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

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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 16, 2021

10 Signs You Are in a Codependent Relationship (And What To Do About It)

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10 Signs You Are in a Codependent Relationship (And What To Do About It)

Codependency has become a buzzword in our society, stemming from the field of addiction. It remains unclear in the field of Psychology as to what the symptoms of codependent relationships are, how to define it, where it originates from, and what you can do about it.

Read on to learn more about codependency and discover the 10 signs that you are in a codependent relationship and what you can do about it.

What Is Codependency?

Research has attempted to quantify, categorize, and define codependency since it seems to permeate so many different types of relationships and many people worldwide.[1][2] However, because a clear definition ceases to exist, it is difficult to get a true number of how many people struggle with it.

Organizations such as Codependents Anonymous point to codependency being a “disease” and provide a safe place for those struggling in their relationships. However, they make it clear that they provide no clear definition or diagnostic criteria to identify codependency. The one common denominator appears to be that those self-identifying as “codependents” often come from a dysfunctional family and exhibit “learned helplessness” characteristics.[3]

10 Signs You Are in a Codependent Relationship

If there’s no clear definition, how do you know if you are in a codependent relationship? Codependency can be identified by evaluating your own behaviors rather than the behaviors of someone you are in a relationship with. By identifying certain thoughts, feelings, and behaviors you tend to engage in, you can start to identify any trends that exhibit codependent characteristics.

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Here are the 10 signs that you might be in a codependent relationship.

1. It’s Hard to Say “No”

Codependents have a hard time saying “no” in their relationships. They often are afraid of being rejected or abandoned, so they say “yes” to their partners because they don’t have the confidence to say “no.” This can manifest in all areas of the relationship, whether it be financial decisions, co-parenting, delineation of tasks, or sexual intimacy. Codependents will default to being “walked all over” or “bulldozed” by their partner and lack the ability to empower or assert themselves.

2. You Find Yourself Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do

Codependents are afraid of abandonment by their partner. They end up doing things they don’t want to do just to keep their partner from leaving. They are in desperate need of validation, attention, and acceptance by their partner and are willing to do anything to avoid jeopardizing their partner leaving them. They lack the ability to self-evaluate. They hold their partner’s opinions and judgments above their own belief about themselves. This can lead to codependents compromising personal morals and values to gain the approval of a controlling partner.

3. You Feel Compelled to Help Your Partner Solve Problems and Be Needed

Codependents need to be needed. Their entire self-esteem is dependent on bringing value to their relationship partner. If they can be helpful, then they are valued. Codependents will often give way more than expected and try to be “helpful” and solve their partner’s problems. They end up caring more about their partner’s life than their partner does. This leads to their partner judging them even more because a codependent will try harder if they fall short.

4. You Think and Feel Responsible for the Other Person

As codependents try to solve their partner’s problems, they take on the responsibility of their partner’s life. This leads to feeling responsible for everything that happens or doesn’t happen to their partner. This over-involvement releases their partner from taking responsibility for their own life and puts the blame solely on the codependent for anything wrong that happens. Taking responsibility for something that you have no power to change perpetuates the cycle of codependency by creating a feeling of “if I could just do more or do it better, my partner will love me.”

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5. You Tend to Anticipate Your Partner’s Needs and Over Give

Codependents who take responsibility for their partner’s life must be on the alert all the time. They must anticipate their partner’s needs before their partner can ask for anything. This leads to hypervigilance and a hyper response towards their partner. This builds resentment from their partner who is constantly being scrutinized, often leading to withdrawing from the relationship.

6. You Seek to Please Your Partner Before Yourself

Codependents don’t think much about themselves and their own needs. When constantly putting their partner’s needs before their own, their only source of approval comes from pleasing their partner. Oftentimes, a codependent is unaware of what they truly want and feel because so much of their life is focused on someone outside of themselves. Thus, there is no benefit to pleasing themselves. In fact, they feel as though they are being selfish or wasting time that they believe should be spent focusing on their partner.

