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Hax Philes: ‘Full life but still lonely’

From a reader:

I am in my 50s. I have a great job, hobbies, pets, and volunteer work. I also know many people and have many friends. But I am writing because I don’t have a ‘best friend,’ or anyone who comes close. My closest friends are all people who will help during an emergency, and they have, but day-to-day they have other priorities. They don’t always return calls when they are busy, don’t always have time to do things together, and have either spouses, children, or other family (siblings, parents) with whom they are close. I have none of those.

I have other friends who are not quite as close and with whom I do various things, but none of those seem to turn into close friendships. At this age, people I meet already have their strong social circles, families, etc. I have done stints in other cities and I made friends, but it was the same pattern. I try to be a good friend–I remember birthdays, give gifts, offer to help with things, but no one has remembered my birthday in years. I don’t even know who to list on forms that ask for emergency contacts.

All I really want are friends who want to hang out, take a walk, grab a bite, talk regularly, come over to watch a movie, but it never works out that way. So I ask myself whether I am unskilled at making friendships, not good at being a friend, or am attracted to the wrong kind of people as friends. When people are too busy I tend to stop calling until they call me back. Most importantly, how do I learn how to change this for the rest of my life? I thought I would write because maybe I am not the only one who finds myself in this situation.

I get a version of this question frequently, so, yes, many have the same frustration. Any suggestions, thoughts, bright sides?

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Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers.

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