The Friendship Doctor

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Make Midlife Friendships: Not Always Easy

At midlife, making friends can be more difficult. It’s not a function of age, pe

QUESTION

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

ANSWER

Hi Eve,

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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:

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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