacrifice for me….but I have noticed that some of the friends i have or had would need more….more consolation, more time….As some of the persons have expressed in this thread, I feel more peaceful by myself and with my husband. I am not exposed to other peoples drama that I have no control over….i wish my friends and past friends happiness, but sometimes i think peope equate friendship with the expectation that one must be available always to listen to their dramas. of course, there are times when peope need support, and that is genuine….but friendship shouldnt be used as a mask to avoid self reflection and self responsibility. although i know most of these dynamics are because i invited this into my life without knowing it, i realise i am happier without friendships,

  2. Loner says:

    I will be 43 soon and have come to the realization that I really do not enjoy the company of other people except my spouse. I have a group of 4 friends who many would say I am lucky and blessed to have them in my life; however I feel the opposite. I dread group outings or parties and told myself last night that I don’t have the energy for them anymore….they exhaust me. I am happiest when I am alone. I sound like such a jerk but I just want to be left alone. People say you need a suppose system…I deal with tragedies and hard times better alone. My happiest memory is when I graduated college and moved into a studio apartment….alone. I was single and didn’t even care to date. I wanted to go to work and then come home to a quiet setting. I have cut out the negative people from my life thinking that was the source of these feelings but nope….they are still there. I was also happy when my spouse and I moved to a state. We didn’t know a soul and I loved feeling invisible. I have no desire to be seen or heard. I just want to float through life peaceful…and I feel selfish for saying this but my friends disrupt that flow. I don’t know how to slowly disappear from this group but I have to do something because it’s driving me insane. Thanks for listening.

    • People pleaser says:

      Loner, I know how you feel. For months now I didn’t know why I felt the way I did. I wondered if I was suffering from depression or some form of social anxiety. Lately I’ve just wanted to separate from most of my friends due to the fact that a few have been extremely rude. I offered to pay for a drink for my friend and all she said was ok. Another when I offered to pay for lunch for his birthday said I like it when you beg. I feel that I can’t be friends with those kind of people who are plain rude. I’ve always had ease with meeting and having conversations with people but after a few months they treat me like dirt. I would much rather watch TV, work out then, exhaust money and time being out with people I don’t enjoy being around. Now in my 30’s it’s become so hard to make friends or find genuine people. It’s even harder to make female friends that aren’t bitter at this point, where you can be happy for each other and support one another. I’d rather spend time with my BF and family then maintain friendships that don’t make me happy. This site made me feel normal in my feelings and not some damaged person. Thanks for the support.

    • another loner says:

      I’m 43 and I feel the same way. I’m tired of advising people and telling their futures ( I have a skill of seeing visions and 99 percent of my visions have been correct). I guess I’m also entertaining and live in a city where EVERYBODY visits. Sometimes they want to save money on hotels so they contact me. The type of friends I find always have problems but you know what so do I just choose to keep it to myself or pray about it. I’m just tired of friends my husband though is a social butterfly I hate that. i have two older daughters and I am happy just hanging with them. Maybe I’m depressed but I don’t want to medicate myself I just do not need friends …

  3. Bess says:

    I have a very similar issue. I used to have many groups of friends and partied with everyone. I felt mistreated in some of the groups and slowly pulled away and got married to a out of towner. As I get older I loose more and more friends. As many can’t seem to find time or I feel like I’m always the one calling or texting. The weirdest part is I get rejected even when I’m not calling. A old best friend called out of the blue saying how much she misses me I was very hesitant but continued to return her texts etc but we never got together and I gave up and the funny thing is I wasn’t even the one to reach out! I have a small group of girlfriends now and we have fun, but I’m a little different than the group and miss one on one time. It’s hard meeting friends at 32. I feel myself just giving up and hanging with my husband and daughter….

