I would like to know how you have dealt with or are dealing with this thing called loneliness.
March 28, 2010 6:03 PM   Subscribe

I would like to know how you have dealt with or are dealing with this thing called loneliness.

I'm a male in my mid-30s. I broke up with my ex last year, and we had a very long relationship. I am still getting over this, and don't foresee being in another serious relationship for some time. I have many issues to deal with on my own. For the record, lest someone suggest it: I am presently in therapy.

But I feel very lonely. I'm in a city where I have few friends, and in addition my natural inclination is to spend time alone. This feeling of wanting a romantic partner is strong, and it's difficult to see my friends who are around my age with partners, husbands and wives, and children. However, I have been in serious relationships for most of my adult life. I am now questioning why I have always wanted so badly to be in a serious relationship, and why I feel I need others for sex, for affection, and for companionship. It bothers me that I need and want a relationship; why can't I be happy alone? I also wonder why so many others don't seem to question this (at least, no one has shared it with me), and why it took me so long to come to this point.

Last night, I was reading Krishnamurti--a collection of his statements relating to loneliness and love--and in the sections I read he spoke of how we are constantly seeking escape from our loneliness. He pointed out how even within relationships we are often lonely, and use the relationship itself as an escape for experiencing loneliness fully. And he said that in order to truly understand loneliness, one must stop trying to escape your loneliness, and face it. Then you can address the "real problem." All of this rang very true to me; I think I've often used my relationships to escape, I've continued to be lonely even when within a relationship, and still now my hobbies, drinking, media, and even MetaFilter are all used to help me escape loneliness.

My question has multiple dimensions: do you believe you have addressed or truly faced loneliness? Can you explain at all what you realized after facing it? And, how have you reconciled this with your long-term relationships, if you have continued them?

Thank you!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
"why I feel I need others for sex, for affection, and for companionship"

Sex, affection, and companionship are normal human needs.

"why can't I be happy alone?"

Because humans are social creatures.

I think it would be more constructive for you to focus on finding and nurturing healthy, supportive relationships than to try to figure out a way to become happy being a hermit.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:18 PM on March 28, 2010 [7 favorites]

I heartily agree with Jacqueline. However, I want to address a slightly different angle.

While sex is a tricky one, affection and companionship can be had outside of a romantic relationship, or even a "best friendship." I think there is virtue in learning how to appreciate those things in smaller, less-intense doses. Modern media in particular places great emphasis on finding "the one" but it just doesn't work out that way all the time for anyone.

I've been single for more than five years now. I have a couple of very close friends that I see regularly, but part of the process of getting used to living alone and being happily (and unambitiously) single has been in finding the joy in the casual relationships in my life. Friends I only see a couple times a year, or strangers at the bar who tell me their life stories, or the trainer at the gym whose name I don't know but who always has a smile for me. There's been tremendous value, too, in learning how to embrace the unreciprocated crush. It's about being able to remember that you are connected, and everyone is worth knowing, even when they're not the one for you.

It doesn't work all the time. Sometimes I'm lonely. Sometimes I sit at the computer on a Sunday night and wonder what I should be doing with my life. Sometimes I wish I was a dog with a pack, or a horse with a herd, or even a swan with a mate. But most of the time I take pleasure in the people around me, and concentrate on learning how to be more myself and less what anyone else thinks I should be. Mostly that's resulted in me being a better human being.

(I could still stand to get laid, though. Damn.)
posted by restless_nomad at 6:33 PM on March 28, 2010 [38 favorites]

I think everyone gets lonely sometimes, but the key is to find things that fulfill you regardless of who is in your life. Yes, those things can also turn into a means of escape, but, assuming we are talking about healthy behaviors, they are important and helpful to invest your time and energy in, and will oftentimes overshadow your loneliness.

The other thing that occurs to me is that when we feel lonely, it's the fear of what being seen as alone in the world by others means, but sometimes by doing things by ourselves, we discover that it doesn't really say much at all about who we are. For example, going out to dinner, seeing a movie/concert/play, traveling, even attending a party are things we often do with someone by our side, but knowing you can do those things by yourself and have an awesome time is a way to reinforce that being by yourself can be just as fun and rewarding as sharing things with someone. If you haven't done those things, do them.

