I am nearly 50 and I am often lonely. I’m a ‘high achiever’ I suppose. Very highly educated, employed, fairly healthy but very low energy and a history of depression (which I’ve never told anyone about, but tended to hide, fearing rejection).
I have a daughter who I have a good relationship with, but she is grown up and lives far away now.I have no living family except two sisters – one is older, very mentally ill and violent, the other (10 years younger) has basically copied my mother’s role as my abuser – she kept psychologically abusing me and kept trying to ‘frame’ me, just as my mother did, to make others reject me, so eventually I had no choice but to cut off from them – the older one would bombard me, in every possible way, with her anger, her extreme neediness, emotionally blackmail me if I didn’t do what she needed. The younger one is so manipulative I wouldn’t know where to begin to describe her. I learned very young, from my mother, not to show any need at all or all that would happen would be that I would be made to feel selfish and be made to feel even worse than I did, even if I was despairing with lack of love and just asking for a small sign of affection. Both sisters have basically ignored my daughter since birth, as they somehow see me as the capable, giving ‘mother figure’ even though my younger sister abuses me like my mother did – it’s like if I don’t provide for their needs absolutely, then I get abused. There was no room in my family at all for my needs; I was the strong one, the good natured one to be taken from. I’ve had a lot of counselling about my background. I am a fighter, I’ve fought hard to overcome this and make any sort of life for myself, but friendship has always been an issue. I always, always end up being treated badly and rejected if I show need.In terms of friends, I have one very good friend that I really click with on so many levels. She is highly intelligent and lives a very full life and is happy, but she lives in a different country, so I see her maybe about once a year. She would not be everyone’s cup of tea, because she is very choosy about things, but completely honest and trustworthy. We Skype fairly often and we genuinely get on. I trust her more than anyone and it is she that I feel most connected to, but I am aware she has lots of other friends, so I am in no way her closest friend, though I trust her more than anyone in my life.I have another friend who I’m kind of close to, except we are not really intellectually matched. She has ADHD and dyspraxia, so I find talking to her quite hard at times because she can often seem like she’s not listening and she also has a slight selfish and greedy streak. My mother had similar conditions, so I know how to handle it, but it takes patience. We worked together for about 9 months, 20 yeas ago, and we got on because we share the same humour and she basically has a good heart; we meet up for lunch about once a month. If I had to turn to someone for advice, it would probably be her. She has a kind heart, up to a point – she’s let me down on some things when we were younger – But our lives are very different now, so, on paper, she wouldn’t really seem like a person that would be close to me. I love the history of our friendship, but I don’t feel intellectually matched with her – my colleagues and acquaintances would not understand why we are friends – I don’t mind this, but it does indicate to me that I haven’t ‘fitted in’ with a particular friendship group ie. intellectuals. Like my other friend, she has lots of other friends and a very supportive family, so I already know I am in no way her ‘best’ or closest friend.I have another friend who I used to see a lot as we studied together at uni. We’ve been friends for about 10 years. We used to meet up a few times a month, when we lived nearer. Now, although we still live in the same city, she works in a different city and commutes a lot, is incredibly busy, so it is more like a couple of times a year. I thought we were closer than we were, but she let me down when I had a serious operation that went a bit wrong – she didn’t come to visit me, even though she knew I was very bed-ridden. It put a strain on our relationship, because at that time when went to visit another friend (one that I actually introduced her to but who ultimately rejected me), just to see her new house in a different part of the country, but knowing I was recovering from an operation. I am still close to her, but not as much as we were.Other than that, there are a couple of people I would meet up with for a coffee or a drink once in a blue moon – maybe once a year. These are people that seem to like me, but it isn’t very deep.I know that my family history and being a working single mum has made it hard for me to make friends. I know I could choose to go to more counselling to see if this will help me to make more friends – but I’ve already tried it and it just led to me inadvertently getting used by messed up people, by trying to make the effort and be more outgoing (as counsellors suggested) I know I get drawn to abusive partners because of how my parents and family originally treated me. However, looking at this from another perspective, I also think I’m at an age now where people my age simply are not interested in making new friends. I know it sounds defeatist and possibly defensive to say it, but I wonder, honestly, is there any point in me even trying to be friends with people who are already ‘taken’ by others? I say this because my lovely friend who lives abroad told me how she recently met a really nice guy (she is gay, so there was no sexual thing going on) who moved to her workplace and was obviously needing new friends. She was friendly with him and helped him to fit in but also said “It’s sad, what a shame, he is a nice man but I am at a stage now where I literally don’t have time for new friends. I have all the friends I need for my life now”. I told her how this made me feel – because I am thinking of moving to a new county and one fear is that I won’t be able to make new friends, especially given my history. She said she understood, but it was a fact that making friends when you are older is much harder because most people who would make ‘quality’ friends have made their friends by then. She is sometimes almost too honest, but is such a nice person, and meant no harm to the man at all, but she has such a busy life that she was simply being honest – she can’t fit him into her life. I felt so depressed about this. She has no real idea of how few friends I have, although I think she suspected a long time ago. The other thing I’ve noticed at my age is that there IS, definitely, suspicion if you don’t have many friends and suspicion if you come across as even slightly too friendly; people seem to see a lone woman who is also lonely as inevitably ‘messed up’ or worthy of suspicion, and maybe that is the sad truth.It sounds awful to say, but I am worried that at my age the only friends I may make now will be messed up