I don't have any friends. None.
June 18, 2005 10:25 PM   Subscribe

I think I'm odd because I don't have any friends.

I'm 40, female, married w/kids, mostly decent and happy life and I think I'm basically a good and interesting/interested person - I've just always had a very hard time making friends. It's been nearly 6 years since I've had a friend, someone to call, someone to do things with, someone to share with.

I soometimes feel like an extreme social oddity. Most of the time I'm not bothered, but lately - my oldest son asked why no one ever comes to my house, my parents stayed with us for a while and wondered out loud why no one ever called - and I realized I felt embarrassed, and ashamed. And I find myself watching strangers to see if their friends and how they interact.

I think it started in my childhood. At age 12 my parents became extremely protective; eventually this led to no friends allowed to call or come over and I couldn't do anything or go anywhere. All through school I had no social life, ate lunch alone, etc. I was pretty much a prisoner confined to home & school Now I don't understand a lot about making friends or how to start, especially at my age, and sometimes I'm not sure I need any.

After graduating I was able to make a few friends, but it's really on or off and none since 6 years ago when I moved to a different state. I've also never had a best friend, like it seems women so often do. Maybe everyone does, I don't know.

I should say that I've also often rebuffed friendship attempts, I don't really know why except that I feel uncomfortable and it's a lot of work. My interest in friendship comes and goes. I can't really even say that I have people I can say just 'hello' to. Being/having a close friend interests me a lot more than casual friendship, but I know it has to start somewhere.

Also when I think about being brave and trying to make a friend, always in the back of my mind I think they should be 'in need of a friend, someone 'off' in some way so that they'd even be bothered with me'. But of course no one is so 'off.

Can anyone help me understand this or deal with it? When I think of how others view this, I think 'loser'. What sort of person doesn't have friends? Not normal for sure. Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
is your husband a friend? what does he think about this?

argh, anoymous questions are aggravating when you need followup.
posted by mwhybark at 11:15 PM on June 18, 2005

anon... My wife is much more social than I am. I really only have 2 or 3 friends; she has considerably more. And the friends I have I wouldn't call particularly close.

For a time, there, my wife and I had almost no friends at all. We've moved frequently and there were times where we lived somewhere for several years and really didn't know anyone.

When we made our last move, we ended up getting involved in several things through our kids: scouts, PTA, band, orchestra, etc. Many of our current friends are people we met through these activities. The rest are largely church friends. So, I guess what I'm saying is that look at the rest of your family and what they are involved in, and maybe volunteer for some of these activities.

For instance, I help the high school marching band load and unload their equipment. Through this, I've met a few people I would now consider friends. You don't automatically become friends just because you do these kinds of activities, but it increases your contact with others and exposes you to others with the same interests.
posted by Doohickie at 11:24 PM on June 18, 2005

I consider my husband my friend. Aside from him, I have no one. I'm generally happy to be by myself, but sometimes it gets very lonely.
posted by lynda at 11:27 PM on June 18, 2005

You're not a loser. Your life sounds quite full. You've built a marriage and a family, and that must keep you quite occupied. It is your decision as to how much you want to invest your energy in building other relationships. If this is an urge you feel right now, by all means pursue it. Make sure it's what you want, though, and not something you feel like you have to do because others expect it.

In suburban Western society it is difficult (but not impossible) for adults to strike up new friendships. That fact, combined with the possibility that you've built up some strong defenses as a result of your childhood, may make in-person friendships seem quite intimidating. E-mail friendships might be a good way to get your feet wet, as there's a much lower bar to entry there. Look for message boards and communities related to your interests or hobbies, since you'll have stuff to contribute right away there.

If you live in or near a big city, you might find local matchmaking services in newspapers, etc. I know a lot of people who use such services to expand their social circle in a non-romantic way. Many services have evolved to accomodate people who are looking for platonic contacts. Meeting people like this is exciting and scary, but it might be just what you need to jolt yourself out of your funk.

