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Published on August 21, 2018

Why It’s Harder to Make Friends After 40 (and How to Combat the Odds)

Why It’s Harder to Make Friends After 40 (and How to Combat the Odds)

No matter how old you are, it’s always a little challenging to make friends. When you reach middle-age, however, it can be super daunting. Not only do you face the typical hangups that people have (i.e. fears of what others will think of them), but you add to it a lifetime of having friends come and go from your life.

Does making friends in your 40’s, 50’s or 60’s have to be intimidating and scary?

It doesn’t have to be, but we should look at some of the reasons why it’s difficult and consider how to overcome them. Here are the top 17 reasons why it’s hard to make friends after 40.

1. People are busy with their family.

Probably the top reason why it’s difficult to make friends after your 40’s is that by that point in their lives, most people have other commitments.

People in their 40’s typically have older children (i.e. teenagers) and those children tend to require a lot of time. So, unless you are involved in the same things those parents are involved in, it can be extremely difficult finding people your age to socialize with.

One way to overcome this hurdle is to volunteer to do things that these families are into. If the parents of teens are taking their kids to sports and other social events, then volunteer to coach or help out at those events.

You may feel weird doing that at first (especially if you don’t have kids), but when you get involved those feelings will dissipate.

2. People’s social circles rarely change after 30.

Studies have shown that, when people reach their 30’s, they start to value quality friendships over quantity.[1] Once their social circles dwindle, people settle for fewer friendships.

As an outsider to those social circles, you may find it more intimidating to “break in” to an already established social circle.

The best way to deal with this is to join clubs or activities that match your personality and interests. Find a common reason to come together with these people, and you’ll open the door to more quality friendships.

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3. Higher levels of individualism.

Existing quantitative research suggests that people are becoming increasingly individualistic, materialistic, and narcissistic.[2] Millennials are upending many of the social trends of the past because of this sense of individualism. People are spending more and more time online and, thus, keeping to themselves.

One way to address this issue is to find your own sense of individualism. Know thyself. Learn to be happy on your own so that you don’t come across as clingy in social interactions.

4. Lack of education on friendship and social skills.

If you look online, there are many blogs for helping people find relationships, but there are few that address making friends. The advice that one might give to make better relationships does not necessarily apply to making better friendships.

One of the best resources for making friends is a timeless classic: How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Or you can learn from the tips here:

14 Ways to Find Good Friends No Matter What Your Age

5. When you’re older, it takes more than one thing in common to make friends.

When you were a kid, it was much easier to make friends. You tended to gravitate towards anybody who had anything in common with you. If you played football, most of your friends were probably football players. If you were a cheerleader, most of your friends were probably part of your cheer squad.

Now that you’re older, you realize that compatibility is important in any type of social relationship. This is why the best plan of action is to join clubs and volunteer for things you care about. This allows you to socialize with people who care about the same things you do.

6. Fear of reaching out to others.

There’s a certain type of pride that keeps us from reaching out to others when we need them. We are afraid of rejection, and we fear the judgment of others.

Here are three ways to overcome that fear:[3]

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  1. Rewire your brain by reading and listening to motivational material.
  2. Have a plan for those times you fear the most (i.e. a lull in the conversation).
  3. Set the goal to talk to at least one new person every day.

7. You have nothing to talk about.

This is typically a sign that you need to spice up your life. If you have little to talk about, it may be time to address the reasons for that. Have you been so focused on work that you have forgotten how to enjoy your life?

It’s also helpful to understand that you don’t have to be constantly talking to enjoy someone’s company. When you’re hanging with the right people, you can comfortably share silence.

8. People are more set in their ways.

According to psychologists, people don’t change much beyond their 30’s.[4] This could mean that, if you’ve spent a significant portion of your adult life alone or without friends, it may be tougher to make friends in your 40’s.

You can still break that mold. In fact, you can reinvent yourself in any way that you want.

Start by making small changes in your life. Change the way you drive to work. Do something you wouldn’t normally do. Keep your mind open to new possibilities and reach for them whenever you can.

