Note: Mumsnetters don't necessarily have the qualifications or experience to offer relationships counselling or to provide help in cases of domestic violence. Mumsnet can't be held responsible for any advice given on the site. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
Why is adult friendship so difficult?(16 Posts)
In the last few years my social life and friendship groups have gone down the pan. My self-esteem is at rock-bottom, Im unhappy and bored with my life.
We are not an alpha-couple, both fairly shy by nature, but work through this because we both love being with other people and socialising.
Pre-kids we had a great social life with one big social group that met a lot with closer friends within the group that we met individually outside the group. I also had a group of lfriends Id known since my school years and was very close to. Also other friends wed met in other ways.
Well, look at us now we hardly see anyone, people seldom get in touch and the parties never happen for us. The friends from the old days drifted away (or at least stopped the partying) and we kind of thought, well that happens when people have kids, you spend more time with family. We made new friends ourselves through our kids and kind of accepted that that was the stage in our lives - less partying, more group get-togethers with kids and meals at home with families.
But now even that has stopped. Nobody ever calls us and we seldom see other people. I make the effort and try to get together, but theres always a reason not to see us. Whats particularly hurtful is that we know mutual friends still see each other, they just dont see us. I try and reignite friendships by trying to organise nights out with people, but it seldom works. And even when we do meet up with people, here or out, they never reciprocate by inviting us back. After a while, I stop trying with those particular friends as it seems like they arent interested in being our friends anymore. For example, there was another couple we used to see every weekend, buy birthday and Christmas presents for the kids and go on holidays with. We never fell out with them, but they stopped returning our calls and we now never see socially, even though they only live round the corner. Other acquaintances will ask us about them oh, how are x and x and Im too embarrassed to say that I dont know because theyve dumped us .
I dread weekends. Ive been in touch with various friends to try and arrange meet-ups and they all say, oh it is so busy, sorry, we dont have time. It used to be busy because they came to see us, but we see no-one anymore.
I have lost all my self-confidence. I have stopped trying to make new friends, because I think I must be sooo boring that theyd lose interest straight away. And I am full of resentment for my old friends who seem to have simultaneously all lost interest in us. Every so often, I try to snap out of it and just get back to my old sociable self, but then get upset at the latest knock-back . An example last week I texted a friend who Ive not seen for a while and suggested we get together for a coffee. She got back straight away, saying she was busy but would call me the next day. She didnt. And still hasnt. And now I dont want to come over as needy by calling her back instead, so know that will be the end of it and I wont hear from her again. If it was a one-off Id probably think she just forgot, and call her back. But because this happens all the time (and its not the first time she has done something like this), I think it is because people dont like me. I often burst into tears at home because I am so unhappy. If someone called me now I would be so happy, but people dont. I am worried that it is making me bitter and resentful which will come across to other people and make it even less likely that anyone will seek my friendship! How do I come through this?
I can relate a bit. I don't know what the answer is, though I've been more relaxed since I had dc2 and braver at taking the initiative with socialising. I know it sounds shit but what about doing something as a family - st johns, martial arts, reenactments? Or could you and DH run a cub pack or something? Are you religious at all? PTA? Women's institute?
I find it easier to make friends when there's a reason iyswim, and feel less isolated if I have lots of activities to go to.
Thanks for the response, AlanMoore, I like your ideas. However, we both have VERY full-time jobs and it is hard to commit to stuff like cub packs etc on top of this. I have tried joining social groups on my own - I joined a local cinema group and the school PTA. However, both of those things came to a natural conclusion and the acquaintances I made never turned into proper friendships. I don't have a lot of spare time and our children are in a lot of social groups already. It is the intimacy of friendship outside the immediate family that I miss - I'd love there to be somebody close by to share a quick coffee with or a spontaneous trip to a bar, more than having lots of empty time on my hands that I'd like to fill.
