Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Try New Approaches to Meet Friends

DEAR NATALIE: I often hear how friendships are so important -- for socialization and happiness as well as for health benefits. But as an adult in my late 40s, I find that it is not easy to make new friends. My husband and I used to do things with a group of friends, with co-workers and with neighbors. Slowly, things changed ... everyone had kids and got busy with their hectic schedules. We see people occasionally but not as often as we would like. My husband and I both work from home, so that social opportunity and way of meeting and seeing people is gone. And lately, the people we do see are the types who monopolize the conversation. I encountered three people over the past two weeks who only talked about themselves and their problems. No one even asks, "What's new with you?" I'm not one to let people walk all over me, but I feel as if my being polite allowed these conversations to be one-way streets. I want to meet new people and do things with them, but it is not as easy as it used to be. Please help. -- LONELY 40-SOMETHING

DEAR LONELY 40-SOMETHING: After posting your anonymous letter on my Facebook page, my readers have weighed in to provide some options for finding new, fun friends. Rachel Zubrow of Squirrel Hill wrote: "I'd suggest volunteering! It's great for getting out of the house, meeting new people who may have things in common." Rosemary Mendel of Plum added, "Take up a hobby or lessons -- dancing, glass-blowing, cooking, whatever you find interesting. A new group of friends could open up there." Julia Novakovic of Rochester, N.Y., suggested "Every city seems to have groups with special interests for which you can browse and sign up to attend meetings or outings." (Pittsburgh has more than 400 meetup groups on every interest imaginable.) I also suggest starting a private Facebook group and try monthly potluck dinners to help reignite your current friendships. 

DEAR NATALIE: My best girlfriend is driving me nuts. The guy she was seeing (for only a few months) broke it off with her and you would think the world is ending. We are both in our mid-20s with different outlooks about relationships. I don't worry about having a boyfriend, and live my life. She NEEDS a man, and when she doesn't have one, she's just miserable. How do I get her out of this funk (for both of our sakes)? -- LOSING MY MIND 

DEAR LOSING MY MIND: I'm going to save you a lot of frustration (and money for a therapist) and just say this: You can't get her out of this funk. The only thing you can do is wait it out and put some healthy distance between the two of you until the storm cloud passes. In the meantime, take her out and see if she can meet someone new. A little flirtation will most likely distract her from the pain of being dumped, and it will spare you from having to listen to her sounding like a sad broken record mixed with white wine. A win-win all around!  

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)