Making BFFs Ain't What It Used to Be
We're excited to have Bethenny's therapist, Dr. Amador, give his expert insight on a topic many women have trouble understanding; the complicated world of making friends in your late 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. As women, we beat ourselves up all the time over the number of friends we have in our circle and why it's so hard to find new ones.
Check out Dr. Amador's advice below, or better yet, grab a potential friend, and read together…
By Dr. Amador
“Why is it so much harder to make friends? Was I nicer when I was younger?” Or, “I thought when I had kids I might make some new friends, but everyone’s too busy with family, work, soccer, piano lessons...” Or, “The only friends I have time for are at work and I don’t want to take work home with me.” Or, “Weddings are picking my friendships off one by one!”
If any of these statements go through your head or cross your lips, you’re not alone. After high school/college close friends become harder to make and old friends drift away into marriages, parenthood, careers and other cities. Divorce is another friend killer. When you are over 30 the drifting away and ability to make new friends usually gets worse.
Here’s a story Karen told me: “As Jennifer and her husband got in their car after dinner I thought, had we met in school, we would have talked every day and been BFFs. We have so much in common and had this immediate intense connection. That was nine months ago and we’ve seen each other only once! We text, e-mail and even phone every now and then. I call her my friend, but is she really? We tell each other we want to get together, but somehow it never happens.”
Karen’s story is actually typical. Many new people enter your life, through work, play dates with kids (if you have them) and, of course, Twitter, Words with Friends and Facebook. But in our mid-twenties and beyond, really close friends -- the kind we made in college, the ones we call first to share our best and worst news with -- seem to live on another planet. Did the friendship pool get smaller? Did I change? If you’re like Karen, or like me, both are true.
From our mid-twenties, thirties, forties, and onward the ground becomes less fertile for close friendships. For 60 years sociologists have argued that three ingredients are needed: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other. A school campus with shared experiences and free time to talk create fertile ground. So now what? Go back to school?
Obstacles We Create
When our invitation to get together for a meal, to shop, talk or party is turned down, we sometimes throw a pity party. We give up too quickly and isolate. We overgeneralize and become cynical. When that party gets too depressing, we jump on the resentment train. Getting angry because someone isn’t making the effort you are is not going to open any doors -- and it can look desperate. It hurts to get turned down.
Pain is sometimes not an option when you want to make friends, but misery is always an option. It’s what you do with the pain that makes all the difference.
Here Are Your Don'ts:
-Don't give up and feel sorry for yourself if it’s hard. Most things worth having -- especially close friendships take work and commitment.
-Don’t keep asking to get together if you keep getting turned down. That’s not optimism, that’s being a doormat.
-Don't close your eyes and make excuses for her/him when your new friend is overly self-absorbed no matter how interesting, charming and attractive. You're not headed toward a real friendship, you’re headed toward joining a fan club.
-Don't isolate yourself by staying home 7 days a week and not picking up the phone to call someone.
On a personal note, after college, then again in my 30s and early 40s I found myself thinking like Karen (remember Karen?). I took my own advice and made one BFF in my 30s and two very close friends in the last ten years, and many more casual friends who are real friends: we don’t just have fun together. They show up for me when I need them and I do the same in return.
Let me know, by commenting below, if this recipe for making friends worked for you.
What are your dos when making friends in your 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond? Use your imagination and share your wisdom below in the comments. We can all learn from each other!
About Dr. Amador:
Dr. Amador is an internationally sought-after speaker, clinical psychologist, professor at Columbia University Teachers College in New York City, the Founder and Director of the LEAP Institute and author of eight books including the national best seller “I’m Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help!™”
Dr. Amador was featured in "Bethenny Getting Married" and "Bethenny Ever After" as Bethenny's therapist. His expertise has made him a regular contributor to the "Today" show and a featured guest on ABC's "Good Morning America," "Prime Time Live," "CBS This Morning," "NBC Nightly News," "60 Minutes," CNN, "Dateline," ABC’s "World News Tonight," FOX News, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and many others.
Learn more about Dr. Amador »