Making friends after 50 – 8 steps that worked for me Most Liked Hot Conversation

Today’s Featured Comment

From Paula Ellen:

I recently went through a rough separation and divorce, covering a span of three years. At the end of it, I had assumed my friends had my back, and was looking forward to rebuilding a lot of those relationships – when I realized they no longer existed. I actually lost all my dear, close friends, who told me I had been too unhappy for too long, and they were done with me.

Having been a very faithful friend to them, I was devastated. I have lived in my hometown for over 50 years (except while away at college), and these were friends I had know almost all my life. So I didn’t only lose a husband of 23 years, I also lost what I thought was my entire support group.

I had to do something to find new friends, so I took advice that I had been giving others for years. Find things you love to do, and find groups of others who enjoy the same activity. Join these groups and be active in them. It will take some time, but friendships will form. Whatever you do, don’t just sit home and hope for it, because that won’t happen. You have to get out and be where people are that you might like to spend time with.

1. Volunteer. The United Way in our town has a website that lists volunteer activities. I subscribe to it, so I can see what’s going on in town and where I might help out, and find others who enjoy helping out. What talents do you have that you can share with others? Think about it, make a list, and then find ways to help, using those wonderful talents.

2. Take a class. I live in a town with a university, which provides many learning opportunities. Dancing (no you don’t need a partner), painting, drawing, learning a new language, photography, jewelry making… the list is endless, and the offers change from season to season. Learning something new is a great way to meet people, because you are all learning (and vulnerable) at the same time, and this is a great way to meet new people.

3. Join the theater. My counselor suggested I do more of things I have always wanted to while I was separated, and so I auditioned for a show with our local community theater. I got a small non-speaking part and had a wonderful time singing and dancing for about 8 weeks. I have done a lot more with theater since, props, set, costumes, etc. You don’t have to be onstage for your talent to shine and be appreciated. People in theater are a very social bunch, so there are lots of opportunities to be together and chat.

4. Get out and about. Go to Art galleries, city band concerts, picnics, festivals. Be where the people are and have fun. Ride your bike, hike, cross-country ski, kayak. If you don’t know how, learn! I once asked a kayak instructor for a free lesson that turned into a wonderful day on the water that made me feel like I was a teenager again.

5. Hook up with Facebook or any number of social media out there. I did this to keep up with all the great photos being shared by my young friends in theater, but over the years it has led to many other wonderful connections. Friends of friends, their parents, cousins, coworkers and things they share or are connected to have created a wonderful network of even more opportunities for me to explore, and friendships to make. Sometimes just a simple inquiry can begin a wonderful relationship with someone.

6. Make your own club! If you are noticing a lot of people like you out there, looking for others to hang with, why not start a group? In my town there is a Singles Network, and it’s not populated with young 20-somethings (they don’t need a club… duh!). It’s a group of active, middle-aged people who just like getting together for fun. They hold monthly dances at local retaurants or taverns, and weather permitting, they schedule outdoor events too. They have a monthly newsletter listing everything they do, and you can get the first one free to see if it’s something you might be interested in.

7. Be sure to stretch yourself a bit, and don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone for a while. In order to have something new come into your life, you have to be open to new opportunities, and try new activities, or it just won’t happen.

8. Whatever you do though, don’t appear needy. Don’t come out and say that you are there to find friends because you are lonely. No one wants to hear that, it will scare everyone away. Just say you wanted to help out or try something new. Desperation is not attractive, so just be friendly and positive, and above all, patient.

One day an opportunity will present itself, and you will be asked to participate in an extracurricular activity or feel it’s time to invite someone to lunch to get to know them better. Little by little, friendships will develop. Meanwhile, focus on making yourself and your life the best you can, and the rest will follow.

[This comment was originally posted in this conversation. ~ Eds.]

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Posted in family & relationships, other topics, VN Featured Comment.

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13 Responses

  1. NanaIsland NanaIsland says

    Great suggestions, Paula.  Divorced or not, a lot of women (and men) our age are realizing that they need to make an effort to build friendships.  I used to see a lot of people through my kids’ school activities but the kids have grown and they don’t need the parental involvement any more – so I need to create my own opportunities for fun and friendships.

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  2. Paula Ellen Paula Ellen says

    Thanks, NanaIsland. When I was much younger, my mom passed away and my dad was trying to find a social circle to be active in. My heart broke for him because it seemed impossible, and I was only a teenager then, and had no way of knowing how to help him with the problem.

    He ended up joining a camping club for singles and met a lovely lady who he eventually married. Of course, they couldn’t stay in the club any more, but went back occasionally during their gatherings to visit. They were married 19 years before he passed away.

    My sister, who was divorced and alone for awhile, concerned me because she was a very opinionated and picky person. I thought she would never find someone she would like to spend her time with. She volunteered to help serve at a pancake breakfast one Saturday and met a great guy who she has been seeing for several years now.

