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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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Published on March 25, 2020

How Being Vulnerable Leads to a Healthy and Fulfilling Relationship

How Being Vulnerable Leads to a Healthy and Fulfilling Relationship

What does it mean to be vulnerable in a relationship?

If you look up the word vulnerability in the dictionary, the results don’t look all that promising. You’ll end up seeing expressions like, “capable of being wounded or hurt” or “Susceptible to attacks.”

We can all agree that nobody in their right mind wants to be hurt or feel weak, especially not in front of someone they love.

The good news is, being vulnerable in front of your partner isn’t a weakness at all — it’s actually something that will strengthen your romantic relationship.

To be vulnerable with a partner means showing them your true self, including your fears, dreams, and emotions. However, not everyone is comfortable showing vulnerability in relationships — that’s why we’re here to help!

Keep reading to find out how being vulnerable will help your relationship and 6 ways to make it happen.

Why Is It Important to Show Vulnerability in Relationships?

Being completely open and honest with your spouse or partner can be a little scary at first.

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After all, you want your partners to see the best in you. You don’t want them to know what keeps you up at night or point out your insecurities. However, there are many benefits to being vulnerable with your significant other.

Here are some of the ways that vulnerability in relationships can help strengthen them.

Humanize Yourself

When we are in a relationship with someone, we want them to see the best in us. We want to seem absolutely perfect. Perfection is great when you’re filling out a job application, but not when you’re trying to connect with a romantic partner.

Perfection is boring, unattainable, and may just leave your partner feeling bad about themselves. On the other hand, the more vulnerable you are, the more relatable and “human” you become to your partner.

Boost Partner Intimacy

Intimacy is both a sexual and emotional bond you share with your partner, and you cannot have satisfying intimacy without vulnerability in the mix. Showing your vulnerable side to your spouse means giving yourself to them wholeheartedly.

Strengthen Empathy

It’s easy to have empathy for someone’s thoughts, feelings, and problems when you know who they are deep down. The more willing partners are to share vulnerable moments, the stronger their empathy will be for one another.

Embrace Your True Self

As you open up and connect with your spouse or partner, you start to build trust in one another. Your significant other knows you’ll always be honest with them, and you know that your partner will never judge your thoughts or feelings, which can help you begin to let go of some of your self-judgment.

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Open up to True Love

As cheesy as it might sound, it’s true! The walls you’ve built up in your heart were put there to protect you from getting hurt, but they are also preventing you from fully loving and committing to someone new.

How to Show Vulnerability in Relationships

For some, showing vulnerability in relationships is awkward, emotional, and sometimes downright uncomfortable. So, how do you do it?[1] Here are some simple tips to help you learn how to open up and share your inner self.

1. Take Baby Steps

You can’t learn to run until you learn to walk. Being vulnerable with your spouse doesn’t mean you have to share your every insecurity right off the bat. Start small by opening up about little things.

The longer you practice opening up about the little things, the easier it will be to start sharing bigger parts of your life with your partner.

2. Be Open About Your Struggles

If you’re someone who doesn’t naturally share their feelings, be honest about it!

Let your partner know that you struggle with vulnerability and reassure them that your feelings on the matter have nothing to do with who they are as a person.

Tell them this is something that you’re working on and ask for their patience as you go through this journey together.

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3. Get to the Root of Your Discomfort

If you’re not crazy about opening up with your spouse or partner, it can be helpful to ask yourself why. If you love and trust your partner, why wouldn’t you want to take your relationship to the next level?

It could be that you’ve been burned in the past by a friend, romantic partner, or family member, and now you’re reluctant to trust someone new with your heart.

Whatever the case, getting to the bottom of your refusal to share can help you work through past problems.

4. Be Honest

We’re often so caught in what we think our partner wants us to be, especially at the beginning of a new relationship, that we sometimes forget that the person we are deep down is pretty awesome, too.

Practice being honest with your significant other. When they ask for your opinion, give it. Don’t tip-toe around the question or give the answer you think they want to hear. Be uniquely you.

5. Ask for Help

If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to ask your partner to lend a hand/a listening ear/whatever you need at that moment.

The more willing you are to ask for help, the easier it will be to express your worries, insecurities, etc. with your spouse. In turn, you will learn how to communicate and build emotional security.

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If you’re not sure how to go about asking for help, this article may be able to help.

6. Practice Self-Love

The more you love yourself, the easier it will be to open up to other people about who you are. You have to be able to look in the mirror and say, “I’m not perfect, and that’s okay!”

This isn’t an overnight journey by any means, but loving your good qualities and being okay with the ones that still need work will help you feel comfortable sharing your truths with the one you love.

The Bottom Line

The thought of being vulnerable in relationships may make you queasy at first, but the more you do it, the more natural it will feel. Strengthen your relationship, build trust, and establish empathy by showing your partner your real thoughts and feelings.

More Tips on Vulnerability

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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