Love Couldn’t Save Me From Loneliness By M. Puniewska
Yes, it is possible to be in a relationship – dating or married to a man – yet feel all alone. Some men cannot or will not fulfill a woman’s emotional needs, or, some men prefer watching football to spending time with their wives, which leaves their wives feeling all alone.
This certainly happened to me. I was in a serious relationship with a man, we were engaged for the last few years of the relationship, and he was selfish, self-absorbed, didn’t care to meet my emotional (or other) needs, so I recall sitting in the same room with him yet still feeling as though I was all alone.
I also agree with the view of this author that there is a “loneliness shaming” that goes on in American society; if you admit to being or feeling lonely, you will be shamed for it, as though it’s unacceptable to admit to being lonely.
(Link): Love Couldn’t Save Me From Loneliness By M. Puniewska
[The author explains to a friend of hers over lunch that she has been feeling lonely]
…After listening carefully and making lots of affirming nods, she acknowledged how loneliness could be hard. However, she ultimately settled on something else. “But you have your boyfriend,” she said, matter-of-factly but not maliciously. “That’s something, right?”
Yes, it was something, and it was something that was going really well. But I didn’t feel like this was about him.
This was about those other empty holes in my life, left by friends I had lost touch with or family who didn’t call. I didn’t think he could fill them — and I wouldn’t expect him to.
I felt sheepish for bringing it up, and fidgeted nervously with my food, mopping up the broth from my mussels with a porous slice of sourdough, while her comment lingered in the air between us.
I knew she wasn’t intentionally trying to diminish my feelings — it seemed like an innocent observation — but I felt invalidated and guilty that I wanted more.
I thought her reaction would be the exception, but it turned out to be a lot more common. Some iteration of “but you have your boyfriend” repeated itself as I opened up to others about my loneliness.
The response was sympathetic, but always implying that, well, I had a partner so surely I mustn’t really be lonely?
Or even if I did feel a pang of loneliness, surely he could take it away.
And this wasn’t coming from people who had some 1950s worldview that all women are strictly bound to the homemaker role while the man comes home with the money.
These were people, women, who I considered to be pretty progressive and not the type to live solely for romantic partnerships.
I don’t think their intentions were bad. I just think that culturally, we still have really narrow views about loneliness, starting with what the experience actually is.
In pop culture, lonely characters are usually always depicted in situations where they are by themselves, locked up in a bedroom or looking out a rainy window.
But in reality, emptiness is a little more nuanced. “A person can feel lonely anywhere, with or without people,” says Amy Banks, a neurobiologist and author of Wired to Connect.
“Maybe you aren’t feeling seen, or others are busy and you want to connect, or maybe there is conflict and you feel that a particular relationship is a little tenuous. Loneliness can happen when you have a family, friends, colleagues, or a significant other, but you feel out of sync with those around you.”
Also, who is allowed to feel lonely? We seem to limit the experience to a few contexts, like those who are grieving, serial killers, parents who have recently become empty nesters, and the favorite, single women.
The last one is problematic because it assumes that when partnership happens some sort of “void” has been filled. “We’ve made some progress in terms of gender roles and equality in relationships, but there’s still this idea, especially for women, that your romantic relationship will be your sole source of happiness and meet all your needs,” says Rachel Sussman, a licensed psychotherapist in New York City.
“People think that if you’re in a relationship, once you’ve found your person, that it’s impossible to feel loneliness, both inside and outside the relationship.” We want to believe that a relationship will soak up the emptiness that’s spilling over from other realms in our lives, from friendships that have fizzled out or work that can feel isolating.
The truth is, loneliness is so much more than the absence of a relationship and even with sound connections it’s possible to feel lonely, says Banks.
(Link): Why Lonely People Stay Lonely