  4. lala says:

    I identify with the OP in many senses as well. I have experienced the friend drift after moving away, and everything went fine for a few years, then it was like they were all but unavailable (at differing times and differing circumstances). This coincided with a difficult time where I had chronic fatigue so even though I was happy, it was hard to keep up with the newer connections I had made in my new city, and some of the new connections weren’t super strong. While I had once been very active in attending lots of events and social happenings, during this time all of that changed. Even my own mother seemed too busy and I didn’t want to vent, just wanted to be able to have a nice catch-up once in a while. I really needed my closer/older friends to be there in a simple way and I found they just weren’t, and were gone. It saddened me for a few years but eventually I found that it kind of helped me to rely on myself in a stronger way than I ever had (and I am a pretty contemplative person already). Eventually, still dealing with the fatigue, and seeing things slowly over a long period of time in a new light… I still realize that having some friends here would make my life more well-rounded, I kind of stopped “craving” someone to confide in all of the time like I did before. Now, I still would love this, but I am just as the OP and others have stated, pretty content in this phase while it lasts. I guess one of the hardest things has been the adjustment of losing friends, and wondering if they were really friends to lose at the time anyway… and also being hard on myself as I always had thought having friends was just “normal” and anything else was “wierd”. I do have one friend I’ve kept up since being here 8 years, and we meet up about once a month. I realize I should get out there, but I also know, even at my most social years, a good friend doesn’t come around everyday, and I simply don’t have the time,energy or motivation to do what it would take right now.

  5. Alexis says:

    I’m 56. When I was 24 I moved away from my only friends. I tried to make new friends and like others I found myself always on the outside. At 26 I married. He had friends. They were generous and included me sometimes. By the time I was 27 I decided to accept it and not to need or want friend. I focused on my husband. After taking care of my mother and now taking care of my very I’ll husband I look around and see that I have absolutely no support system. I tried to reach out a couple of times. I was in danger of becoming a door mat. I even created a Facebook page and found the old clique of friends I left behind over 30 years ago. They are scattered geographically but they stayed in touch, even after a few years of no contact, they each made it a point of catching up, often visiting each other. Two moved next door to each other. I was the one that disappeared. I am alone and the thought of having a friend now is more stressful than the loneliness. I said all of that, to say this: if you have a close friend or two now – maintain it. Nurture it – if it’s been a few years, find them and just touch base. Keep a lifeline and be a lifeline. A lifeline doesn’t have to be a duty – it can just be sharing a joke, or what you saw on the subway one day. It can be a text or email or snail mail – send a postcard from where you live – even if they are in the same town “watching a great movie – wish you were here”. Just something so you don’t lose that thread. I let that go. You don’t have to be together all the time, but if you have a friend that may be a great friend – don’t give them up.

  6. Caroline says:

    I finally feel understood…

  7. Maegan says:

    I think it’s perfectly okay, but don’t assume that your friends will necessarily be there to welcome you with open arms when you DO need and want them in your life.

  8. clove says:

    I don’t want to be with my old friends anymore. Time has changed my perception and desire to be around certain people. Our past experiences have hurt me and even if they say nothing has changed…everything has.

    We don’t have the same goals and im tired of the same bullshit stories. There comes a point in life when you know better. For some of my old friends, its seems like they never learn.

    Im alone most of the time. I go for dinner with long time friends that i don’t talk or see often. My mom is my best friend ♡ love her more than myself lol. I enjoy it. I do what makes me happy.

    So no girl there is nothing wrong with you. You’ve just opened your eyes n saw what was best for you. Xxxx

  9. Jolynn says:

    I too have felt I am in the “friendship ministry” category. I am the “go to” person for advice or when someone is feeling down. I listen and show enthusiasm when looking at their pictures, vacations or daily grind. When I share news, vacations, pictures; the other party seems perfunctory in reviewing these things. For example, I show pictures and I get a response of “great” and then they quickly turning the focus back to themselves “did I tell you the latest about my daughter…”. This happens all of the time and while I don’t mind being helpful I am tired of the “ministry” category.
    Granted, I have few problems, a wonderful husband and a very content life but only a few friends who don’t treat me like their personal counselor.
    Sometimes, I see people with these large groups of friends (10 or more) and I wonder how they do it. I realized some of them may be “fluff” friends but those are the types of people you need to do activities.
    Lastly, my “good’ friends are completely dissimilar to me. While I enjoy their company sometimes it would be nice to have friends in the same age range and with similar characteristics.
    I have tried groups, volunteer work and activities but I always get relegated to the “mentor” category or people I do not necessarily want as friends.

    • Riita says:

      Jolynn: I have the same situation as you do. I’ve always attracted friends that have a “use” for me. I can’t blame them. I didn’t set boundaries. I cant count the times I’ve let myself be used as a “therapist”. I should’ve gotten a degree in psychology so I could charge fees!. Now I’m 60-ish and have Lupus and am feeling really tired. I really don’t want friends anymore (I always used to be fairly outgoing). The peace I feel being alone for now is wonderful.

