“Have you thought of joining a group?” A tried and tested question asked of disillusioned singles everywhere. One of my single friends and I jokingly ask it to each other anytime we feel like the only despairing singles in the village. Yet, this clichéd question holds merit, a group provides social connectedness and can support the rapidly changing landscape of friendships in your thirties or forties. Some of my clients associate being single with being lonely yet the two are not mutually exclusive. It can be difficult to make the distinction between being single and loneliness because such dramatic lifestyle changes can occur to impact your friendships from your twenties to your thirties. For example, your long time wingwoman or wingman, the one who supported you through the ups and downs of single life have all but vanished into a brand new world called parenthood where you don’t feature (for a minimum of at least 6 months). This experience can be devastating but you dare not talk about it, for fear of appearing selfish or jealous. Instead, you may believe the source of your loneliness lies in your single status - the more “acceptable” thought. However, this kind of thinking or actions linked with these thoughts can be damaging and perpetuate a faulty thinking loop to keep you stuck repeatedly attracting unhealthy intimate relationships.
It is not surprising to think an intimate relationship can ease your loneliness and pain, particularly when media offers a plethora of supporting evidence to reach these incorrect conclusions. Remember when your mind begins this trickery that loneliness can be experienced in an intimate relationship too. Like every other emotion, loneliness is a part of the human condition and to deny its existence is to deny your humanness. Be your own partner rather than looking to find someone to do that work for you. The foundation of my work as a relationship coach includes creating awareness to illuminate the stories clients tell themselves, help understand how unhelpful thinking patters can keep them stuck and support their desired change. I provide clients with tools to build a relationship with self and prepare them to attract a healthy intimate relationship. Relationship coaching offers a mind set shift to enhance your relationship with self and in turn improve your relationship with others.
Most mental health campaigns seeking to promote positive mental health and wellbeing highlight the importance of “social connectedness”. Research suggests the quality of relationships can impact; happiness, physical health, length of life and imply they can even reduce the number of mental health problems we experience. But it’s not about the number of friends you have, and it’s not about whether you are involved in an intimate relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matter. The reason close, positive relationships are important is they give us a sense of belonging. Loneliness and isolation remain key predictors for poor psychological and physical health but living in conflict or within a toxic unhealthy relationship is more damaging than being alone.
For that reason, do all you can to ensure you build good quality, close, healthy relationships. Be aware of toxic relationships and consider how they are serving you. If you realise you have very few good quality relationships, try to discover creative ways to meet new people and build close healthy relationships with them rather than solely seeking solace in an intimate relationship. And if that includes joining a group, do that. They present a fantastic opportunity for like-minded people to come together, engage in meaningful conversation and most of all have fun.
Remember, if you experience anxiety or depression, developing relationships and socialising in traditional ways can be that bit more challenging and may impact your ability to interact and connect with others. Link in with www.aware.ie or www.socialanxietyireland.com to empower you to develop more confidence in social settings and build healthy relationships.