“Even though I get along with people, It seems like I can’t make meaningful friendships. I never keep friends for very long. Is something wrong with me? Am I not trying hard enough? Why can’t I form close friendships, and how do I deepen my friendships?
This article is for people who are bad at keeping friends. It’s also for people who value close friendships but might have problems connecting with others.
First of all, if you’re not sure why you don’t have friends, take this quiz to identify the reasons why you have no friends first. It will offer you some insight into where you can make potential improvements.
However, if you can make friends but can’t keep them, here are some reasons to consider:
Have you grown apart from your friends?
People go through so many transitions throughout life- college, careers, marriage, children, etc. Any of these milestones can fundamentally change a person’s priorities and values.
It’s important to remember that outgrowing a friendship isn’t bad. It doesn’t mean you failed or that you’re a bad person. Most of the time, these changes are completely normal.
Here are some signs you may have outgrown a friendship:
- You don’t miss them (even if it’s been a long time since you spent time together).
- You no longer have much in common.
- You keep disagreeing on core issues.
- You don’t think you’d be friends with that person had you met them now.
- You feel resentful towards them.
- You only want to spend time with them in groups.
- You find yourself making excuses to avoid spending time together.
Of course, all friendships take work. If you strongly value a particular friendship, the work tends to be worth the effort. But if you have outgrown the other person, you’ll probably keep finding reasons to avoid the work involved. That’s a telltale sign that you may need a break.
Here’s our guide on how to find new like-minded people.
Do you take initiative?
Successful friendships require a sense of mutual take-and-give. Do you reach out and invite your friends to spend time with you? Do you take the initiative to make plans? If not, this could be something worth improving.
First, remember that some people won’t initiate plans at all. They might not think about it, or they might be used to other people taking the lead. If this is the case, you have a few choices:
- You can accept that it’s up to you to make plans. Realizing this reality may make you feel happier. However, you might also feel resentful that you need to do the majority of the work.
- You can talk to your friend about how you feel. Let them know you are worried the friendship is one-sided. I’ve noticed that I’m usually the one asking to hang out. Have you noticed that? Chances are, they probably weren’t even aware!
- You can pull back and see what happens. Your friend might start reaching out more, or they might continue acting the same way. At that point, it’s up to you to decide if you want to accept the current situation, talk to them about it, or reevaluate the friendship altogether.
If you want to get better at initiating contact with your friends, consider these tips:
- Offer an invitation with a specific date, time, and reason. Specific details usually make it easier for people to accept or turn down your offer. For example, This Sunday, I’m going to the farmer’s market around noon. Do you want to come with me?
- Get in the habit of sending texts that ask questions. Don’t give one-word responses. If someone asks how you’re doing, you could say, Pretty good. I’ve been slammed at my job. How is work going for you?
- Validate yourself if people turn down your offers. Self-validation can be a simple mantra, like My worth isn’t dependent on what my friends do, or, I am actively working on attracting high-quality friendships, and this is part of the process.
Do you mainly talk about you?
When you interact with your friends, whose experiences, issues, and problems do you talk the most about?
If you mainly talk about your experiences, you risk making your friends tire.
Practice focusing more on your friend by asking sincere questions and paying close attention to their responses. Practice cultivating a genuine interest in your friends. Ask them about their thoughts on something, how their day was, or what their plans are. Don’t just ask questions for the sake of asking questions. Ask questions to understand them and learn about them.
If you, on the other hand, tend to only ask questions to your friends, practice sharing more about you.
Scientists have found that conversations that follow a natural rhythm between sharing and listening help you become friends with someone fast.
Do you have a negative attitude?
It’s okay to vent to your friends when you are having a hard time. But most people don’t like to spend their time around constant complainers. It’s mentally draining.
Some signs of a negative attitude include:
- Blaming other people instead of taking personal responsibility
- Picking fights with other people
- Getting jealous easily and criticizing other people’s successes
- Being rigid with your routine instead of practicing flexibility
- Using sarcasm all the time- even when it might be hurtful to other people
- Dwelling on past relationships or mistakes instead of looking to the future
- Judging other people harshly
If you have a negative attitude, it’s a good idea to consider working on changing your mindset. Cultivating positivity is good for your physical and mental health- it also makes you a more enjoyable person to be around.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Keep a journal and write down three things that went well every night. Research shows that gratitude can profoundly improve your overall happiness. Commit to this exercise for at least one month.
- ‘Assume positive intent’ whenever you find yourself feeling annoyed with someone. Perhaps they were late to your meeting because they really were stuck at work? Whether it’s true or not, this mindset can help you feel more relaxed and optimistic.
- If you need to talk to someone, try BetterHelp or journaling. Don’t make it a habit to use your friends as therapists.
Do you get stuck in small talk?
