How to make and keep friends when most people suck?
January 3, 2009 7:33 AM   Subscribe

How to make and keep friends when most people suck?

I'm a 30-year-old married female, husband is 29, no kids, not planning on having them soon (or ever). We don't share many common interests/hobbies, and those we do share aren't really group social activities. We also have somewhat incompatible work/school schedules, leaving me home alone, bored, and lonely on the weekends. I need local friends to converse and share activities with.

Unfortunately, I have a difficult time meeting people I *want* to be friends with. Most people bore, irritate, or repulse me, and people who share my interests/hobbies and values are relatively rare. I never meet people I have anything in common with in my day-to-day life -- I have to seek them out via special-interest groups and clubs.

Then, when I do finally make friends, I usually can't keep them. Something happens to end the friendship:
1. He doesn't really want to be friends, he just wants to fuck me (this has been revealed to be true of ~90% of my single heterosexual male "friends")
2. His wife/girlfriend thinks he wants to fuck me, and forbids/discourages our friendship
3. She disappears when she gets a boyfriend
4. She disappears when she has a baby
5. I get sick of being sucked into his/her unhealthy lifestyle and/or negative attitudes (addiction, abuse, obesity/sloth, drama, depression, apathy, etc.)
6. He/she turns out to be a habitual liar or has other unforgivable/dangerous character defects
7. He/she mooches off me too much
8. He/she tries to convert me to his/her religion
9. His/her political beliefs are so opposed to mine that he/she concludes that I am evil or vice versa
10. He/she moves away

When I lived in my home city I was very extroverted and (despite the above issues) had a social life of dozens of friends in a few overlapping circles. Then I moved/traveled a lot in 2005-2006 and left all my friends behind. I finally settled down in a new city, got married, and have lived here for two years now. In that time I have made and lost two circles of friends. The first circle of friends were at my old job, and when I quit the friendships died because we had very little in common outside of work. I recently lost the second circle of friends after ending all contact with my former best friend (the central person in that group) due to reasons 1, 5, 6, and his almost-successful attempt to destroy my marriage.

I am starved for conversation and a social life beyond just my husband but I am so burnt out and discouraged by these experiences that I am turning into an internet-addicted recluse. It's getting harder and harder for me to muster the energy to go out and meet people in real life because I feel like I'm just wasting my time and setting myself up for another inevitable betrayal or disappointment. My growing introversion and cynicism have me worried that "I have problems making and keeping friends" is becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy instead of just a factual description of recent history.

Hindrances to making friends the usual ways:
1. I'm a whiz at locating and joining relevant special-interest clubs/groups, but my interests and hobbies all tend to be male-dominated so 80%+ of the people I meet that way are men. I've had so many (20+) bad experiences with male "friends" who didn't actually want to be just friends that I can no longer trust straight males' motivations for friendship. Women who are sincerely interested in my interests (not just tagging along with a male partner) and gay men are very rare in these groups.
2. All of my coworkers are men. Additionally, almost all are married with babies and seem to have no time or interest in a life outside of work and family. There's also a job class/hierarchy difference in that they are scientists whereas I am merely administrative support. They seem primarily interested in talking with the other scientists about science things so I am left out of most of the conversations at work.
3. I am also in school, but as a 30-year-old non-traditional student I tend to be the old lady in my classes and at school functions. I can't really relate well to most of the other students due to the differences in age and life experience.
4. My husband's local friends are all single men.
5. I'm not religious, so no church or faith-based groups.

I think I can salvage maybe 1 or 2 friends from my old job and 1 friend from the second circle of friends, but there's not much potential there for close friendships. I need more friends than that, including some closer friends, to be happy with my social life.

So... how can I make/keep friends who aren't losers, morally bad people, or men with ulterior motives?

I realize I probably sound judgmental in the way I've asked this, but I am so sick of being used and dragged down by so-called "friends" -- I need to raise my standards and improve the screening process for letting people into my life.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Look for women's social groups for your hobbies. What are they?
posted by Ironmouth at 7:44 AM on January 3, 2009

You forgot to mention what it is that you're doing that makes it hard for you to make friends. All of your reasons for why people suck have certainly happened and happen often, but I guarantee there's some element of your own forging that you're leaving out. If you dislike most people, it's undoubtedly your problem, not theirs.

Anyway, the heteroguy failure to be friends with girls shouldn't be too surprising. I thought most women figured that out Freshmen year in college? That is why adults in couples are friends with other couples. It's like sex detente. Don't fuck my wife because I could totally be fucking yours! Nowhere on your list did I see that option. Make friends with both halves of a couple and do whatever cheerful 1950s tea party and board games get-togethers you can stomach with them before you decide you despise them and everything they stand for.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:00 AM on January 3, 2009 [18 favorites]

Maybe you should distinguish between people to hang out with and friends you can have deep meaningful converstaions with - the two need not be the same. My two best friends (for meaningful conversations outside my family) live in different countries/even on different continents.

The people you pursue your hobbies with need not be the people you are close to emotionally.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:01 AM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

I could give you some practical suggestions, but first I want to address this:

Most people bore, irritate, or repulse me

Thinking this way about people is going to make it really, really hard to make friends. There's a certain amount of open-mindedness you need to have when dating (or in your case, friends-dating) around. Your first impression of someone isn't necessarily going to be the best one - maybe the other person is having a bad day, maybe you're having a bad day, maybe the best things about them just tend to be hidden. I have several good friends now that when I first met didn't seem like anyone special. I am very glad I kept myself open to getting close to them.

