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As you age, relationships change

September 14, 2000

As you age, relationships change



By MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

photo: YVETTE MAY / staff photographer

see also: Finding, keeping friends

Carolyn Sellers and David MowenThe swarms of friends you had in adolescence are a memory.

The bonds with other parents have weakened since your children outgrew the tricycles they rode together and are on their own.

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Now you're middle-aged and discovering that making friends isn't as easy as it was 20 years ago.

Such are the perils of growing wiser about human character, which leads many people to be more protective of themselves.

"It may be more difficult to make friends than when you were younger," said Florence Isaacs, author of "Toxic Friends/True Friends: How Your Friends Can Make Or Break Your Health, Happiness, Family, And Career."

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With maturity comes an awareness of the qualities people want in a friend and more caution about what level they will take their friendships to, added Isaacs.

"It is really important to have friends who are casual friends," said Isaacs. "Other friends may be excellent for really talking heart to heart."

To make friends, you have to like yourself, said Donna Stevenson Swope, a licensed clinical social worker with Brook Lane Health Services, Meadowbrook Outpatient Division in Hagerstown.

"Develop happiness in your home first," Swope said. "Involve yourself in life-giving things," including spending time with animals and working in the garden, she said.

You also have to step out of the solitary world that the Internet and television create. Make time to make friends.

"Isolation is social suicide," Swope said.

If there's someone you think has friend potential, invite him or her to do things that are free or aren't expensive, Swope said.

Isaacs recommends taking classes to enhance your life and meet others.

"You've got to do something that is natural to yourself," said Isaacs.

Lend your talents to the community to broaden your social circle.

"Volunteer activities are a wonderful way to do something for other people and for yourself," Isaacs said.

Swope is an advocate of journaling.

She suggests writing about people you'd like to meet and conversations you've had. Keep track of your progress so you'll be inspired to meet more people and expand the realm of social possibilities.

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