Go see a band you love that your friends aren't into by yourself. Take a weekend trip and explore a new town on your own. Walk into an amazing restaurant, dressed to the nines, and ask for a table for one (I often bring a book when I'm by myself, but I am a bookworm to put that into context). You will have a good time, no one else will really care that you are there on your own, and you may find that you enjoy not needing to worry about whether someone with you is having fun or that you score a really incredible seat to a performance because single seats can be hard to fill. This isn't to prove you never need anyone, but that you can enjoy yourself even if you don't have someone beside you.

To directly answer your question, sometimes yes, I feel I have faced loneliness and successfully replaced that feeling with happiness and independence. Possibly important background: I am single right now (but have been in long-term/living together/committed relationships) and I am an only child. That, in combination with other personal circumstances, has taught me that doing things by yourself, for yourself, does not mean you can't enjoy or don't want others in your life, but that when push comes to shove, and no one else is available to lean on, I can turn within and take care of myself and whatever I am facing at the moment. That doesn't mean there aren't times when I feel overwhelmed by loneliness or wish for a partner, but overall I know that faced with being alone in a room, I can have a damn good time, and still be open to and capable of integrating others into my life in a meaningful way.

Hope this helps, even if only in the sense that you are by no means alone when it comes to feelings of loneliness.
posted by katemcd at 6:53 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]

I got divorced in my early 30s and moved to a foreign country where I knew no one. I know exactly how you're feeling. I could have written this myself in 1995:

This feeling of wanting a romantic partner is strong, and it's difficult to see my friends who are around my age with partners, husbands and wives, and children. However, I have been in serious relationships for most of my adult life. I am now questioning why I have always wanted so badly to be in a serious relationship, and why I feel I need others for sex, for affection, and for companionship. It bothers me that I need and want a relationship; why can't I be happy alone?

Because you can't be happy alone - and there's nothing wrong with that. Jacqueline nailed it exactly.

In my case, the feeling didn't go away until I met a romantic partner. Sex without romance was no panacea. Which both surprised and disappointed me.

But sex with romance and WHOOSH - that feeling disappeared overnight - be careful of that. In my case, I had a few false positives.

Good luck to you. I'm light years away from that chapter of my life, but it remains vividly with me and the recollection of those days helps me to appreciate - really appreciate - where I am now and who I am with.
posted by three blind mice at 7:00 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Damn, it takes me forever to write a response. Seconding Jacqueline, restless_nomad, and katemcd, none of whom had posted when I started writing.

I've dealt with periodic bouts of loneliness by learning to be comfortable in public by myself - having a drink at a bar, eating out at a restaurant, going to the movies by myself without feeling bad or wrong (a little initial awkwardness is perfectly natural early on) - and by keeping a journal. Somehow, it's easier to identify the effects of social conditioning when I see my thoughts on a page than when they're just rattling around in my skull.

If you really don't think those are possible for you right now, it would probably be helpful to address that with your therapist, and also discuss why you prefer to spend time alone. It can be totally healthy (I'm an introvert - alone time is essential for my well-being), but it can also stem from and be reinforced by low feelings of self-worth. If both are at play (speaking from experience), it's really helpful to have someone else to assist in identifying where to draw the line between quality time spent alone and problematic time spent alone.

I think people don't tend to talk about loneliness because it's very uncomfortable and yet very mundane. Nearly everyone has experienced it, and everyone deals with it different ways - running from it, being consumed by it, or sitting with it and seeing it through until it passes. It sound like you recognize that you have an opportunity right now to gain personal insight and skills, from trying something you've never been able to convince someone else to do with you, to learning how to reach out people (or be drawn in by them), to figuring out how to just sit quietly with yourself. This isn't to say it'll be easy, or that you'll learn how to never be lonely again, but you will have learned how to get yourself through a period of loneliness and you'll know better what to do the next time you're experiencing it.
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:11 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

My question has multiple dimensions: do you believe you have addressed or truly faced loneliness?

I have, but it is fairly easy for me. I have always been quite happy alone, and on the rare occasion when I do get lonely it is a thirst that is very quickly sated.

Can you explain at all what you realized after facing it?

Many other people seem odd to me, what with the constant need for human companionship. It seems like a tremendous liability to always need someone around. My mother is a big Barbra Streisand fan and whenever I hear the lyric "People who need people / Are the luckiest people in the world " I remember the first time I heard it and thought "No. Not really."

