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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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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

If You Think You’re in an Unhappy Marriage, Remember These 5 Things

If You Think You’re in an Unhappy Marriage, Remember These 5 Things

When you are in an unhappy marriage, you may tell yourself certain things, using them as an excuse to stay because you are scared. Such myths may include, “I have put too much time into this marriage for it to end,” or “I have sacrificed way too much and invested way too much time into this relationship. I’m not just going to walk away from it.” Viewing your marriage as a time investment, when that relationship is no longer a healthy or loving one, serves no purpose but to prolong your suffering. If you find yourself in this situation, there are five lessons you must embrace so that you can give yourself the chance to move on.

1.  Quit viewing your years of marriage as some sort of investment. It’s not.

The time you have put into your marriage is not a non-refundable down payment, so do not treat it like one. When people justify staying in an unhappy marriage, they usually justify it through the lens of time spent, not through the lens of actually being healthy and happy. In a healthy and happy marriage, time spent together is beneficial– you have good memories, the joys of building a family, and more comfortable living. But once the marriage unravels, you cannot invoke those years spent as a justification to stay in a relationship, especially when the relationship has broken down and both partners are no longer invested in it.

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2.  Accept that you deserve better. Do not treat your life and happiness like a faceless commodity.

Unless you are learning to play the piano, you are an athlete who must train 8 hours a day to keep in form, or you are hand-painting the Sistine Chapel, erase this false narrative that time put in = a guaranteed return. You deserve more than that. You deserve better than just seeing yourself, your relationship, and your life as as commodity subject to negotiation. When you view your marriage as merely an investment of time, and use that time as a justification for staying in something that is no longer healthy, you only hurt and demean yourself.

 3. Those married years taught you a lot, but they don’t owe you anything.

This lesson is not meant to sound harsh. Most of us have some wonderful memories from our marriage, and it is important to acknowledge those good times. They gave us happiness and helped us grow. Yet be cautious of your selective memory. You must also recognize that the years in between those memories–the not-so-good-ones– are not collateral and an excuse to remain in a marriage that is no longer working. You may have been married 5, 10, or 20 years, and made sacrifices during that time. You may think that you are owed something because of those unhappy years. But to treat those sacrifices and unhappy years as a bargaining tool, thinking it entitles you to happiness, gets you nowhere.

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You must think of those married years as experience; you were taught about relationships, families, and about who you are because of that time in the partnership. Be grateful for those lessons, but do not attempt to use them as a bargaining tool to remain in a marriage that is no longer sustainable. To do so denies you the opportunity to move on.

4. You may be using the time myth to stay in an unhappy marriage because you’re scared. And that’s okay.

The time you put into a relationship, even if you or your spouse is no longer happy, was at least time in which you were comfortable, and your life, for the most part, was predictable. The end of that relationship signifies an end to the vision of life you had planned for yourself—the illusion of normalcy that assured you that you were like everybody else. You may be afraid to start over, afraid to go “back to the beginning”—whatever that means—because you think you are too old, too financially unstable, or too emotionally distraught to do so.

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Give yourself more credit than that—recognize that you are smarter, more organized, more adaptable, and a hell of a lot stronger than you can even imagine.

It’s okay to feel scared about starting over. The fear is what makes you human, but it’s the courage to give yourself another shot at happiness that makes you truly remarkable. Overcome the wavering and excuses of  “I have put so much time into this marriage” and get past that fear and bargaining and you will get that second chance at life.

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 5. Time invested does not equal happiness. But you can find happiness on your own.

As heartbreaking as it is, sometimes marriages run their course, regardless of the years of effort and sacrifice you invested. It’s okay to move on, okay to start over, and okay to find happiness on your own terms.

But here is where time spent does become your responsibility. As you start or continue to make a new life for yourself, you are given a choice about time. You may choose to spend it angry, bitter, or heartbroken about the end of your marriage, or you may choose to invest time in yourself and your own happiness. You are not destined to live a life of hurt and misery because you are separating or divorcing. However, you can be destined for greatness and the opportunity to move on and become stronger, more compassionate, and a happier person. And putting your energy into that happiness is time well spent.

Featured photo credit: Wife and Husband/Roland Tanglao via flickr.com

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