There is a huge emotional gap between being in a relationship and being alone for me. I’m guessing, if you are single you have contemplated lowering your standards for your next relationship (next fling) just so you don’t have to spend another holiday vacation alone. And I understand.
I Don’t Want to Be Alone
I had an important conversation with my therapist a year ago, while I was still single, and while I was recovering from an awful Christmas holiday season.
Me: I don’t want to be alone anymore. I’m frustrated. I’m lonely. And I’m suffering in my own isolation.
Therapist: Maybe you need to learn how to be happy alone.
Me: I’m doing that. I can manage. I can work through my sadness and loneliness. I can go to Al-Anon meetings all day and get hugs. But I’m simply happier when I’m in a romantic relationship.
Therapist: Well, while you are getting your energy back (a euphemism for recovering from a major depression) you can also work on some coping skills and exercises we’ve talked about.
Me: That’s fine, but… I really think I do better in a relationship.
Therapist: But, you also know that a relationship is not going to fix you.
Me: I can’t get my touch needs met any other way.
Therapist: There are other things we can focus on while you’re working on that aspect of your life.
Lack of Touch is a Killer
For many of us who self-identify with the Love Language: Touch, being alone is a major drag. We can do it alone. We can learn to self-soothe our loneliness. We can take steps to reduce isolation. There are a few acceptable alternative activities that can lessen our suffering.
When I’m Feeling Isolated I Can
- Get a therapeutic massage
- Play some team-related sports
- Go to an Al-Anon meeting
- Ask a platonic friend out to dinner or a movie
- Go dancing
- Find an interesting Meetup group
And for me, I can relearn that my isolation and loneliness are temporary. My depressive brain doesn’t think so, but I can reassure myself by repeating several phrases until I internalize and believe them.
- I am loveable just as I am.
- I will be loved again.
- I am capable of being happy while being alone.
- I can keep working on myself and creating the happiest and healthiest version of myself
- I can engage in activities that make me feel included and loved
The Ninja Move When You Are Alone
It’s important to learn that you can be happy and be alone. Once we begin to emerge from our loneliness and depression, we become more attractive partners. And, I’m certain, that when I’m in a depressed state, the kind of relationship I would be attracting would not be healthy or supportive in the long run. What you don’t want to do is get in a relationship BECAUSE you are lonely. While I wanted to be touched, I was clear that casual sex, or dating only to help my loneliness, was not acceptable.
Set your intention around finding your happiness while you are between relationships. The closer you can get to your inner happiness the better you can understand that a relationship ADDS to your happiness, but a relationship cannot make you happy. Your happiness is 100% up to you. What my therapist knew was that I would not really be a in condition to look for a healthy relationship until I was more content with myself.
You have to love yourself just as you are, right now. When you are feeling down and damaged, that is not the time to go in search of a relationship. Sure, there are plenty of people out there dating for sex, dating to meet their own emotional needs, and dating to distract themselves from their own unhappiness. But that’s not the kind of dating that is going to evolve into a healthy long-term relationship.
I Don’t Want to Date
I want an aspirational relationship.
I knew the moment my then-wife asked for a divorce, that I was going to be VERY LONELY. I knew that there was not much I could do about it. I tried to argue with her. I tried to reason with her. But in the end, I knew it was over the minute she confessed to meeting with a divorce attorney. Immediately I had too very deep pangs of sadness.
First, I was so sad for my son and daughter. I knew they were going to miss a huge portion of my life. I knew that my positive and energetic approach to life was going to be limited once the family court system was done with our divorce and parenting schedule. I knew I would be disappearing from the majority of their lives even as I would fight to remain connected to them. The divorce was going to fracture my relationship with them forever. I hoped that my unhappy wife would honor our parenting arrangement by giving me a 50/50 parenting schedule. I soon learned that all the goodwill around the “collaborative divorce” was merely a manipulation to keep me from suing for 50/50 custody and 50/50 shared parenting. I suppose it worked for her. I don’t believe my two children were well-served by this imbalance.
Second, I knew I was going to alone for a large portion of my coming years. Finding a long-term relationship was not going to be easy as a single dad. And finding a HEALTHY long-term relationship was going to take even more time. Even as I imagined (wrongly) that I could jump right into dating, I also knew that I wasn’t interested in casual relationships and casual dating. Sure, we had to start with dating, but my goal was a Relationship. (capital R) As I worked through the coming years, that became my guiding rule: if the relationship did not have the potential for becoming my next long-term relationship, I would move on.
Learning What You Really Want
As I got healthy again and regained my own inner-happiness, I regained my holistic perspective about seeking my next long-term partner. Sure, I’d like to imagine I would (have) found THE ONE, but I’m also more of a pragmatist these days. I know I can do my best in a relationship, and the relationship might still fail for reasons beyond my control. I know my side of any relationship is all I can control. And as I continuously work on my own happiness, my own goals, and aspirations, my hope is that my long-term partner will be on a similar self-fulfilling quest.
What I really want is to find a partner who is able to express love and joy easily. And then, over time, I want to continuously fall in love with her, every day. I want to celebrate our victories. I want to soothe the difficulties. And I want to feel loved, above all else,
I want to express my joy and love to this ONE PERSON. And I hope to have that love affection returned in all the simple acts of living together. A simple touch as we pass by is all I need. My need for love and touch are interwoven. And my belief is that a relationship only thrives if both partners are continually striving to express their love and appreciation in both happy and difficult times.
The rest is navigating life together. Making micro-corrections in our aligning lives. Continuing to express our appreciation and gentle requests for further alignments. As we keep aligning throughout our lives, my hope is, we continue to build our trust and caring, and we continue to heal and release prior hurts and traumas that keep us from expressing our own inner beauty. This is my goal and hope for you as well. Find a partner and start the journey together towards alignment and celebration. Anything else, in my opinion, is a distraction from the deep work of finding and maintaining a loving relationship.
John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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And here are a few more posts about deep relationships:
- Relationship Building Skills & Wisdom: BRAVING & The Four Agreements
- Where Do You Seek Your Soulmate? Online Dating is Failing Us All
- Trying to Push the River: Forcing Your Dating Journey Won’t Work
- Planning For the Future In Your Relationship
- What A Single Dad Wants In the *Next* Relationship
- I’ve Lost My Fire: How to Regain a Passionate Life
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