I'm not misanthropic, BTW. I enjoy spending time with people (although as a bonafide introvert it does tire me out).

And, how have you reconciled this with your long-term relationships, if you have continued them?

I was married for a while, but I in part chose my mate because of her similar temperament. Someone who needed me around constantly would have been intolerable.

On a more philosophical level, though, I believe that we are always alone even in relationship. Rainer Maria Rilke brings a nice note of optimism to that fact:

“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.”
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:39 PM on March 28, 2010 [7 favorites]

I can really identify with you. A couple of years ago I worked in a city far from family and friends. Circumstances were difficult. Loneliness was a black hole that threatened to swallow me up.
I had broken up with someone that I had truly loved before the move, and ended up going back. Big mistake. It totally broke my heart to where there is no desire to ever date anyone again. Of course I am 57... big difference in our ages.
You quoted Krishnamurti, so I feel free to share what worked for me...
I am a Christian, but more spiritual than churchy, and the Scriptures say that God is a Spirit and knows us intimately (Psalm 139). It says he is near to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18).
I turned to quiet prayer and meditated on His nearness. As I did, we got closer in a spiritual way. Now I snuggle up to Him and He meets my emotional needs. He's got my back. I am starting to feel secure again.
Hope some of this helps.
posted by srbrunson at 7:45 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Please, please, please read Lonely by Emily White. It has addressed my own loneliness better than anything ever has. Sometimes it's just nice to have what feels like a shameful, isolating, misunderstood psychological state validated.
posted by meerkatty at 8:03 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

It bothers me that I need and want a relationship;
Why does this bother you?

why can't I be happy alone?
Well, what makes you happy to be with other people? And in thinking about your answer to that, do you find anything wrong in your reasons being happy with others? Why are those things wrong?

I also wonder why so many others don't seem to question this
Why do people not question their need and want for a relationship? Because this society makes it imperative that everyone and their dog find one. To not want or have a relationship means something is wrong with you is the message that we're given.

He pointed out how even within relationships we are often lonely, and use the relationship itself as an escape for experiencing loneliness fully.
I wonder if what you need to do is focus on creating intimacy with yourself. I think it’s kind of problematic that people are lonely in relationships; basically that means that no matter what, you’re lonely. So being with someone is no guarantee that your loneliness can be solved. Scary thought, isn’t it? For me, I do really well on my own. I’m able to keep myself entertained, find things to do, and I think I’m able to do this because I’m pretty self-aware, I pay attention to how I’m feeling, what I need, what I want, what I need to do to get what I want, and weigh whether or not I want to go through that to get what I want. :D (Which may result in me rethinking, do I really want that. :D ) For example, this afternoon, I arrived home from ballet class. I paid attention to how my body was feeling (a bit sore, sweaty, but good), felt I needed to change my clothes, so I did, decided to take a shower, so I did. I was thinking about something this morning before ballet, so I continued writing about that. A friend was going to stop by later to quickly use my computer and then go to an audition, so I had to clean up :D and I also killed time by surfing the net. It was fun to have him over, even for a ½ hour, and then he left, and I did more writing, surfed more net, then started cooking my lunch for the week. What I like about cooking is that it gives me something to focus on and at the end, I’ve done something for myself.

So I think I’m able to spend a lot of time by myself because I pay attention to how I’m feeling (physically, energy levels) and whatever emotional problems I’ve had or currently have, I’m able to think through those on my own, after a long-ish period of reading a bunch of good self-help books (cheesy as that might be). I’ve also done therapy to deal with childhood crap (last session was in Feb), I always have things to do (e.g. chores, cooking), ways to distract myself (internet!), and a bunch of interests (ballet being one of them). So that’s my story – hope it has helped somewhat.
posted by foxjacket at 8:27 PM on March 28, 2010

I know exactly the feeling. My last breakup was last summer. I've tried to avoid getting to involved with anyone since to try and be better with myself alone.

My mother years ago, did the best thing. She told me how lonely she sometimes was. She was married, lots of kids, friends, etc. but she still felt lonely. She said no one prepares you for the loneliness you will feel as an adult. I realized that no matter your situation, single or couple, alone or in groups, loneliness can still be there.

