Surrounded by people but feel alone
July 10, 2016 10:39 AM   Subscribe

I'm married, mother of one, good job, lots of acquaintances. Why do I feel so lonely?

I'm 37 years old with no friends.

Sure, I have my husband (married 11 years). He has health problems and can't do all the things we used to do, also due to his sleeping schedule we don't spend time together during the week. I spend lots of time with my nine year old daughter, but she's not exactly a confidante. My family is on the other side of the country. I have a bad relationship with my parents. I like my sister but we don't talk much because we're so busy (and the time difference). My husband's family is large and we regularly (2x monthly) have events with them. Also I have two dogs, they'll give cuddles but don't say much.

I go to a very small exercise class 2x weekly, I see the same ladies all the time but we're not friends. I make acquaintances easily with my colleagues and we go out for lunches and drinks. However due to some instability (laid off twice in 2 years) I am always starting over and can't really confide in them. Also, in my industry most of my colleagues are male, so it's not appropriate to get into any deeply personal issues (especially if it's with my marriage). I will attend events and meet-ups, at least twice a month, but have limited time due to family commitments after work. Also I am now traveling a bit for work which is kind of isolating.

So I get out there, I have all these people in my life, I don't really spend that much time alone, but I always feel alone and I don't feel like I really have anybody that understands me or could give me all the support I need.

This is not really a new problem, the only time I have had very close friends was in high school and university. However I fell out with these friends for various reasons and never was able to replace them.

I have tried therapy, it's fine but I feel bad about it that I have to pay someone to listen to me. I have bipolar 2 and I take my medication, also I ride my bike to work daily on top of exercise classes, so it's managed and it's not the problem. If I was depressed I would know, and this isn't it. My last therapist suggests mindfulness meditation (esp metta) and practicing kindness to myself but I find it hard to find the discipline to do this on my own. I am forever on internet sites and silly games to put myself in an environment with the familiar, but I don't know if this makes me feel better or worse. I have bad habits and do comfort eating which doesn't help.

I guess my questions are (1) can anybody relate and (2) how do I dig out of this and find some real friends.
posted by shock muppet to Human Relations (15 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Could you find something you are interested in where you could volunteer with other people. Nothing starts to build some bonds with people like working together on something you all care about.
posted by crocomancer at 11:11 AM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm 20 years older than you, but I can relate. My husband has more than one sleep issue, so when he's randomly sleeping in the daytime, I tiptoe around and the house seems echoingly quiet.

Both knitters and quilters can be welcoming people. Since I moved, I've met most of my friends and friendly acquaintances through a quilting guild. Dog walking is also a way to get at least a few people to say hello.

Group therapy is less expensive than one on one therapy, I think. And support groups in the style of AA can be free. I don't really know whether you have an unmet need to talk about heavy personal topics, or mostly fluffy chatter. For chatter, I like to listen to podcasts, especially Pop Culture Happy Hour. It's an antidote to the evening news, which is like a sad friend that makes you miserable.
posted by puddledork at 11:20 AM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I can definitely relate. I'm 36 and also bipolar 2. I have 1 friend but she lives in another state and I still feel lonely, like I'm not quite getting what I need from the relationship. My therapist has recommended or some other kind of organized meeting and I am really considering it. Mostly to try and connect with people who have a similar hobby or interest. As an introvert it is really difficult to put myself out there and even initiate a conversation. Maybe volunteering or taking a class at the local library. Good luck! I am looking forward to the other responses as well.
posted by puppup at 11:24 AM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can you call up someone you liked from your last job to meet up or say "hey, I miss you guys, when are you getting together after work next" and then stop by that? I'm still friends with a lot of former co-workers and as an adult that's definitely the easiest way to meet people.
posted by fshgrl at 11:39 AM on July 10, 2016

I totally relate! I read the top of your question and thought "me too!" So I'm probably not the best person to answer your question but one thing I'm planning to do to alleviate it is to just start calling people. My crazy aunt, friends I haven't talked to in a while, the sister I barely talk to, etc. It'll be weird but so what? "I haven't talked to you in forever and was thinking of you - what's going on with you?!" is a totally reasonable way to start a conversation, in my opinion. You might get rejected but maybe you won't and even if you do, maybe you'll feel better about yourself for trying. Email also works but it's more likely that you'll get a response to a phone call.