9. You aren’t making yourself available to others.

How often do people invite you to do things and you tell them no? You won’t make new friends if you don’t embrace new opportunities.

Start saying yes to these invites, even if you don’t particularly like the person who is inviting you. This will open you up to new opportunities which will inevitably lead to making new friends.

10. You don’t have enough money to do things.

If you are living paycheck to paycheck, it can be super frustrating when people want to do stuff that costs money. You don’t want to impose on them or sponge off of them, but you also don’t want to turn down opportunities to socialize.

Learn to make a budget. When you pay off a bill, earmark some of that new income for social purposes. Dump it into a savings account and only use it for social occasions.

11. Your social skills are rusty.

If you haven’t been out for a while, you may feel like your social skills are rusty. You may have never really had much of a social life to begin with. Whatever your situation, there’s only one way to overcome it.

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You have to be willing to fail and look foolish. You have to be willing to take chances. The only way to sharpen your social skills is to practice in real social situations. Consider using a group like meetup.com to help sharpen your social skills.

12. Digital interaction makes it harder to socialize in real life.

According to research, we typically can only handle about 150 friends at any given time.[5] This includes your online social network. Perhaps to supplement your lack of social interaction, you’ve inserted yourself into various online communities. These communities are taking up that space in your brain.

Scale back your online presence and start weening yourself off of social media. You don’t have to quit entirely, but you need to set some limitations on how much of your life it consumes.

At first this will feel strange, and your levels of loneliness may increase. But that is a temporary feeling that will give you the fuel needed to go make friends in the real world.

13. You find fault in everybody you meet.

Maybe you are sabotaging your potential friendships. Perhaps you are having trouble making friends in or after your 40’s because you have spent most of your adult life pushing people away.

Do you have some trauma in your past? Have you been burned by friendships in the past?

Take some time to self-evaluate. Address the issues that have you pushing people away or finding fault in others. Go to a therapist and work through these issues with someone who is trained to help people.

14. You’re trying to protect yourself from getting hurt again.

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous reason. If you’ve had a friendship go sour in the past, you’re going to be skittish about making new friends. We fear repeating the pain of a past failed relationship whether it be romantic or otherwise.

This is another thing to work through with a therapist. Be willing to take new risks or your attempts to make new friends are over before you start.

15. Your time is limited.

Perhaps you are too busy to make new friends. Maybe you’re forced to work two jobs and manage all of the other responsibilities in your life. If this is the case, then you need to analyze what is dominating your time and why.

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Make a list of the things you have to do in a week. Maybe you’re living beyond your means. The best way to save time and money is to downsize your life so that you can free up resources for other pursuits.

16. The older you are, the more difficult it is to get excited about spending time with people you don’t know.

When you’re young, much of the excitement of doing things is in the fact that it’s the first time you are doing them. When you reach your 40’s, there’s little that you can do that you haven’t already experienced.

I challenge you to see the world through fresh eyes. Practice changing your perspective on things. Listen to stand up comedy, podcasts, and audio-books that uplift you and shift your view of the world.

Many times a lack of excitement comes from being stuck in the same patterns for too long. It’s time to shake things up a bit and make some changes.

17. Your life isn’t as interesting as it was when you were in your 20’s.

Your 20’s are usually about discovering yourself and trying new things. Your social circle is usually as big as it’s going to get because you have so many irons in the fire. As you get older, things start to settle into a routine.

We are creatures of habit, and that habit can make our lives boring. The best way to change your perspective and make your life more interesting is to travel to new places. When you are remaking your budget, open up a category for travel.

The bottom line

Making friends in your 40’s can be intimidating and scary. Your goal is to make it an adventure. See it as a new challenge and begin tackling the reasons you’ve pulled away from people.

This will make your life (and you) more interesting. Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Your new life awaits!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

James Leatherman

The founder of Happymindsets.com and is passionate about personal growth, psychology, philosophy and science

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Published on November 14, 2018

How To Stop Insecure Attachment from Wreaking Havoc on Your Love Life

How To Stop Insecure Attachment from Wreaking Havoc on Your Love Life

We are naturally wired biologically to desire attachment to others. Learning how to attach to others begins from the day we are born. We begin learning from birth about attachment and how relationships work through the interactions and care we receive from our primary caregiver (usually mom or dad).

