It’s been on my heart lately to explore the topic of loneliness and how friendships can help in overcoming it. But, darlings, believe me. I know it’s not as simple as that. Let’s dig into it, shall we?
Unfortunate but true loneliness is the number one cause of unhappiness. Loneliness prevents you from feeling joy, and if it makes you feel better, you are not alone, no pun intended. There are reasons we feel lonely and different types of loneliness. Let’s explore them and look for the magic cure, always remembering it is up to you to seek a new path.
Reasons for Loneliness After 50
“Let your actions reflect your speech and your speech reflect your actions.”- Author unknown
For the past few years our forced lifestyle of isolation in Elsewhere played its hand in turning a once vibrant society into recluses! I found myself, like many of you to a degree, reclusive and lethargic. And I sadly, like you, missed my past robust lifestyle with acquaintances and friends.
I’m fortunate to have a life filled with passion with a husband, pooch, family, and career so I am not emotionally lonely. Many of you are less fortunate and I feel a loneliness come over me when I think about your plight. The reasons for loneliness could vary. The loss of your companion or the isolation of using the internet instead of socially interacting with others. Perhaps a move to a new community is creating your lonely heart.
When considering loneliness, I think of two types. Social and Emotional. You can suffer from one or both types, and unfortunately, there is not a joy pill to take you out of your situation.
Different Types of Loneliness
- Social loneliness
- Emotional loneliness
What do I mean by social loneliness? I would describe it as the lack of connections. To a degree, I would put myself in the category of being socially lonely. If you miss more connections with other women and the world around you, I would place you with me in that category.
But, social loneliness can have a deeper interpretation than that definition.
- Are in a loveless marriage
- Walk into a large group and feel invisible
- Feel you lack social support from your choice of friends
- Feel you are left out
- You’re in a rut and don’t know how to turn the page to find joy in your social surroundings
How do I suggest you combat social loneliness? I would leap immediately into a multigenerational group that mirrors what makes you happy. Go back to college? Take a ceramic class? Learn to play pickleball? Without delay, jump in. Remember you have to climb the stairs, not take the elevator. You have to commit yourself.
And, if you and your mate feel socially lonely, get involved in a couple’s group. How about volunteering your time to your favorite cause, taking up a sport, joining a club or traveling in a group? This is how to replace loneliness with new found joy into your life.
The lack of relationships, or feeling a lack of attachment, to my way of thinking, is emotional loneliness. This is the hardest to combat. You are widowed, you have moved, or your friends have moved. You are estranged from your family, you are chronically a lonely woman, you feel detached from the world at the moment.
I call your loneliness emotional and situational. What’s a woman to do? Firstly, understand that you are not alone. As I stated in my opening, loneliness is the number one cause, of unhappiness. The number one reason people feel joyless. So, darling, there are a lot of others feeling exactly like you are feeling. Feel a little better? I hope so.
Time to Learn How to Go From Loneliness to Friendships
There are many articles written on making new friendships, but here’s the thing, they’re overwhelmingly nonspecific. After reading a few you probably think to yourself, I don’t want to read further. This article is not answering my questions.
In my humble opinion, the reason articles on friendship are general in nature is simple. What makes one woman happy, makes another woman miserable! We are not a boring group. And, our situations vary.
Therefore, writers ask themselves, “Where should I begin?” After all, women have different mindsets, personalities, attitudes, lifestyles, and problems. However, I believe there is one theme that fits all. Women need women, especially after the age of 50 and want women friendships.
As you cross from one passage of life into another–and turning 50 plus is definitely a significant one–you look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Now what?”
You are suddenly an empty nester, retired, or divorced. You’re widowed, or moving and you most definitely have more lonely time on your hands. Therefore, change is in the air as you enter new passages and your need for women friendships is very high on your list.
One thing never changes: Every woman needs connections with women.
When considering the link between loneliness and a lack of friendship, consider if you are making an effort. Did you know it takes around 90 hours to form a friendship?! I found that to be so interesting and it may offer some insight as to why you’ve had difficulty. You can be an introvert or an extrovert, a closed book or a delightful communicator. You could be a gadabout town or a loner by nature. No matter where you fall, I will wager a bet that you abhor the feelings of loneliness.
You miss not having the luxury of sharing your opinions and learn about theirs from your female counterpart. There is a need to grow through conversation and experiences. And you need a safety net of friends and acquaintances.
Did you know there are definite stages of friendship? Do you know that most of you have unrealistic expectations about the time and energy it takes to form a relationship with an acquaintance? Let alone a friend or best friend?
For starters, good friendships don’t just happen. They progress through the following stages: Acquaintance, friend, and finally, Best friend.
