How do I figure out who I am? Post-breakup and no friends
March 25, 2013 5:03 PM   Subscribe

Just out of a short-ish relationship, the standard advice is "do things you like", "hang out with your friends". All the things I like are pretty solitary/not conducive to meeting people and I just don't have any friends, but I do want some, but I feel too crappy to figure out how to find some - see the circularity?

I've noticed in reading AskMes and a whole bunch of other advice, including assessments of how people deal with stress, live healthier, happier, longer lives, etc., that having friends and a strong social circle makes everything better, easier. Most of this advice also says, take time to yourself, find out who you are. I spend all my free time by myself - and I'm still not sure who I am. How do I figure that out?

I feel rather hopeless, because here I am, in my late 30s, with essentially no friends. As a child, I moved a lot, as an adult in an academic life, I've moved a lot, so I'm great at meeting people and am actually very personable, but haven't been good at sustaining relationships. Part of this, is that I don't really click with many people. At this age, a big part of it, is that everyone else already has their social groups in place and doesn't have room and/or interest in adding someone else to their group. I've done some meetups, but those haven't panned into anything in terms of friendships. People get together to do the activity, and are friendly during the activity, but there's no "click" with anyone and there's no hanging out between meetups.

This is all especially coming home to roost now that I'm coming out of a relationship. We've been broken up about a month, and I've spent a lot of that time on my own, just kind of quiet and letting things settle, but I don't want to drag this grief out. If I keep spending all my time alone and/or unsuccessfully hanging out with strangers, nothing's going to change. Yes, I am in therapy, but seeing someone once a week makes things really slow and if strangers on the internet can offer supplementary suggestions and/or commiseration, I'll take it.

So, I guess I have two questions: how do I find myself and figure out what my center is when I'm already spending huge amounts of time by myself and on myself and it hasn't offered any major gain? And, what seems related, what do I do about this whole no friends thing?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I've been in your shoes. I joined a book club right after a divorce in my mid-twenties. Several years later, the members are some of my most reliable friends as well as their SOs. Those people in turn have linked me up with more groups and more people; it's like a chain.

Be more assertive after Meetups. Find them on Facebook and plan another outing of your own and invite them. The most important thing, from my recollection, is to emphasize meeting lots of people of both genders rather than trying to cure your loneliness with dating.

Also think about enrolling in a class at a local community college or even like a community yoga class. Lots o'people there.

Finally, consider getting a pet? I've had a LTR with my kitty-cat, but over the winter when I was getting especially lonely, I was fortunate enough to bring in a dog who needed a home. Not only do pets do wonders for warm company while reading or snoozing, you can go to the dog park and meet more dog people in the summer!
posted by mibo at 5:08 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't really click with many people.
Yeah, me neither. But: fake it til you make it. Also: yeah, pet is a brilliant idea. I'd suggest fostering: you'll meet more people that way, as well as more pets, until you find someone (human or non-human or some of each) who clicks.
posted by feral_goldfish at 5:11 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Look for clubs, classes, workshops, etc. that center on activities you already enjoy or are curious about. Then you're meeting people with whom you've already got at least one thing in common. It won't necessarily be an instant ticket to a huge social circle, but it can be a start (I made some of my first friends in L.A. by taking some writing classes at UCLA, for example).
posted by scody at 5:46 PM on March 25, 2013

It's not easy to be around strangers when you're actively grieving, and want just to be understood without too much translation. Reach out to old friends for comfort.

But, do continue to put energy into new potential friendships, as mibo suggested. It does take effort. I've never tried meetups, but did take classes in long-standing creative interests, most of which involved workshopping or performance (vs sit-down lectures), and which involved a fair bit of personal revelation, if obliquely (ok, at least one of these was a creative writing class). The focus on interaction and activity, in some cases, helped us get to know each other better. I developed a handful of actual friendships out of these. (I'm not sure the same would have been true if I'd taken classes in something like art history.)

Recreational sports leagues involve recurring meetings. Is there some sport that attracts you? I do think it's important you're doing things in which you have some intrinsic interest, even if it's a baby interest.

Does your work environment present an opportunity to meet like-minded people?
posted by nelljie at 5:48 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

to chime back in: I also made a bunch of friends by organizing/attending Metafilter meetups, frankly. Don't know where you are located, but if there are some fellow Mefites in your area, maybe give that a whirl, too?
posted by scody at 5:49 PM on March 25, 2013

I've been in my current city for less than 2 years, and the few close friends I have are coworkers. I'm pretty introverted but do force myself to be social, or at least put myself in social situations like classes and meetups. I find connections I made at meetups can be quite transient. There's no guarantee you'll see the same people there again, and it's tiring to introduce myself over and over.

I joined an outdoor club recently which meet at least once a week with a lot of regulars. Very often you'll see the same people the next week and soon you'll get to know them a little more. Like you I'm still having some trouble developing those friendly encounters to a deeper friendship, but I think I'm having some luck with at least one person. During one of the hikes I lent this other person a sweater and we had to meet up later for me to get it back.

So definitely it's good to join a club to find common interest, but I think the extra step would be a second interest that's a little bit more unique. ie. You don't invite this one individual from a running club to meetup for more running.

Other hypothetical situations could be:
-Someone shared a batch of cookies with the hiking group, you get the person's contact info for the recipe, and you start regularly chatting about baking, etc.
-At a book club, someone reveals they're into sport X and so are you. Later on you decide to exchange training regime or to train together for a race.
-You find out you both like sci-fi movies/books and decide to go to a sci-fi convention together.
posted by lucia_engel at 7:27 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I heard a suggestion a while ago that if you're feeling lonesome, you should consider volunteering for a cause you're passionate about. You'll know you're doing some good, so you'll feel better about yourself, and you'll meet other people who share your passion for the cause.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:37 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can relate to the fact that it gets harder as other people in your age group couple up and (especially) once many have kids and are less available for friendships. And the dynamic of making friends just simply changes from what it was, say, in your 20s.

I'd echo a few of the people above and suggest finding an activity (club/sport/hobby/volunteering) that you like OK and are willing to do regularly (weekly) for a while. I think seeing the same people over and over in some predefined context is a big help to getting to know each other and building some ties.
posted by mvd at 6:24 AM on March 26, 2013

I'm in a similar situation. Regarding the whole no friends thing: I wonder if it would help to broaden your idea of what a friend could be. My [noun] has, to me, an incredibly broad definition of a "friend." Additionally, he could go for years without any contact and feel secure in the relationship.
I need more than that, myself. Like you, I'm not so great at maintaining a friendship at the level of contact I'd prefer. Believe me, I do try. It probably has something to do with not wanting to appear needy or overbearing. And obviously, the slightest hint of rejection can hurt, especially now.

My next suggestion would be to find jovial eccentrics. Not necessarily talkative ones, although those that are tend to glom onto excessively quiet people like me. (Granted, this may not be what you want.)
posted by infinite joy at 11:27 PM on March 26, 2013

This has been said, but committing to show up--and actually showing up--at the same place with the same people on a regular basis? I don't do this myself, but I hear great things about it.
posted by infinite joy at 11:43 PM on March 26, 2013

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