The attachment of an infant to parent (or caregiver) can have a lasting impact on an individual and their adult relationships. Our relationships in infancy can have a profound affect on our future relationships because of what we learned in our earliest relationships.

When insecure attachment takes place during infancy and childhood, this can wreak havoc on adult relationships. Problems such as abuse, clinging to abusers, low self esteem, control issues, jealousy, emotional dependency, and relationship paranoia can become prevalent when insecure attachment in infancy/childhood affects adult relationships.

Not to fear though; there are many individuals who have experienced insecure attachment in infancy and childhood and have healthy relationships in adulthood. The key is recognizing the behaviors that may stem from insecure attachment and learn how to handle them.

What Causes Insecure Attachment?

As infants, we need a caregiver that is loving, attentive, and affectionate. The relationship between the caregiver (typically a parent) and baby creates a bond or attachment. A healthy and secure attachment occurs when the caregiver meets the babies needs and is loving. When there are problems with the care that is provided, insecure attachment occurs.

Healthy attachment is known as secure attachment. When secure attachment doesn’t occur, then by default an insecure attachment takes place. It is helpful to understand why insecure attachment may have occurred, so you can understand how your adult relationships have potentially been affected by your first relationships in life.

Insecure attachment can happen for a variety of reasons. There are also levels of insecure attachment based on the severity of the situation.

Physical Abuse and Neglect by Caregivers

For example, a baby that has endured physical abuse and neglect by their caregiver will likely be highly insecurely attached. They have a distrust of their caregiver because of the abuse. They will likely also have fear of this caregiver.

The infant desires love and care from the caregiver, but what they are given is harm and lack of care. This will affect their adult relationships, because they intrinsically learn that the one that they are supposed to trust the most harms them.

No Affectionate Interactions

Another way that insecure attachment occurs is when the physical needs for the baby are met, but there is no affectionate interactions. You can see extreme cases of this example in orphanages. The babies are provided with basic essential needs such as a crib to sleep and milk to drink. They are clothed and diapers are changed.

However, these babies do not receive affection and interaction from their caregiver. They are left alone in their crib for most of the hours of the day. They have learned that crying for affection and attention has not brought anyone to meet this need, so they have stopped crying for these emotional needs to be met.

Instead, they have a lack of emotional attachment or an insecure attachment because they do not have an interactive, affectionate relationship with a caregiver. This insecure attachment will likely affect their adult relationships.

A child can also grow up in a “normal home” and not have these emotional needs met. Their primary caregiver may attend to the physical needs, but fail to interact with them. The caregiver does not talk to the baby, play with the baby, or give the baby cuddles, hugs, and kisses. The caregiver, for whatever reason, does not provide the emotional interactions that are needed for the baby to bond and attach. Thus, insecure attachment occurs and adult relationships are affected in the future.

Inconsistency in Meeting the Baby’s Needs

Another example of why insecure attachment occurs is that of inconsistency in meeting the baby’s needs. In this situation, the baby’s needs are sometimes met when they cry and fuss. However, other times the baby is left to cry and cry without their needs being met.

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There is an inconsistency in the care from their primary caregiver. This creates a distrust from the child to parent. The baby learns that they cannot fully count on their caregiver to provide for their needs or comfort them all of the time.

An insecurity within the child will develop because they do not know when they can count on their caregiver to provide for them. There is an uncertainty in having their needs met which creates anxiety as well as distrust.

This can obviously carry into adult intimate relationships and wreak havoc.

10 Signs of Insecure Attachment

There are some behaviors that are caused by insecure attachment. A variety of unhealthy behaviors can present in early childhood because of insecure attachment.

This article will focus on the behaviors that are evident in adulthood because of insecure attachment. Here are some behaviors that can result from insecure attachment in infancy which results in unhealthy and insecurely attached adult relationships:

1. Demand Time

For example, you do not want your spouse or partner to do things without you. Your desire is to spend all of your and their spare time together. You demand their time and attention, to the exclusion of other friendships and relationships.