  10. GraceW says:

    Here’s my main concern when someone doesn’t want friends. A time may come when you NEED a friend… so then you will have to go out and try to forge relationships based on need. That puts you at a disadvantage – perhaps a little desperate, maybe not clear-headed enough to find good friends. So you take whoever comes along, and often people who are codependent are the first to step forward during someone’s time of need. But their friendship has a price – you have to stay needy. When your need passes, you notice how toxic the relationship is. “Helpful” starts to feel like “invasive.” Your friend’s generosity comes with strings attached. All her bad behavior that you tolerated when you were desperate for a friend becomes intolerable – you suddenly remember you didn’t really want friends to begin with, anyway, and now that your needs have been met, you don’t want that person around anymore. When you’re making friends based on need, you become the user.

    Feeling complete without friends is great – it puts you in a good position to assess potential friend compatibility. It allows you to take things slow in finding and building friendships. It allows you, frankly, to be really picky about who you allow into your life. Personally, I’d encourage being picky over just avoiding friends altogether. I thought Amy F’s list of suggestions for how to “pick” friends was good.

    • Jen says:

      People who make friends based on need sometimes are trying to do just that, fulfill a need. They are not trying to use people. I think it’s o.k. to try to fill a healthy need. We all do that with food, clothing, shelter, community, work, health care, etc. Having friends is a real need for most people. However, being duplicitous, sucking up all the support one can get and never returning it, well, then it gets to be “using,” rather than friendship. There are friendships, and then there are people who are ministries, not really friends. Friendship, by its very nature is unstable, unpredictable, and often unreliable. We have to be willing to be who we are, hold to our important values, AND remember there will be misunderstandings, challenges, and differences in friendship. And people will come and go. A lifelong, true friend is hard to find and even harder to keep. Just like agreeable, kind, supportive family members can be hard to find! We need to concentrate more on “being” a friend, and less on “having” friends and accept the unpredictability of life. Hard, but can be done.

      • GraceW says:

        Jen, I read your “ministries” metaphor elsewhere on this forum and it has always stuck with me. I like it. I think the “ministry” situation is more likely to occur when the friendship starts, from the very beginning, based on one person having a need and the other person fulfilling it. And I don’t mean the general “I need friends” – what I view more as a mutual goal – but “I need a ride to my weekly Weight Watchers meeting,” “I need a sofa to crash on for a couple weeks,” or even “I need a weight loss buddy.” I have seen friendship ads like those posted on Craigslist. I avoid them. I don’t start friendships based on need – because too often a friendship based on one person needing and the other person giving just continues on that way until the giving person can’t give anymore. (Or until the needy person no longer has the need, and suddenly decides she actually has nothing in common with the giving person.) I do help out friends – people I’ve known a while – but people I’ve just met are not my friends. And I don’t want a ministry, lol.

        I totally agree with the notion that there will be misunderstandings, challenges, and differences in friendship. I don’t feel, however, that friendship by its very nature is unstable, unpredictable, or unreliable – unless you form relationships with people who are unstable, unpredictable, and unreliable. There is leeway in my friendships for occasional cancellations and rescheduling, yet overall my friends have been a really stable, predictable, reliable bunch. I love them for it.

        I don’t think you can avoid all users this way, unfortunately, because there are people with unspoken needs like “I need a therapist,” and you don’t see it at the beginning. You don’t notice how unbalanced the friendship is until after you spend considerable time with the person. But I think knowing what to avoid at the very beginning has helped me to minimize the “ministry factor.”

        Most times, I would totally agree with the fact that we need to focus more on being a good friend rather than having a friend. I try to implement that philosophy in my life. However, allowing myself to feel used does not make me a good friend – in the long run it makes me a resentful and exhausted friend. So for people who have a pattern of being used, abused, and then abandoned by their “friends,” I would encourage them to be a little more selfish, a little choosier – especially at the beginning of friendships. They’ve already got the “be a good friend” part worked out.