People tend to prefer personal, meaningful conversations over small-talk. If you tend to get stuck in small talk (Such as talking about the weather, sports, news, politics, etc) your conversations can be less rewarding and as a result, people tire after a while.
Try asking a personal question related to what you’re talking about. Here’s an example of how you can make small talk about a TV-show personal:
– What’s your favorite TV show?
– Hmm. I think Watchmen.
– I agree, I liked Watchmen too. Why do you think you like it so much?
– I don’t know actually… Maybe because I could relate so much to the protagonist.
– In what way?
(Now it’s natural for your friend to open up and share something personal.)
These types of questions help you bond and make your conversations more interesting. Share about yourself so your friend can get to know you, too.
Here’s our guide on how to bond with someone.
Do you have too much on your plate?
Sometimes, it can seem like you’re too busy for friends. This is especially true if you’re balancing important responsibilities like work, school, romantic relationships, and other hobbies.
If you have a jam-packed schedule, it’s a good idea to regularly evaluate your priorities. Are you satisfied with your daily routine? Do you feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment?
People who value friendships make time for their friends. It doesn’t matter how busy they are. They simply know to prioritize those relationships.
If you’re always busy, it’s going to be challenging to make or keep friends. Think about how you can adjust your schedule, and you might have to get creative. For example, is it worth hiring a weekly cleaning service so you free up a weekend afternoon? What about meal-prepping one night, so you have more time after work to socialize?
Even just an hour or two can make a big difference in feeling connected. For example, during the workday, ask a friend if they want to have lunch together during your break.
Do you need to make new friends?
Old friendships can come with complicated baggage. Sometimes, it’s best to start over, make new friends, and focus your efforts on maintaining those relationships. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to be open to building new relationships. You never know what you might gain!
See our guides on how to make friends and what to do if you have no friends.
Mental disorders that can make it harder to keep friends
If you have depression, it can be challenging to maintain friendships. Depression can deplete your energy and make socialization feel exhausting. It can also affect your self-esteem and make you want to withdraw or isolate yourself from others.
If you have depression, it’s important to reach out. Professional treatment can help reduce the intensity of your depressive symptoms. Therapy can also help you develop healthy coping skills to manage low self-esteem or negative thinking.
We recommend BetterHelp for online therapy, since they offer unlimited messaging and a weekly session, and are cheaper than going to a therapist's office.
Their plans start at $64 per week. If you use this link, you get 20% off your first month at BetterHelp + a $50 coupon valid for any SocialSelf course: Click here to learn more about BetterHelp.
(To receive your $50 SocialSelf coupon, sign up with our link. Then, email BetterHelp’s order confirmation to us to receive your personal code. You can use this code for any of our courses.)
If you’d like someone to talk to right now, give the crisis helpline a call. If you’re in the US, call 1-800-662-HELP (4357). You’ll find out more about them here.
If you’re not in the US, you’ll find the number to your country’s helpline here.
If you’re not into talking on the phone, you can text with a crisis counselor. They are international. You’ll find more info here.
All these services are 100% free and confidential.
Here’s a good article from Helpguide how to cope with depression.
Aspergers or autism spectrum syndrome
Aspergers can make it harder to read social cues. Sometimes, people with Aspergers act in ways that are bothersome to others without understanding why. You can try explaining to friends you trust that you have or may have Aspergers, and that you want to know if you do something that bothers them.
Here’s our guide on how to make friends when you have Aspergers.
If you have social anxiety, you might doubt yourself frequently around other people. This self-doubt can cause trouble keeping friends.
Social anxiety often makes it hard to think rationally. Instead of enjoying the moment, you might feel preoccupied with what the other person is thinking. Instead of feeling confident with yourself, you might be worried about looking silly or dumb.
Social anxiety can also affect your desire to spend time with other people. For example, you might avoid certain events or turn down invitations. Over time, this pattern can negatively affect your friendships.
However, with practice, it’s possible to learn how to manage your anxiety. Remember that you’re not alone. Most people feel worried about how others might judge them.
Check out our guide on how to loosen up around other people.
It can feel challenging to keep friends if you have ADHD. That’s because ADHD often makes people feel overwhelmed or bored. It can also affect memory, which can make you forgetful when it comes to remembering details about your friends.
If you have ADHD, here are some tips to think about:
- Try to avoid interrupting. Interrupting is bothersome to other people and makes you less attuned to the conversation. Instead, be more aware of how you interact with others. Bite your tongue or envision the word, STOP, when you find yourself wanting to talk over someone.
- Write down necessary details like birthdays, names, or other important facts. Keep this information readily available in a single place, like an online document or special notebook.
- Get in the habit of practicing critical thinking. Before you say or do something, ask yourself, Am I being impulsive right now? This simple question can help you reflect on your intentions in a given situation.