Jennifer’s divorce hadn’t been final for more than a month when she called me up asking about matchmaking services. As we talked, I soon understood what was going on—a common story. She finally admitted: “I’m lonely, I want someone to fill the void David left behind.”
When I heard that I knew it was a big RED FLAG. Left to her own devices, Jennifer would rush into a relationship, attracting someone just as lonely and scared… and she’d end up right where she started.
Jennifer was struggling to find herself and be comfortable with this new aloneness. Though her marriage had been painful and unsatisfying, there was someone else in the house. Did she miss David? Not really. She missed a voice down the hall. Two toothbrushes in the bathroom. Another set of car keys on the hook. The trick: to realize that being alone with herself is better than being with “just anybody.”
Boy did she not want to hear what I had to say next, but bless her heart, she listened to me. In a nutshell, I told her: “When you are perfectly happy with your aloneness, then and only then will you be ready to look for a new relationship.”
“How can I enjoy being alone?” she asked. “When I am alone I am so scared all the time. Scared I’ll be alone forever. I need to be reassured that one day I’ll find someone. Why not start now?”
So many people out there can relate to how Jennifer was feeling. It’s a frightening place to be—but that place of solitude is not a sentence, it is a challenge, and then a joy. The challenge is: to truly work through the anxiety until you are whole and secure in your oneness and able to find joy and fulfillment by being alone with yourself. That’s when you’ll be not just ready to find someone. It’s when you’ll be—once again—desirable and appealing as a romantic partner, a real hot ticket. Why? Because you will exude calm, confidence, and self-respect… not fear.
Now when I say “being alone” I don’t mean in solitary confinement. I mean not in a romantic relationship. Your friends and family are great sources of human contact, support… simple company. But the one you rely on? You. The one you go home to every day? You. The one you love unconditionally? You.
We all feel loneliness at times. Even the most securely introverted soul can feel that heartsick ache. When loneliness is temporary, and tempered by periods of equilibrium and calm, it is normal. (As in: when dealing with a break up, after the loss of an attachment figure, or due to a lackluster relationship.) More challenging is a loneliness that is a constant state of being since childhood, something programmed into us at an early age due to inconstant or unreliable caretaking, or even abandonment, by our primary attachment figures.
Think about aloneness and loneliness as states of mind with different contexts. Being lonely is a negative state of mind. It’s all about feeling sad, fearful, insecure, and isolated. Being alone is a positive state of mind in which you feel contentment, calm, and happiness being with yourself. It’s possible to move from one state of mind to another.
The ideal remedy is to shift your feelings from loneliness to delight in your own company. Adjusting to your new aloneness will take time. Be honest with yourself and your friends. Seek their company now and then to anchor yourself, but don’t try to escape from your solitude through TV or endless nights out. Ideally, this is a time to get to know yourself better, evaluate your feelings, have inner conversations, do activities that interest you—even things the old you might not have dreamed possible!
We all interpret our feelings and act upon them differently, so though there are “best case scenarios,” of course your process will be your own. Jennifer, whom you met at the beginning of today’s blog, had her own process too. She eventually came to a new and beautiful place with herself. I’ll tell you more about her happy ending next week when my blog will cover specific ways you can make the shift from lonely to comfortably alone. See you then!