Dear Amy: I never had a ton of friends. Introverted, I favor quality over quantity.
I’ve never had a tight “group” of girlfriends – just individuals, with some overlap with people who know each other.
As we get older, and especially during and since the pandemic, I don’t see or talk to my friends as often as I used to.
Some have become busier with work and play, and some are still hesitant to resume pre-COVID activities.
All of my friends seem to have friends they are closer to than me, so they don’t seem to “need” me as much as I need them.
I’ve tried to meet new people at activities I attend, but it’s hard to get past the friendly acquaintance stage.
We’re all in our 50s, so I think I should be past that. How can I make new, genuine friends at this age and/or strengthen the friendships I have?
Dear J: It would help if you could recognize that long-standing, deep, and intimate friendships are quite a rare treasure.
Even people you might think are social butterflies probably only have one or two people they really feel a close connection to.
Your statement reveals an assumption that “all” your friends have friends they are closer to than they are to you.
We humans tend to assume that others are doing better than us, or that others aren’t struggling the way we do. This belief seems to go back to the playground, where exclusion becomes noticeable and hurtful, and where many of us develop the uncomfortable perception that we are spectators.
This is underlined in adulthood by photos posted on social networks showing happy and bright people.
My first suggestion is that you do what you can to improve the connection with the friends you currently have. This would imply that you are more actively in contact.
Even making a phone call can be difficult for introverts, but if some social awareness, through a call or text, is part of your daily “self-care,” some of those connections should grow stronger.
These “recordings” remind others that you are here and care about them.
This could be especially important for friends who are still somewhat sequestered.
Also, while you’re making these personal efforts, do whatever you can to stay busy. “Keeping busy” sometimes feels like a ride on an empty hamster wheel, but these dazzling connections with others can provide some very satisfying moments and an important sense of proportion and perspective.
Dear Amy: I am a physical therapist and I work in a building with others who do the same.
I have my own office space. I used to rent it from a friend, who recently moved to another space on my floor when a room opened up.
After moving out she asked to use my room for an hour when she knew I wouldn’t be there. I said yes.
Today when I walked in I noticed she was in my room after I left yesterday, but hadn’t asked me before.
We are friends and I want to stay on good terms. But I have the impression that she took advantage of my good will towards her, since she is just starting out.
It’s hard to say no, but I pay rent and feel like it’s not my responsibility to support her.
What would be a good way to clear things up, while keeping things friendly between us?
— Learning limits
Dear Learning: It’s especially “hard to say no” if you’re not asked.
You need to be extremely direct: “Now that you have your own space, it’s important that you don’t use mine. If you have an emergency, let me know and we can talk about it.
Using your space without your permission is not only a boundary violation, but – as a tenant – it could have unforeseen and serious consequences for you.
After talking, it would be wiser for you to make sure that you are the only person who has the keys to your room. Change locks, if necessary.
Dear Amy: “Mortified” was hamstrung by a choice between two companies – both of which had been extremely generous to her.
Thank you for that line: “…you turned what should be a transactional experience into an emotionally charged one.”
Job seekers should always remember that they are responsible for serving their own interests.
Dear Experienced: It can be difficult to do, but it is necessary.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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