A client called me last evening. She had just signed the papers bringing her marriage of 23 years to and end. “Why Dan, why?” She sobbed. “Why should this happen to me now? ” “I have no friends. He was my only friend.”
And there in laid the issue. This lady was not in tears because she had lost her marriage or her husband. She was crying deeply because she had lost a friend.
As you approach your forties and fifties, you may find that your friendships have dwindled away. It’s a big change from the days when you were attending school or raising young children. Then, you were surrounded by other students and parents eager to get together for study groups and birthday parties.
Now, you may feel like you’re on your own, especially if you’re transitioning through a divorce or packing your kids off to college. Try these tips for staying in touch with old friends and making new ones.
Tips for Old Friendships
1. Mark your schedule. Meeting up with friends is just as important as following up with business clients. Pull out your calendar to stay on track.
2. Take a vacation. Video calls and texting bridge long distances, but can’t match sitting around the table together after dinner. Use your personal and business travel to drop in on each other occasionally.
3. Collaborate on a project. Pursue the same activities even while you’re apart. You’ll have plenty to talk about if you’re both taking gourmet cooking classes or training for a charity run.
4. Accept change. At the same time, distinguish between relationships worth sustaining and those that have run their course. You and your old college roommate may no longer have much to talk about even if you used to gab all night.
5. Revive former ties. On the other hand, maybe you still wonder about a former coworker you haven’t seen in years. Take the initiative to be the first to reach out.
Tips for New Friendships
1. Explore common interests. Look for others like you. Visit the places where you’re likely to find other vegetarians or bluegrass music lovers. Sign up for a ceramics workshop or audition for a part in a community theatre production.
2. Use social media. Adults of all ages congregate on Meetup or LinkedIn. Enjoy the online discussions and invite someone out for coffee if you want to get to know them better.
3. Volunteer in your community. Working for causes you believe in provides gratification while you extend your network. Call a natural history museum to see if they’re accepting new docents. Organize a fundraising dinner for an animal shelter.
4. Branch out. There are advantages to socializing with men and women of different ages. Chat with someone older or younger when you’re eating lunch in the park.
5. Be patient. It takes time to forge a connection. Stay cheerful and busy so others can see your good qualities without feeling pressured.
Tips for Any Friendship
1. Reveal yourself. As toddlers or seniors, friendships develop when we allow others to know us. Share more personal information as you become comfortable with each other.
2. Prepare for rejection. There may be all kinds of reasons why a woman in your yoga class resists hanging out afterwards. Give yourself credit for trying and move on to another prospect.
3. Focus on quality. Having a few close friends beats having hundreds of followers on Facebook. Focus on meaningful interactions instead of arbitrary definitions of popularity. In later life, you may find yourself happier enjoying more solitude while still treasuring those occasions when you gather with loved ones.
4. Exchange support. Giving and taking may be the most important sign of a quality friendship. Move into your golden years with a circle of friends who serve as advisors, sounding boards, and cheerleaders.
At midlife, you still have plenty of fascinating years ahead, so find buddies to share them with. With skillful cultivation, many friendships can last a lifetime. Remember, you’re never too old to find new pals!
What has been your experience with mid-life friendships? Please share your answers in the comment section below.