Finally, can you contact your friends from years ago? If this is a possibility, give it some serious thought. You might have a little voice telling you "that person won't want to hear from me after all this time". Politely tell that voice to get lost. Most people are delighted when they run into old friends, and you'll have lots of stuff to catch up on.
posted by rhiannon at 11:35 PM on June 18, 2005

You maybe an introvert. This was once considered an issue and over blown, but that's just extrovert propaganda ;) . It's all right. You might look around at websites for introverts and see if that fits. There is a nice book called 'The Introvert Advantage'. Some of the things that are common among us that we are comfortable spend time by ourselfs and that spending time with others (groups) can leave us w/ a need to recover where as an extrovert would feel energized.

Well that's my 5 cent thought.
posted by jumpsuit_boy at 11:43 PM on June 18, 2005

Nah, you're not alone. I'm 25 and didn't have any close friends till I met my best friend during a business deal a couple of years ago. He's bipolar and I'm completely obtuse to someone's behaviour, so it's a perfect match. On top of that, we trust each other -- and that's tough for me to do for whatever reason.

You might come across someone like that, and you might not. My parents are the same way -- they very rarely have a social life. They didn't at all for the 5 or so years that they lived in Oregon, and they're only now starting to have one in California after four years. We're all introverts, although we can play at being extroverted ... we just need to come home to a house, a haven where we can crawl into a cave and ignore everyone else for a few hours, days, or however long it takes us to recover our sense of self.
posted by SpecialK at 12:00 AM on June 19, 2005

You're not highly unusual, for one. There are people whose social lives are fulfilled through their family. As rhiannon says, there's not many ways to make friends, so if you're not being an active socialite it won't happen. The reason you haven't been is at least a
little because you're just not that interested, and maybe because of your lack of experience. If you really do want to, go ahead and heed those situations you mentioned where you could develop casual friendships. You certainly don't have to worry about bungling it, it's pretty hard to. If you don't want to, then you have no reason to feel ashamed. I don't know what percentage of people would call you a loser, or more likely feel sorry for you, but either way they'd be kidding themselves since it's neither bad nor very uncommon.
posted by abcde at 12:18 AM on June 19, 2005

Could you join a club? A garden club or a booster club for your children's sports/activities? Perhaps a club at a church, maybe one that visits shut-ins, hospitalized veterans? Could you teach ESL (English as a Second Language)? Could you sign up for classes in cooking, knitting, scrapbook making? Somewhere you might find a person much like you who does not want constant attention, but perhaps an occasional phone call, email or lunch. Your best fit might be a club big enough so that you would not feel that you let them down if you did not attend every meeting or function.
posted by Cranberry at 12:33 AM on June 19, 2005

I read that you specifically don't mention your husband or the input to your life he and his(?) relationships contribute. And you say you are more interested in finding/forming a 'close' relationship with someone versus acquaintanceship.

Aim for finding a nice person with whom you relate rather than just getting any old relationship for show.

Are you maybe jealous of your husband's social connect? Have you chatted to him about how you feel? Or is/would he be an impedence? While I'm riffing I wonder if you have been getting 'down in the dumps' about this topic you are writing about +/- other things at all? I can't accurately guess of course and take this with a grain of salt if it's way off base, but if there's any pattern to your feeling down over the years, perhaps it might be worthwhile having a chat to your GP. I'm not suggesting that you run out for medication, but persisting or intermittent depression is one possible subtextual reading of your question.

I should think that in this forum you are definitely among friends of a largely similar heart as some responses indicate. Doohickie's advice reflects what one sees written in the green so often in situations where people are feeling some sort of social disconnect -- put a bit of energy perhaps into helping out in the ways he suggested or else take some small steps about enquiring in your locality about group stuff as others are saying and no doubt will say - basket weaving/dancing/public speaking/carpentry - something that you like and can therefore share with similar minded people. I take it that you don't work or at least you don't work with other people. Maybe some parttime work would expose you to some social contact? All this is hard to guess but the principles are nonetheless there.