        • Jen says:

          That is awesome that you have many reliable, predictable friends. I am still looking for more of these. Perhaps it’s because we homeschool and I have found over the years that many people who homeschool are not the most reliable bunch. It has been difficult to find people who will show up to meetings, help, be true friends, etc. Many people who homeschool are severely disfunctional socially, mentally, etc. I naively made the mistake of thinking that because people choose to homeschool, to sacrifice time, sleep and do a lot of crazy hard work to teach their kids at home that they would be a stable, together bunch. I have not found this over the years. That is not to say there aren’t some. Nor is it to say I am going around labeling people or condemning them. We just sadly found there are bullies everywhere, even outside of school…and parents that don’t discipline their children…and parents that use other people etc. This was heartbreaking to me. And just like you said, it takes time with these people to see the unbalances. So we kissed a lot of frogs to find a few good friends. The rest we pray for and help once in awhile, but don’t allow ourselves to get caught in a habitual cycle of being used. Totally agree that with being “choosier!” when looking for true blue friends!!

          • Jen says:

            (This was to Grace). Also, last line should read – totally agree with being choosier when looking for true blue friends!

            • GraceW says:

              Jen, that is too bad that you’ve had such lousy luck finding good friends in the homeschool community. I don’t feel like you are labeling, because I think ANYTIME we seek friends within a small, specialized group (any group), it gets harder to find compatibility because there are fewer choices. For you it is the homeschooling community; for me it is musicians. Playing an instrument is one of my hobbies, but local adult musicians who would want to play with me are a subset of a subset of the population; so far, I’ve not found anyone who could be both a bandmate and a real friend. Heck, it is hard to find reliable amateur musicians, period, nevermind friends. I’ve had really good luck finding predictable, reliable friends in other ways, but with the “musician criteria,” not so much. So I can relate to your lament about homeschoolers.

              • Jen says:

                Thank you, Grace. I have had to expand my horizons. One thing I didn’t do for a long time was allow myself the time to be friends with women that did not have kids that were friends with my kids. We were just pressed for time to compartmentalize like that. But I am trying that now, as my kids get older. And family/friend that homeschools had kids that started calling the other homeschooled kids “losers,” etc. b/c they didn’t want to be homeschooled anymore. So I let my kids distance themselves from them. But I am still friends with the mother, who is a super lady. So I am trying to move in different directions, tho we still don’t have a lot of time for that…But I think it is good for me. A little hermit life is o.k. for mom, but not for years on end! Thanks for taking the time and best wishes with your music and your friends.

    • Riita says:

      This is “spot on”! I’m in a resting place between friends, which is where I want to be and to avoid the scenario that Grace describes may mean:
      1. finding a counsellor or counselling center which has a sliding pay scale
      2. get used to going to movies by yourself
      3. get used to going to restaurants by yourself
      4, find a volunteer job NOW for the future
      Also, you’ve got to be careful whether you have friends or not. A couple of friends were on their best behavior for a long time. These were the ones who turned out to be the worst! When you’re in your 60’s you’ve gone through a lot!

  11. Chumach says:

    Wow, I was also the “dumpee.” People would fall off the face of the earth after a while. Like Chiara’s mother, I too, have grown tired of the relational abuse I’ve experienced from people.

  12. ELizabeth says:

    I left school early in 10th grade and went to home school, why I left is because I felt like I didn’t fit in with any group I was always funny making the class laugh and getting in trouble but the teachers still liked me and everyone always seemed happy to see me or be with me, and one day it just changed I felt like everyone was fake to just fit in with each other counting me, would everyone like me even though I wanted to be more serious? No. Even when I did get along with everyone and had a lot of friends I always felt like I didn’t have things in common with my friends, if that makes sense. Five years later I only talk to one friend that I can still tell whatever I want to, but we are still complete opposites and sometimes I feel like I rely on her more as a friend than she does me? Shes moved about 10 hours away and has already made all new friends and I have zero my mom, my husband and my 3 year old little one our my only friends or people to talk to. I dont know why I dont have that go to friend or someone that wants to just hang out with me go to lunch or go do fun things with our kids. I have not one friend other than family. Sometimes it makes me sad, but I know its ment to be this way for a reason but I dont understand whats so wrong with me thay I cant keep a friend? I have a big heart I love all animals I know how to respect my elders, I have done bad things in my childhood but ive always been respectable to everyone I meet im not nasty I keep a clean house I take care of my child never go out or do anything that I know would let my child down, but I cant find anyone thats similar to me that I could just be completely comfortable with and know theyll always be my friend no Matter what. I can tell my husband or mom anything but I wish I had a friend outside family that could be there!