Yes I know what you mean, I've got friends Miles away i could ring up in a crisis but only recently getting some nearby friends who might want a cup of tea!
Again it sounds crap but any elderly neighbours? My mums neighbour is 92 and housebound and she loves a cuppa and a chat. She's got some great memories of times past to share and she's also a scream, I wish she lived on my road and i could visit her twice a week like mum does.
I have a cuppa with the window cleaner once a month and chat with the postman most days too, makes me feel a lot less lonely and helped me have the confidence to make some new friends.
However in your shoes I think it would be worth asking if you have done something to offend your friends - pick the most sympathetic and email along the lines of "how are you? I just wanted to ask you about something a bit delicate, I know you and Keith are busy (so are me and Geoff) but you don't seem to want to meet up any more, and nor do Julie and Ian...is it something we've done? I'd hate to think we have upset you somehow.
Would love to get together soon as we miss you all - we'd love you to come for lunch on the 14th". "
Don't phone cos it's too easy to misunderstand/fob off.
Thanks again AlanMoore. Yoor advice is sound. However......this is something that has been building up for a few years now and I've already done exactly as you suggest. I tried it with the couple we were particuarly close to about 3 years ago...exactly along the lines you suggest. They were really apologetic, said it was all their fault (been busy at work) and invited us round for supper. Things went well and we continued seeing them for a while. But then it happened again. After that initial invitation from them all the requests were from our side; we invited them over and over, sometimes they's come and sometimes not, but they never invited us back. About a year ago I drew the line and we agreed that we'd wait for them to call us before we invited them again. Theyv'e never contacted us since. I've bumped into them in the meantime and they are superficially friendly, but never suggest we meet up.
Six months ago, I e-mailed one of my single friends along similar lines. This was hard, as I felt awkward, not liking any kind of confrontation. Again, she was really apologetic, surprised as she thought there was no communication breakdown between us. She's been OK with me since and has communicated better but we seldom meet up, as she is living in Scotland.
I don't think I can keep doing this. The thing is, we don't seem to have fallen out with anybody, we just seem to fall off their radar, we seem to have somehow turned what we took to be good friends into a wide cirdle of acquaintances.
OP why do you think things are this way? What kind of person are you socially would you say? I've always felt a bit of self-analysis is good for things like this because most times, there are reasons for things. I think if you're a reasonable conversationalist and a good listener, and you are a fairly straightforward, honest and not mean person, and not say, tight with money when you go out (things like that put people off), there should be no reason for you not to be able to hang on to friendships. Or are you too intense? I'm just throwing a few things out there to rule out that there might be someting about you that keeps people away, there may not be at all on the other hand.
I also think it might be a good idea to ask someone directly, someone you know to be a reasonably sound person.. although in my experience, so many people are almost pathologically fearful of confrontation that you mightn't get too far with that but it's worth a try, as the poster above suggested.
Gosh, it's hard, isn't it? As a good friend of mine who was feeling lonely once said to me: "It's difficult to make friends as adults, but it's very easy to lose them". From what you've said it just sounds as though people have drifted away/got busy and then there comes a point where you can't get back what you've had, which is hurtful and difficult to deal with. It's not like the friendships that you forge in your teenage years because once you've got kids and school runs and work and everything in the equation then some things just fall by the wayside, and not everyone is good at keeping friendships up with all of that going on. But I do sympathise with you - I went through similar though in a smaller way. I had made what I thought were good friends when I moved to a town where I started off not knowing anyone. For a good couple of years we were all very close, but then I got back to work, was less able to meet up with them (because I just didn't have the time) and slowly but surely I saw less and less of them - they were still meeting each other, but they stopped inviting me and even though I tried to arrange meeting them unless I really forced the issue it never happened. I still miss them now, if I'm honest.
