Loneliness, it’s an epidemic. It’s also a feeling I felt really embarrassed to admit. It was early 2015. I returned from a social event where I felt physically clingy to a very close friend of mine. I literally felt like I was hanging off of him. When I got home, to my empty house, I shared a phone call with my friend Michael. He was someone who I had connected with online and to this day have never met. We used to share phone calls quite regularly. We still do, just not nearly as often. That late evening I shared my tale and he responded, “Honey, you are lonely. Welcome to divorce.” Lonely. I couldn’t even admit the feeling. Why did it feel like a four letter word?
Last Friday, sitting in my therapist’s office, going over a common theme in our sessions, I shared how once again I felt my partner not spending enough time with me. My therapist suggested I learn to find my joy outside of my partner. He asked if I was afraid of being alone. He suggested I spend some time at the beach by myself. I responded, “I love alone time! I love going to the beach alone!” While I haven’t done it in some time, I do really enjoy it and should probably make it more of a regular date with myself.
What I have a hard time with is being in our home together and him not reaching out to me to spend time together. After a couple of evenings of feeling like we are only sharing a quick meal together and then each of us sitting in separate rooms, I get super upset about it and I start to question his interest in me. His interest in us. That might seem like a huge leap, but this is the moment (about 2 days) when my abandonment triggers from childhood attachment issues get ugly. My nervous system says, “I’m done.” I love being alone. I don’t love being with others and feeling lonely.
What is that feeling? That feeling that creeps in that first evening and then blows up by the end of the second evening? Brene Brown refers to it as “the lonely feeling”, the feeling of being disconnected.
I’m reading Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown, while I drive. I’ve been embracing audio books this summer. This is my fourth of her books since June. After therapy, as I drove I started the third chapter… on loneliness. Perfect timing!
Brene reminded me that “the lonely feeling” is just our body reminding us that we need connection. It’s no different than when we feel thirsty, it’s our body telling us to drink something. When we feel hungry, it’s our body telling us to eat something. That lonely feeling is our body telling us to connect.
Can you ignore that feeling? Sure. But it’s not healthy.
From Braving the Wilderness: In 1980, 20% of Americans reported feeling lonely. Today it’s more than double that. Living with air pollution increases your odds of dying early by 5%. Living with obesity increases your odds of dying early by 20%. Excessive drinking increases your odds of dying early by 30%. Living with loneliness increases your odds of dying early by 45%!
My plan: do more things that bring me joy and don’t rely on my partner… but also not ignore that feeling. Does the connection need to be filled by my partner? No. But I need to honor that feeling. I can reach out to friends, attend more social events during the week, schedule that cuddle session for myself.
Are you familiar with “the lonely feeling”? Do you ignore it? Have you grown to ignore it? I’d love to hear more. Ultimately, I invite you to try scheduling regular sessions and see how that helps “the lonely feeling”.
Michelle (she/her), based in the Baltimore area, offers human connection coaching ranging from cuddle therapy to surrogate partner therapy (sexual surrogacy). While Michelle is not a sex therapist, she is a sex geek, experienced in kink/BDSM, polyamory and other relationship structures. Your weird isn’t weird to her. In her world, you’re normal.