If you think it worthwhile, talk to your GP. Talk to your husband if that will help or give you some confidence. Join a group or get some work or do some volunteer work. To find friends you have to take a small step at least in their general direction. You'll be fine.
posted by peacay at 12:55 AM on June 19, 2005

Yes, you are odd, by which I mean you are an exception rather than the rule. This is a purely descriptive use of the word "odd," not a judgment of your worth. Is there anything wrong with you? Probably not, as long as you don't feel the need to make friends just to be "normal." Friends can be a lot of work, and it's entirely possible that having very many is not worth the effort for you.

If your parents give you any more bullshit about people not calling you at home, remind them that this is the twenty-first century and all your friends e-mail you now. This is convenient because they won't be able to tell how many friends you actually have this way, not that it's any of their business.

I've lived in Seattle four years. I've been working with the same bunch of people for three of these years. I have two really close friends in the immediate area, one of which I had before I moved here (we both used to live in the Detroit area). I have another close friend two hours' drive away and I see her and her husband once a month or so. And yes, I talk to most of my friends on IM and via e-mail. I never see any of my co-workers socially except at company-sanctioned functions (e.g. we all went out to see "Revenge of the Sith"). I'm single; my last outing with a member of the fairer sex was a couple months ago, and I'm not even 100% sure it was really a date. The last time I went out with the same person more than once was last fall. I go to blogger and MeFi meetups but have seen only a few of those people outside of those contexts.

Part of it is "Seattle nice." The stereotype is that people in this town don't reach out. But this generally suits me just fine, in fact it's one of the reasons I like living in this area. If people were asking me to do things all the time, I'd have to turn them down a lot, and people would start to think I didn't like them or was standoffish or arrogant (I used to get these reactions a lot in the Midwest). It's not that I don't like other people generally or think I'm better than everyone, it's just that I prefer to be alone sometimes. I like being alone and I'd not say I'm lonely overall (I have my moments, like everyone). My regular rejection of company is not intended to be personal. People here understand that.

Yes, statistically speaking I'm unusual. So are you. Screw statistics and be happy. Don't let your improbability make you unhappy, save your unhappiness for things that actually matter.
posted by kindall at 1:04 AM on June 19, 2005

Also when I think about being brave and trying to make a friend, always in the back of my mind I think they should be 'in need of a friend, someone 'off' in some way so that they'd even be bothered with me'. But of course no one is so 'off.

Hm. Coming at this from a different angle, I will address this comment. I do well in social situations and it's very easy for me to make friends, but to be honest, it's likely that I would be more interested in being friends with someone like you.

Firstly, I seem to somewhat prefer people who are a bit "off", and secondly, it's very easy for me to feel "smothered" by too much social interaction. I really adore my friends who are very independent and don't need a lot of face time to keep the friendship going. The people who are hurt because I turn down invitations or don't call them kind of exhaust me. I have some friends who I can see after no contact for several months, and we pick up right where we left off and just have fun doing whatever it is we've decided to do. I like that. I don't like dealing with the handwringers who have to moan for an hour about why we haven't seen each other/talked in so long.
posted by taz at 2:39 AM on June 19, 2005

Having friends is something that has always ebbed and flowed, in my life at least. At times I've had many but at other times, I have felt absolutely alone. Life's like that- as we go through different stages we leave some friends behind. Waiting for and/or trying to make new friends can be awful. But be looking for new possible friends in your life. A close friend will generally grow out of a casual friendship, so it's best to start by developing several of those. And Cranberry was on a good track- one of the easiest ways to make friends is while serving others. It seems easier to make the leap when both of you are focused on something other than yourselves. So volunteer somewhere, go on a mission trip, do something selfless with other people.
posted by wallaby at 3:28 AM on June 19, 2005

You're not weird. It's more common that you think.

I've moved quite a bit - 3 continents, 6 cities in 5 years and I don't have any friends where I am now. I feel a bit weird about it. I don't think I'm lonely, I have a girlfriend who I spend quite a bit of time with and I see my family more than I've seen them for ages. I've had really good friends in other places - and indeed now most of my friendships take place over the internet.