You have to be intentional to have social and emotional ‘girlfriend’ success. And, know up front, darling, that the process takes hours of time and work. I say, go for it. Your rewards will far outweigh your time and effort.
Stories About My Friendships After 50
What is an Acquaintance?
To learn more about the progression from loneliness to friendship, let’s talk more about the types of friends. Through the progression of attaining a deep and meaningful friendship, the relationship between two women begins on an acquaintance level. With an acquaintance, you will share public, not private information.
You don’t consider them a friend but even so this relationship takes time to percolate! The experts say, 50 hours!
This relationship may never move past this stage but you won’t know until you put time into knowing. Invite her to lunch. Send her an email or text wishing her a nice day. If you enjoyed her company, pursue her by reaching out. Climb the stairs.
An Acquaintance Story
I recall reaching out to a young woman for advice. She worked for me and I respected her. I asked her if she knew of a boutique company that would be a good fit to build a new website. She did! And, it turned out to be a perfect fit! Though she helped me out, and I value her, my relationship with her will not progress past the acquaintance stage.
On the other hand, I met a woman on a trip. I felt an instant camaraderie between us. We communicated. She phoned me often and our conversations kept lasting longer and longer. We planned trips together. We visited each other in our homes in different cities.
I know we put in the 90 hours required to build a close friendship. It seemed like minutes because our friendship was meant to be. She was not an acquaintance for long. Today she is one of my close friends. We climbed the stairs with joy!
Read more about an acquaintance-turned-friend and the joy that her friendship has brought.
What is a Friend?
A friend is a woman who has the same common interests and concerns. It takes time to develop this relationship. This is because a friend is someone you meet numerous times to have some form of involvement. Most of these relationships go no further unless you find your values and goals mirror one another.
What is a Close Friend?
A close friend is part of your inner circle. You share similar goals and values. These are women who know about your life and have probably ridden your high and low waves with you. You see and talk often and look forward to sharing with one another.
A Close Friend Story
About a year ago in the series of two weeks, I had three friends who needed me. One of these women lives across the hall, another a few floors down and the other lives in a Chicago suburb.
My friend across the hall had a bad fall so I made dinner for her and her husband.
Another friend I text almost daily, so she knows I care and am interested in her well-being. She is not well.
Yet another friend’s husband broke his hip. She did not ask for my help, I offered it. I knew of a male caregiver who could help her out when her husband came home from the hospital. I called him and he is now helping my girlfriend and her husband.
As busy as I am, I enjoy lending support to my close friends. It fills my cup.
Sustaining close friendships is time-consuming and takes work. Do you maintain your close friendships, sweet reader?
What’s a Best Friend?
Trust. Trust. And more trust. That is the best friend, creed. You are committed, without saying a word, to one another. This friendship requires your loyalty, honesty, and your ability to give.
The Numbers Game
Your acquaintances are unlimited; you usually discuss facts with them and your level of trust is zero.
Your peer friends are many. Perhaps you play cards with them or golf with them. You work side by side with them, are in a book club together, etc. Maybe you disclose your opinions with them and your level of trust is somewhat.
Close friends are small in number. You allow them into your personal life by discussing some weaknesses and problems. With Close Friends, the level of trust is up there.
Your best friends are very few in number. With them, you have intimate conversations on all levels of your life and you trust them to the heights.
Numbers Shrink as You Go Down the Ladder
Therefore, sweet reader, you notice the numbers shrink as you go from stage to stage. Your pool of candidates gets increasingly smaller!
Once you invite them in, some will disappoint you. Trust me, I know. They may not share your values, gossip (naturally!), and are untrustworthy. Or they are too busy for you and have no time for another woman in their life! This is great news because you are learning, dear reader.
Always remember to keep your expectations realistic. Projecting our own thoughts and feelings on our friends can hamper friendships and be a ticket back to loneliness.
Some friendships do not last forever. Unforeseen circumstances have their way of intervening as well as misunderstandings. This is part of every woman’s life so don’t be shocked. Be sad and mourn when this happens but do not be shocked.
Remember These Rules
- It is impossible to be close friends with everyone. Keep your expectations realistic.
- Be a discerning woman. Follow your heart. It know.
- You will reap what you sow.
- Friendships take hours to germinate.
How Many Friendships Do You Need?
There is no formula. It depends on your personality. What works for one woman will not work for another.
On a Personal Level
Truth be told, I love and enjoy spending time with women of all ages. As you all know, my philosophy is, ‘Women need Women.’ Without women in my life I would be very lonely.
I wish I had more time to spend with my women friends. But I am blessed by the many, many women who have played a role in enriching me and that includes you and I thank you. You are valued beyond words.
Please tell me about any loneliness you are feeling and if you think it’s emotional or social. Or tell me about a special friendship of yours that’s helped you in some way. I’d love to hear about it!