No One Wants to Hang out with Me!: Creating Healthy Social Lives

Saul came in upset that “no one cared about him.” “My family doesn’t reach out, my neighbors don’t know I exist, no one at work ever asks me out for happy hour, and my guy friends don’t call unless it’s time for the annual fishing trip.”

Soon after Saul (since my weeks tend to have themes), a long-time client Bettie came in. “Amy, I can’t believe how MIA my church friends have been. With the death of my husband I assumed they’d bring meals, call, come visit, help me gather wood for the winter, anything! But other then helping me with the funeral, I haven’t heard from anyone.”

Healthy social lives can be challenging to create, maintain, and grow. Our cultural messages, especially over social media, imply that everyone has lots of friends and loving, healthy families all looking beautiful, while living glamorous lives. The reality is many people struggle through their daily life with few social connections and spend evenings and weekends alone.

Saul was stuck in the blaming/victim pattern. He blamed everyone around him for not reaching out, and as a result sat at home feeling powerless and lonely. Saul’s first step was to take responsibility for his inaction, and then make some changes. We set weekly goals: 1) reach out to a family member (phone, messenger, text, whichever method the other person responded to best), and then set aside some time to talk or video chat. 2) walk over to a neighbor, knock on the door, introduce self, and have a 5-10 minute conversation. 3) Find out when weekly happy hour is at work, go and stay at least an hour. 4) At the end of annual fishing trip make plans with at least 1 friend for the following month.

Bettie discovered, during a difficult time, that she was counting on the wrong people. At church she was one of the leaders always giving her time and resources, as opposed to one of the folks receiving. She needed to reframe her church time as her volunteer or giving time, and look to other relationships in her life for support. Turns out she’d been spending so much time at church hadn’t spent time with family and friends in awhile, so she began to limit her time at church and re-kindle her other relationships. Re-kindling took some work, as she had to assertively reach out and rearrange her schedule to see people on their time tables, but soon her circle began to grow again.

Social lives need to be tailored to fit everyone individually. For Saul, happy hour was one way to begin to grow his social life but for others happy hour would be uncomfortable or boring. For Bettie church was not a place for support, while for others church is their main social outlet. Where do you need more connection and people time?