In my moves I've had more friends in some places than others. In places where I made a real effort to do things with other people, play poker, soccer and other things and consequently built up blocks of friends while in places where I didn't make an effort I didn't wind up with many friends.

Finding things that you like to do with other people might be the way to go, it works for me. It's easier to be friends with people when there is some activity that you like doing together and then there isn't pressure to talk about yourselves or be 'friends'.

And I've also been moving around on my own and haven't had to stay with a family so it's been easier.

Also, obviously you're into the net enough to have found your way onto MeFi. If you're in a US metropolitan area of a reasonable size surely you'll find people on the net who are into what you into.

And hey, maybe you are a bit of a loner. Some people need other people all the time, others don't. There is nothing wrong with that.
posted by sien at 3:40 AM on June 19, 2005

Don't worry, anonymous. I haven't made any friends since I moved to another state almost three years ago. And it made me realize that even before I moved, all of my friends were either people that I'd known since childhood, or people who they introduced, and who I at first spent time with in groups, with my older friends. So it seems that I don't know how to make friends by myself either! But I think part of the reason is that if I did have friends, I would be far too busy. I've always needed alone time to recharge. All the things I can't wait to do when I get some free time are either alone things or husband-and-me things, and to be honest, when I do have even those rare social obligations, I somewhat resent that I'll have to give one of those up for the evening.

I have family visits a few times a year, and I go to a few dinner parties given by coworkers each year, but that's about it apart from my husband. All of his friends are bachelors so that doesn't help. And he also prefers to stay home once he gets some free time.

I keep in touch with my family, and one friend from my old home, and there have been a few internet friends that come and go.

Well, I guess my point is that however unusual this sort of thing is, you aren't alone. In fact, reading over the other comments, it seems that you aren't even alone among mefites.
posted by leapingsheep at 4:02 AM on June 19, 2005

I think you might like to have a look at a book called the artists way , you sound like a creative person and it'll give you a kick to start going at full steam.
Ibsen said "He is strongest who stands alone".
Good old Ibsen , eh ?
Anyway , lets sit back and have a good old laugh at people who have a nervous breakdown unless there are 50 people in their life at any given time.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:27 AM on June 19, 2005

I myself think it would be worthwhile for you to share all this with a counselor. Especially with what you shared about your teen years.

I am not saying anything is wrong with you, simply that there really are skills in friend-making, and it wouldn't hurt to have some qualified imput. Then you can decide whether or not you want people in your life instead of wonder what is wrong when you don't.
posted by konolia at 5:38 AM on June 19, 2005

In case this is helpful to you, anon, there's an introverts mailing list set up by MeFi members. There are about 10 people on the list. We talk about anything, but it gives us some guaranteed social contact. So far, it's been pretty lively.
posted by grumblebee at 5:53 AM on June 19, 2005

I think it started in my childhood. At age 12 my parents became extremely protective; eventually this led to no friends allowed to call or come over and I couldn't do anything or go anywhere. All through school I had no social life, ate lunch alone, etc. I was pretty much a prisoner confined to home & school Now I don't understand a lot about making friends or how to start, especially at my age, and sometimes I'm not sure I need any.

I understand this. I had no social life at school (fat, unattractive, thick glasses, - think Dawn Wiener in 'Welcome to the Dollhouse' and that was me). I spent much of my adolescence alone.

Those years are the important ones where my peers learned, at school dances, youth clubs, church socials, parties, etc. all the rules of social interaction and behaviour that passed me right by.

I find it very hard to make friends, because I don't know how to start a friendship, and, like you, I feel uncomfortable if someone makes the first approach. I've done the 'joining a club' thing and found it very difficult, still feeling like the outsider not invited to the dance.

But one way I found that has brought new friends into my life is through email lists. I'm on a couple of Yahoo music groups where I've come across people I like, and we've corresponded privately by email, developed a friendship and then met up. Apart from having the mutual interest of the music, we've also found other common bonds. I find email an easy way to break the ice and there are thousands of groups out there in cyberspace for every possible hobby/interest you could think of, some of them are bound to be local to you, or have members living locally.
posted by essexjan at 6:21 AM on June 19, 2005

I'm not sure that you're really outside the norm - I know an awful lot of people like you, who just don't seem to have social friends. I have a few, but they're pretty casual, see each other every couple of months type things. I'm actually a lot closer to a lot of people on the internet than to anyone I know locally.