2. Suspicion or Jealousy

For example, you are suspicious of your partner or spouse’s behavior and the people they work with. You question their work relationships and who they interact with in the workplace.

You are suspicious of anyone that you feel they are getting to close to, as you fear they may leave you for another individual.

3. Lack of Emotional Intimacy

For example, your spouse or partner feels that they emotionally can’t get close to you. They describe you as someone who “puts up walls” or that you are generally hard to get close to emotionally.

4. Emotional Dependency

For instance, you depend on your spouse or partner for your emotional well-being. Your expectation is that your happiness comes from your relationship.

If you aren’t happy, it’s because you feel you aren’t being fulfilled by your partner or spouse.

5. Fearful

For example, you desire closeness in your intimate relationships. However, your experience has been that if you get too close to your loved one, they will hurt you. This causes you to be a mix of emotions.

You draw your loved one near and then you push him or her away. Your fear of getting too close because you don’t want to get hurt causes relationship dysfunction.

6. Lack of Trust

You don’t trust your spouse or partner to do right by you. You fear they may cheat on you or you fear that they will leave you. You cannot seem to bring yourself to fully trusting him or her.

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7. Emotionally Shut off

In heated arguments you shut down and turn off emotionally. You close yourself off emotionally because you don’t want to get hurt any further.

8. Fear of Abandonment

You fear that your spouse or partner will one day leave you. You don’t have any justified reason for having this belief. Instead, it is a fear you harbor deep inside and it prevents you for getting too close to him or her because deep down you believe they are someday going to leave you anyway.

This fear may stem from being left by your caregiver. Even if they came back to get you, the fear can still remain if you have an insecure attachment.

9. Controlling

You dominate your intimate relationship and try to control your partner or spouse. Your underlying fear of rejection or of having the relationship not meet your needs drives your controlling behavior.

You may dictate how things are run in your household and how your spouse/partner is to act. You feel that if you have control over their behavior and the functioning of your household, then you have control over the potential for being hurt in the relationship.

Fear drives the controlling behaviors.

10. Affection Issues

You are not comfortable with hugs and other forms of public displays of affection that seem normal to others. You may not have any issues being intimate in private because you are having a need met, but your physical affection in public suffers.

Your discomfort may stem from not being held and provided with attention as an infant or child. Your relationship with your caregiver was cold in comparison to a securely attachment caregiver and child relationship.

Because of this lack of affection, you have not learned how to give and receive physical affection comfortably.

A Rocky Relationship

Typically what you can expect in an insecurely attached adult relationship is one of two directions: rocky with lots of ups and downs or ambivalence.

The rocky relationships develop because the individual has mixed feelings. They want a close relationship, but they have been harmed by the one who was supposed to care the most for them (their caregiver in infancy).

They draw near and then push away when things get tough. This causes them to also create defense mechanisms to protect themselves when problems arise in the relationship. Defense mechanisms can be unhealthy and cause more turmoil.

The ambivalence can stem from not having needs met as an infant, so they have learned to not care. They develop a wall because they cannot count on others to meet their needs (or so they think because of their past experience).

They will prevent themselves from getting too emotionally involved and attached to others because they have a distrust of others to meet their emotional and/or physical needs.

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The Solution to Your Attachment Problem

The solution to your attachment problem is first recognizing that there is a problem. Next you must figure out which behaviors in your current relationship are unhealthy and stem from this problem, so that you can then work to correct the behaviors.

1. Recognizing the Problematic Behavior

You cannot fix something unless you recognize that it is broken. The first step to healing a relationship and resolving insecure attachment is identifying that there is a problem.

The problem manifests itself in our behaviors. The examples provided above are just some of the behaviors that can result from insecure attachment. There are many others.

The key is recognizing if there is something wrong in your intimate relationships which is revealed in a pattern of behavior that potentially stems from insecure attachment.

