Q. I have never had a ton of friends. As something of an introvert, I value quality over quantity. I have never had a tight “group” of girlfriends — just individuals, with some overlap with people who know each other.
As we’ve gotten older, and especially during and since the pandemic, I don’t see or speak to my friends as frequently as I used to. Some have gotten busier with work and hobbies, and some are still reluctant to resume pre-COVID activities.
All of my friends seem to have friends they are closer to than they are to me, so they don’t seem to “need” me as much as I need them.
I have tried meeting new people at activities I participate in, but it’s hard to get past the friendly acquaintance stage. We are all in our 50s, so I feel I should be past this.
How do I make new, genuine friends at this age and/or strengthen the friendships I have?
A. It would help if you could recognize that longstanding, deep, and intimate friendships are a fairly rare treasure. Even people you might believe are social butterflies likely have only one or two people they feel truly intimately connected to.
Your statement reveals an assumption that “all” of your friends have friends they are closer to than they are to you. We humans tend to assume that others are doing better than we are, or that others do not struggle in ways that we struggle.
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 onlookers. This is underscored in adulthood by photos posted on social media showing happy, shiny people.
My first suggestion is that you do what you can to improve the connection with the friends you currently have. This would involve you being more actively in touch.
Even making a phone call can be hard for introverts, but if some social outreach, through a call or a text, becomes part of your daily “self-care,” some of these connections should strengthen. These “check-ins” are a reminder to others that you are here, and that you are interested in them. This might be especially important to those friends who are still somewhat sequestered.
Also, while you are making these personal efforts, do everything you can to stay busy. “Staying busy” sometimes seems like a ride on an empty hamster wheel, but those glancing connections with others can yield very satisfying moments, and an important sense of proportion and perspective.
Q. I am a physical therapist, and work in a building with others who do the same.
I have my own office space. I used to rent it to a friend, who recently moved to another space on my floor when a room opened up. After she moved, she asked to use my room for an hour when she knew I wouldn’t be there. I said yes. Today when I came in, I noticed that she had been in my room after I left yesterday, but hadn’t asked me first.
We are friends and I want to stay on good terms. But I feel that she’s taken advantage of my good will toward her, since she is just starting out. It’s hard to say no, but I pay rent and feel that it’s not my responsibility to support her.
What would be a good way to clear things up, while keeping things friendly between us?
A. It’s especially “hard to say no,” if you aren’t asked.
You should be extremely straightforward: “Now that you have your own space, it’s important that you not 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 breach, but it could have unintended and serious consequences for you as the leaseholder.
After you talk, it would be wisest for you to make sure that you are the only person who has keys to your room. Change the locks, if necessary.
Q. “Mortified” was paralyzed by a choice between two companies — both of which had been extremely generous toward her. Thank you for this line: “... you’ve turned what should be a transactional experience into an emotionally fraught experience.”
Job seekers must always remember that they are responsible for serving their own interests.
A. This can be tough to do, but it is necessary.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.