I'm not saying there's not some really boring, irritating, repulsive people out there. And obviously, if someone is red-flagging your own personal dealbreakers (being abusive, coming on to you) then absolutely, avoid that. But everyone has some flaws. I guess what I'm saying is that giving people more of a chance will make things easier. It's not lowering your standards - it's suspending judgment.

That being said, here are some practical suggestions:

~ Try to think of every "interest" out there that would attract the people you're looking for - if you want more women and gay male friends, what are activities that tend to draw those crowds? I was part of a book club that was entirely women and gay men. Now, maybe you hate book clubs, but a lot of times when people define their interests as a couple of specific things, they don't mean they'd hate doing anything else - just that they're not as passionate about doing other things. Are you just sort of lukewarm about book clubs? Well try one, and if you like the people (which is the point, isn't it?) you'll probably end up enjoying it.

~ Is there any sort of social group at your school for nontraditional students? I would imagine that there are at least a half dozen other people like you... so why not all get together for dinner sometime? If there's not a social group, start it.

Without knowing more details about your interests, its hard to give concrete suggestions, but I think those might work.
posted by shaun uh at 8:12 AM on January 3, 2009 [6 favorites]

Enjoy people for who they are and what interests you share, and don't expect everyone to be your super-bfffe.

I have a number of friends with whom I share a very close connection in some areas, but who are also quite incompatible in others. One example is a friend from work- we've known each other for almost 10 years now, and are the sorts of friends who would do (and have done) just about anything for each other- help moving, drive to airport, fix the cars, share troubles, etc. But we almost never "socialize" in the going out to eat or to a bar or to movies sense. It just doesn't work for us, and we realize it. We just aren't compatible in those areas.

Same thing with my old high school friends- we are all still tight, but as we've grown up (early 30s), there are some things we used to do that just don't work anymore.

So when you meet someone who you share some kind of interest or intimacy with, foster and explore that. And if it gets weird if you try to expand the relationship, discuss it and mutually back off in that arena. Don't let the areas of incompatibility wreck the good parts.

Work hint- technical/sciencey people sometimes enjoy explaining what they are talking about. If something sounds interesting, ask genuine questions.

And yeah, unfortunately, many people are often trolling for more-than-friends encounters. Men and women alike, I've found. "are you hitting on me?" usually shuts them down, or at least is an opening to have a conversation.
posted by gjc at 8:12 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

shawn uh- I like that concept of friends-dating! That's exactly whats going on.
posted by gjc at 8:14 AM on January 3, 2009

2 years is within the realm of potentially not enough time to make friends in a new city, which is sucky, but bear it in mind.

I'd suggest going over the list of things in life you'd like to do but haven't, and the list of things you wanted to do at one point, but forgot about when life got busy, and see if you can find something new to take a shot at that is also likely to be a little more suited to gaining a social life. More suitable how?

Well, friends is too vague. What do you want friends for?
For some people, friends are for late-night discussions. For others, they're people to go camping with or join for vacation because group outings can be a lot of fun. For others. friends are people you can bitch about life too, or a shoulder to lean on. For others, people to enjoy nightlife with, and so on, and it's rare to find friends that fall into all categories.
What kind of friends you want and need, and what sorts of things you want to share with them, will make a difference in where and at who you should look.
Knowing what you're looking for can help you find it.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:14 AM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think that instead of being more selective in your friend-search, you need to make a ton more friends and be less selective so that when one of them disappoints you, you have others to fall back on until you aren't so pissed off at that one anymore.

Start with those friends that you can salvage from your previous two circles, and try to talk to their friends at parties or events to make more related friends. Some of my best friends now are college friends of a girl I went to summer camp with. If I just wrote it off that she moved away instead of maintaining the friendships I built with her friends, I' d probably feel abandoned, but since I turned her friends into my friends, it is ok.
Just branch out a little more in the circles you do have and you might meet someone you have even more in common with than your original friend.

It is frustrating when friends let you down, but that doesn't have to be the end of the friendship. It sounds like when things start to go poorly you might polarize the situation and make it impossible for the friendship to continue (reasons 1, 7, 9).
I've had friendships survive crushes, mooching, and crazily differing political beliefs because those can just become topics you don't touch on. You ignore the crush after you've addressed it and turned him/her down, you make the mooch buy his/her own ticket to the concert before you go, and you talk about movies instead of politics with the anarchist.

Try being a little more forgiving of some of these faults (though the lying etc are some you can't budge on) and you'll end up with a lot more friends. Everyone gets pissed at their friends, the trick is to have enough so that you're not pissed with all of them at once.
It sounds like you can make the friendships if you try a little, so just work on not dismissing them once something goes a little screwy.
posted by rmless at 8:15 AM on January 3, 2009 [8 favorites]

There's nothing wrong with being picky and choosing proper people to hang out with, but it sounds like you put too much into these friendships. People are not perfect (most of them actually suck, as you correctly pointed out) and eventually you will find faults with anyone.

I feel something very similiar to what you describe and i've lived with it for as long as i can remember. However to avoid complete isolation i decided to assemble many friends with at least SOME admirable traits and make them stick around. Like you i don't have a problem getting friends or making them stay, i just get sick of them very fast.
So rather than completely change my friend circle every 2 years (which i did for some time) i decided to use them like a big wardrobe. Whenever i feel the urge to point out a persons faults and boot him/her out i just take a pause and put them on ice for a bit (without informing them directly of course) and sample some other friends in the meantime. Because there was a reason i got friends with that person in the first place, i'm sure to find him/her bearable after a while.