7. Events and Situations in Your Relationship Feel Controlled

If a codependent’s partner’s needs are not met, a codependent will often be controlled by their partner using coercion, advice, or manipulation tactics designed to evoke helplessness and guilt feelings in the codependent. In this way, the codependent’s role is kept in check by their partner, and the dependency is reinforced.

8. You Desperately Seek Love and Approval From Your Partner

The basic needs of connection and approval when not fulfilled as a child continues into adult relationships with the belief that “if my partner gives me love and approval then and only then I am okay”. This false belief creates a situation where a person gives up their power to their partner.

They don’t believe in their own assessment of themselves and their own value. They don’t trust their own feelings and lack the ability to make good choices for themselves. This allows the partner to make decisions but not take any responsibility for the outcome of those decisions.

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For example, if their partner tells them to quit their job, end a friendship, or stop doing a hobby, it will not affect the partner’s life, but the codependent person’s life will become smaller and less satisfying. This perpetuates the cycle because now the codependent has less to focus on and gives more attention and energy to their partner who becomes the only thing they have left in their world. This increases the desperation to try even harder to make sure that their partner gives them approval. It also creates a distorted belief that no one else will ever love them.

9. You Pretend Circumstances Aren’t as Bad as They Are

When a person no longer believes their own feelings and defers to their partner’s opinion,s they can no longer trust their own views and experience. They believe that they are the problem and that if things are bad, they are the reason for it being that way. They minimize reality to avoid having to make changes. If they can pretend things aren’t so bad, then they don’t have to do anything different. After all, if there is no problem then there is no reason to fix it.

The other thing that happens is a codependent will experience time differently. If it is not happening right now, then it never happened. The feeling is “if I am fine now, then I have always been fine and that problem didn’t really happen” or  “it must be my imagination or overreaction.”

The codependent will convince themselves that they even agree with the problem to avoid conflict or change. “It must be okay for my partner to stay out all night and not call or quit their job for the 3rd time this year or spend money and not pay the bills.” Again, this perpetuates the cycle and the codependent will work even harder to pay for everything except being treated badly because they believe that is all they deserve.

10. You Don’t Trust Yourself, Your Feelings, Your Decisions, and Default to Your Partner

Ultimately, codependency is learned in childhood. There is a disconnect between what a person feels and what they have been told to think about their feelings. They are told over and over again that their feelings are not to be trusted in very subtle but consistent ways. They have heard things like “you are too sensitive,” “you shouldn’t feel that way,” “your feelings are ridiculous,” or “no one else feels that way.”

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They believe that there must be something wrong with how they feel and not that there is something wrong with what they are being told. The core of the issue is that there is no authenticity or truth in these messages, and the main point of getting the message to not trust your feelings is to give up your power and keep you off balance.

If someone doesn’t trust their feelings or their worldview, they must default to someone else who they believe is more capable and more knowledgeable about what is best for them.

What Should You Do If You Experience These Signs?

If you experience any of these signs or realize that you are in a codependent relationship, there are many things that you can do.

First, try to find areas of your life that have small emotional risks and start becoming very conscious about what you are feeling, and use those feelings to make small decisions. For example, ask yourself what color of shirt you feel like wearing today or whether you prefer an apple or a banana.

Connect with the feeling first—become conscious and curious. Why do I feel like wearing red? Where did that feeling come from? Now that I am wearing red, does it still feel like it fits with the original feeling? Learn to trust your feelings again. Also, notice how often you don’t say what you really feel or simply don’t tell the truth. Codependency and lying are partners. If lying is the problem, then knowing the truth is the solution, and becoming aware of the problem of lying is the beginning of the way out.

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You can also try journaling. You will be amazed at how much connection you have to your inner wisdom and truth that you lose as you say words you don’t mean or don’t even say out loud, which you can preserve through writing. Moreover, meditation can also be a powerful tool to help rewire your brain to learn to trust yourself again. Lastly, find someone you can trust or a therapist to get a clearer reflection of any distorted thinking patterns that keep you stuck in codependency.

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Featured photo credit: freestocks via unsplash.com

Reference

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