This was the most useful lesson to me. I seek out companionship as much as I can. But I also know that companionship doesn't solve it all.
posted by miles1972 at 8:46 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wanting affection, companionship, sex, etc is just a part of being human. Plus, you're used to having all that so the lack thereof is supposed to bother you.
While it would be great/ideal if you tried seeking happiness and fulfillment while on your own, do NOT beat yourself up for wanting the above. It will just create a vicious cycle and further make the sought-out happiness more elusive.
I'm a firm believer that "You'll find the one when you've found happiness within yourself."
posted by Neekee at 8:55 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

And answering your questions: Yes, I have faced being on my own. I've addressed it by making sure my life brought me happiness (through career, education, habits, etc). Once I was truly happy being single and it felt like I did not need anyone in my life to fill in the previously-missing affection, then I met the one. Now my heart is over-flowing with joy. (yes, that sounds cheesy but it's totally true!)
posted by Neekee at 9:00 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have known well two people who spent a lot of time truly alone: one doing backcountry research, another building a house off the grid up a long unmaintained (well, poorly maintained) country road. What struck me is that they both speak of a moment of deciding that they had spent enough time alone, maybe to last them their whole lives, and had ultimately headed to the city in search of company. You could see the dream of company that they had created while out there alone. They both talked about how beautiful things weren't as beautiful alone. Sunsets (said one) and waterfalls (said another) would be so much more beautiful if they had someone to share it with. One spoke about always feeling spooked at sundown; he always carried a knife, and the other guy carried a gun. The desires and fears they described were so primal, and the resolution to live with others felt so steely, that I've vicariously come to accept that people are social creatures.

So, my advice to you: you might enjoy the library, the gym, the coffee shop, volunteering, work, phone calls, Internet penpals, a second job, a new roommate, your next door neighbor, and a revitalized circle of friends.
posted by salvia at 9:03 PM on March 28, 2010 [10 favorites]

On a more philosophical level, though, I believe that we are always alone even in relationship. Rainer Maria Rilke brings a nice note of optimism to that fact:

“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.”

I thought I'd balance Tell Me No Lies' optimism with a dash pessimism courtesy of Aldous Huxley's Doors of Perception:

We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies—all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.

Though slightly depressing, it's satisfying to have this sentiment elucidated, and comforting to know no one is alone in feeling so alone.
posted by sunshineunderground at 9:15 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Throughout my 30s, I dealt with loneliness, whenever it reared its head, by traveling and working. In those pre-cell phone, pre-Internet days, a traveling man had a degree of personal freedom generally unknown to working stiffs today. I was expected by my company to call in twice a day for messages, and to make my business appointments and do my job, but for very much of every working week, from Sunday night to Friday night, I was, more or less, in a capsule of purposed movement and rest, pleasantly interrupted for a few hours each day by customers and business associates, who were generally glad to see me, and appreciative that I'd come to see them. I choose where I had breakfast and dinner, and where I laid my head each night, and whether I'd see a film, or read a book, or watch TV, or make some miles by air or by car, against tomorrow's schedule. Some nights, in spring and summer, I'd just pull the rental car in under some trees in a state park, make a little fire, and be a one night hobo, for the hell of it. Other nights, I found myself in Israel, or Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, or Brazil, navigating without GPS, under strange stars.

46 weeks a year, as much as any man ever was, I was my own man, for more than a decade, and I still miss those days. I don't think you can really get that kind of work situation in these constantly connected, Blackberry obsessed days, and from what business travel I've done in the last decade, the whole experience of moving about to bring products and services to those who need them is a much grimmer life, than it used to be.

That life was interesting, and although I gave up building the successful marriage and family than those who wanted to sleep every night in their own bed, and eat dinner off their own plates made a priority, I was able to pour a lot of energy into my business ventures, and I made some money doing it. Eventually, I did a leveraged buyout of a machinery company with 3 other partners, and I haven't really had to worry much about financial matters since. So, there's that, against the silence I could readily hear, almost anytime I held my breath for a bit, in any of thousands of hotel rooms.

I eat comfortably in restaurants, alone. I drink at bars, without the need to make conversation. I'm not anti-social, and I do enjoy the company of friends and business associates. But I'm good company to my self, mostly, and appreciative of all those arguments I missed, rubbing egos and wants with others, in relationships that began in love, until they ended in the enmity only deep familiarity breeds, in time.