If that is too weird for your taste, perhaps you should try to find persons similar to your husband. There must be a reason as for why you are still with him, even though so many other persons have gone and left. Identify what you like about him and hunt for it in your friend-search.

I really have not met my dream-friend/soulmate ever (isn't that somewhat of a cliche?), many have come close but i always manage to find some flaws in them. But i think that is mostly my own fault..but on the other hand i'm very happy and satisfied with this arrangement and glad i can carry my own weight and am not dependent on anyone else.
And i also think its a very admirable trait in you, that you don't cave in and keep on fighting to get what you want (and probably deserve). I hope you will find it.
posted by kampken at 8:18 AM on January 3, 2009 [7 favorites]

Try book clubs? Social circles following your same inclinations? As you say you're becoming very much internet oriented, why not use it to find groups in your area that fit things you're interested in? If, for example, you're interested in cooking, find a cooking group in you're area. (while you say your hobbies are male dominated, that's just an example). If, again, you're finding it difficult to maintain friendships in male dominated circles, see what you can do to broadcast that you're taken/not interested/not available to said groups.

Definitely listen to koahiatamadl, just because you share their hobby, you don't need to share their pathos. Just get out there and start looking. And yes, maybe men in male dominated hobby fields will hit on you. Just let them know that you're thoroughly not interested, and that you'd rather keep the relationship that you might develop strictly interest based.

While this might sound harsh or male oriented, a lot of men who are into male dominated hobbies (I'm thinking painted minatures, comics, gaming, or even sports and the like, maybe I'm pretty far off) are pretty surprised when a woman shows interest. When they find out that you actually share their hobby, they might come to the conclusion that you are their dream woman. (Mine likes playstation, Simpsons, MST3K, hiking, watching/playing bastketball and football, and stupid action movies. On the other hand, I love my wife dearly) Let them know that while you share their interests, you are not interested in them. Do it gently, and you might very well gain good friends over the long haul.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:20 AM on January 3, 2009

I very much agree that you need to not raise the bar but to throw the bar (and the idea of the bar) in the trash. Don't approach potential new friends as "potential soulmates so long as they can pass through the filter of your numbered list of ways they could screw you over". As an experiment, for a few months, try to make as many new acquaintances as you can, without expecting too much from any one of them. (Don't do this as a lifelong approach, though, or you'll become one of those awful 900-Facebook-friends networker people.) As in the world of money, diversify your investments.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:23 AM on January 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

This is an interesting phenomenon --it's pretty common with people entering late 20s, 30s as interests become more specific, personal responsibilities increase, judgment sharpens, etc.. I think the most important thing here is that you not look for ME in your acquaintances but find more about them to consider. Your question could be addressed with many of the "winning friends and influencing people" lessons.

A number of things you noted makes this really difficult, "Most people bore, irritate, or repulse me, and people who share my..." and most people can sense this and will be bored, irritated, and repulsed in return and not willing to engage in your interests/hobbies/values. Take a close at what triggers this judgment and monitor it closely. You may discover this is comes from a more toxic space than what you're aware of. Ultimately, negative judgment of others outsides is generated by a negative sense of one's own insides.

I'm familiar with this "I tend to be the old lady in my classes and at school functions. I can't really relate well to most of the other students due to the differences in age and life experience." Age, experience, and perspective aren't mutually inclusive. And if you think 30 is old the isolation you'll endure in another 10 or 20 years will be unbearable.
posted by ezekieldas at 8:25 AM on January 3, 2009 [5 favorites]

Also, the reason I suggested thinking about things that you wanted to do at one point, but forgot about when life got busy, is that you sound very jaded and set in your ways. Find your child again, the things and potential that you've forgotten as you hardened. Find things out by dabbling and trying to have fun, instead by analysing them ahead of time to come to a considered course of action.
It sounds like your life is stable and together, so you shouldn't have much to fear from being a bit more irresponsible and letting go a little.

Also - you can afford to lose friends. You invested a lot of time and energy into relationships only to have them fail, and this is making you more cautious of doing it again. Don't think like that. You have energy to give, energy to waste. You've got your shit together so you can afford it. Offer your back to let people stab you - you're strong enough to use this as a means of sorting the wheat from the chaff.

Don't hold back.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:30 AM on January 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

There's also a job class/hierarchy difference in that they are scientists whereas I am merely administrative support. They seem primarily interested in talking with the other scientists about science things so I am left out of most of the conversations at work.

As a scientist, I've always thought it was strange that administrative staff at most of the places I work seem to avoid socializing with us. Scientists do have other interests besides science, you know. Yes, they are more likely to talk about science at work, but that is because they are at work.
posted by grouse at 8:31 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Let them know that while you share their interests, you are not interested in them. Do it gently, and you might very well gain good friends over the long haul.

I'll second this. If I were to caricature my hetro-guy process with a woman I liked, it might be something like this:

Well first of all, is she interested in a relationship with me?
Nope - she's married.
Ok. Is she interested in being friends?
Yay! New friend!

But it sounds like, due to some experiences with people who weren't interested in being less than more-than-friends, that you might be assuming someone's interest in being more-than-friends always means that their interest in friendship is false, and you'll cut things off at the first line.

Don't make that assumption. Yes, that assumption will protect you from false friendships and filter out bad people, but it will also preclude real friendships and filter out good people.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:43 AM on January 3, 2009

Without knowing what your hobbies are, it's hard to say where you can find compatible people. Also it might help knowing how big your town is. Where do you hang out besides work and home?

