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How Do I Find New Friends after Being Betrayed by Old Ones?

From the U.S.: I am a 23 year old graduate student who is in the process of re-evaluating my social life. For the past few years, making friends in my town where I go to school has turned into somewhat of a painful hardship. Because I am passionate about my faith and wanted to surround myself with people who I thought were decent and welcoming, rather than spend my years of undergrad years partying and neglecting my studies, I surrounded myself with people from religious activities, which became the focus of my social life during my undergrad years, believing that would be a decent and healthy environment.

On the contrary, nothing was what it seemed. I have since lost my zeal for such organizations after suffering betrayal and emotional abuse in these groups, and I simply had nothing in common with people in such programs. I still have several close and healthy friendships who I confide in, but most of them live in different cities.

After losing most of my social life when I got hurt by religious organizations, I really don’t have any friends in my town where I attend school. Since then I have taken advantage of my increased solitude to re-evaluate myself as a person by pursuing my hobbies. These include kayaking/canoeing, travelling the world, watching my favorite teams (baseball, basketball, football, and soccer), learning new languages, studying Geography (my current focus) and finding new ways to protect the environment and its resources. But I feel as if I have nobody to share these interests with in my current city, and my window of opportunity to make friends seems to be closing as I approach a career in the next year.

Because of the abuse that I suffered from my previous social group I have been going through professional counseling and taking meds for anxiety for the past year, and suffer from trust issues. However, because I also love meeting new people I still desire healthy relationships. Is it possible for a post-graduate student like me to make friends outside of school and work who are close to my age and share my interests?

Or is this a lost cause as seen in my past experiences? If it’s possible how and where can a post-grad student life myself make friends? What are some ways I can overcome my issues with trusting people?

I’m so sorry that you were hurt so much by people you thought were friends. I’m sure that makes trying again very difficult. I’m glad you are in counseling to take a look at what maybe you can learn from the experience. You do have understandable issues around trust. I hope you are working those issues through with your counselor.

As for your question: Of course it’s possible to make friends once you leave school. In fact, most people leave the area where they went to school and have to start over. You won’t be at all alone in that. Wherever you find a job, there will likely be other people your age who are similarly looking for new friends.

The good news is that you have lots of interests that will help you connect with others. I suggest you think about getting involved in an environmental cause or join a recreational league in a sport you enjoy. Those are promising places to start.

To get ready, take full advantage of the therapy you have now. Be open with your therapist and be willing to try new things. You are clearly an intelligent guy. It may be difficult but my sense from your letter is you have what it takes to make important changes.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

from Ask the Therapist

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