Want to be in more friend circles, but having trouble connecting...
June 28, 2015 5:03 AM   Subscribe

Hi AskMe: I'm a 34-year-old single female, quite introverted, not really having a tight circle of friends until my breakup from my only relationship 2 years ago. I have one main circle of friends, many of whom I got to know from going to a board game meetup. While I enjoy socializing with the group over dining out and some board games, I sometimes feel uncomfortable with venting to people in my main circle as a sounding board because of some past internal group misunderstanding as well as drama involving the former "group leader" arising from a breakup he suffered (where the fact I asked said group leader out and got rejected did not help at all) and some new group members coming in whom I feel like I enjoy in limited doses only. So I feel like I need to find more circle of friends while keeping the existing circle--with some friends being more people whom I can confide to--except...

1) I have a very busy new job in a career area that I would like to switch out of in 2 years--and while it's likely I'll pass probation, I'm actually feeling a bit unsure if I can even keep up with the demands of the job. Some of the meetups that I attend are actually in preparation for switching to the new career area, and some of them are open volunteer sessions for a cause that I strongly believe in.
2) My grandmother passed away early 2015, and I was also taking classes to prepare for switching to the new career area. I might take some more classes around September.
3) During classes and volunteer sessions, I feel like I'm laser-focused on the work to the point I feel like I need to do a good job on them--which sucks energy from socializing with other people.
4) I need a decent amount of space after socialization, whether through meetups or volunteering--I find that my limit is socializing 3 times per week.
5) Lately I've been finding going to meetups for common interests exhausting because, with shared activities, I'm so concentrated on the activity that it makes it a little difficult for me to talk to people... it doesn't help that I'm also considering meetup a primary venue for meeting guys for a relationship, and I really don't want to join a meat-market style singles group either... and because I strongly think that I should be meeting people organically, and because of the potential for deception, I've never considered online dating as a venue for meeting guys.
6) While there are many self-improvement/spirituality meetups in my area, I feel like they suffer from the problems of only having sporadic meetups, having very little attendance at these meetups, or they get into metaphysical woo which isn't really my speed.
7) At the time of my breakup, I'd assess myself firmly as socially awkward. I'm more outgoing than before, but a friend of mine in my main social group actually indicated otherwise... that I actually don't really speak much in the group. So maybe I might not be as non-awkward as I originally thought...?

If you have any suggestions as to how to better connect with people through Meetup, or if you see some of my thoughts being distorted, please feel free to put your thoughts in. Thank you so much in advance!

(Re: any suggestions on therapy: I've done group therapy workshops before, and I'm considering individual therapy also.)
posted by Tsukushi to Human Relations (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you don't want more friend circles but closer friendships. Have you tried asking any "shared activity" acquaintances to do something purely social, one-on-one? e.g. grab a drink/coffee/meal/walk/movie? I like group activities but find only socialising in groups a bit lonely sometimes. I think idea that people in their 30s have a "core group" of friends is only true for fictional characters or people whose friendship groups were forged in their teens/twenties.
posted by bimbam at 5:18 AM on June 28, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm an introvert as well and I've found that I meet new female friends accidentally and meet male dates through online dating. I think you'd be an excellent candidate for online dating, by the way, since you're busy and an introvert who may prefer the one-on-one format of that to a party or a group hangout. (Sorry, that wasn't really your question but I wanted to put in a plug for online dating. It's great!) Another bit of advice is to seek out other introverts. We just interact differently; it feels easier than trying to mimic extroverts and slip along them unnoticed.
posted by Guinevere at 6:04 AM on June 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Aren't there a couple of people in your larger meetup-y groups you especially click with and would like to get to know better? That's pretty much been how I've made my closer friendships in the past few years. Bonus: they also have other friend circles, and do mixer-y type stuff so I get to meet those people too.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:56 AM on June 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would ask yourself what is going on inside of you that feels the need to vent and your requirement of friends as sounding boards. We all need sounding boards at times and it temporarily feels good to vent our frustrations but you may want to change your focus on how to meet friends. You know the old saying to have friends, be a friend. Instead of focusing on yourself, look outward. What can you give to the group? How can you be a better friend? Think about bringing zero drama. Complaining and venting feed the ego for a moment, but complaining makes for unhappiness. Instead of focusing on things that you feel you need to "vent", what can you do to appreciate your life right now?