    I have seen this over and over. And I think… if it can happen to these people at various ages and stages in their lives, then it is a universal application. Get out there and do something. Anything. Just get out there. Lose yourself in something you like to do, and the rest will come.

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  3. joyful53 joyful53 says

    It looks like you had some good role models and that you’ve learned their lessons well.  I think you will be just fine.

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  4. NanaIsland NanaIsland says

    Sounds like there might be another interesting blog post there – Why do some relationships end after a divorce? And what can you do about it?

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  5. Paula Ellen Paula Ellen says

    Well, NanaIsland, that is a very interesting subject. My heart goes out to annmmc in a big way. Just last spring I lost a very close, dear friend I had met as a high school freshman. She’d always been my rock, the yin to my yang, and given awesome advice over the years. When she married, I loved her husband like a brother. They seemed to love and understand me like no one else, and didn’t seem to mind my drama, either.

    However, last spring she told me directly that she no longer wanted my friendship, and returned some things to me, including a framed print of a quote about friendship I had given her decades ago, in honor of her wonderful friendship. In effect, she ‘broke up’ with me.

    After having lost my husband of 25 years in a divorce, it was like getting the rug pulled out from under me all over again. I tried to find some books about this, and ended up read “What Did I Do Wrong” by Liz Pryor. The book explains that as women, we are taught how to handle a lot of different situations, but when it comes to an unhappy or unbalanced friendship, we have no idea what to do, so we do nothing.

    This leaves the other party wondering what the hell happened, but it can be pieced together if you look back and pay attention to the events that led up to it. My friend told me that I was the most narcissistic person she had ever met. It totally freaked me out, so I asked another friend who is a counselor about this statement. She told me to relax, that I probably had those tendencies, but was not a narcissist. She told me to start focusing on others more and being compassionate, and I’d be just fine.

    I assume that’s why the other friends left too, they just couldn’t find the words to tell me. And you know what? That’s okay. I finally came to terms with it. This is just how my friends need to deal with this right now. And maybe forever, but things can change. Nothing really stays one way for very long, and I try to take comfort in that. I’m very hurt and disappointed, but perhaps someday things will heal and we will be friends again.

    I think annmmc is right, sometimes you lean on someone too hard and for too long, and most people can’t handle that. I thought I was justified doing so because of the severity of my situation, but apparently I was wrong. A very painful lesson to learn.

    I think a lot of friendships end simply because once you are divorced, you are in a different category and some people find it threatening. Almost all my friends who are married really don’t contact me anymore. I used to take it personally but when I read more about how people react to divorce, it makes sense.

    Getting a divorce and even just being separated makes the couples around you concerned about their own relationships. They have to consider them whether they want to or not, and most people would rather not. So staying away is much easier than having to deal with it. My divorce taught me a lot of things, but mostly it taught me an awful lot about human nature.

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  6. Generic Image Jael says

    Paula, I can really relate and I’m not divorced.  The hard truth I’ve found is that very, very few friends want to “feel your pain”.  They want you happy and don’t want to deal with your hard times.  Yes, there are a few gems, but in my life I’ve never met any.  This is a lonely lesson to learn.  I try not to share problems even with very good friends.  The phrase “fair weather friend” comes to mind and perhaps it’s harsh, but I also think it’s true. 

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  7. Vicky1956 Vicky1956 says

    My biggest concern after my separation and pending divorce is that I become one of those “oh poor me” women who harp on love lost. I sat, thought, prayed…and I figured that I really love my friends, but I can’t fix them, I can’t be the end all be all to them…and they shouldn’t be asked to be that for me.
    I got myself a very, very good counselor to whom I vented, ranted, raved, and felt sorry for myself for months. Last month she told me I don’t need her anymore. I am not ready for that simply because I still have “stuff” and I don’t want to drive my friends away with “stuff.”
    I depend on them for fun, laughs, an occasional cry…and great understanding. But they have their own stuff. And I love them enough to listen to them…but I can’t be consumed by it.
    I have made lots of new connections and had lots of fun in the past few months. I need my friends to be friends, not saviors. I depend on my counselor for that. And God.
    I do not want to overwhelm my friends with my stuff. Consequently, they ask me about it, and have been very supportive.

    A divorce is not the end of a life. In the right context, it’s the beginning.

    And sometimes we ask too much of people.

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  8. Georgiegirl Georgiegirl says

    This is great advice.  I went on VN since I have noticed that some of my lifelong friends and even family have not been including me or I have felt ignored.  I have been stressed out from it since I just retired and have more time than before.  I was starting to ask myself, what is wrong with me and why is this happening.  But, the pattern seems to be my old friends are making new friends which are out of my circle and now doing things more with them.  So, I am going to take your wonderful advice and not sulk but move on.  Thanks for your help!

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Friendships in later life linked to this post on June 3, 2013

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