The Friendship Doctor

Send in your friendship questions and quandaries and get expert answers and solutions

Developing Friendships as Part of a Couple

You can’t always count on your spouse.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I am 51 and still trying to find a best friend, as sad as that sounds. Don’t get me wrong I have work acquaintances with whom I have gone out with on occasion but no one I would call for a weekend movie or coffee or to whom I would tell my “darkest secrets.” I only wish.

My deepest confidante passed away of leukemia. I still find myself outgoing, amusing to be around but, like many of you, cannot link with that one person. I don’t know what it is about me either.

My husband, the great supporter that he is seems to think that he should be more than enough. But when that retirement day comes and the boys have finished University and have left home, and I am left with my garden and history books—and my husband with the dog and mathematics books – our conversation is going to be limited.

Where do you draw up a friend? Life is lonely as it is, without true friends it will only get lonelier. Don’t you think that as a couple you both have to get out there and develop friendships? One just can’t do it alone.

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ANSWER

There is no set guide for how to handle friendships within the context of marriage and, as you have gathered from reading other posts here, your situation in terms of not having a best friend is a common one as women age.

1) It seems like you can’t rely on your husband for making friendships outside your marriage; you seem to be far more interested than he is in forming relationships with other couples. If this is the case, you can try coaxing him into getting involved with other couples (e.g. neighbors or people who work at his workplace or yours). But I suspect that in your case, the responsibility for friend-finding may totally fall on you. And be forewarned, it can even be more difficult to find four personalities that mesh than to find one close friend.

If you do find one or more couples with whom you are both compatible, perhaps you can also begin to see the female partner alone, too.

2) If your husband isn’t interested in getting together with other couples and is happy being with you and the dog, working, and reading mathematics books, tell him that you love his company but also feel the need for female friendships. This may be totally fine with him. And you CAN do it alone if you set your mind to it!

3) It’s sad to lose a close friend with whom you had a long shared history. People like that are hard to replace. Perhaps, you may need more than one person to fill that gap, or you may need to start with far more casual relationships until one of them deepens.

It’s great that you have started thinking about this before your retirement. Can you find a gardening club or other group that shares some of your interests? That might be a fertile place to plant the seeds for new friendships. Or, can you join a social group that intrigues you enough? Do you have any interest in joining a gym?

My suggestion would be for you to take more initiative in making friendships happen for you. Even though you may have a wonderful hubby, having close friends will undoubtedly enrich your life.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

Here are some prior posts on The Friendship Blog about couples and their friendships that may be of interest:

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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