There are a few people in my life that I see as potential 'close friends', that could make the jump from 'See them occasionally in a structured sort of way.' One is a mefite I see at meet-ups, one is a member of my monthly dining club, one I met at a Toastmasters event. There was another that I knew from an online gaming community, but she's moving to Nova Scotia in a month and a half so there's no point. Even having thought about them in a 'I'd like to be their friend' way, it's just difficult to make these things take off, to change your default thought of 'what should I do tonight?' from 'rent a movie and hang out at home' to 'call Kathleen and go to the movies'.

As for advice, I can only offer what's sort of working for me. Join something structured - I have a couple of dining clubs, Toastmasters, even some online pursuits that allow me to meet people on an acquaintance level and go from there. The first big step is inviting them to something that's not the structured activity. Coffee after the PTA meeting or something. For me it's often music, because that's sort of my thing, I'm constantly running off to see some new band in a club somewhere - usually alone - so if I have a ticket to something I think they'll like, I buy another, offer them the "extra" one. I haven't gone much beyond the pre-planned event phase with any of these people, but I'm hoping to get to a more casual 'hey, wanna hang out' place with at least some of them.

This may not be true for you, but one of the things that hurts me when it comes to stuff like this is that I'm a very bad housekeeper. My home is always so messy that I'm embarassed to have anyone over, making the 'hey wanna come over' something I'd have to plan days in advance to ensure I got my place clean enough to have someone in. If there's something like that standing in your way, you might try to identify it, as well.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:17 AM on June 19, 2005

My husband is my only friend. And reading this, it's obviously it's not overly "weird."

I never really learned to make friends due to moving around a lot as a kid and extreme shyness. The only time I was even close to having a good friend, let alone a best friend, was just before I moved from Texas to Washington. Ah well, stuff happens.

I have a theory: I believe most people call people "friends" when they're really co-workers or acquaintances. My definition of "friend" (and maybe yours) goes a little deeper than that. I think it makes the friend-less feel a little freakier than they should.
posted by deborah at 9:03 AM on June 19, 2005

Deborah has a good point. For me, 'friend' means that while I do enjoy spending time with them, more important is the way that I trust them and care for them. I think most people use 'friend' in a much more casual sense, indicating people that they talk to or do things with on a much more casual level. As a result, I think that I have very very few friends, because building up that kind of trust is difficult.

The idea of maybe trying to make some friends online seems like a good one. Less pressure than meeting people face-to-face, and it'd give you a chance to start feeling more comfortable with casual interactions. Close friendships do have to start somewhere, after all. If there's some sort of activity you're interested in - volunteering, maybe taking a class in something, drama, whatever - you might have some luck meeting people with similar interests there.

Still, if you're mostly happy, I wouldn't worry too much about the fact that "everybody else seems to have more friends." It's what you're ok with that matters, and if that means you'd be happy as you are, or maybe with one or two friends, that's just the way you are.
posted by ubersturm at 9:28 AM on June 19, 2005

If there's an issue to deal with here, and I mean IF, it's that you're not sure if you're happy with the situation or not. That part of it might be something to look into with a counselor - not to try and force yourself to make more friends, but to find the ability to have a little more confidence in the relationships you do have and in your lack of friends.

It always looks greener on the other side of the fence, so sometimes adults need not to change their ways, but to be reassured that their ways are OK and acceptible and "normal" and to have the confidence in that which may lead to real calm and happiness.
posted by mikel at 1:57 PM on June 19, 2005

Anon, you are not odd. There are lots and lots of people like you who don't have friends for whatever reason. And they are fine people! Myself included. :-)
I have moved a lot due to studies and job and although I have friends in other parts of this or other countries, I have extremely few here where I live. (But I do not mind so much.) So, do not think there is something wrong with those who might be interested in your friendship.

