“People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.” ~Joseph F. Newton
The epiphany has finally occurred. Why on earth has it taken so long? I ask myself this as I look back on the last nine years, which I have spent trying to cover up my real issue. Loneliness.
After getting married at twenty and then leaving nineteen years later, it took another two years before I met another man that I fell in love with almost instantly. He told me from the very beginning it would never be a relationship, and yet I have persevered with our friendship in various formats for the last seven years.
During that time, I have also tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to find someone else to be a part of my personal life. I met someone else just five months ago, and after a very difficult dating period of three and half months, I ended it. We had completely different primary values. So essentially, I have been single for nine years now.
To my surprise, the last man taught me that the last nine years have not been a waste. Being single does not mean that I am not of value to society (which is what I had been thinking).
Now that I am on my own again, I realize that this whole process of finding a partner has not been about finding a relationship at all. I have been desperately trying to overcome loneliness—and possibly for a long as twenty years!
Let’s look at what has been happening and see if you can identify with any of these:
Rather than face the real issue of loneliness, I have dedicated myself to my work and various business enterprises.
The people out there in the real world can see and have benefited from my productive endeavor. Alas, I have not managed to keep a reasonable amount of rewards for myself or spend as much time as I would like with my children.
Yes, I find it easier to say yes rather than no. Oh Sue, you are so great at … could you please…? And the answer is nearly always yes. It's only no when I have something else on that I am doing for someone else.
I don’t cut my hair every six weeks, I only get my nails done if required, and I consider the effort it takes to get dressed up a waste of productive time rather than something fun and special to do. It recently took me four hours to get dressed and ready for a Christmas function, and I felt exhausted by the end of it. Isn’t it supposed to be fun to get dressed up? Why do social occasions feel like work too?
I moved from my hometown twenty years ago. Since then, I have raised two children, who are now nineteen and sixteen, without a family support network. I have tried countless times to connect with various people, but somehow they perceive me as too busy and so we hardly ever catch up.
I have had brief moments of companionship and then lengthy periods of getting on with life on my own.
This is the real ugly face of it. I have been very good at disguising it in various forms to attract a bit of sympathy, but if I really want to fess up, then I should admit that I have fallen into the trap of reminiscing and saying “poor me.”
That stops me from doing what I could be doing, and it gives me an excuse to say why my situation is like this and state that a relationship is the only panacea, when it isn’t.
I have lost count of the number of books I have read, personal development courses I have attended, and healers I have sought assistance from. I have tried counseling, psychology, hypnotherapy, pastoral care, energy healing, kinesiology, massage, talking to anyone who will listen, writing, walking my neighbor’s dogs, going to all sorts of events, and more.
I now realize that the root cause of all of this searching for answers or a cure for me is loneliness.
However, I am wise enough to know that some strategies for overcoming loneliness are more successful than others.
I also know that loneliness can occur either inside or outside of a relationship, as I have felt it in both situations.
The irony is that I regularly advise people on how to connect in a new location and have even carried out my own advice, but the safety barrier I have put around myself to protect me from the pain of loneliness has stopped the friendship from coming through.
I have been friendly but not vulnerable enough to let people see the real me. No wonder they have let me fend for myself!
If you have also created a personal protection barrier or are feeling lonely, I can recommend these tips to overcome it:
1. Connect through your sports, hobbies, passions or interests.
Meet like-minded people who share something that you also love. They will make time for you; other people already have full calendars.
2. Borrow or adopt a dog and go walking.
People talk to people with dogs.
3. Talk to senior citizens.
They have plenty of wisdom, time, and advice that they can share. By listening, you are also validating them as well as yourself.
4. Expect it to be challenging.
It may be difficult for you, but don’t give up. Keep going but start with the easiest options first.
5. Find out why you feel lonely.
Perhaps there is some bitterness, resentment, or guilt that you are carrying around. It is time to forgive yourself and others so that you have the best chance possible to connect with yourself and others.
Develop new routines and rituals to celebrate special occasions and reward your new healthy behaviors.
7. Be brave.
It takes courage and persistence to overcome your bad habits—but it all starts with you, not someone else. Ask for help, seek some guidance, but take full responsibility for your happiness.
8. Dream big.
Visualize what you want in the future and watch it materialize. Keep your vision sharp and clear.
Can you see how none of these suggest finding a partner or fixing the one you have? Isn’t that liberating? By connecting through various people, activities, or regular commitments, you are no longer dependent on a partner to complete you or help you overcome your feelings of loneliness.
And you may just find that when you are no longer lonely, you will be happy—with or without a partner.
Photo by Hartwig HKD