Being alone becomes a habit, eventually. In fact, just about the time that loneliness, for the most part, finally drops away.
posted by paulsc at 9:44 PM on March 28, 2010 [16 favorites]

Coping mechanism suggestion: go try some new things, preferably in a classroom situation. Go learn how to do stand-up or improv. Go join a bowling league. Go take music classes (in a group, not one-on-one.) Take up roller skating at a local rink with an adult night. Just pick random things and go dedicate a bit of time to learning them with like-minded people.

This will (a) get you out of the house and around other people with similar interests (at least similar to your interests during classtime), (b) help you find things you actually enjoy enough to keep doing beyond the alloted bit of time.

Ultimately, your life is yours to live, and you should live it in ways that make you happy. If you want that to be with other people, you're going to have to meet them somewhere -- it might as well be a somewhere that lets you learn and try new things, and find out more about yourself and your interests in the process.
posted by davejay at 10:06 PM on March 28, 2010

I would second that reading the book Lonely: A Memoir by Emily White is really helpful. I bought it just a couple of days ago and it was wonderful seeing so much discussion and research about what can be a taboo subject for people to admit to feeling.

There is also a web community at Ning.com called Web of Loneliness, I find that helpful too and have made a couple of friends there already.

Only advice I would add is not to wait for a partner to arrive to begin living your life. The classic example is single people eating a microwave mac and cheese dinner where if there were two of them they would cook a nice meal. So do treat yourself to little things that help your morale.

best of luck to you
posted by AuroraSky at 11:18 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

i am fresh off a breakup and am going through the same thing. i try to keep my days busy with friends and activities, but there are these fleeting moments of unimaginable loneliness that i cannot avoid. it's when i wake up, when i am making dinner for myself and myself only, and right before bed while i am watching shows. sleep has escaped me, or at least a full night's sleep. i am no longer wanting to be with my ex, but i am just very lonely at times. i do not want to date, i have actually made a rule for myself to not date for a while, but i do miss that strong, emotional connection with someone.

as you mention the "escape" part of loneliness, i realize that i still do this to this day. i hate the sound of silence. at home, in the car, while grocery shopping...any time i am alone...there is always background noise. it is either the tv or my ipod, but i realize that i am avoiding my loneliness. i did realize that because i am avoiding my loneliness, my relationships are always these "projects" and i am learning to avoid them. i know who i should not be with anymore, no more guys who have potential or guys who need a bit of a break of help with their life to get it stabilized.

i second what others have said about taking classes. take cooking classes. learn how to make phenomenal food for yourself, become a foodie and wino. take time to go to the park, pack a picnic basket for yourself and a book and enjoy the nature and the day. i've learned that people watching can be soothing...watching a puppy play fetch, watching kids run around in the playground, etc.
posted by penguingrl at 12:41 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can be lonely in a loving relationship - just seconding the above posters who've made the same observation.

It's such a cliche, but you really have to be your own best friend, as we are all - partnered/single/big family/no family - alone. No one can meet all or even most of our deep needs. We have to be that person.

Journal writing is a good first step. It helps enormously to build a relationship with Self. Therapy is an important step. We humans have multitudes and therapy has really helped me to learn about new and various aspects of myself and to start becoming my own best friend. I used to just go to therapy and then careen off to other tasks/work/people. Now I make the time to sit afterwards at a coffee shop, eat a healthy lunch or to buy a magazine to enjoy. I take time to reward myself for the steps of the journey I am taking towards being the best me I can be.

When you are ready to start dating again, this growing knowledge of yourself can give you assertive, centred and mature bearings for negotiating new people.

Penguingrl's points are great - taking pleasure from watching the small acts of love everywhere around you is a growing past time for me.
posted by honey-barbara at 1:46 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

I almost never feel lonely (and I'm single and live alone and I love it) so I guess I'll tell you what I do cos maybe it's why I don't feel lonely. I love being by myself for the most part. I do fun stuff on my own. Like if I want to do something and no-one else is interested, I don't let that stop me from doing it. I go to concerts on my own, I go to the gym on my own, I try out new activities on my own - dancing, yoga, jiu jitsu, whatever. When I make myself a nice meal I present it nicely and take a photo of it on my phone for posterity. I like looking back at the dinners I've made for myself :) I talk to a lot of different people, so my life isn't based around a small group of friends. I have gym friends, work friends, music friends, school friends, drinking friends etc and online friends too. I often get the urge to share with someone something that's happened, so I tell one of these people.