For the rest, what jacquilynne said. Give it a try, invite someone for coffee or tea. Or a movie. Or a stroll by the lake with your dogs or manicure or whatever you feel like doing. Perhaps the mom of one of your kids' friends. Or a neighbor. Or better yet, throw a small dinner party for some of those people. Or go to a concert. Take a little time and chat with people in the grocery store line, at the video store or wherever else you go. Pick up a hobby. Do not get disappointed if things do not go the way you wish initially... I say try for a year. If you don't succeed then, well, ask another AskMe and we will see...

Oh, and one more thing... what do you think people find 'off' in you? Unless you have two green antennas, you are not 'off'. Even then, I would have come to meet you!
posted by carmina at 3:05 PM on June 19, 2005

anonymous, society's changed. It used to be that family, church, and neighbors were all the social life anyone needed. Today people go through long periods of singlehood where their friends are their "tribe" and this is both fetishized and frustrated by modern society (which limits the ritualized ways available to create our tribes from scratch).

Turning 40, for me, has started a period of clarity and re-evaluation. If your kids are growing, that changes a marriage.

My parents have few friends. My mom's friends are mainly from work; my dad's mainly from his former work, or through his college alumni mailing list. It's good he has this, but I'm worrying about how I'll be at his age.

Myself, I have successful, affable friendships -- usually short-term -- that I develop through work, clubs, or online, and barely four close, intimate, till-the-day-I-die friends. If I had a family of my own, that would probably be enough (I don't, so I'm dissatisfied).

Don't feel pressured to change things unless you want to (if you didn't want to, it wouldn't work -- and you might not be posting, then!). But a new study finds that friendships extend longevity. There could be a lot of reasons, including nagging to see a doctor, but a lot of it may well just be stress relief. In any case, it's healthy, so I encourage you to seek out a wider network.
posted by dhartung at 10:04 PM on June 19, 2005

I'm in the same boat. I moved to America from Canada 6 years ago and i have not been able to make any solid friends. I have scattered friends around the city whom i see from time to time plus the people from work but no group of close friends to do things with. It seems everyone is having fun but me. I have tonnes of friends back home and friends scattered around the country as i travel alot with work. Nothing in the city though.

And its weird. If you talk to any of the people that know me, they will tell you i am very outgoing and social. I am 31, have a good job, stay in good shape by being active.... but for some reason i havent been able to find a good group of friends.

I have done some thinking about why this is the case. i think its because i dont really have any one skill i could join a group with. As such, i am aprehensive about joining a group and not being able to bring something to the table. I find myself embarassed and self concious about the situation i am in. I have dug myself into a catch 22. i dont have any friends so i am embarassed about that. So, i cant go find friends because i am concerned what they will think when they find out how empty that part of my life is. I dont want to be that person everyone looks at as odd because they have few friends. Often those people are looked at suspiciously like there's something wrong with them... well, too late Shane... that is you.

Anyone else feel like this?
posted by shane.kelly55 at 8:41 AM on October 31, 2005


yeah, I feel the same way. I'm 25 and moved to Chicago a little over a year ago and still haven't really made any friends. I have a boyfriend, but I would like to have some girlfriends to hang out with. I have the same issue in that I feel like people look down on me because I don't have any friends and therefore I feel like I'll never make any. I just started a new job but i live in the city with no car and most of the people I work with are older and live in the suburbs, so not really any prospects there.
posted by cutecrystal923 at 5:44 PM on December 1, 2005

also, on an unrelated note, does anyone know how to change passwords on here? Since I'm new, I can't ask a question for a week and I mispelled my password. Sorry for the off topic comment
posted by cutecrystal923 at 5:46 PM on December 1, 2005

please find a charity where you can do volunteer work. walk dogs at the animal shelter, feed the homeless, pick up trash at a park. you will feel great doing something for someone else (especially helpless animals who have been abandoned) and you will make friends without even trying. i wish you the best of luck and hope you find peace.
posted by saragoodman3 at 12:34 PM on May 18, 2006

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