Friday 19 October 2018

Dear Mary: My life appears to be perfect but I am desperate to make new friends

Photo posed
Photo posed

Mary O’Conor

I'm in my late twenties, in a good job, renting a nice house with a lovely boyfriend and have a loving family. All good you could say. However, I have one constant problem which I have actually never said out loud to anyone and am somewhat mortified about: I have no friends.

This began when I was sent away to secondary school therefore losing touch with my primary school friends. I was a very insecure, overweight teenager and when I think about it now I'm quite certain I went through depressed episodes. All of this made me pretty rubbish at making new friends. So I sat my Leaving Cert and went off to college with no one really to say goodbye to. College was more of the same.

Once I started working things improved a little bit. I always had people to go to lunch with and always partook in staff nights out, etc. It was during this time I met my boyfriend. I have since moved on to a new company and while I have lovely colleagues there is not the same level of socialising so my social calendar is back to barren.

Monday to Friday is great. I work, I read, go out for dinner or walks with my boyfriend. However, I hate the weekends. In general we go our separate ways back to our parents' houses.

I love my family dearly and am quite happy to hang around with them for the weekend but I feel like such a loser when my boyfriend checks in to see how I am or what I'm doing, to the extent that I sometimes make things up. I don't want him to know I have no friends but I can feel he's starting to wonder.

I often think I won't be able to do things like have a wedding or celebrate a big birthday purely because I have no one to invite outside of my family.

My boyfriend is a good guy, he treats me well and we are a great team but I should not be so utterly dependent on him as my only companion outside of my family.

I'm fully aware that I have little to complain about but the loneliness at times is crushing. I really feel like I have failed massively.

I'm not bad company and I genuinely am friendly and chatty to anyone I meet but it feels like most people have made their friends and established their social circles at this stage.

I'm sad and fighting very hard not to let my boyfriend see this but when I'm with him I find myself being overly sensitive and insecure. I want to be able to treat him as my equal, not some sort of lifebuoy I'm clinging to. I want to be more independent and have places to go and people to see without him.

At the moment I feel like I have put all my emotional eggs in our relationship basket (if that doesn't sound too weird.)

Mary replies:  We make friends at different stages of our lives - some last forever and others do not survive when we move on to a new phase. You have very logically explained why you find yourself without friends and it makes sense, but you can be assured that as life continues you will make friends relating to what is happening in your life at any given time.

It seems to me your problem is that you are being passive rather than active in seeking new friends. It was all fine when you had it provided for you in your old job but as nobody is doing it in your new workplace then you just accept how things are. Similarly when home for the weekend you aren't being proactive.

It's good that you are chatty and friendly - that is a great start and no doubt one of the reasons why your boyfriend loves you. So start at work and suggest that a few of you go for a drink or coffee after work one evening, or better still invite a few of them to your house for something like a clothing exchange. Everybody brings something that they like but no longer wears and exchanges it for an item that somebody else has brought. Or why not have a potluck supper where everybody brings something small to eat and you provide the beer or wine. Anything to get the ball rolling.

Then take a look at where your parents live and see if there is anything that you could get involved in that happens at the weekend.

You are not looking for love, but rather some activity or a charity to which you could contribute your time.

For instance, having been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, Fr Tony Coote and friends are currently doing a 'Walk While You Can' fundraiser from Letterkenny to Ballydehob, finishing on August 6. Why not see if they are walking anywhere near where you are, and if they are not going to be in your vicinity then organise your own fundraiser and you can ask your family and neighbours to take part.

Check www.wwyc.ie and look at fundraising ideas to get you started.

Looking outward rather than inward is the key to your happiness.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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