Having great friends is one of life's most wonderful rewards. I know I'd be lost without my closest girlfriends, and I realize how very lucky I am to have them in my life. Just knowing there is always someone to call, to confide in, to laugh and cry with is a tremendous comfort. But, of course, not all friendships are perfect, and there's no guarantee that even the best ones will last forever.
When you're young, single, in school or just starting out professionally, you're surrounded by lots of other people who are all in the same boat and new friends seem to be everywhere. Life is just beginning to unfold, and change is everywhere, and that means a constant stream of new adventures, new possibilities and new people.
But as we get older, we can sometimes find ourselves becoming a bit more reserved, and a little less open to change. We get settled into our families, our careers and our routines. And sometimes the friendships in our lives can fall away for any number of reasons, leaving us feeling a little less connected and a little more isolated.
As an adult, it can be hard to meet new people and start new relationships -- especially after a divorce, after the kids are grown, after being laid off or becoming a widow. But it may not be as hard as you think to make new friends in mid-life and beyond.
We reached out to "The Friendship Doctor," Irene Levine, to give us some tips on how to reach out and find new friends at any age. Her advice is fabulous and practical. It's all about taking small steps, opening up, reaching out and realizing that you are not the only one out there looking for new friends.
Take a look.
Don't stay home tethered to your computer or TV. Now is the time to establish and solidify friendships for the years ahead. Once you venture out, you'll find there are other people who are just as eager to make friends as you are.
Many adults have the mistaken impression that everyone else is already paired up, like Noah's Ark, and no one else is looking for new friends. Contrary to the myth perpetuated by popular culture, most friendships don't last forever. Thus, you need to continually replenish your "stock" of friendships.
Pick up the phone at least once a day to speak to a friend. If you work, arrange to have lunch with someone at least once a week. If you work at home, arrange to have coffee or lunch with someone at least twice a week. Turn off all electronics for a couple of hours each day and see if you find yourself more engaged with people.
Don’t be embarrassed about being lonely or friendless. You’re certainly not the only one. Moreover, don’t let shame or embarrassment stop you from reaching out to new friends. Otherwise, your friendlessness will become a vicious cycle.
People need to overcome the idea that they are the only one seeking friendships and that rejection, if it occurs, is personal. Sometimes another individual's dance card is simply already filled up with family, work and other friendships.
Don't fall prey to expecting too much too soon or acting too needy. Give friendships time to blossom by being open, honest and showing interest in other people.
Unfortunately, many women look at their friendships as discretionary compared to their responsibilities to families and careers. For this reason, they fail to allocate time for friendships. It isn’t selfish or indulgent to make time for friendships. Having close friendships makes a woman happier --and better wife, mother and worker.
Making friends is more a function of circumstance rather than age, per se. No one is more attractive to others than someone who is engaged in life. Whether you join a gym, take an art course, sign up for dancing lessons or volunteer at a nonprofit, find something that stirs your passions and places you in regular contact with the same people week after week. Friendships will follow.
Every friendship starts off with the exchange of a smile, question or comment. Best friends don't grow on trees and real relationships take time to nurture. As two people get to know each other, they will fall into a comfortable groove.
Perhaps you have limited yourself by looking for people who are just like you. You can expand your pool of potential friends by seeking out people who are little bit different, in terms of age or lifestyle. Is there an elderly neighbor on your block who might welcome your company, or a young mother who would love to have some adult companionship once in a while? Intergenerational friendships yield valuable payoffs on both sides.
Become active in your community: There is life after the PTA and scouting. Can you become a friend of the library? Participate in local government by serving on a committee. Join an existing book group or cooking club, or start one of your own. Go to <a href="http://www.meetup.com/find/" target="_blank">meetup.com</a> to find out about various interest groups; they are catalogued by zip code.
Perhaps you are spending too much time behind your computer screen. Find out if any of your online friendships have the potential to be face-to-face ones. Do some of your Twitter or Facebook friends live nearby? As an added bonus, reducing the amount of time you spend online will give you more time and motivation for forming real friendships.
It can be a few college roommates, the women in your book club, several cousins or one best friend. Select an individual or group to travel with whose company you enjoy, and with whom you can relax and be yourself. If you can't stand being with someone over lunch or have the feeling someone may be a frenemy, don't even think about including her! Together, pick an irresistible destination for a girlfriend getaway, perhaps a beach, spa or cruise, where you can bond and nurture your friendships.
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