I walked past a local restaurant on Park Street recently. Seated at one of the tables next to the window was a group of women. They were talking, laughing and enjoying themselves and their time together. It was the kind of group that you just wanted to pull up a chair, order a glass of wine and join in.
It got me thinking about my friends. Friends are such a vital and important part of my life. They warm my happiest days, give me strength during my most challenging times and enrich my life in so many ways.
Friendship is such an essential and cherished part of our lives. We need each other.
Then why do so many women feel isolated and disconnected as they get older?
I speak to a lot of women and many would say that when they were younger it was easier to make friends.
It’s true. We often develop relationships because of our surroundings. We become friends with the parents of our children’s classmates; we may have acquaintances from work that develop into important relationships. It is because of our circumstances that we meet, interact and connect with more people. We have more natural opportunities to be social.
But things change. We move to another city. We take a different job. We may have health issues. We retire.
Sometimes as time passes we find that we no longer have the same interests as our old friends. We have grown apart. We need different things from our relationships because we are different.
Often our circle of friends and support network gets smaller and smaller and we find ourselves detached from others.
Frequently we feel so disconnected and that this becomes the new normal for us.
So if you find yourself feeling detached, isolated or wanting different types of relationships in your life, you are not alone. Just know that there is a great deal you can do about it. Here are some tips that I hope you will find helpful.
Lay the foundation
Take responsibility for it. If you are feeling lonely, isolated or cut off, the first step is to acknowledge that you have a problem and that it is causing you pain. It doesn’t matter how you got there. The reasons are not important right now. Just acknowledge that this is where you are and that you want the future to be different.
Take action. Decide that you have had enough. Make a decision to take steps to fix it. The act of deciding to resolve a problem is powerful.
Feel your own worth. Acknowledge and understand your value, your strength and your wisdom. Sometimes we forget the impact and significance that we hold. Take care of yourself if you are feeling down. Know that you are enough just the way you are at the present moment.
Get very clear about what types of friendships you are looking for in your life right now. What are your interest and passions? What types of activities do you want to do with others? What are you looking for in a friendship?
It takes time
If you are looking for new friendships, a support system or a sense of belonging to a community; know that it will need time, lots of it. It takes time and energy to develop relationships and it takes a great deal of effort to find the right group. You need to connect with others on a regular basis so that acquaintances can develop into deeper relationships. It is not just the quality of time that you spend together. The quantity of time is just as important.
Everything you do won’t work out the way you would like. Don’t expect too much too soon.
Don’t take it personally
If things don’t work out, we often take it personally. You may reach out to someone that you just met, and ask her to meet for lunch and she is not interested. She may already have a full life with other relationships and obligations, so she isn’t open to something new at this time. The relationship may not resonate with her. This is where a lot of us just give up and tell ourselves that it is too hard. Don’t do this. Just accept that it takes a lot of effort to make new friends and move on.
Pursue your passions
Take a photography class, join a book discussion group at the library, take an adult education class, participate in your community or volunteer. Become more active and renew your curiosity in ways that line up with your interests.
Turn virtual relationships into meaningful personal relationships.
I attended a conference recently. One of the breakout sessions was conducted by two women who had great rapport and synergy energy between them. They obviously had not only worked together for a long time, but they had a close kinship between them. They told the attendees that their relationship had been virtual for years, and that they just met for the first time in person at the conference. Virtual relationships can lead to deeper friendships.
Take the initiative to reach out first.
When you meet someone that you would like to know better, ask them if they would like to meet again. It may sound like the obvious thing to do, but few actually follow up like this.
Reconnect with people that you have lost touch with. You may be surprised that you do have a lot in common later in life.
Organizations that you may find helpful to join:
The Transition Network https://www.thetransitionnetwork.org
Red Hat Society http://redhatsociety.com
Road Scholar https://www.roadscholar.org
Friendly Planet http://www.friendlyplanet.com
League of Women Voters http://lwv.org/
So get out there and give yourself the gift of friendship. Friendships make our world a more loving, happier and more interesting place. You will find that there are truly many beautiful people everywhere. People who will inspire you. People who you just want to hang out with. People who share your passions and will pull you forward.
My article originally published in www.sixtyandme.com