people. And I know that I myself must be somewhat messed up, if I haven’t got more friends by now. I can be sociable, chatty, people like me, there is nothing about me that would make you think I’m so lonely. BUT I have a history of a. attracting abusers and messed up people into my life, who use me for what they need and then discard me (I cant tell you how many hours of my life I’ve given to trying to make friendships like this work and be functional, only to eventually realise the other person is simply using me) OR I keep ‘quality’ people away from me, because I fear I will be ultimately rejected. Another thing that’s made it very hard was being a working single mum at a young age – there were no support groups like there are now, and there don’t seem to be any support groups for older single mums whose children have now grown up and flown the nest, so I feel like I’ve missed out on that front.I’m highly educated but I also know I don’t fit in. All my life I’ve been just about clinging onto having any friends at all. Viewpoints like my friend’s scare me. I don’t want to waste time going to counselling – I’ve been several times before and all I’ve found is that it helps me to understand why certain things are the way they are, but it definitely does NOT help you to move forward and make changes to your life and it does NOT change other people. I’ve tried ‘reaching out’ as counsellors have suggested and I think people have simply found it strange. Like when my mother died whilst I was at university and no-one asked if I was okay – so I actually asked the two women I was closest to if they would come over and visit me, because I was finding it hard – and they did, but you could tell they found it weird that I’d asked. People seem to see me as ultra-strong and then use me and / or find it strange if I ask for any kind of help or support or even just friendship. It would really help if others could say whether they hold the same kind of view as my friend, that, after a certain age, people who already have friends just aren’t interested in making more. I went to college as a mature student and the very few mature students who were there found me interesting, but made it clear they already had their lives sorted, so I was very luck to make the couple of friends that I did make. I made lots of other temporary, younger friends, but they just used me for career tips and guidance and for my ideas and brain and help with their work and then moved on and dumped me – so many times I can’t tell you. I know all this indicates that I’m not a good friend, but it honestly is usually always the other way around – I give and give and the moment I ask for anything in return it causes problems. I don’t think counselling is the answer for me. I think it would help me to know which, if any, kind of groups to get to know and which are most likely to even want to be friends, without being overly selfish people who will simply use me.
View related questions: depressed, her ex, university, violent, workplace
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A male reader, WiseOwlE + ♥, writes (28 November 2018):
Perhaps it’s time to teach, and/or to mentor others. When you reach the pinnacle of life, and you’ve found the crest of your success; it’s time to giveback. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself, look back at how miserable your family or past life was. Setting yourself up on a pedestal; feeling high-regard for your education and accomplishments, but never pursing what everyone on the planet needs. Connection. To feel connected to others; and to feel we’ve contributed something to make the world a better place. It doesn’t have to be profound, just useful.Going beyond your job-description; and actually stepping out of the box, to show other folks the ropes.How do you assert that friends you meet now would be messed-up? A little judgy are we? A tad hypocritical?!!We’ve all got flaws! It’s all a part of our humanity. I’ll pretend I don’t see yours; if you’ll pretend you don’t see mine! That’s how we make friends! Then you offer a little constructive-criticism with heart and sincerity; and we gently help each other to grow. That’s just how simple it is.You don’t want to waste time going to counseling, but you need it. You haven’t gotten over your childhood traumas. You get depressed, and you don’t have a clue how to make friends. Citing your age as an obstacle; instead of an advantage. You have wisdom and experience. You’ve had exposure to life. The good and the bad. You’ve overcome barriers and ducked many bullets. You’re an achiever.You sought ways to educate yourself academically; but you avoided making human-connections. You’re older now; so new tricks conflict with your “set-ways.” That’s a weak excuse. Connecting with people demands you to be polite, sweet, and interesting. To bite your tongue. That ain’t your thing huh?If you prefer running-around in those well-read groups, with large shiny foreheads; they’re too geeky to be friendly. Most of them have Aspergers; or look down on folks with average IQ’s! They’re hard to call friends! They’re “colleagues!” They find algorithms sexy and speak in six-syllable words! BORING!!!Your avoidance of people and limited-contact (or shall I say, restrained emotional-availability) has made you awkward. Your social-skills are limited; because you’re an “intellectual.” You’ve spent most of your life creating a persona, rather than a personality. I read your post, you said so; in so many many many words.Too snooty and too serious to make fun of yourself; or have a laugh with a total stranger. You’re stiff. You wrote that long narrative describing just how stiff and emotionally-stagnant you feel. Do you ever just let-loose? Must you take life and yourself so seriously? I can only imagine what being your daughter might be like! You smack of perfectionism and structure. You never color outside the lines.If you’re successful, you should have the financial-means to travel, and keep a journal of your exploits. Eventually pursue writing. Not for snobbish intellectuals, to share your wisdom and experience. Even a bad-life is a story. If you’re credentialed and diplomaed; you’ve been published? Anything beyond research, or some cranial academic publication? Cold, smart, and to the point? No fun, no pun?You said younger-folks used you for career tips and guidance. It’s wonderful that you were there to be a resource. That’s a compliment. They used you, because you were a good resource. Getting back to the “giving-back” thing I mentioned earlier.Devote some of your time to helping the less fortunate. Go on the college/university lecture-circuit; and let those young people pick your brain. That’s why you were blessed with it; to share it with the world. To teach, to mentor, to help others grow. To give something back. It’s rewarding, it gives you purpose, and you’re a natural-born resource to help people. You’ll make friends, gain allies, network, and you’ll feel useful. Regardless of your age, or imperfections!
