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Friendless in Seattle: Searching for Answers

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QUESTION:

Dear Irene,

I am a middle-aged woman without any friends. I have never developed the knack for making a friend, and would like to know how. The usual pattern when I try to make a friend is that I meet someone, have a few lunches/walks/movie dates, and everything seems fine. However, always after a few months, the friend drops me. This leads me to believe that something is wrong with my behavior, but I don't know what it is. How can I make a friend?

Signed,
Friendless in Seattle

ANSWER:

Dear Friendless,

To be without close female friends can be extremely isolating and lonely. Your note was brief and I don't know you well so it's hard to pinpoint the precise reason(s) for your dilemma. Three thoughts come to mind:

Trouble prospecting

You may be making bad choices when you choose potential friends. The odds are better that a friendship will "stick" when two people have a common thread, perhaps a shared interest (e.g. hobby or membership in a club or gym) or shared circumstances (e.g. neighbors or co-workers). Think about the people with whom you are trying to connect and whether there is any natural glue that could keep the friendship going.

Trouble bonding

You say that you don't have a "knack" for making friends. Can you be so desperate for a friend that you are coming on too heavy, too soon? Friendships unfold gradually as women share intimacies with one another -- this takes time. You need to be willing to let your friends know the real you, but you don't want to spill your guts out the first time you're out to lunch.

Something else

There may be something off-putting about your behavior. Is there someone (perhaps, a family member) whom you trust -- and who knows you well -- who might tell you what it is? If not, it might be worthwhile to seek advice from a counselor.

It's great that you have recognized this as a problem you want to solve. That's the first step in doing so.

My best,
Irene


Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and is working on a book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving the Myth, that will be published by Overlook Press in September, 2009 and recently co-authored Schizophrenia for Dummies (Wiley, 2008). She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog.

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