BUT I now have other friends. I think that's the trick - get yourself out there and meet other people. That other time in your life has passed but there are still other folks out there who I am sure would be happy to spend time with you - all it takes is a bit of 'scoping' (as we used to say) and a suggestion of coffee or a playdate or whatever and then you can take it from there. Quite often when people have young kids their social landscapes change and I'm sure you'd be surprised at how many people are left feeling a bit stranded and unsure of themselves as a result - they would probably appreciate someone taking the initiative and inviting them to do something - I know that I did. I have to admit that I am usually an invitee rather than an inviter but I am so glad that other mothers made the effort to speak to me. It only takes one person to say "Right, ladies, why don't we do such-and-such and no excuses because we'll have fun" to start off something that can become a good close network of friends who get a lot out spending time with each other and enjoying themselves and if there's no-one around you who is doing that, you could always be that person.
But more than anything, I'm sorry that you feel so down. I know it's horrible.
I think this is actually not uncommon.
I'm single and don't have kids. I have friends who are coupled and have kids. I have friends who are coupled and don't have kids. I see the former category very infrequently and the latter category an awful lot. Those with kids inevitably have less time, and it's easier to socialise with other parents and there is common interest/bond of parenting. They make friends with other parents at school and tend to let previous friends slide.
The problem is that very often, once the kids are old and grown, there is no longer the common interest that brought you together in the first place. Sometimes they then try and go back to the old friendships they have let slide but those friends have also moved on, having found other friends to have filled the gap.
I think all you can do is get out there, try new hobbies or interests that involve groups and strike up some new friendships.
Thanks for all the responses, you have given me something to think about. I think the self-analysis thing is something worth pursuing. I know I'm not mean and I know I'm not unkind, they're faults I'm confident I don't have. And while I try to be a good listener, maybe I'm not good at asking the right questions or (since I lost my confidence) having the confidence to have really intesting things to say. I've started to assume people just don't find me interesting enough!
I think all of your comments are helpful and insightful. It's just difficult to keep plugging away. In some ways Facebook perhaps doesn't help - its hard to detach yourself from 'friends' when you see their posts online and they all seem to be having a good time without you. Maybe a rest from social networks might help.
I've started to assume people just don't find me interesting enough!
That's not true I'm sure. Also, with friends, you don't expect to have to be interesting and entertaining all the time... that'd be exhausting. They should know you and accept you as you are, that's the whole idea of having friends. Maybe it's them... maybe they need some self-analysing?!
Remember too that a lot of couples who have kids focus inwards on the family unit rather than focussing outwards because they don't really 'need' anyone apart from family etc. In my opinion, that's not good and is partly the reason why so many older people who lose their partners are so lonely. I don't feel our circle of friends/acquaintances should decrease as we get older but it's sort of how society is set up. Of all the people I know, the people with fullest lives are women who were either widowed or separated early on but remained single or at least not cohabiting. Go figure I guess...
So you don't think your DH could be the cause then?
I am in a similar position, no children but no "friends" in the city I live due to moving here for a job, working with mainly men in the their 50s/40s and devoting my efforts to my uni friends (in other cities), family (ditto) and spending 99% of my free time with my husband.
I am also a bit snobby in terms of not putting up with people having stupid racist views etc so my choice if friends is further limited here.
Advice to cope better with feeling like this:
* Forget about winning back the ex-friends - hide from newsfeed if necessary : ) remember most people give a "edited highlights" of their life on there.
* Make the most of all social opportunities - cuppa with neighbour / drink with colleague etc
* Consider a class or volunteering to meet some new people, even if it leads to nothing it will refocus your mind to get out there, and get you more confident at talking to new people
*Enjoy what you DO have - some people would kill to have a partner / children
* Consider getting a dog? My mum has made so many good aquaintances through walking hers, and this has led to new friendships.
* Consider working on your self esteem, its sad you are assuming you are at fault here, yeah you might be but it sounds like these people are just busy and maybe have more in common with others in the wider group.
