Even though our world is hyperconnected thanks to technology, loneliness is increasing. Before the rise of the internet and social media phenomena, only 11% to 20% of adults in the ‘70s and ‘80s claimed they were lonely. Recent surveys paint a different picture. Now, a full third of American adults feel lonely, and loneliness can contribute to serious illnesses like depression, and high blood pressure and heart attacks.
Loneliness doesn’t just affect people’s health in negative ways; it can also cause them to make unhealthy choices in their relationships. Many people who feel alone will seek out a romantic relationship to fill the void of loneliness, and when you’re desperate to alleviate your emotional pain, you’ll settle for anyone, even if they’re toxic for you.
Amy didn’t want to break up with her ex, Bob, despite his propensity to drink heavily and abuse Amy whenever he was drunk. One day, Bob suddenly left her for someone else. While Amy should have been relieved to see the back of Bob’s head for the last time, her toxic loneliness distorted her feelings. Instead, Amy was hurt and angry that Bob would betray her like that after all she’d done for him. Amy had been patient and understanding and had tolerated Bob’s abusive behavior for a long time. And he didn’t appreciate the sacrifices she’d made for their relationship. How dare he?!
With Bob gone, Amy felt very lonely without a romantic relationship and a man in her life.
Shortly after Bob left, Amy met Brian, and they soon became romantically involved. Brian seemed like a nice guy. But, Amy still wasn’t over Bob. She missed him and was incredibly lonely without him, or anyone for that matter, by her side. Unfortunately for Amy, Brian was Bob. Same guy, different name, and face. Amy soon realized that Brian also had a drinking problem. After Bob’s poor treatment and abuse, Amy was afraid to end her relationship with Brian because she just knew it would end badly for her, and it would only increase her loneliness. To Amy, loneliness was far more painful than being in a toxic relationship.
Amy made a common mistake that happens when someone is lonely. She thought her new relationship was the solution to her emotional turmoil when it actually created a new set of problems for her, problems which strangely echoed the ones present in her previous relationship. Amy was so afraid to leave either of her toxic relationships for fear of being alone. Her loneliness kept her trapped in a harmful and potentially dangerous cycle for her.
When you feel overwhelmed by loneliness, you can perceive yourself as socially isolated. You might even want more from your relationships than what you’re getting, or what someone can reasonably give you. While it may be objectively true that you are socially isolated, your subjective feeling of loneliness could be lying to you. You may not be alone, despite feeling lonely.
What are the common causes of loneliness?
Loneliness can affect people who’ve lost loved ones to death or geography, but while these are obvious reasons for loneliness, they aren’t the only ones.
Social media is often to blame when studying the modern phenomena of increased loneliness in adults. However, using social media to encourage and schedule face-to-face meetings and contact will decrease loneliness. But, if social media is used in place of face-to-face contact, it does increase the feeling of isolation for people of all ages.
Adverse life events can also play a significant role in someone’s feeling of loneliness. When people have difficult childhoods, they are more likely to perceive that they are socially isolated. Researchers have found that loneliness was related to how much a person experienced parental conflict, being bullied, or economic problems as a child. Divorce and the death of a significant other are also associated with increased feelings of loneliness.
Sometimes, loneliness contributors are out of your control, but you can still choose to cope with loneliness in a positive way. Rather than rush into an unsatisfying and abusive relationship like Amy, you can address your loneliness with healthy habits. There are many ways you can obtain social support. And actually, it’s much better for you to work on your social situation so you can feel more independent in a romantic relationship. Emphasize working on your platonic friendships first and finding positive, healthy fulfillment there before pursuing a romantic relationship. If you’re currently in a toxic relationship, having healthy friendships can give you the strength and courage to end it, rather than holding onto the poisonous relationship because you fear it is all you have.
What can you do to strengthen platonic relationships?
Being open, and honest with, as well as grateful for your current relationships can strengthen the bond you have with your friends. Also, it’s crucial for you to be selective when choosing platonic, as well as romantic partners. If you’ve had a difficult childhood or have experienced divorce or death of a loved one, talking to a qualified therapist can help you choose good people to let into your life and strengthen the relationships you already have.
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Have you had any experiences with loneliness that caused you pain? What did you do to fix it? Let us know in the comments!