The best advice I have received is just do what you love to do anyway, even if you have to do it by yourself. Usually if you go out there to do what you like to do and are generally friendly, people will be open. Compliment people, ask them about their interests and listen. This is how you screen people. If you are sincerely interested in getting to know about them, then you can tell if they mesh with you.

My best friend and I met years ago in a gym class we both didn't like, but discovered we both were interested in the same movies and books. When she had kids we did spend less time together, but now that they are a bit older she's happy to have adult company and conversations.

My other good friend is a guy I met after a failed engagement. He was a little interested in dating me, but when I let him know that what I really needed was a friend he totally respected me and we hung out all the time. He moved to a different city, so I don't see him much anymore, but rarely a day goes by that we don't email or IM (and he found a great girl years ago, so he's not carrying a torch). You can have male friends, but they have to be really quality guys that are generally nice to everyone and respect others.

Have you found other couples that don't plan on having children? I know two or three couples that fit this description and they are fun.

I suggest the short book, The Art of Friendship, which is about making, keeping, and parting with friends.
posted by CoralAmber at 8:50 AM on January 3, 2009

Thirding lowering your standards.

When one increases their standards and expectations, they are frequently disappointed.
When one lowers their standards and expectations, one ends up generally being pleasantly surprised.

This general trend can be applied to many, many things in life. Have a few deal breakers - interfering in your marriage should definitely be one of them. But it sounds like, if I may be honest, that you're not being a very good friend - supporting them in new relationships when they spending a lot of time with someone new. Supporting them when they have a new baby because, well, babies can't take care of themselves and need someone to invest time in them. Everyone has some drama - everyone, including you. If you drop out of circles, and either drop off the face of the earth to let them know or are passive aggressive about it, you're being dramatic. Maybe... maybe you're not attracting quality friendships because you don't tolerate flaws. Maybe you're not attracting qualit friendships because you're not being a very good friend yourself. I may be presumptuous, but I'm just throwing this idea out there.

Someone suggested having different friends for different occasions - this is an excellent idea. It's extremely rare that you're going to find a friend(s) who meet all your expectations. But having a group of friends for doing stuff with, for leaning on and helping each other through the tough times, is a fine idea.

Ok, so most people suck. So what? There's not one non-sucky thing about them that you can enjoy or connect with? Find that one thing and ride with it. You might be pleasantly surprised.
posted by raztaj at 8:53 AM on January 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm a female scientist, and I rarely talk to the rest of the [male] scientists, for reasons I cannot fathom- perhaps they don't want to be my friend because they are married or perhaps because they are republicans. I have no idea. I'm friends with the post-docs, the technicians, and the administrative staff [males and females]. Does your establishment have post-docs and technicians? They may be younger than you, but that doesn't mean you can't be friends. I have some friends I talk food with, others that I shop with, and others I talk movies with. Whatever we have in common. I don't expect soul-matiness from them.

My hobbies are internet-compatible, and I have "internet friends" in every city. Since I travel a lot, I get to meet a lot of them, and sometimes we just get along, but sometimes we become real friends outside the hobbies. A few of them are true soul mates.

I'll agree with other people that you need to know a lot of people in order to have a few true friends. But knowing a lot of people, learning how other people live their lives, is a great thing in itself. It broadens your understanding and gives you a greater capacity for empathy and understanding.
posted by acrasis at 9:02 AM on January 3, 2009

When I lived in my home city I was very extroverted and (despite the above issues) had a social life of dozens of friends in a few overlapping circles. Then I moved/traveled a lot in 2005-2006 and left all my friends behind. I finally settled down in a new city, got married, and have lived here for two years now.

Relocation may be partly responsible for your woes. You may be separated from your "tribe."

Every city and country has its own culture. Sometimes differences are slight; other times they are vast. As a native New Yorker living in California, I gravitate most to East Coasters and Europeans. They speak my language. The California culture is fun and fascinating, but it's not "home" for me.

When you return to your hometown, do you feel a sense of relief? Do you relate better to people there? If so, you simply may be living in a place whose culture doesn't suit you. If this seems true, try reaching out to people from your former stomping grounds, and look for transplanted individuals from that area who now live near you. Best wishes to you.
posted by terranova at 9:05 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Have you considered starting a group for females with your interests? If your town is large enough, you may be able to find one or two who are in a similar situation. Plan some activities, set some dates, set a date to set more dates, and hey, you're in business.
posted by amtho at 9:23 AM on January 3, 2009

1. He doesn't really want to be friends, he just wants to fuck me (this has been revealed to be true of ~90% of my single heterosexual male "friends")

I would say that topping your list with this and carrying it around like a flag is cutting you off from about half the world (note that if a heterosexual male wants to fuck you, whether he is single or not will make no difference to the desire -- to the possibility of acting on it, sure, but not to the want itself). I don't know precisely how their motivation was "revealed," but I am somehow skeptical that 9 out of 10 straight male guys you have thought of as friends have tried to take your bra off.

I am a heterosexual male, currently not single but I have been single for a good chunk of my adult life. I have seen more than a few burgeoning friendships with women tank because they had been convinced by a third party that the only reason I could possibly be interested in them was because I had designs on them. I grant that in a very few cases I did, but these were the exceptions.

I am sure some of the time you were right, and you have met some horndogs who were being pleasant just so they could bed you. But something about the way you state this suggests what the Alcoholics Anonymous folks call "contempt prior to investigation.” If your 'single heterosexual male "friends"' are anything like me, not a few of them will have been puzzled by being cut off from someone whose company they enjoyed, insulted that you thought their baser urges was the main driving force in their conduct, or will just feel sorry for you that you have such a poor self-image that you have decided that the only reason a straight man could be interested in you is your vulva.

There are few things more painful than losing a friend because she has mysteriously deduced that ten years of companionship has been a prelude to date rape.

I am not trying to insult you; I am just saying this is a terribly hurtful stereotype you are perpetuating here and the sooner we can all be rid of it and treat one another as people and not caricatures, the better off we will all be.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:27 AM on January 3, 2009 [14 favorites]

Most people bore, irritate, or repulse me.

And most nice people tend to not enjoy being aroung people who think that way.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:48 AM on January 3, 2009 [16 favorites]

This sounds more like you want us to tell you that yes, you're right, all people are like this.

I have run into some truly evil people in my life, I gotta tell ya, and gone through some horrible betrayals, but my life experience, having lived on both coasts and in three countries is nowhere near this. I wish I could meet more people, but it's tough in a large city, it takes a LONG TIME to build your circle.

But it sounds like you just don't like people. And that's okay. But then don't complain when you don't have anyone to hang out with. Me, I like people. I like the guys at the bodega and the homeless folks at the soup kitchen and the guy who owns the dry cleaner (but, conversely, hate the checkout girls at the grocery store) and I have friends and acquaintences from all walks of life and income and status. But I like *people*.

It is totally okay to be a hermit. But then embrace that you're a hermit and don't bitch that no one likes you.
posted by micawber at 10:06 AM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

As I've gotten older (I'm 43 now), I have done better at making and keeping new friends because I no longer expect them to be perfect. And I don't expect all of them to be as intimate and important as my two or three closest friends (whose foibles I have also learned to accept with good grace). I nearly dumped one friend a couple of years ago because we have different parenting styles and different outlooks about a couple of things fairly dear to my heart. But when I was able to stop dwelling on that and see her goodness and generosity, and to be grateful to have another stay-at-home mom living nearby that I could trade daytime childcare with, the friendship flourished. She's not the person I can discuss the latest heavy non-fiction book I've read with, but she's the one I can laugh about parenting problems with, the one I can call when I'm about to lose it with my kids and get some respite on short notice. She's unique and valuable in my life even though she doesn't meet my every need (or I hers).

Also, having been through a transition like yours some time ago, I have to say it took longer than I expected for friendships to form, even though I was busy, doing group things I enjoyed, and meeting people I would have liked to know better. One obstacle is that you have to meet people who also have an opening for a friend, and even some people who I know liked me perfectly well just didn't have room for another friend--we'd say, "Let's get together!" and they'd get out their calendars and it would be weeks before they could fit me in, for instance. Ironically, I'm now in that position--it would be hard for me to form and maintain a new friendship now, even with someone I was quite drawn to, because socially I'm as busy as I care to be.
posted by not that girl at 10:14 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Adjust your attitude. Based upon what you've written, I wouldn't want to be your friend. You seem to be very negative and judgemental. And you assume that all men want to fuck you, which, unless you're Heidi Klum, is unlikely to be true.
It's like the platonic version of the woman who says "All men are assholes! I despise them!" and then wonders why she can't I find a boyfriend.

I know it sounds like I'm bashing you, but I don't mean to do so...I just think that maybe you need to evaluate how you currently come across to the people with whom you interact. It is difficult to make friends, real and good ones, as one ages and moves to a new location. Here are some tips:

1. Don't look for the perfect match. You might find one friend who likes the same movies as you, even though he/she is your opposite in terms of politics. Doesn't mean that you can't enjoy going to the movies together. Ditto on the age thing...I have friends that are ten years younger than I and ten years older.
2. Make an effort. Friendship takes work. Invite people over for dinner, or out for coffee. Those coworkers you've been writing off? Organize a happy hour and invite them all. (I'm a scientist, and there are a lot of lonely people around...especially ones not from the area.)Put yourself out there. If you haven't been making an effort, you can't really complain about not having friends.
3. If someone invites you to something, say yes. Even if it's a dull coworker, they might host great cocktail parties where you'll meet lots of people.
4. Seek out people in a similar situation. Married people new to the area, foreign coworkers who might be having trouble adjusting. They'll be most likely to appreciate a friendly invitation.
5. Get involved in something that interests you, be it a sports team or a museum. You'll meet more people.
6. Above all, open your self up a little bit more. Let go of your list of reasons why past friendships haven't worked out. The new people you meet have nothing to do with that- give them a chance. Be nicer. Don't get discouraged if you don't find a new best friend right away. It takes time and effort to form meaningful friendships.

Good luck!
posted by emd3737 at 10:26 AM on January 3, 2009 [5 favorites]

Branch out. There is no reason you can't be friends with somebody ten years younger than you; also no reason you can't be friends with people fifty years older.

Spend a prolonged period going out of your way to be gregarious. Make with the small talk with strangers, and when you see people you know, kindly ask after things in their lives and pay attention to the responses. Don't expect friends from this, just friendliness. You will at a minimum feel less isolated, and ideally become that nicer person, and end up with some decent friends.

Also, try looking at people who are not consciously "cool"; this will get rid of much of the drama, the drunks, the sluts, etc. No need to go to church to be friends with people who do go to church...
posted by kmennie at 10:37 AM on January 3, 2009

This won't solve your need for proximate friends, but if you want a like-minded pen pal, email me (see my profile). I'm married (I don't want to fuck you); my wife doesn't discourage me from having other friends; I don't have/want kids; I'm an atheist; I'm something of a misanthrope; I'm not political and don't care if you're liberal or conservative.
posted by grumblebee at 10:37 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing changing your attitude particularly in respect to issue #1.