I use Meetup to RSVP for my two hobby groups. I don't use it to find more friends, but I could see where it would be useful. If you have a few friends already, you're very fortunate. While engaging in your hobbies with a "laser focus", does that focus make you unhappy? Go with it, if you're normally a very focused person, don't feel bad about it unless you're trying to impress yourself or others by being "good". If you're concentrating on being good to feed your ego or impress others, you will be less creative. Lower your expectations. You don't need to find anyone to vent to because everything is already okay right now.
posted by Fairchild at 8:17 AM on June 28, 2015 [6 favorites]

What kinds of activities do you do? You seem very goal-focused right now; what about trying something fairly relaxed, like a non-competitive team sport?

I think Fairchild's right about being careful about managing expression of negative emotions among new friends. I think most adults are burdened with enough in their own lives to make them averse to hearing about others' problems in a social situation, which is where people go for distraction, entertainment, etc. I also think people often tend to reserve that kind of exchange for partners or very old friends, so it might be unexpected in a casual setting among people who are more acquaintance-ish. It takes a while to develop the necessary intimacy / trust for venting to not sour things / create unfavourable impressions (whereas older friendships can take more of that kind of talk). What about reaching out to old friends? (Not expressly or only for the purpose of dumping, though, because even old friends have their limits.)

It's a little different if you happen to make a strong connection with someone, and they're also open to opening up in that way. But that's just luck.

If you have no other emotional outlets, I think therapy would be a great idea. Might take some of the pressure off, too.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:37 AM on June 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

I think you should try to be easier on yourself. Your post gives me the sensation of watching someone try to keep way too many balls in the air. A consensus seems to be emerging that what you need is a couple of good, close friends. Trying to sort of manage more "friend circles" sounds an awful lot like a second (third?) job that you don't need.
posted by BibiRose at 10:02 AM on June 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

Thank you to everyone for the suggestions!

To elaborate a little bit more--the in-group misunderstanding and drama happened between May and July 2014. At that time, that group had been my primary social group, and my old high school friends aren't really part of any group. I hadn't really confided my feelings about the misunderstanding / drama to anyone in the group and wanted to seek new friends because I dislike conflict and didn't want to upset the existing group... still kind of don't (although there are a few friends whom I feel I might be able to confide to). My inability (or perhaps unwillingness???) to confide sort of let to some emotional ugliness, which is why I'm still going the route of trying to expand my friend circles--and I did manage to confide these issues to a friend of mine outside the group, but I think I'm unloading to this friend a little too much. Given my grandmother's passing and my course commitments, which spanned February to May 2015, I decided to make a more intense effort to go to meetups starting July.

Speaking of my meetups... it's been 10 days since my initial post, and I've been involved in several meetups--and the experience ran the gamut from meeting really friendly people and having great conversations to getting banned for no reason for a group that I thought to have been enjoyable. That last one had made me quite upset, disappointed and disrespected, even to the point of declaring myself done with Meetup for socialization because I felt as if I was getting stuck even with the effort I've put into it (only to abandon that thought one dinner gathering later)--yet I am fortunate and grateful to have many friends, whether in or out of the primary friends group, support me and cheer me up when I had let them know.

I feel as if I'm making lots and lots of effort to get to know new people... and while I have some satisfying experiences, I might be a little too antsy in my expectations for friendship and dating from social gatherings and putting too much pressure on myself, and there is still some leftover things that I do want to confide to someone who will hopefully understand... (BibiRose, you are on to something!)

And from my experience in the past 10 days, I realized that my 7-item list is missing something rather important--8) Self-care and self-forgiveness--which makes me feel good, but which I think I do very inconsistently (in the form of walks around the city, gardens and random shops... only to be undone by checking social media in bed at night in the dark). I think it's past time that I start seriously look at it as a priority.

While I ultimately do want a few close friends from different friend circles, in the short term I feel like I am in need of both a break to take care of myself, as well as individual therapy to sort out any leftover pain and to work out any unhealthy self-beliefs and self-talk; I'm working from home today so that I can get in the necessary phone calls and to see if I can make an appointment to my work's employee assistance program.

Again, thank you to everyone, and I hope I will be able to come back and give you a more positive update!
posted by Tsukushi at 9:44 AM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

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