The 5 Friends Every Woman Needs in Her 40s and 50s

By Claire Gillespie
July 05, 2024

Who says your best friendship-finding days are over by the time you hit 40? There’s no rule that says you have to have met “your people” by midlife. In fact, it often couldn’t be further from the truth.

“I met my best friend when I was 42,” says Sheila T., 50, from Minneapolis, Minnesota. “We took art classes together, and we just clicked. I already had longtime friends, but I felt like Lois ‘got me’—the 42-year-old me, who wanted to explore new things.”

Finding activities that you can participate in regularly—from choir to Zumba classes — is a great way to make new friends, says Los Angeles-based psychologist Sheila Forman, Ph.D., who has spent decades of her practice focused on families and relationships. “Put yourself in places you enjoy—often,” she says. “Just like when we were young and we saw the same friends every day in school, now it’s time to participate regularly in activities where you can meet new friends. Proximity leads to familiarity, which can lead to friendship.”

It’s also important to create space for new people. Yes, it’s time for some life admin. “Take an inventory of the people you spend time with and ask yourself if you still enjoy their company,” suggests Forman. “If you do, great! If you don’t, limit the amount of time you spend with them, so you have room in your schedule for someone new.”

What you need in a friend depends on your circumstances—and remember, you’ll be searching for a long time if you want one person to check all your boxes. Instead, identify potential friends based on how you enrich each other’s lives. These five types of friends can make the obstacles of midlife a little easier to navigate.

The True Champion of You

Middle age can get messy. Whether you’re facing an empty nest, still have kids at home, or have no children, it’s often a time of huge inner change, as we take stock of where we are in our lives and try to figure out where we want to go from here. Self-care is crucial—but real, dig-deep self-care. Mani-pedis and massages can have their place, but what you really need is a self-care cheerleader who’s 100 percent there for you. We all need those big conversations we just don’t feel comfortable having with those once-a-month spa hook-up mates.

“Hannah is my biggest champion and motivator,” says Portia H., 45, of Glendale, California. “If I’m feeling down on myself, I know she’ll tell me exactly what I need to hear. She’s always there for me when the going gets tough, but it’s a two-way street—she’s vulnerable with me, too.”

The Adventure Partner

Jessica W., 50, from Seattle, met Rachel when she was going through divorce and in the mood to take some risks. “I’d been stuck in my old routine for years,” she says. “On a whim, I signed up for an indoor rock-climbing class. Rachel was there on her own too, and she helped me reach the top of that 20-foot wall! Since then, we’ve done all sorts of things the younger me would have balked at. We’re currently training for a triathlon together.”

The Keep-It-Real Confidante

This one is there for you, no matter what. But she’s also not scared to tell it to you straight. “Anita would drop everything for me,” says Christine S., 46, of Baltimore. “She knows all my secrets and I know she’ll take them to the grave. She can also be brutally honest with me— it’s not always easy to hear what she thinks. But I appreciate it so much. Friendship isn’t about saying the ‘right’ thing; it’s about honesty, delivered with love and kindness.”

The Mentor

“Joyce inspires me to be the best version of myself,” says Clara F., 49, of Portland, Maine. “She’s been through so much in her life, but it hasn’t made her bitter or jaded. She’s only a few years older than me, but we joke that she’s my wise old aunt. Basically, she’s someone I look up to, who guides me toward the right path without making me feel inadequate.”

Just like when we were young girls, looking up to our teen babysitters, it’s always nice to see examples of women who have had slightly longer paths living their best lives.

The Opposite

Sometimes, you have to turn age-old advice on its head. So instead of seeking out like-minded people, do the opposite—and you might just find a friend who adds a new perspective to your life.

“I met Sadie at a really boring party,” says Zoe R.,48, of New York City. “We had nothing in common, but ended up chatting for hours. We’ve had plenty of arguments since then—mainly about politics—but I really value her friendship. I’m going into my next life stage with my eyes opened to different beliefs and values, and a willingness to move further out of my comfort zone.”

One of the best parts of being in midlife is shedding old notions about who we have to be. So why not take up with someone completely different than any friend you have had in the past? Now is the time.

While it’s true that it’s important to have different types of friends in your life, you won’t find a new BFF without making an effort. And it begins with belief, says Arizona-based New York Times bestselling author and relationship coach Christy Whitman, who’s in her 50s and has made “beautiful new friendships” in the last several years.

“Women need to be deliberate about creating new friendships,” she says. “If it’s a desire you have, then you have the ability to create many. Be open and release any hurts or resentments from previous relationships. If you believe that you can easily make new friends, then that will be your experience.”

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