Examine your own behaviour - in my experience, men aren't likely to make moves or consider trying to ruin your marriage unless you have given clues that you are open to the idea. That is, you may become sick of the attention after a while but may have been flattered by it at first and whether intentionally or not, encouraged it. There is a simple answer to this - stop flirting, mention your husband early and often (not obnoxiously, but enough that it's evident you are completely satisfied with your marriage and not looking to change it.) Or, be real about the fact that you enjoy it and understand it may one day sabotage the friendship. Either way you approach it, you must come to a better understanding of yourself.

Also.. and this may not be true for you but it certainly is for me... I tend to place a lot of stock in others (to the point of expecting them to fulfill me) when this simply isn't realistic. Companions are wonderful but most people you meet aren't conscious of your desires that they should be your closest friends. I recommend doing something creative and learning new skills... these are ends in themselves and can help balance the desire to be around people to the point of exhaustion.

Also... finally... you may enjoy a MeFi meet up. I have never been to one myself but my impression of everyone on this site is that they tend to be genuine, intelligent people with a lot going on. Perhaps you would agree!
posted by cranberrymonger at 10:46 AM on January 3, 2009

I'm seconding seeking out other women who share your (theoretically male-dominated) special interest and hobbies. Chances are they're walking around your town wishing they could meet other ladies who share those interests, too. Talk about finding common ground! This is where professional or academic interest organizations come in handy.

Also, pardon me if this has been suggested already and I missed it, but have you considered joining a service organization or volunteering for a local charity or nonprofit? I've met some fantastic friends (both female and male) through volunteer work, it's a satisfying thing to do that makes you feel connected to and engaged with the world around you, and it doesn't have to represent any kind of huge time commitment.

Regarding your first concern, that many men you've encountered have seemed more interested in romantic involvement rather than genuinely being your friend, I'm a lady, and I've found that meeting male friends in the context of an academic/professional interest/service organization or through volunteer work tends to set a different tone for establishing friendship than if you had met someone, for example, at a social event. It's almost like a "colleague" kind of basis for friendship, and might give you the opportunity to let down your own guard long enough to explore common interests with people and allow you to feel non-threatened enough to get to know new friends as unique people with good things to offer.
posted by teamparka at 11:51 AM on January 3, 2009

Most people bore, irritate, or repulse me.

And most nice people tend to not enjoy being aroung people who think that way.

Iambroom is spot on.

The coolest, chillest people I meet are usually accepting of everyone...and like hanging out with others who are the same way.

I notice they quietly make themselves scarce around bitter people who have high expectations of other people. These chill people are never rude, either, they simply make themselves "invisible" and excuse themselves.

So here we have angry, disappointed, judgmental person X, who never meets cool person Y. "All people suck," says X. And continues feeling that way, because X never meets and gets to know the Y's.

So, what to do?

My suggestion is to become Y. Be that very chill person who accepts people's quirks and foibles, and knows nobody is perfect, including him or herself. Everybody has something to offer, even in the face of some glaring "imperfection." And often times, its the imperfections or irritations that will cause you to learn something about yourself. Embrace people's flaws. You will be richer for it, and gain more than having a tiny circle of people you think are perfect. (Guess what, all they do is hide your own imperfections from yourself.)

Possibly take than anger and frustration you have, and turn it into, "I'm sick of being negative and judgemental. I want to change my life, by first changing my attitude."

You are on your way to being the coolest person ever, with the coolest friends. All you need to do is step back and recalibrate, because right now, you're doing it wrong.
posted by uxo at 12:33 PM on January 3, 2009 [10 favorites]

Expectation frames potential experiences. If you're walking around with your fists balled up all the time, ready to punch someone who punches you, then how on earth can you shake hands with the person you've just met? Or hug the person you've known for longer?

Yeah, some people are really horrible. The rest of us are merely boring or inept, fumbling through life. We mean well, though, and have our good points. Some are truly sublime. You have to give people a chance to show you who they are. From what you've described, you aren't doing that. Yes, you've been disappointed by some people, but there's no reason you should take it out on the next person you meet.
posted by Grrlscout at 12:40 PM on January 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

Just because a man wants to sleep with you does not mean he won't become a friend when it's clear that is not an option. Most single guys at least think about sleeping with a good percentage of the women they meet, imho. If you work in a male dominated field then figuring out how to let men know you are NOT going to sleep with them or be their special lunch-friend without torpedoing the entire relationship is a non-negotiable social skill. It will also greatly reduce your stress levels when no-one even tries to ask you out anymore, no-one gossips about you and people just relax and accept you for who you are and not a potential date.

As for making friends, the best way to meet people is through other people. Are you still in touch with your old friends? Maybe they can make some introductions.
posted by fshgrl at 1:19 PM on January 3, 2009

Also, you seem to be putting a lot of the blame for the issues of the past on others, rather than accepting the part you played.

What I mean by that is that it takes 2 to get sucked into someone else's addiction, and most certainly to "almost successfully" destroy a marriage. You may be seeking these circumstances out to avoid dealing with something else. I'd explore that. I know it has been a tremendous problem for me.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:07 PM on January 3, 2009

I have to say (and I'm NOT saying you're at the extreme, diagnosable end of this spectrum but it might point you to possible red flags you might be exhibiting without knowing it)....painful experience with people who do "suck" as friends because they're ill (untreated addictions/alcoholism and/or personality disorder, etc.) has taught me to RUN from any recent acquaintance who's already suggesting I'm not "measuring up" in some way to expectations/demands as a "good friend."

