It can often be believed that “If I could only find someone”, “If I were only married,” then I wouldn’t be lonely anymore. I remember believing this myth myself. Cognitively I knew it was not true, but deep down I did believe –or hope- that if I could only find that “other” then loneliness would go away forever.
The truth, however, is that loneliness does not disappear just because you are in a relationship. Loneliness is still very possible in dating and marriage relationships, and actually is often the reason for affairs and divorce.
Do you know that feeling when you are surrounded by a ton of people and yet you still feel completely lonely? I love the lyrics the old band Bush in their song, Glycerine, “I’m never alone, I’m alone all the time”. Do any of you resonate with this? I know have. This feeling of loneliness, though not physically alone, happens in relationships also.
This is because loneliness is not the lack of people around you, it is the lack of feeling known or loved for your true self.
I’ve been asked a lot in the last couple years, “Do you just love being married?!” My answer is always, “I love being married to Chris”. Now that I am married I am so much more aware of how miserable and lonely marriage would be if I was not loved for my true self; if I was not free to be my authentic person, the good and the bad.
Many of us feel loved or known for the false self we portray to others. We hide behind masks- and today there are so many masks to wear: facebook, IM, twitter, instagram, texting … the list goes on and on. There is a fear of exposing the real because often the real is messy. We are afraid that if people know the real us, they won’t like it – perhaps we are even afraid to show ourselves the real self! This allows loneliness’s hold on us to remain that much stronger.
It is hard to be our true self when our true self is a combination of all sorts of good and bad, feelings we love, feelings we don’t love, things we are proud of, things we are embarrassed of. It can feel that in order to fit in, be accepted or be loved we must only present the good.
So what we do, in order to cope with this loneliness, is put on masks that we think are lovable when what we really want is to be loved for who we really are.
But that’s tiring. That’s exhausting. And it sure doesn’t help us feel less lonely. In the end, we are caught in a catch-22. We put on the mask to make people love us, but the mask prevents anyone from being able to see and love who we really are.
And so our task in dealing with our loneliness is not to find another person, but to find our self.
I like to think of each person as a disco ball. Each little mirror on a disco ball represents a different part of us- perhaps a part that is artistic, a part that is gentle, a part that is quick to anger, a part that is insecure, and so on. We discover our true self as we discover what those individual mirrors are. Not what we think they should be, not what others have told us they should be, but what they actually are.
Then, with God and with safe people, we let the disco ball spin and expose the different parts of ourselves to others. Parts that in the past we have perhaps been afraid to show. As we do this, we can begin to love our self and experience being loved by others in authentic and transforming ways.
This is what loosens the strong grip of loneliness.