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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 September 6, 2019

How to Know If You Have an Emotionally Unavailable Partner

How to Know If You Have an Emotionally Unavailable Partner

If you’ve ever experienced getting to a certain point with your partner where it feels like an actual barrier is in place (their walls are up) and they won’t “let you in” – you know what it’s like to be in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable partner.

And being emotionally unavailable, while assumed to be a more common trait in men, is also present with many women.

In this article, we will explore the various signs (some obvious, some a little less obvious) of an emotionally unavailable partner, and the difference in emotional unavailability signs with men and women. We will also explain the reasons behind the behaviour, and what you can do to deal with them.

Signs of an Emotionally Unavailable Partner

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, these are the main signs:

1. Evasiveness

You feel like you are in a relationship with a professional dodgeball player (you try to get close, for example asking a personal question, and they expertly dodge and weave their way out of it). There may also be secrecy about their past, excuses to avoid intimacy or other red flags that leave you feeling shut out and confused.

Part of the evasiveness can extend out to avoiding discussing, or committing to a future together and deflecting any conversation that focuses on feelings.

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2. Control Freak / Self-Absorbed

The whole relationship revolves around them (hello, narcissists). They won’t compromise or budge to let you influence them or have any say in the relationship. While the focus is on them, they are also the ones who control what is discussed and what decisions are made – which means they can adeptly manoeuvre the conversation to other topics when things start to get too close for comfort.

3. Anger / Arrogance

The slightest thing you or others do or say sets your partner off. Anger is the ultimate blocker of intimate connection. Arrogance is not far behind it. Both qualities are usually indicators of unexpressed emotions like grief, fear, low self-esteem and sadness. By being angry or overly cocky, they get to keep others a safe distance away from what is really going on inside.

One of the main traits that falls under the arrogance category is laughing at or putting down anyone who shares their feelings or is too open (including their significant other).

4. Perfectionism

You notice they are always pointing out character flaws – whether it’s the waiter, the person in front of them at the bank, someone at work – no matter where they are, they will always find a fault in others. Eventually, this will be directed at you (if it hasn’t been already).

The perfectionist prefers to rely on themselves and will often brag about how they are the only ones that can do things a certain way. They feel as though they can’t trust others to do a task correctly, so they rarely delegate.

The most prominent trait of a perfectionist is having very demanding standards for themselves and others, this includes you as a partner. Failure is not an option.

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5. Hot and Heavy

The relationship will progress to the bedroom very quickly. It will feel like they only want one thing, and that they prefer the thrill of the chase than a committed relationship.

People who have emotional unavailability tendencies believe sex is the only way to have intimacy, and the longer they can keep the relationship as “just a physical connection,” the better. Anything past that is too unfamiliar and uncomfortable for them.

6. Already in a Relationship

If you are seeing someone who is married or in a committed relationship, who has been promising you they will leave the other person for you (but you keep hearing excuses like “now just isn’t the right time”), you are with an emotionally unavailable person.

Someone who has more than one partner is usually keeping their options open – a sign of emotional unavailability and issues with being vulnerable or letting someone get too close to them.

The above traits are very common for men, and while women can exhibit some of the same traits, generally the following are more common:

  • Holding themselves back from physical intimacy
  • Criticizing partners for not doing enough, while also being uncomfortable asking for or accepting help
  • Keeping their authentic self hidden (also known as wearing a “mask”)
  • Blaming and judging others and avoiding responsibility

Why Are They Emotionally Unavailable?

The first thing to mention here is that majority of the time, this has nothing to do with you. People who are out of touch with their emotions don’t even know where to begin when it comes to picking up on someone else’s feelings, because they have never tapped into or explored their own emotions.

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A lot of the time, people who struggle to connect emotionally have had no model of what emotional intimacy looks like in their life, and have no idea how to open up and connect.

People displaying the signs we have covered have often suffered a great trauma or loss and are covering up insecurities, and doing whatever they can to avoid vulnerability. Other times, they have been brought up in an overprotective, dismissive or unpredictable home environment.

In most cases, when someone is overly controlling in their external world, it is because they feel very out of control internally. When someone becomes absorbed in their own needs, feelings, wants and agenda (this includes workaholics), they can avoid true connection by keeping people at arm’s length and keeping their personal interests between them and another person.

How to Handle an Emotionally Unavailable Partner

So, now that you have identified you are in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable partner, what are your options going forwards?

1. Meet Your Partner Where They Are

Pressuring your partner to be more emotionally intimate with you is counterproductive, the better way to handle it is to seek to understand your partner from a place of patience, love and compassion. Having high expectations on your partner to give what they don’t yet have will only drive a greater wedge between you.

2. Practice Patience

Ensuring you have a support network (and your own life) outside of your relationship is essential when handling an emotionally unavailable partner. Your partner will more than likely need some space to process what they are experiencing.

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3. Don’t Take It Personally

In the early stages of rediscovering their feelings and emotions, your partner may not feel ready to open up and share with you. Although this might be frustrating, this process simply cannot work if you taking it personally or make it about you.

4. Create a Safe Space

The focus needs to be about holding a safe space for your partner to explore new (and sometimes scary) parts of themselves. Encouraging your partner’s openness and vulnerability with kindness, respect and love is vital.

5. Be the Model They Never Had

Show them and tell them what it means to be emotionally intimate (as mentioned earlier, in a respectful, kind, loving way).

6. Take Time to Self-Reflect

What we give out we get back. It’s the law of attraction. Seek to understand yourself. If you find that you keep attracting emotionally unavailable partners, it is usually a sign that on some level, you are emotionally unavailable yourself.

Final Thoughts

While we have covered a lot of different signs of emotional unavailability and ways to deal with them, it is important to look at each relationship as unique, and to explore different ways of connecting with your partner. Just as every person is individual, every relationship has it’s unique dynamics.

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Featured photo credit: marcos mayer via unsplash.com

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