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Just stopped calling. How is it alright to do that? How can I decide that after meeting them once? This last woman I was dating? What the hell? Was it something about me? Or was she lying to me all along? I give up. Stephanie Fairyington writes in Thrive Global,. The loneliness epidemic in the United States is real. A Cigna study of 20, Americans from across the country sounded the alarm in a big way earlier this year: Nearly half of the participants reported sometimes or always feeling alone or left out, and members of Generation Z—young adults between the ages of 18 and 22—are the loneliest among us.
But I realized that what she was saying could apply to almost all of my clients who were struggling with finding a life partner. Many of us see a connection to a special someone as the solution to loneliness. A study by Matthew Wright and Susan Brown of Bowling Green University, in the Journal of Marriage and Family , found that there are few differences between married, partnered, and single women in terms of contentment and satisfaction. For both men and women, it seems, marriage is no guarantee of happiness , contentment, or lack of loneliness.
On the other hand, many forms of social contact are crucial to staving off loneliness. Bella DePaulo, Ph. She tells us that, according to a wide range of research, non-romantic connections provide all-important protection from the ills often associated with isolation and alienation, which can occur even when a person is in a long-term, intimate relationship.
In one of her blog posts , she offers links to research about many of the ways that non-cohabiting adults make ificant social connections—often better than their married or cohabiting peers. For instance, DePaulo cites research that shows that when people get married, they often have less contact with their families than when they remain single.
Singles tend to be more engaged with neighbors and friends than married people are. And all of these connections, DePaulo tells us, are extremely important weapons in the battle against loneliness. You might be wondering why a psychotherapist would encourage you to be more engaged with your family.
The reality is that a healthy—meaning adult—connection to your family can not only make you less lonely but can also promote healthy relationships with your friends and potential partners. I have seen far too many people in therapy who look to marriage and building a family of their own as a way of separating from parents. But in the end, learning to be separate from and also connected to your parents and siblings—again as adults, not as the child you once were—can make you feel better about yourself and can also lead to better relationships with other people outside your family.
So what are some of the ways that you can shift away from a search for a romantic partner that is making you feel frustrated, sad, and lonelier? Turn off your social media and go out to see people in the physical world. We all need, according to John Bowlby , the founding father of attachment theory, actual contact with others the way we need oxygen to breathe. Call a friend. Call a family member. And talk to them as though you were talking to a friend, not a parent, older or younger sibling , or someone with whom you have a specific childhood role to play.
Breaking out of those old patterns can bring you new and meaningful connections with important people in your life. Following 2 and 3, make plans to see any of these people. But any relationship takes work. Put some effort into finding a time to get together, to do something pleasurable—take a walk, go to a yoga class, have a glass of wine, have a meal, go to a movie—and your efforts will be repaid. Your loneliness will very likely diminish even before you actually get together. Do something you really enjoy on your own. Social neuroscientist and researcher John Cacioppo, Ph.
It often has to do with feelings of alienation, self-doubt, and shame. Go for a long, quiet walk. Write in your journal. Listen to a podcast or watch a favorite movie. But doing something by yourself can also mean being in a more social setting. I love going to dance concerts on my own, but I frequently end up talking to someone sitting next to me and having a lovely social evening.
Do something for someone else. The key is that it needs to be something that you can do without feeling resentful or taken advantage of. Something that you feel good about doing. And finally, none of this means that you have to give up the search for a long-term partner. Paradoxically, feeling less lonely might make it easier for you to meet new people. And connecting to people in these other ways can sometimes lead to new and interesting romantic connections. Your friend network, or your volunteer work, or even your Great Aunt Sybil or some other family member might turn out to be a great source for meeting a person you connect to romantically.
Over the course of our work together, I shared some of these ideas with Amalia, Art, and Alice, as I do with many of my clients who are frustrated by and unhappy during the search for a life partner. I suggested that while they continue to remain open to the possibility of finding someone with whom they could have a long-term, intimate relationship, they might find it useful to focus more on the important non- romantic relationships in their lives right now.
And on what they were doing to make their lives meaningful on a daily basis. Over time, as they incorporated some of these ideas into their lives, each of them became happier with the life they were currently leading, whether or not there was a romantic partner involved. Alice and Art eventually did find someone with whom they lived on a long-term basis.
Amalia, on the other hand, realized that marriage or cohabiting was not something she wanted to do after all. It seems to me that understanding this—that happiness is more complex than meeting someone to spend the rest of your life with—and acting accordingly, is a really good way to keep from being lonely.
Diane Barth, L. Diane Barth L. Off the Couch. Loneliness Essential Re. References John T. About the Author. Read Next. Back Psychology Today. Back Find a Therapist. Back Get Help. Personality Passive Aggression Personality Shyness. Family Life Child Development Parenting. View Help Index. Do I Need Help? Back Magazine. July Who Is the True You? Back Today. Essential Re.Lonely girl searching love and relationships
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