  13. Jen says:

    This is me!!! I could never figure out why I was the “dumpee” in my friendships. People would come to me for a shoulder to cry on, comfort, affirmation, favors, help of all kinds, you name it!!! But when it was our turn to move, have babies, grieve miscarriages, lose loved ones, etc. (let alone the little challenges of life), it was all crickets. No, we didn’t go begging for help, but when we confided in friends about our occasional hard times, there was NO ONE there for us. I don’t mind giving more than I get, my church has always taught it is better to give than receive. And we always receive good graces when we do good things. I don’t keep score. However, it was glaringly obvious over the years that once I’d helped someone with their troubles, then be off and running and I was chump change. I couldn’t figure out why! Life can be hard, and the world can be a cruel place. Having friends can really buffer and brighten life, can’t it? But I didn’t really have friends, I had ministries. After much reflection, I realized I just needed to call them what they were, ministries. I am happy to help people, but if NONE of your friends are reciprocating with some give and take…well, it was exhausting and draining to me!!!! I have had to take breaks as well. I love meeting new people, without the entanglements of complicated friendships. And I do want healthy friendships. I just find it hard to believe that it is that hard to find people who are kind, caring, and give support as well as receive it. Best wishes!!

  14. Amy F says:

    Hi Chiara,
    Sometimes through life we have more or less energy to devote to friends and that’s ok, we have to prioritize our energies. I think having a few friends outside if your marriage is healthy and enhances the marriage, as well as takes some of the pressure off the marriage with outside sources for socializing.
    I may be wrong, but what I took from your letter is that as you’ve matured, you realize that you want to be different in relationships, and you want to have different types of friendships than you’ve had in the past. You’ve recognized that you picked up some of your mom’s habits of giving more than you get.
    I think the solution to that is setting boundaries and practicing new behaviors until you become more comfortable with the relationships. If I’m right I have some suggestions,
    1 Identify which of your friends has the potential to shift to a more equal relationship. I’d look for women with good communication skills and healthy relationships that are drama free.
    2 Figure out how you want to act and how you want the friendships to be. When I was younger and trying out changes, I looked toward a role model and tried to figure out how she’d handle situations. This worked extremely well.
    3 Learn to say no. You don’t have to respond to every request, answer every text or email, be available all the time. If you’re not used to saying no, this might be awkward and scary the first time, but it gets easier until you feel comfortable. When you say no, you don’t need to be apologetic, give excuses, or feel guilty. Your time and energy is yours and how you spread that out is your decision.
    4 Set boundaries- if you don’t want texts after a certain time, tell people. If you don’t want to give advice any more, tell people. If one friend is constantly excessively needy, you may need stronger boundaries with her than others. It’s okay to take breaks from friends or people to recharge your batteries.

    It’s never too late to change, and I’d hate to see you walk away from people you like, if you can change your approach.
    Some is your friends might not like these changes, they might walk away, and that will be tough, but it is practice on being assertive and you’ll learn what if anything you want to do differently.
    Also, new friendships are opportunities to develop healthy patterns from the getgo, easier than changing established ones.
    You might also look into therapy, to help you process how your past has shapes your present, and how to change that.

    Good luck, I know you can do it.

    • Linda says:

      This is great advice Amy. Thanks for sharing your advice. Everything that has been said here has been a tremendous help to me and somewhat comforting. I can relate to the OP in every sense. I too have felt used and drained by many friends I grew up with and always felt that part of the issue and solution could only come from myself. Instead of voicing how I feel I have just distanced myself which I know is immature but I feel I have drifted so far away from all of my friends that these relationships can’t be repaired. Maybe I don’t want them to be repaired. I do miss having a best friend though and finding new friends isn’t a forte of mine and/or has felt forced. I will take your advice once I do find and start some wonderful, meaningful friendships. OP you are lucky you do have your husband/best friend. I have yet to find my soul mate but I am very grateful I have my family and don’t know what I would do without them. That beautiful connection between human beings is what life is all about. Here is to wishing all of us the wonderful friends we truly deserve. Thanks for this post, it made my day.

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