I imagine most nice people (the kind you'd want to be friends with) have been similarly burned by the time they're in their 30s, so be conscious of not setting the bar too high with people early on.
posted by availablelight at 3:49 PM on January 3, 2009

Well, emd3737 pretty much took the works out of my mouth with his/her post.

But I must ask, what are your husband's thoughts on this? Does he share your views on people in general? I think that it's pretty safe to say that most people tend to outgrow friends and evolve into new relationships as they age and their interests change. But with the extent of negativity you're revealing here, I can only imagine how bad it must be IRL. A few other things come to mind, too.

5. I get sick of being sucked into his/her unhealthy lifestyle and/or negative attitudes (addiction, abuse, obesity/sloth, drama, depression, apathy, etc.)

Wow. Negative attitude, indeed. You might want to reconsider number 5.

And with regard to the school thing - well, I'm a student too at 38yo. Needless to say I'm older than a lot of the students there. I'm having a great time, and have made some really great friends. You're kind of throwing the baby out with the proverbial bath water, no? Geez. At least open your eyes. It's not like you're looking for people to move into your retire community with.

Bottom line: Don't be so quick to discount people based on first impressions. Because honestly, if a lot of us did that to you based on how you portray yourself in this thread, I think you'd be pretty fucked.
posted by dancinglamb at 6:10 PM on January 3, 2009

(My wife and I are 31, and in a very similar situation; just wanted to say I completely understand and have been trying to figure this out also... best of luck.)
posted by blahtsk at 6:25 PM on January 3, 2009

I'm a married woman with lots of single male friends, and only some of them are gay. Some of them are interested in me, but to my knowledge none of them consider it seriously. Basically, they've never pressed anything or done anything problematic about it. Maybe you'll check off this whole list and have just had terrible luck, but I hope some of these tips are helpful.

1. Do absolutely NOTHING to encourage their flirting with you or persuing you, because they can construe that as your being interested. It's not even all that stupid of them to interpret things that way, married or not. Having a passing interest in you is no big deal. Things become problematic when getting with you seems like a possibility, because once they get it in their head that they can pursue you it becomes awkward and grating.

My male friends absolutely make flirty sexual jokes about me, for example. Where I see some women go wrong is that they make the flirty sexual jokes back. Don't do that, because they can get the wrong idea. I instead laugh the jokes off. When I make sexual jokes about them, they're not flirty ones -- they're usually either gross, or else they involve pairing them off with other guys. Sometimes the other guy is my husband, but never in a flirty I'd-find-that-hot way, just always in an absurd I'm-going-to-rattle-your-straight-brain-by-making-you-picture-this sort of way.

I only return the flirty sexual jokes with the gay guys, or women.

2. Don't dress provocatively around them. I know some people will say that's asking too much, but I disagree. If the thrill of dressing sexy is that other people look at you and think you're sexy, then duh, you can't have that and simultaneously avoid your male friends thinking of you sexually. If the thrill of dressing sexy is purely to know you look good, then you don't need to do it around male friends who will think of you sexually and bother you.

You can do jeans and a nice non-revealing t-shirt and still look nice. I do button-up shirts (no cleavage) and slacks, personally. If I'm going out on a nice date with my husband, I'll be glued to him; I might wear something more feminine since I do want his sexual attention, and other guys can't pester me with him there.

This is probably easier for me than other people because I abhor sexual attention, even if it's just people looking at me from afar. Going out looking sexy is not a thrill or confidence boost for me, only a nuisance; I'm happy to go without it. But if you really hate getting that kind of attention from your male friends, it definitely works wonders.

3. Don't complain to your guy friends about your relationship. Some of them will wonder if you're fishing for something on the side, and they might wind themselves in knots with the whole "I could treat her so much better" mental routine.

Obviously, not all guys are like that, but you have to make sure you have a good feel for it first. It sounds like maybe you haven't had that good a feel for who wants to fuck you and who doesn't in the past, so maybe it's best to err on the side of caution.

4. Do bring up anything good going on in your relationship. Not in the sense that would annoy anyone to hear about constantly, but when your husband comes up it's easier on your if he's always mentioned in a positive way. Essentially, if you seem happy in your relationship, they're going to be less hopeful about getting with you. As long as they're not deluded or creepy, it'll never be a real consideration for them and it shouldn't cause problems in the friendship.

All my male friends know I'm crazy about my husband. They also know any number of his qualities which they can't top, so they don't even try. I never bring those up in a my-husband-beats-you-at-x context, since that's just annoying and rude. But I will say, "Husband has been working so hard on his rocket science thesis, I'm so proud of him," or, "Husband just got an amazing job offer, I'm so happy his hard work has paid off. He's such an inspiration to me." If he has something that, to you, others guys can't top -- and since you married him, I'm sure he does -- there's nothing wrong with expressing pride in him. Friends discuss what's been going on in their lives so there are plenty of unobtrusive ways to bring that up.

Trust me, most guys don't bother to compete with affection like that. Since you've had many guy friends, I'm sure you're familiar with the humorous self-deprecating conversations they have. "I really like her, and she's hot as hell, but her husband is ripped as shit and treats her like a queen." "You work part-time at a coffee shop, man. You've never even been inside a gym. You can't touch that. Don't even try." "Yeah no shit. Oh well."

5. Try to hang out with your guy friends around your husband a decent amount of time, if possible. If they know you as a couple, it's far less likely they're gonna seriously get wound up over the prospect of getting with you. Also, if they like your husband, most guys won't want to dick him over by seriously coming on to you.