There was one time in my life where I did feel really lonely and that was when I was living overseas by myself, and had no-one to care for me or to care for, and people kept staring at me because I was white. I remember going for a run in the park one day and wishing I could get up the courage to ask a stranger for a hug, I was so achingly lonely. Finally an Indian man said "good morning" to me and I remember it feeling like such a gift, to be seen and acknowledged, I will never forget that, and try to remember that you never know who is feeling that way. I think it's that lack of intimacy that's the killer, of wanting to have someone look at you and actually see you, notice that there's a person inside there.

So I guess, get as much love and intimacy in your life as you can. You don't need a romantic relationship. Figure out what you enjoy doing and do it. Don't wait for someone to do it with you. Talk to people, share experiences with strangers, do for yourself all the things you wish a partner would do for you - buy yourself flowers, run a bath, tell yourself you look great, cook a fancy dinner, watch the sunset, book yourself in for a massage - you're the only one who's going to be there for you the whole way through your life so you might as well have a good relationship with yourself :)
posted by Chrysalis at 3:59 AM on March 29, 2010 [9 favorites]

If you want to embrace being alone, Party of One: A Loner's Manifesto was quite good.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:28 AM on March 29, 2010

follow-up from the OP
First, let me thank you all for your thoughtful and compassionate responses.

I would like to clarify some things. I believe I was not entirely clear in my original post. I did not mean to suggest I don't believe or understand that it is natural, healthy and good to maintain relationships with others, including romantic relationships. Some of my statements, such as "It bothers me that I need and want a relationship..." need more context: I mean to say, it bothers me that I feel I need these relationships, but yet still I feel lonely even when I am within them. foxjacket stated this most clearly when they said "I think it's kind of problematic that people are lonely in relationships; basically that means that no matter what, you're lonely." I think that the fact that this is how I feel points to some profound ignorance that I have about myself and relationships.

So, this is the problem I am trying to understand and resolve. My goal is not to become comfortable being a hermit (unless that somehow becomes natural and provides me with true happiness), but to understand better why I have this pervasive sense of loneliness within and without my friendships and romantic relationships. However, I also would like to learn to be comfortable and happy alone, as much as possible. Again, I don't want to enforce some artificial separation from humanity--that's not my personality, honestly, and I would view that for myself as a bit self-pitying and foolish--but to face my loneliness, and try to understand it.

Even with my poor explanation, most of you were able to grasp this, and gave me very useful observations and advice. Thank you all very much for sharing your experiences and thoughts!
posted by jessamyn at 8:29 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am going through a similar situation, and the loneliness I feel can be crushing. I've been reading 'The Road Less Traveled', by Scott Peck and have found quite a bit of inspiration in it -- the second section about love and feeling lonely while in a relationship may be helpful for you. The book has been around for years; I found my copy in a thrift shop of all places.
posted by rtodd at 10:57 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

OP: Thanks for the clarifications.

Something you might want to read up on is Existential Psychotherapy. Unfortunately the quintessential book on the topic appears to no longer be in print, but the wiki page should get you started.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:53 AM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]

After reading your follow-up, I can understand what you're going through. There is nothing wrong with desiring the companionship of others, and it can be a wonderful feeling to have that companionship. But nobody, not even a significant other, can be there for us all the time; any number of factors can separate them from us, permanently even, unfortunately. Even when we have that companionship, it can still feel unfulfilling at times. I will recommend two resources dealing with the subject of wanting to feel happy and fulfilled, even in your inevitable periods of aloneness, which have each significantly changed my life:

The first resource is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, and it was this book in particular that helped me quite a bit, but there are undoubtedly other books by Ellis on REBT that would be helpful.

The second resource is Awareness by Anthony de Mello. You can read the book, or better yet, hear de Mello presenting all of the teachings from the book at a live conference, at this web site. You can listen to it through the Youtube videos, or download the series as MP3 files.

Awareness has had, and continues to have, the greatest impact on my life. I don't know what your feelings about religion are, but I will tell you right off the bat that de Mello was a Jesuit priest. I must insist, however, that before you pass judgment on him for that, give him a listen. Trust me when I tell you that he is far more concerned about helping people to live happier and more fulfilling lives than to preach the virtues of any particular religion.
posted by Ryogen at 11:20 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

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