Hi Dr. NerdLove,
I desperately need your help. I’m in my 30s and I can’t seem to move out of the “acquaintance zone” when it comes to making friends.
Growing up, I never had to exercise my friendship making muscles. In high school, I met my best friend immediately and since everyone loved them and we were a package deal, I had a large social circle. Even though we went our separate ways after graduation, I met a classmate on my first day of college who already had a tight-knit group of friends at the school and through my connection with them, I had a close circle of friends for four years. Right after that, I entered a long-term relationship where we spent every weekend with my partner’s friends, so I never felt the need to meet people on my own. My partner and I eventually split up and when they left, so did all “our” friends.
I came to find out that my partner’s friends never liked me very much because of my attitude. In trying to be funny and relatable, I ended up being a very mean and judgmental person with a negative attitude and a nasty habit of talking badly about everyone behind their backs. I was initially hurt by the feedback, but I came to realize that their feedback was a gift and I needed to work on myself or be friendless forever. I worked very hard on making myself a better person, entering therapy, getting proper medication for my issues, picking up new hobbies and an exercise routine and reading lots of advice on how to make friends as an adult.
Eventually, I felt ready to put myself back out there and started joining some clubs and teams that aligned with my interest. I also became more extroverted at work, leaving my desk to spend time with co-workers and coming early to meetings to socialize. Throughout all of this, I’ve been very conscious of not being the jerk I was in my 20s. I find now that I’m able to connect with people on a surface level where they spend time with me at group outings, comment on my social media and act interested in my life, but when there’s a small group going to lunch or a get together outside of our organization, I’m never invited. If I try to arrange something myself I get a non-committal answer and end up being blown off. I seem to be great at making acquaintances, but I can’t cross that threshold into friendship.
To make things more confusing, I have no trouble finding romantic relationships. I’m not particularly attractive or otherwise outstanding as a romantic partner, yet somehow, I find it easy to attract healthy, fulfilling and long-lasting relationship. I’m grateful for this, but I don’t know why I can’t do the same with platonic friendships.
My hygiene is good, I am outgoing, I am interested in what other people have to say, I’m considerate, I’m laid back and I have a wide variety of interests. I feel like I’m the total friend package. What am I doing wrong, Doctor?
– I Want To Be In the “Friend Zone”