Why You Have No Friends & What You Can Do About It

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unhappy woman in a hat

"I have no friends," you say.

Well, if you don't have any friends, you're not alone.

Most women want intimacy. They need to feel safe to be vulnerable, so they invest a lot of time and effort in their friendships.

When they experience heartbreak, they retreat and protect themselves by shutting down and shutting people out.

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What can you do if you're constantly saying, "I have no friends"?

First things first, can you remember your childhood best friend? You probably can!

You probably have fond memories of playing, telling secrets, and sleepovers.

Now, if you're asked about your childhood best friend today, you — along with many other women — will likely tell a story about how you used to have a lot of friends back in the day, but now, life is just too crazy and busy.

A few heartbreaks later, you have no actual friends — only mere acquaintances.

Why do you feel like you have no friends?

Life changes as we get older.

The carefree college or first job days may be past you. Happy hours, spontaneous road trips, and co-ed softball leagues are behind you, and now you're spending time, working, cooking, cleaning, and raising kids.

Who has time for friends?

True friendships versus acquaintances

These days, you may wonder where to look for social connections. Something pretty big usually happens in someone's life, and then they realize that their life has a bunch of acquaintances but no real friends.

As I share in my TedX talk, I had a moment a few years ago where I found myself in a hospital and realized that I had no local friends that I thought I needed to call and tell.

It was a wake-up call that I needed to start investing in my community and in the women around me to go from a calendar filled with dinners with acquaintances to one-on-one lunches with friends.

Acquaintances are defined as people who you know slightly, but are not close to. This might be a neighbor who you say "hi" to each day, a mom you wave to at drop off, or a coworker who you would say you're "friendly" with.

But none of those cases say they're a friend.

A friend is defined as someone with who you have a bond and mutual connection — someone you're close to.

Even within friendships, there are different levels of intimacy.

Maybe you know their birthday, where they grew up, and their maiden name. Or maybe you know their spouse and kids and where they work, but not a lot about their past.

No matter where on that spectrum, women typically gauge whether they are really connected by asking something like, "Would I call Rachel if I were stranded on the side of the road and needed help?" or, "If I decided I was going to leave my partner, would I go to your house and cry on your couch?"

Most of us want depth and intimacy in our life. We would be happy to have it with even one person. We want someone to cry with, celebrate with, and share a bottle of wine with.

But here’s the key: It takes time and effort. Sometimes, more time and effort than we think we have, so we convince ourselves that when "X" happens, we will find time for friends again.

When work slows down, the kids get older, and you move, you can start investing in friendships again.

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What do you do if you feel lonely?

When time goes by and you start feeling lonely, you realize that kids, career, or even your spouse won’t fill the void of a good friendship.

You will find that you want someone to listen to your stories, not just jump in to give you advice. You may find yourself looking through social media, wishing you were on a weekend trip with your old friends.

I've even heard women say that they knew they needed friends when they shared too much of their personal information, like an argument, with a boss or with their children.

Studies have shown that in order to maintain friendships, you need to talk to each other and often. When you're feeling lonely, practicing presence even with someone with who you typically just chat for a minute, is critical.

When under stress, we tend to let our minds wander or listen just long enough to talk again.

Giving your time and listening to someone else is just as good for your mental health as it is for theirs. This will allow you to get to know them just a little better, and give you the space to smile at them or share a genuine compliment.

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Once you have a few good interactions with someone, you may feel more comfortable taking your casual conversations to the next level.

There are two important elements of friendships — making them and keeping them.

Building friendships start with 4 basic steps.

1. Pay attention to your presence.

Make sure you're looking up, smiling at people, and willing to engage in small talk.

Staring down at your phone while waiting in line or pushing your kid on the swing is not the body language that will attract potential friends.

2. Take your friendship offline.

If you tend to text and just comment on someone’s posts, make the effort to say that you want to get together in person.

This can be for what I like to call "walk and talks," coffee or lunch — something that's about an hour investment and signals to you both whether or not the next time you would want to create even more time.

3. Find mutual interests that you have in common.

This might be through a sport, a school committee, or a shared interest in gardening.

Whatever it is, discovering a shared interest and talking about it makes for a great conversation starter.

4. Pick up the phone and call an old friend.

This might be someone you had a falling out with or someone you only just recently met.

But no matter the case, just do it and see what happens.

Saying, "I have no friends" is just heartbreaking.

Everyone deserves someone to lean on and spend time with. Potential friends are all around you.

If you feel like you have more acquaintances than friends, it's time to take the necessary first steps to build strong friendships in your life.

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Dr. Sheryl Ziegler is the author of "Mommy Burnout: How to Reclaim Your Life and Raise Healthier Children in the Process." For more information, listen to her podcast and sign up for her newsletter through her website. For parents of daughters, check out her online girls' puberty class, Start With the Talk.