Are you on Facebook? Maybe look at your list of friends, come up with a list of five folks who you'd really like to reconnect with, and just go down the list reaching out to them. When you're done with those five, try five more. Hopefully, eventually, you'll rekindle some relationships and feel less lonely.
posted by kat518 at 12:14 PM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Have you tried throwing parties? Dinner parties, BBQs, holiday parties, whatever, 3 people, 30 people, it doesn't matter. I find often what happens is that once some social lubrication is introduced, you'll end up talking for a longer time to one or two people. You'll find out more about them, they'll find out more about you. They'll come to your next shindig. You'll find things to do one-on-one after so much chit-chat. Ideally, anyway. I've ended up with a number of friends who were simply the people I clicked most with over a series of parties and get-togethers, either ones I hosted or that other people hosted.
posted by kmennie at 1:02 PM on July 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

What about the parents of your daughter's friends? If your daughter is in different activities, are you seeing the other families a lot? Kids sports is one way to bond.
posted by gt2 at 1:03 PM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think this is down partly to being a wife and mother?

You can't talk about your feelings as easily because now your feelings concern the sacrosanct privacy of your daughter, spouse, and the required privacy around your marital relationship.

In this sense, paying someone for certain emotional maintanence services (therapy) makes sense. You are paying for your family's privacy, the ability to speak freely and not have your friends look askance at your spouse at the next BBQ because you said some intimate things about him in the heat of the moment - you get the idea.

Professional therapeutic massage may help some with these feelings as it releases hormones and endorphins. Go back to talk therapy? Honestly, I don't know. I agree with you this is a problem.

Please let me know if you work it out.
posted by jbenben at 1:04 PM on July 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

I like the idea of throwing a party. Or you could even do something regular like Friday Night Meatballs. The nice thing about this is that you can invite all those casual acquaintances and it's a relaxed way to get to know people better.
posted by lunasol at 2:26 PM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

most of my colleagues are male, so it's not appropriate to get into any deeply personal issues (especially if it's with my marriage)

Reconsider this if possible. Gender is not necessarily the most fundamental thing about a person, platonic relationships with the opposite sex are perfectly reasonable and are just as rewarding as any other relationship.

You may still not want to discuss your marriage (although in my experience that's possible to do safely as well), that still leaves a lot on the table you can talk about.
posted by deadwax at 2:39 PM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you are actually doing pretty well at meeting people and forming the casual friendships, the problem is that those relationships are not satisfying your need for a deeper connection with people. Me too.

The best I've found is to pick a few select people and deliberately take the conversation about 20% deeper than is normal for that relationship. It feels a little risky because you are going first in exposing yourself but it is also an invitation to meet you in that deeper place. If they don't match you, back out, maybe try one more time and then let it go and try someone else. I tried this with one group of six that I meet with regularly. Two people seemed interesting in connecting a little deeper. With one person, we've fallen in the habit of hanging back if one of us is hosting and visiting one and one after the meeting. The other one will call me (or I'll call her) and we will get together outside of the group for a meal every 4-8 weeks. Not life changing but important.

The other thing you might consider is a support group of some kind where people are encouraged to share and go deeper. Some groups are more goal focused, that's not what you are looking for. I did a really great one that was professionally run process therapy group for just a weekend that taught me a lot and helped me figure out how to connect better in real life.
posted by metahawk at 5:39 PM on July 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

This is a good question without easy answers. I would start by telling your husband you've been feeling lonely lately. Sometimes, loneliness isn't about quantity but about the extent to which you're understood. If you guys could spend even a little time connecting around whatever is most on your mind lately, it might help you feel more alone-but-not-lonely (or NOT-alone-and-not-lonely).
posted by salvia at 5:40 PM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

When I moved to a new town, after I had been here a while, I started a monthly "ladies night out" group which was really a ladies night in. I invited a bunch of people who I thought might be interesting to get to know over. I explained that I basically wanted to build a group of other wives/mothers/women who were in the same place - I likened it to Lynette in Desperate Housewives sitting on the swing talking about how hard things were and the other wives were like "well, yeah" and she was like "WHY DIDN"T YOU TELL ME". People have come and gone from the group but after about a year we had a solid core of people who became confidants, friends, and staunch supporters of one another.

Some of these women I knew from high school. Some from a prior job. Some I had met once at church or a party or at one of my kid's events. Some people said no thank you. I started it through a facebook group.

You're not alone in feeling lonely - there are others, and if you find them they might be the ones?
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:11 PM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

In addition to everything above, call your sister! Plan and book that time, twice a month, at least. Weekends.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:34 PM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes! Start inviting other women over!

1. Start a cocktail club
2. Start a knit-and-bitch club
3. Have a "Ladies Night" games night

Since moving out of an apartment and into a house, I try to host a monthly party or event. It ensures my house gets massively cleaned once a month, it keeps me in touch with incredible and inspiring women, and I've learned how to make new cocktails! And it scratches my social itch without me having to go out a lot.

I've noticed that although I love my husband and we share everything, there's no substitute for woman-company. Good things happen when women get together. Trust.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:04 AM on July 11, 2016

« Older The benefits of pre-natal vitamins are not over...   |   Adopted a Cat - Afraid I Made a Mistake Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.