(Her.meneutics blog) Michelle Van Loon–Why Friends Disappear When You Reach Midlife

In middle age, many women discover they’re downsizing and moving into a brand-new neighborhood, so to speak. Midlife strips us of the things that formed our network of relationships back in the old neighborhood of our 20s and 30s: children’s activities or the drive to find meaning in a career. This new life location can be lonely. No one I know is riding in a red convertible with her empty-nester Gal Pals, singing along to oldies while heading together to a beach house weekend. Most of us aren’t looking for Gal Pals, anyway. We’re simply looking for a few friends in our new neighborhood. Studies confirm what we intuitively know: loneliness is a serious issue with far-reaching consequences as we get older.

The standard friend-making advice offers motivational action steps: take a class, join a group, serve those in need in your community. In addition, Christians are encouraged to find fellowship at church, though they may discover that there aren’t always as many age peers attending as they might hope.

The suggestions are useful, but without first doing what Jesus asks of us, our efforts will not be grounded in kingdom reality. We can not befriend others if we are not willing to first befriend our midlife selves. Relying on the identity that seemed to fit like a glove at age 25 to build new relationships when we are 47 won’t net us the kind of authentic relationships we’re longing for in our second adulthood, nor does it honor the process of God’s transforming, maturing work in our lives.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Middle Age, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Women

4 comments on “(Her.meneutics blog) Michelle Van Loon–Why Friends Disappear When You Reach Midlife

  1. Teatime2 says:

    Good post — it’s true. I’ve found a lot of single friends my age and older through church, though. We had a parish directory done about two years ago and, in going through, the number of older single people struck me. I mentioned it at a gathering and folks said they noticed the same thing, and should we be considering a special ministry? I really don’t think so. Folks are single for a number of reasons and there is fellowship already.

    It is funny how intimidated some of the smug marrieds are by the inclusion of singles at parties and such. I thought that went away with age but nope!

  2. Terry Tee says:

    To No 1 above, and to the article in general, I could add the terrible isolation that sometimes hits people once their spouse has died. The awkward truth, not much admitted publicly, is that couples find it easier to invite couples to meals and social occasions. More than one widow or widower has commented on this to me. And as a celibate priest I might add: if your pastor is on his own, think of inviting him round too.

  3. Teatime2 says:

    Terry Tee, #2, The widows and widowers are a tough group in the beginning. I think it’s good that most churches have a bereavement ministry because nothing will dissolve a group of older singles faster than those who weap or wax poetically about their dearly departed all of the time. I know that sounds just awful but it really is true. Conversely, those of us who relish our freedom and love to be unemcumbered must seem an odd sort to the bereaved.

    The other thing we (and our rector) want to avoid is the group turning into a matchmaking thing, hahahahaha. It’s all about supporting each other and enjoying the single life, not about helping each other find dates. I don’t know why it is but many widowers have trouble being on their own and seem to want to jump right back in the saddle fairly quickly. We wouldn’t want our group used for that purpose.

    I think that bereavement groups fill a really important need and can help transition folks to being single once again. That’s where we can then step in and help them enjoy being single. The marrieds seem to feel threatened by anyone who isn’t partnered, for some reason, so we’ve all got that in common! I don’t know if they think we’ll provide some sort of temptation to their spouses or what. Little do they know that seeing their relationships is what makes us glad we’re single, hahahahaha!

  4. MichaelA says:

    Thanks, good points all. Many hard issues here.