How can I finally make some friends?
July 10, 2018 10:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be moving a to a new city soon. Nobody there knows me. I don't have any friends or relatives there so I'll basically be starting fresh. I've been a loner my whole life and I want to know how I can finally make some friends.

I'm 30 years old and making friends has been a lifelong struggle. In school I got bullied a lot for being socially awkward and shy. My dad was abusive and my mom was manipulative so that also hurt my self-esteem. You would think that college and being a working adult would solve these problems but they haven't. Indeed I got a reputation for being "weird" and people were nice to me but never wanted to hang out with me.

One constant pattern has been that I usually fall into the wrong crowd. I don't mean wrong as in criminal but wrong as in a crowd of bullies. Standing up for myself has always been a problem so I usually end up with a group of friends who constantly make fun of me, usually about my religion (I'm Muslim) but other things as well.

I usually tolerate it because I think they're"just joking" only to find out later that they're not really my friends. This usually happens after I try to make a joke about them and find out that it won't be tolerated. Next thing you know I'm excluded. Surprisingly this has also happened as a working adult when you think people would be more mature.

I realize that things have changed now that I'm 30. People have families, kids, and other obligations and won't always have time to hang out. It most certainly won't be every weekend the way it was for some people when we were younger.

Nevertheless I'm tired of being alone so I'm hoping I can have at least some kind of social life. If you all could give me some advice it would be greatly appreciated.
posted by CurioslySatisfying to Human Relations (8 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Volunteering is a good way to meet people in a new area. If you're in a left leaning city and volunteering with a mostly millennial crowd, they'll probably be more accepting of Muslims than the general public. If it's a conservative area with lots of evangelicals involved, probably less so.

Meetups and things like amateur sports leagues or outdoor activity groups are good as well.

This usually happens after I try to make a joke about them and find out that it won't be tolerated. Next thing you know I'm excluded.

This is not to excuse them making inappropriate jokes about you, but if you're not good with social skills, you may also be going too far without meaning to. If this is a pattern, don't make jokes back at friends - find people that don't snipe at you instead or gently push back if your friends do cross the line.
posted by Candleman at 10:38 AM on July 10, 2018 [11 favorites]

If you have always had trouble making friends, always been subject to bullies, you need self-confidence, and some alpha mojo. People bully others who are low-status and do it to bolster their own status, but you don't want to bully anybody.
Take a martial arts class, get in shape and develop a sense of having physical strength and power.
Wear some status; good haircut, good shoes, clothes that are not super-obvious status symbols, but say quality. You don't need to put anybody's name all over your body, but wear clothes that will help you fit in. This will vary by age and maybe by wherever you live. I shop at Goodwill and outlets, but wear quality clothes. I think it's stupid that people judge by clothing and looks, but they mostly do; fight that battle later.
Learn to listen well. There are books, or even take a Dale Carnegie class. Not all of us got socialized well but we can learn missing skills.
What interests you? Do you like cycling, dancing, languages, books ...? Find the meetups in your new area. Suggest coffee or a beer after the hike. When you have 5 or so new acquaintances, invite people over for a game night/ potluck.
Take adult ed. or other classes. Join a league - Ultimate Frisbee, Trivia.
Volunteer. Maybe join a church and help with their weekly breakfast at the homeless shelter. Walk dogs at the animal shelter. That old lady down the street? Shovel her walkway. There's an election coming, many volunteer opportunities.
Don't stay home. Go have coffee at a friendly coffee house, go to the museum, go for walks.
Get a spare job - walk dogs, mow lawns, get a holiday job and maybe be on call after the holidays end.
posted by theora55 at 10:42 AM on July 10, 2018 [7 favorites]

What city are you moving to? Are there mefi meetups around there?
posted by namesarehard at 10:44 AM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Do you have hobbies or interests? That's a great way to meet people and you can even start that online. I've met a number of real-life friends by sharing my interests online via platforms like instagram (crafting, gardening, books, etc). I also agree that volunteering, meetups (me-fi included), and political groups are also a good way to be involved and meet people. You won't necessarily become friends with the majority, but it's a chance to meet people and also polish social skills.

Also, given your family of origin issues and growing up with various types of abuse, it wouldn't be the worst idea to pursue therapy. A childhood filled with abuse and manipulation makes it hard to form relationships as an adult. Therapy can really help you recalibrate the ways that you're interacting with people and can also reinforce good habits for seeing and avoiding repeating abusive situations in your personal life (cruel "friends", etc).
posted by quince at 10:46 AM on July 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best of luck to you! Theora55 has given some great suggestions of how to prepare yourself (yes to some new clothes and good haircut), and where to meet people. Once you are in the social setting: give genuine compliments (But not so many that it gets awkward). Ask some questions and listen to the answers. Don’t be shy to ask for cell numbers and then strike up a texting relationship before you propose meeting up.
posted by leslievictoria at 7:49 PM on July 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

improv is very social but in a structured activity way, and also a good way of building confidence. There's still cliques, but there's enough genuine oddballs around that it's much easier to not feel the pressure of needing to fit in.

Volunteering for a political cause is a great way to meet people- you always have something to talk about (the cause).
posted by hotcoroner at 5:28 AM on July 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

First, I've said this before on Metafilter, but I actually don't think it has to be hard to make friends in your 30s. I moved to my current city at 31 and have a wonderful community here. So don't let negative self-talk about that hold you back. I do think it can take a little longer to "assemble" a social life in a new city in your thirties, but I've found that generally, the friendships I've made in my late twenties and thirties have generally been a lot stronger than those I made when I was younger.

A few things about making friends:

- Others have alluded to this, but there's actually research showing that what you need to make a new friend, more than anything, is repeated, incidental contact over a period of time. That sounds so wonky, but what it really means is that you need to come into contact with someone many times before you actually become friends. So one-off or really occasional things like meetups may not be the best (though there are exceptions). I've personally made the best friends from: work, neighbors, and programs/projects where I see the same people regularly for at least 6 months or so. So any activity where you're collaborating with other people on a regular basis on something you all care about - that's kind of the gold standard. Which is why people make so many friends from things like team sports, performing groups, political campaigns, volunteering with their religious community, etc.

- You say "I usually end up with a group of friends who constantly make fun of me." What if you just decided not to hang out with people who teased you in ways that made you feel uncomfortable? You don't actually have to stand up for yourself in terms of a big scene (especially if these are coworkers), you can just decide that, for instance, someone who makes fun of your religion (WTF?) is not a friend and you won't hang out with them again. That may be a bit scary if you are feeling like you don't have a lot of other friend options, but I really do believe that being conscious about who we spend time with opens up all sorts of space, both psychological and practical, for other people in our lives.

- It sounds like you've had a habit of falling into "friend groups." This can be very seductive when you're in your twenties and looking for people to hang out with - and if you're compatible with the group, it can be great! But groups develop their own dynamics, and those can sometimes be pretty unhealthy. And then before you know it, your social calendar is full but you're spending it with people you don't really click with or that have some toxic behaviors. In my thirties, I've focused a lot more on cultivating individual relationships, in and out of friend groups, and that has been really great.

- Also, just because you're 30 doesn't mean all your friends have to be. I am now 40, and a lot of my cohort is deep into raising small children (I am child-free). I still see most of them, but obviously not as much. However, I have also cultivated a few really nice relationships with people who are older and younger. Currently, one of my closest friends is 66. It's a pretty different friendship than what I have with people my own age, but it's lovely. And I have a few good friends who are significantly younger as well.
posted by lunasol at 11:59 AM on July 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

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