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A male reader, Code Warrior + ♥, writes (28 November 2018):
Your problem isn’t that people your age already have all their friends. That’s bullshit. Hell, my wife and I are always looking for new friends.The thing that I see in your post that gives me pause is not so much in your post as it is in the title of your post. Specifically, your title says that you NEED friends. That’s your problem. Of course having friends is better than not having friends, but NEEDING to have friends is a recipe to drive people away.Take my wife and I, for example. We went for many years without any real friends. We had a lot of acquaintances that were promising friendships, but they just didn’t work out. We didn’t get down on it and we didn’t try to force things. If we tried to set up outings and sensed reluctance from the people we were getting to know, then we’d just back off. Through our kids sports over a 15 year period, we met an enormous number of couples. 100’s of them. At the end of it all, we’re friends with only 2 of those couples, and now that their kids are having kids of their own, they are grandparents and their lives are getting busier, as are ours, and we’re starting to drift apart. It’s just the way of things.Now, I understand that you’re alone, and I at least have my wife for companionship, but the reason that I tell you this is that there are plenty of people just like you out there, but if you want to meet them you have to be willing to keep putting yourself out there. You need to understand that 99% of the people you meet when putting yourself out there will likely not become friends with you or may use you and dump you. Of the 1% that might become friends, most of them probably won’t click with you long term. So, you need to accept that and not get down on yourself over it.Despite the fact that I have a wife, I’m a loner at heart with very few close friends. That’s because I’m very picky about friends, and I find most people to be very superficial. I don’t hold that against them, as I assume being superficial is their way of also being picky about who they choose as friends. But, most of the time, things don’t progress beyond the superficial. I don’t assume that they’re superficial people, I just assume that for whatever reason, they didn’t want to let me in. It’s OK. I’ve also had plenty of people use me. The way I look at it, I took a chance on them and it turned out they were users. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I don’t dwell on the users of the world, I just drop them once they show their true colors. I just try to relax and go with the flow.Basically, you have to be willing to keep trying with the understanding that most will fizzle out, or you may get used. That’s just the way it is.I can tell you this much: group cruises are a thing! Just check out YouTube. My wife and I are into cruises. We try to do 2 cruises per year on Carnival. We haven’t done a group cruise yet, but we’re considering it. Singles in your age group often go on many group cruises with the same groups of people. In most cases, they only see each other on the cruises because they live in different parts of the country, but they meet up for cruises. Lot’s of travel agents sponsor group cruises. Even if you don’t make close friends, you have to try pretty hard to not have fun on a cruise – at least on Carnival, which tends to be more like the Walmart of the cruise lines – with the matching clientele LOL! – but Carnival has BY FAR the most fun and diverse group of people. I can tell you that you won’t find many hotties on a Carnival cruise, but you will find a lot of people who aren’t self conscious and love to have fun. Don’t go on a stuffy cruise line as a single, it’s not likely to be as much fun. If you do a cruise, let your hair down – nobody is judging you on a Carnival cruise LOL!Look, you can listen to your friend’s point of view and just give up, or you can just relax about it and keep trying. Besides, if I’m having fun, I’m not all that concerned whether or not I’m close friends with those I’m having fun with. Just take an easy come, easy go attitude and don’t invest so much into people you’ve just met. If they let you down, then they let you down. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Just move on.
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A female reader, aunt honesty +, writes (28 November 2018):
You don’t want to try with people who you think are messed up yet you are messed up by your own admission. My guess is that you are judgmental when it comes to people and you rate yourself as highly intelligent which can come across as ignorance and rudeness. I would recommend going back to a counselor and if you want to make friends then don’t be so judgmental off others.
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A reader, anonymous, writes (28 November 2018):
Counselling IS part of the answer for you. You’re too stubborn to do the rest of it because you’re giving up. I know what that’s like; I’ve been there, but you have to find a group therapy that works for you.You want friends who aren’t “messed up”, but YOU are “messed up”. It’s hypocritical. Almost EVERYONE is “messed up”, even if it’s behind closed doors.Join clubs, start new hobbies, go travelling (doesn’t have to be abroad) with a group of strangers (but using a safe agency!), etc. It’s not easy, but you have to put the effort in.
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