Posted by fxckfeelings on August 10, 2017Share This Post
When you’ve searched high and low for companionship with no results, it’s easy to conclude that, as you’re the only constant factor in your search, you must be the problem/cause of your own loneliness and misery. And of course, trying harder, especially when you aren’t actually doing anything wrong, will only wind up making you feel more unlikeable and hate yourself more. In reality, of course, much of friendship depends on factors you don’t control, like chemistry, the kind of personality you got at birth, and the way you mesh with your local pool of friend candidates. So if love and friendship don’t come easily to you, despite good strong efforts, never assume you’ve failed. You may have found something in life that won’t come easily, but a weakness in relationships need never stop you from finding ways to leading a full and independent life until you discover the right person or people or share it with.
I’m a (maybe over-)educated female in my late 30s who just broke up with what seemed like an emotional/verbal abuser after a very rocky three year relationship. My major issue is that the past many years (20 in total with bursts of good-ish relationships) I’ve been very lonely, mostly because I move around a lot for work and making friends is very hard in new cities. I keep bumping into deadbeats and weirdos, and at my age, most people (especially good people) are too busy with their lives to be looking for friends. So I’m busting my ass to be social, going on hikes with lots of depressing divorcees, to eco-festivals, to any group activities I’m interested in…progress is very slow and shaky. And I’m making a go at dating again (yet once again in my life), this time with more courage than my previous/difficult breakup with the same guy. I quit therapy because it was too expensive and slow, and besides, what I’ve been sorely lacking these past years are FRIENDS. Instead, despite all my efforts, I’m dealing with empty weekends, sending messages (text, FB, etc.) to people who said let’s have a coffee and never respond. I am getting a few replies but with people busy things often get cancelled, especially by the most interesting folks, and I wind up hanging out with the outsiders and deadbeats I should probably avoid. It’s hard, but I’m trying to hang in there and keep pushing. And BOY do I drop everything if I get a chance to see people that I consider worthwhile. My goal is to figure out if there’s something, *anything* I can do—from trying a new way to expand my search to moving to a whole new country—to find the kind of relationships that will make my life feel whole.
F*ck Love: One Shrink’s Sensible Advice for Finding a Lasting Relationship
It’s impossible not to feel lonely after a breakup like yours, particularly when work-required relocations have made it so difficult to build the kind of social networks you could depend on for support. What is possible, however, is learning to ignore the way loneliness convinces you that you’ll always feel as sad, friendless, and generally as crappy as you do now.
Even after all the hard work you’ve done to date and make friends, loneliness can still convince you that you’ve done something wrong, are to blame yourself for the forced relationships that don’t quite work, and should make major changes to the way you do things, like compromise your standards, lest you die in such a solitary state that some stranger doesn’t even discover your body until it’s just a brown stain on your couch.
In other words, blaming yourself for what you did wrong can make you less effective in your social life as well as add to your pain.
In fact, however, you seem to know how to make friends in new cities and, given a few more years living in one place, would probably have a stable network of friends. Your romantic relationships may have all fizzled, but it seems that they haven’t missed by much. Perhaps you stretched your standards a bit, but your choices haven’t been destructive or stupid.
Trying to figure out what you did wrong is a bad goal then because you probably didn’t do anything wrong, and trying to do so just tears you down and makes your problem worse. Instead, try to keep yourself from getting panicked by fear and loneliness. You may not be able to control the bad luck of your social life, but you can keep yourself from taking responsibility for it or seeing it as evidence that you’ve failed or need to change your approach.
Instead of desperately looking for ways to fix yourself and find companionship, ask yourself how you can deal with unavoidable, undeserved and sometimes uncontrollable loneliness and keep the fear of it from dominating your life. One simple way is to build independence and find ways to enjoy your own company; plan ahead and fill your alone time with activites that are healthy, meaningful, and/or enjoyable. Ask yourself whether you can find a job that doesn’t require periodic moves to a new city or that will allow you to resettle closer to old friends and family.
Most importantly, rid yourself of the notion that being alone is pathetic; spending time with pathetic people for the sake of avoiding loneliness is so much worse. Make good use of what you have, rather than measuring yourself against who you think you should be. Get a dog (although we recommend this to anyone with the right space and schedule).
Life is harder when you’re feeling lonely, but even the supremely social can’t always find friends when they need them. So instead of fixating on the friends and romantic partner you don’t have, take pride in what you have to offer as a friend and in your ability to make a living, live independently, and fill your life with meaningful activity even when your social luck sucks.
“I can’t stop feeling lonely, but I am proud of my ability to make a living, take care of myself, pursue my interests, and be a good person, and I will continue to be selective as I look for friendships that will be worthwhile and lasting.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname