We don’t seek out companions to feel alone. We don’t give ourselves to someone special to feel ignored. We enter into relationships with hope and expectation- with the deep belief that finally we will experience a sense of belonging and understanding. Even those of us with healthy families and happy childhood memories look forward to the opportunity to share what is most important to us with that one person who will understand and accept us. The person who, even having seen us first thing in the morning with hair in disarray and drool on our faces, will smile and be happy we are waking up together.
But too often we may find ourselves waking up with a feeling of sadness, irritation, or even dread. The thought of having to face him, her, or “those people” leaves the day stretching ahead like a endless desert. We are the sole survivor of what had promised to be such a fantastic adventure. Yet there is hope. Loneliness does not mean that love and and happiness have been lost forever rather that they have been buried under anger and fear. Love and happiness in your relationship can be rediscovered and renewed. Below are five simple strategies to leave loneliness behind and begin a new adventure in love and belonging:
1) Use eye contact to connect: Often when stressed or angry we stop looking at each other as much as to each other. Lack of eye contact can communicate avoidance, anger, or fear. Looking directly at someone else sends a powerful message- I see you, I recognize you, and I want to connect with you.
2) Turn toward and move closer: Our strongest instinct when we feel rejected can be to move away- to use our physical distance as both a punishment and a plea for connection. We somehow hope that by being distant we will force the other person to be closer. Move in closer and, if possible, make respectful physical contact. Touch and physical presence can be a potent method to revive connection.
3) Breathe: It is a natural impulse to slow and even stop breathing when we are tense and vulnerable. Like a frightened child we freeze in place hoping that we can hide from danger by being very small and quiet. Establishing slow, steady breathing can help us to restore calm and relax our bodies. As our body relaxes we become approachable- the rigidity and tension of our bodies having presented a blinking “don’t touch- don’t approach” sign to those around us.
4) Respect my name: We may remember the power of our name from our childhood- those moments when we knew we were in trouble when we heard our full name being called by our parents. Yet in conflictual, isolated couples we forget the power of a name. Speaking your partner’s name in a gentle, respectful tone communicates more than just a call for attention. It can be acknowledgement, a validation that we recognize who our partner and have earned the privilege to speak that name and request time and attention.
5) Balancing I, me, mine: In our moments of deepest loneliness we can build up an immense amount of thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. When we try to reconnect with those we love these internal experiences can well up and drown us. We can overwhelm ourself as well as everyone else around us. Balance the “I, me, mine” with questions and curiosity about your spouse or partner. And when you those internal thoughts and feelings seem unmanageable respect their strength and the potential that they may be more than any one individual can help you with. Seek professional help and expand your network of support.
Breaking free of loneliness does not require leaving our relationships. Rather it challenges us to act differently in the relationships we have- to recover the happiness and love inside of us. For more information visit www.jimwalkerlcsw.com.