THE EMPTYNEST YEARS

Good Health (Australia) - - Be Inspired -

Your chil­dren have gone to univer­sity or maybe you have re­cently di­vorced. You have time again, but it can feel like too much time. “The ma­jor prob­lem women have in mak­ing new friends at this stage is fall­ing prey to the myth that it’s too late be­cause every­one al­ready has the friends they want,” says Irene Levine, founder of the­friend­ship­blog.com and a pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try at the New York Univer­sity School of Medicine. “Noth­ing is fur­ther from the truth. Friend­ships are dy­namic; as peo­ple’s cir­cum­stances change, so do their friend­ships.” At this stage in life, you might find shar­ing con­fi­dences – a key com­po­nent to friend­ship – is es­pe­cially hard. If you are mar­ried, it may feel as though you are be­tray­ing a part­ner by con­fid­ing in some­one new. Or you might be wary as you have gath­ered more vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties over the years – mis­takes, re­dun­dancy, ill­ness.

THE SO­LU­TION Turn­ing to old friends is a good call, but Levine warns against un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions. “Don’t as­sume you’ll be able to pick up where you left off. You might find one of you has

‘don’t get too chummy too soon. Friend­ships de­velop over time’

changed or you’ve both changed,” she says. Start with an email or phone call. If you agree to see each other, keep your ini­tial get-to­gether short and meet on neu­tral turf. Be­gin by talk­ing about peo­ple or places you had in com­mon (if you feel ner­vous, bring old pho­tos), then try to find things you share now. Ask ques­tions about your friend’s life, but don’t pry. If you no longer con­nect in the same way, re­mem­ber there are other peo­ple in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion who you’ve yet to meet. As for mak­ing new friends, Levine says: “From my ex­pe­ri­ence, the will­ing­ness to share con­fi­dences and form in­ti­mate friend­ships is more likely to be a mat­ter of per­son­al­ity than age. Many women grow more con­fi­dent with age and are open to new friend­ships.” They might, how­ever, need to re­learn how to form them. “Smile, be friendly and be pre­pared to make the first move,” says Levine, “but don’t get too chummy too soon. Friend­ships de­velop over time and you don’t want to frighten some­one off.” If you’re shy, join a group such as Toast­mas­ters, which teaches peo­ple how to give talks, to im­prove your peo­ple skills. Fi­nally, don’t ex­pect any one per­son to meet all your needs. You might go to the theatre with one friend, have great chats with an­other and work out with some­one else.

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