As a bonus, my husband's not the jealous type so they can make sexual jokes about me in front of him and he's completely unphased by it and jokes along. His complete confidence reinforces the idea that they have no chance with me. If your husband is that way, use it.

6. If they have relationship problems and come crying to you, don't fall over yourself to be super comforting. Like anyone after a break-up, they're emotionally raw; they may misinterpret or cling to any comfort you give them. Give them practical advice and express sympathy, but don't coo and caw or do anything demonstrative. My advice to them is usually rational and not emotionally charged. This really applies to anyone, not just men; if a guy doesn't want his female friend to be interested in him, he should behave similarly.

Incidentally, the one guy I've ever had your kind of problem with was one who would come to me crying about his relationships, and I treated him too much like I would a female or gay male friend. He eventually got creepy, despite all the #1-5 I'd worked, and I had to cut him loose. Comforting someone when they're hurt is just, quite simply, the fast track to getting them emotionally attached to you. With other women and gay men, that emotional intimacy doesn't become sexual and can strengthen the relationship. With men, it's a mixed bag but not worth risking, in my experience.

The hard part about this is overcoming your instincts. If your instinct is to hug someone who's hurting, instead pat him woodenly on the shoulder a few times and take your hand back. Don't become embroiled in their emotional state. I'm usually sympathetic but a little terse. "Wow, that sucks." "Man, what a bitch." "That was a dick move on your part. You can't do things like that, dude." "You sounded like an asshole, of course she freaked out." "Sorry that happened, man." Stuff like that.

Most guys are used to that from their guy friends, so it's harder for them to think of you sexually. Not to mention plenty of people don't like to be treated delicately anyway. Anyway, remember that you're still a unique, helpful source of advice; while you may act outwardly similarly, you can give them some perspective their male friends may not. That's really enough. If they want cooing and cawing, they can go somewhere less problematic for it. You don't have to be the one to give that to them. You're still helping them through their tough time.

7. I'm unsure if your problem is male friends that value your friendship sometimes falling in love with you, or just male friends who, from the very beginning, don't actually want to be friends. My brushes with this have been the former, although I've had some awkward bus stop conversations with guys asking for my number so we can be "friends." In the latter case, some people are just like that. I get an insincere vibe from those people that makes me stay away.

Are you getting that vibe and ignoring it? Do you just not get the vibe? If so, think about the context in which those men approach you. Did they just look at you before approaching you, or did you first exhibit qualities that would make someone want to be your friend? When I'm at the bus stop, for example, I am not doing anything that would make anyone think we'd make great friends. Men approaching me almost always do so because of physical attraction. If I'm hanging out talking with friends and some of their friends that I don't yet know well, that's a different story. There are plenty of reasons those people might want to be friends with me. If I write something, or say something in public that is indicative of my interests or personality, I'm less wary of random men striking up a conversation.

If you're just standing around looking good and these guys are approaching you, requests for friendship are more suspect. Incredibly more suspect, in my experience. Don't take them up on their ploy just because you feel lonely and desperate for friends. If you've been doing it, remind yourself that of course that's what your history of male friends is going to look like. It doesn't have to look that way, so it might make it easier to feel less cynical about it.

I hope some of this is helpful, and you haven't just had terrible luck. :-/
posted by Nattie at 5:59 PM on January 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

seconding Sarabeth, you need to become less self-involved and critical. Volunteering will sort that out, although you will really have to work at curbing your attitude if you work for example with the homeless, maybe try packaging your job skills and offering them for a few hours a week to some charity. The kind of people you meet there will be very non-judgemental of YOU, so it should give you a few months to work on your negativity and cynicism.
I completely understand where you're coming from, having moved countries several times. The last thing I would add is do NOT under any circumstances have a baby until you've worked on yourself a bit more. I don't mean this to be hurtful. You clearly have some needs that are not being met in your current living situation and will be made more difficult if a baby enters the equation.

good luck.
posted by Wilder at 3:19 AM on January 11, 2009

I'm late to this party but it's fun to hit "older posts" for a while.

You have a tremendous amount of advice here and since you think most people are idiots you probably got bored halfway through most of it (I did.)

My two cents from how I read your post is that it might help not to lower your standards (F that) but to be flexible with them. Not every friend has to ring the bell. You can have "friends" you completely disagree with or are annoying just to see once in a while for a movie call (like a booty call with less touching and more popcorn.) You can have "friends" you have something in common with in regard to your interests/hobby but dont get into the 'I cant be with a person who believes in creationism'. (Though I hear you there.) Point Being: you could get a modicum of social interaction without having to be friend/soul mates.

And guys do exist who wont want to do you. I am VERY (I mean it, really awesomely) in love with my wife of 12 years still and strong and have zero sexual interest in others. I dont think I flirt much but I feel a freedom of not worrying about it because I know I love my wife and would never hurt her or cross a line. My wife is confident in my love so doesn't freak at female friends. We hate babies and are very not religious. Drop an email if you are interested, apparently you think you are 'all that' and you magically bring boys to the yard. At least we'll have a go making fun of you. :)
posted by Kensational at 11:41 AM on January 16, 2009

I didn't write the original question--but I could have!!

With myself, the trick is probably learning to reduce my expectations a bit. The problem is that I have extremely high expectations, both from myself and from others. I'm also very sensitive. I have no idea how to learn to like people more or to be more forgiving...but I hope I figure it out soon. My social card is pretty empty. . .
posted by limonade at 9:51 PM on January 16, 2009

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