“I’m really lonely” is often a caveat to a painful story that loneliness is supposed to explain.
Whilst I hear from people who are lonely and alone in the sense that they have nobody, I tend to hear from people who feel lonely because of a need for a specific type of company or those who feel lonely due to the relationship that they have with themselves. In this situation, it wouldn’t matter if they had one friend or a thousand because that sense of not having a place in the world and feeling 'less than' would still exist. I’ve heard from people who felt lonely, sought a relationship and then wound up feeling more alone than they ever have. Existing on crumbs can leave you really hungry.
Loneliness is hard and it is not something that is easy to admit, especially when we are living in a time of parading faux friendships with follower and friend counts. I think that the way in which we keep in touch has also contributed a great deal to this sense of disconnect. Some people have got lazier as the opportunity to blame "super-busy lives in the fastest lane" (please) or hide behind technology has increased. Whatever the reason, you stop feeling connected to people with whom you used to have a lot in common. When your social circle lacks empathy about your divorce for or the break up of your long-term relationship, it is that they either don’t feel like they can attempt to ‘get it’ because they haven’t been through it or your changes throw a spotlight on their own relationships. We don’t have to go through exactly the same thing in order to empathise. We have all experienced loss in some shape or form.
Loneliness is a very real feeling but if you don’t seek to understand where it truly stems from or understand what may be some of your own isolating behaviour, you can end up soothing the feeling in an unhealthy manner. This can make us dependent on crumbs especially if, regardless of your desire for a relationship, you don’t tend to treat yourself with love and care. When you don’t feed yourself emotionally and then somebody comes along and showboats with their crumbs, it puts the other person’s efforts out of context.
The impact of online communication has a lot to do with the loneliness distortion. I regularly hear from people who reconnect with their childhood / college ‘sweetheart’ via social media because they’re lonely in their relationships. Possibly, they're feeling neglected and also seeking to avoid difficult feelings and situations. Therefore, these exchanges provide a fantasy escape. There are those broken by involvements with people they’ve never met / seen but with whom they’ve kept in touch. These situations are surprisingly easy to fall into when you are avoiding intimacy and protecting yourself from being vulnerable. Virtual connections and involvements with people who dip in and out or who just love a bit of loving from a distance can feel safe and they give a semblance of connectivity and yet eventually, someone will get ‘hungry’.
Mislabelling is also a problem. People will say that they’re lonely for companionship, which is a sense of friendship and then get into a casual relationship (oxymoron). Over time, it reveals itself not to be a genuine mutual relationship between friends or even lovers, and they feel hurt. It is worth holding that sexual intimacy is not the same as emotional intimacy and sexual interaction is not an automatic precursor to a relationship.
Loneliness is a very real feeling. If you tend to abandon yourself by suppressing your own needs, wants and expectations (people pleasing), this is why you feel lonely. If you haven’t got your own back and you are not showing up for yourself. It can feel damn lonely in these circumstances; especially after whoever you’ve been door-matting for is no longer around. You haven't got yourself or this person.
Make sure you’re not engaging in isolating behaviour. Common complaint: “I never meet people / I don’t get asked out on any dates!” Sometimes I am told, “I’m ‘too different’ to make new friends.” We are all unique, but none of us are that unusual. Sometimes making out like we’re the type of person that’s very hard to know is a way of excusing ourselves from trying. While some may happen fast, most friendships take time. Sometimes we expect everyone else to make the effort before we will. In reality, being friendly is a two-way street with an element of risk on both sides.
There is nothing wrong with wanting a relationship. Regardless of whether you’re in or out of one, you still have to be your own friend and you have to cultivate the things that you need, want and expect in your own life. Not all of these rest on another party. Having real connections with others is a very important part of your life and by having a healthy relationship with you and fostering healthy connections with others, it paves the way for moving closer to finding a romantic partner if that is what you want.
Loneliness is one of those feelings where if you scratch the itch with the wrong scratcher, you will get temporary relief but the feeling will return until you scratch it with the right solution. Until you are clear on what you feel and why (a Feelings Diary is a good tool to use) and you address it in a healthier manner, the loneliness will increase and not recede. This is why people who soothe their loneliness with crumbs feel worse not better. They may end up believing that crumbs are all that they can get and deserve.
What does loneliness look like to you? Are you genuinely uncared for? Do you value the connections and life you do have? Is all of it about a romantic partner or are some of the things you’re feeling, thinking and needing about something else in your life? What is it that is missing? Work out how you feel and why, make sure you know your own needs and evaluate how you can meeting those needs in a healthy manner.