No parent or caregiver is perfect, because there are no perfect people. We are all flawed beings, so don’t be quick to blame your parents for your current relationships. They may not have done everything perfect, but you are responsible for your own actions as an adult.

You can learn to have securely attached adult relationships, even if you had the most broken and insecurely attached relationships in infancy and childhood.

2. Develop Relationships with Those who can Securely Attach

A relationship between two individuals who suffer from insecure attachment will never result in a securely attached relationship without help. It is hard enough to have a relationship between two healthy individuals who experienced securely attached relationships in childhood.

When one individual has attachment issues, there will be problems in the relationship because their behavior will manifest the problem. If both individuals have attachment issues, it is more likely that the relationship will have a great deal of problems, drama, and extreme behaviors.

The goal is to have a healthy relationship between two individuals who can have healthy and secure attachments in their adult relationships. If one or both recognize that there are behaviors that stem from insecure attachment, then help should be sought.

If you are wondering whether you are able to securely attach in a relationship, there is a free test that you can take here: Attachment Styles and Close Relationships. This test can help you better understand the way you think, behave, and your subsequent ability to securely attach in a relationship.

3. Therapy

Therapy is the best way to overcome behaviors that stem from insecure attachment.

When seeking out a therapist or counselor in helping you overcome your insecure attachment, ask the right questions. Ask if they have helped others with this problem. Then ask if their client was able to overcome the insecure attachment and in turn able to develop a healthy attached relationship.

If you are currently in a relationship, also ask if they will work with both you and your spouse/partner if necessary. In some cases, couple’s therapy is helpful as it can help the other person better understand your problems, so you can work together on the solutions.

4. Deal with your Defense Mechanisms

Defense mechanisms develop as a way for us to protect ourselves. When we have anxieties and fears that we don’t know how to handle with good coping skills, we then develop defense mechanisms.

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For example, we may have fear of abandonment issues because of real abandonment that happened in childhood. We carry that issue into our intimate relationships in adulthood because we haven’t learn to deal with this fear properly.

In turn, we displace (the defense mechanism) the fear from childhood onto our current partner and act out of this fear. We question their motives and then act clingy when we fear the relationship is rocky. This is obviously not a healthy way to act in a relationship.

Understanding defense mechanisms and recognizing the ones you may be using to squelch your fears and anxieties can help you. Read up on defense mechanisms and look at yourself introspectively to determine if you utilize any unhealthy defense mechanisms.

If you do, then knowing is half the battle. Find new, healthy ways of handling your fears and anxieties. Counseling can help with this as well. Here is a helpful article on the subject: How Not to Let Your Defense Mechanisms Control You

5. Work on Change

The way to change is to recognize the problematic behavior and work to correct it. Once you know that the problem causing the behavior is your insecure attachment from earlier in life, then you can work to change.

For example, you have always avoided talk about marriage and a future together with your significant other. You have a fear of abandonment, so you don’t want to even broach the topic of marriage, because if you got married and they left you it would hurt even more. Your fears are over-riding your decision making.

Once you realize where the fear is coming from, then you can make the decision to take your fears head on by having the discussion about a future and potentially marriage.

If you feel that you can’t do it, then seek out a counselor for help. They can help you work through your fears. Some fears and anxieties are so deeply imbedded that we need help drawing them out and taking them on.

Another example of making change is trusting your spouse/partner. Recognizing that they haven’t had any reason to deserve your distrust is the first step.

Next, work on changing the behaviors that stem from your lack of trust. Perhaps you secretly check their phone daily. Stop doing it.

Make yourself change the behaviors that stem from your past insecure attachments. If you are unable to stop the behavior on your own, then seek a therapist to help you.

Final Thoughts: Don’t Give Up!

Don’t give up on having healthy relationships. Chalking up your behavior to “that’s just who I am”, will not help you have healthy, securely attached relationships.

Identify that you do have a problem, then work to correct the behaviors and you will be on your way to healthier and happier intimate relationships.

You do not have to remain stuck in an insecure relationship status. You have the ability to work to change yourself, starting today.

Featured photo credit: Pablo Merchán Montes via unsplash.com

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