Some years after leaving college and splitting with a long-term boyfriend, I found myself living alone.  After four years, two months and three days, he had packed his bag after one fight too many and left.  I was broken hearted.  All I had to remember him by were fifty-two empty beer cans nestling under the bed.  Within a few hours I had gone from being part of a cosy couple to a freshly-minted singleton with a bag full of tinnies.

It was embarrassing to admit, I was lonely

For days I resembled a pinball machine as I rattled around my tiny Pimlico flat.  I spent the first weekend trudging around the West End in the drizzle like a tragic heroine in a Bronte novel. I called my friends.  Where the hell were they?  Turns out while I was busy being loved-up, they had got on with their own lives. I remembered parties I’d failed to attend and invites I had ignored.  I had been complacent.  Although the strong friendships survived, many relationships had melted away.  It was embarrassing to admit, I was lonely.

Working evenings was the perfect antidote

The good friends rallied but they were caught up with their own complicated love lives or working long hours establishing careers. By day I was working as a lowly editorial assistant at a book publisher.  So, I took on another job to fill the interminable evenings and weekends. Working evenings as a waitress was, for me, the perfect antidote.  An exhausting job with young and mostly single work mates was better than being at a loose end, it also helped pay the bills.  It didn’t take long at a posh bar in Kensington to find people to drink with or go clubbing with until the early hours.  It stopped me dwelling on the fact that I was alone.  I solemnly vowed not to be so cavalier about friends in the future.

The cause wasn’t complacency

Fast forward eighteen years.  I have made friends, got married, had children and moved abroad but now I am getting divorced.  I move back from a tiny village in the Pyrenees to the town where I grew up.  I had family around me but once again friends had different lives, and those I’d made in France were now nine hundred miles away.  I was alone.  The cause wasn’t complacency but because, as I had come to realise, that’s the way life is.

Don’t waste opportunities to connect

This time I didn’t waste opportunities when I met people I connected with.  I was open about my life, talked to people, swapped numbers. I sought out the lovely midwife who years before had saved my life.  She soon become a great friend.  I discovered other single mothers at my daughter’s nursery who were keen to share the pain and joy of parenthood as our children played in the park or later over a bottle of wine.  Interests in writing and other things I loved, such as swimming and singing, sparked new connections.  None of it happened over night.

The truth is that some friendships will stick for life, but others will inevitably come and go.  Don’t lose heart, move on.  There are people out there who want to be your friend – you’ve just got to be prepared to look.

The friendship checklist

  • Don’t sit and wait – take action!
  • Create a life you enjoy – like attracts like.
  • If you’re passionate about something, find a local club and other enthusiasts.
  • Try something new, maybe a course. You could try a cooking class, choir, local sports club, book club, or you could volunteer. If you don’t like it, try something else.
  • Don’t miss an opportunity. If you meet someone you like and connect with, be bold, suggest meeting up for coffee.
  • Say ‘Yes’ to invitations. Be willing to put yourself out there to meet other people. Take the risk.
  • Consider dating connections – if you’re dating, it may not be a recipe for a romantic future but could be the basis for a great friendship.
  • Meet in a neutral place – hosting can bring its own pressures.
  • Ask questions. Ask people about themselves and listen to the answer.
  • Don’t expect too much. No one person can offer you everything you’d want in a friend. Look for a variety of friends.
  • All the above can be scary, do it anyway.


Find local activities and groups

To find out more about local activities take a look at East Sussex Community Information Service, ESCIS.    

Volunteer and expand your life

Volunteering can bet rewarding,  a great way to gain skills and  meet people. Register with Tribe to offer your time, energy and knowledge that will make a difference to people and to communities.

Further help

It is normal to sometimes feel anxious or low, whatever your personal situation.  For advice and support, see Self-help for good mental health.