*Dont worry about not being interesting most people want to talk about themselves anyhoo, I find when I have been in hermit mode I often come across a bit socially retarded by bangining on about myself when really I should be asking questions and listening : )
PS one of my close friends has a MASSIVE social circle but admits privately she cannot stand quite a few people in it. Personally I would rather be a hermit than have to fawn over people I want to slap.
Good luck : )
We have this problem too. When we were first married we used to socialise quite a lot with DH's old school friends, people he worked with, people I worked with and - not so often because they lived further away- my old schoolfriends. When we moved to our present house we socialised with the neighbours too. These days we seem to have no friends to go out with at all. We have given up trying to arrange things because yes, people do come along but then they go home promising to meet up for a drink or arrange something bac and they never do.
We both have management jobs that make it harder to make friends at work.
I have a few female friends who live too far away to see often and that is about it.
We have taken to living for the moment really- I can go out with and relate to people I'm involved in a particular project with, or other people we meet on holiday and then we just leave it there, nothing else seems to work. Sad really.
Do those people who have kitchen suppers, cupcake and champagne parties and generally "entertain a lot" really exist, or are they just a figment of Jamie Oliver's imagination.
p.s. I did have a dog but he died, as he was a Staffie sadly his presence with me was not conducive to making friends - strangers generally crossed the road.
I think people get more picky as they get older about who they socialise with. Not saying that they don't like you, more that the very few times when you have a chance to socialise you want to do something you are really in to. eg bridge, yoga. And just having a coffee doesn't do it the same as when you were younger.
My DCs are grown up and I have recently got back in touch with ladies I knew when they were little. We are scattered but can meet up once a year or so. So that might happen to you.
Try walking groups(eg Ramblers). They are chatty affairs usually. The chattiness actually puts me off a bit, I don't often feel like chatting for 3 hours at a time!
Look up the meetups website for your area. There will be stuff on there for sure, although alot of groups are for singles.
Best of luck.
I don't think it's imaginary, but I do think a state of mind is important.
Ours has always been an open house and we've managed to make and keep a lot of friends over the years, but I think that's been partly due to our attitudes about friendship. Beyond the early years when there were no kids, neither of us has ever been into that 'couples for dinner parties' set-up. We've preferred ad-hoc arrangements where whole families or singletons turn up for food or in the summer, everyone contributes food for a picnic either in a public place or at someone's house. Quite early on, we also developed an attitude that friends would have to take the house as they found it and no judgements made. That takes the pressure off a lot and allows you to focus on the real purpose; friends getting together and having fun.
The issue of reciprocity is a difficult one. We've got some friends who never have people to their house but they are always up front about their reasons for that. One's got a partner who just hates socialising so we tend to see just this friend and the children, another's got OCD and would find people in their very clean space stressful and a few more are cheerfully up front about being too lazy! But those friends contribute in so many other ways e.g. organising get-togethers on neutral territory, bringing food and drink etc. I just accept now that some of us are more laid-back about our houses, cooking for large groups or suggesting everyone pitches in and my maxim now is that everyone contributes something different to the party.
If I think about friends that we've lost touch with, there's usually been a reason other than just busy lives. Sometimes it's because the friendship was fairly superficial and was propped up by proximity/short-lived common interests, sometimes it's because we've liked only one of the couple but they 'came as a package' and wouldn't countenance more singular friendship and sometimes it's been because their couple relationship has made them uneasy company.
Unfortunately, people very rarely tell the truth about this even when confronted.
I do think it's very important for individuals to have their own friends who they see regularly, rather than doing everything as a couple or as a family.
Thanks to you all for the responses. I've been away with work, so not had chance to read all of these messages until now.
I'm not sure of the way forward, to be honest. Most of the advice given I have tried at some stage or other. Perhaps the main think I need to attempt is what Higgle suggested and 'living in the moment'. I think the only think I can do is accept that it is the way it is and try to stop worrying so much. Not easy, though .
Join the discussion
Please login first.