In my psychotherapy practice, I often run into folks of a certain age who want to make changes in their social life. Some say that while raising kids, working, going to school, paying bills and making ends meet, they just kind of let their social life slide. Now after years of neglect, the social skills feel rusty or out of shape.
After a certain age, one client said, its hard to make real friends. Friends I made in college and when I was single have now moved on or away. The friends I had when I was married know me as half of a couple and I am not that anymore. Its scary out there and I am having a tough time. How do I get back out there?
That is a very real challenge for many over 40 year olds. Our kids are beginning to develop their own social lives or we are becoming emptynesters. That partner or spouse that we thought we would grow old with is no longer in the picture but we still want to get out among folks and socialize or even date. How do we make that happen without seeming to be desperate fish out of water?
My suggestion is to put your life in project mode. Whatever it is you want to accomplish, meet people, date, try out new interests, or reinvent your life–approach it with a plan. Take a few moments to really think about and write down what your social goal is. Do you want to meet friends for travel, leisure or pure socialization or are you looking for a potential mate? Decide what it is you want.
Then, keep the plan going by identifying some concrete resources. Are you a member of a social or professional organization? Get involved. Attend meetings and join a committee or two. Working alongside others puts you in a position to meet people and it gets you out of the house and talking to folks. Does your church need volunteers for community projects? What other volunteer opportunities interest you and the people you would like to get to know? Join a group at work for lunch a couple of times a week if that is an option for you. Maybe you could start a walking club or a lunch bunch. Do you like reading? There are several bookclubs around that do more than just read books. Some meet for dinner or take booklovers cruises together. What about an art or cooking class? If those things interest you, you might have an opportunity to meet someone else with similar interests. Don’t forget to use your family resources. Ask family to think about you when they participate in interesting activities or events.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to attend events alone. It might seem intimidating at first but try this. Walk in with a warm smile on your face. Have 3 or 4 standard opening lines and a couple of followup questions ready. Walk up to someone and say: This is a great party, have you been to one of these before? When I attend a party or reception alone, I look for a small group of people who seem to be enjoying themselves. My standard line is this: Hi, I’m Taviaz. You all look like you are having a lot of fun and I am here by myself. Do you mind if I join you? Usually the group takes me under their wing and I always meet a couple of people that I keep in contact with.
We live differently today. Life is fast and you can find yourself feeling lonely and left behind. If that is something you want to work on, try these suggestions. Let me know how it works out for you. Contact me at Taviaz@aol.com.