Dear Neil: Last May I lost my boyfriend of the past four years. Our relationship wasn’t going anywhere, because he just couldn’t give me what I wanted and needed. I tried my best and it failed.
I am writing to you because I am feeling very alone and lonely, and I am hoping you could address the issue of how to deal with loneliness. I’m being OK being alone, but not in feeling alone. I feel alone every time I see a couple together, especially if I see them holding hands or touching.
I hate being in this position. I’m almost 40, and I’m all alone again. This is not where I wanted to be in this stage of my life, and it was not what I was building. I think I stayed in a less than fulfilling relationship because I was trying to avoid being in this position. What can I do?
Needing to Heal in Toronto
Dear Needing to Heal: All endings permit—and even force—new beginnings on us. You giving up your previous relationship allows you now be open to a more reciprocal and healthier relationship in the future.
There are several things you can do in order to feel less lonely, and to heal from this breakup. First, you must make peace with the ending of this relationship you described. What made you choose that person to begin with? What did you gain by being in that relationship? What happened that began souring the intimacy between the two of you? In hindsight, what could you have done differently to address and solve problems that began developing in the relationship before they got out of hand?
What intimacy skills do you need to develop or perfect? How could you have been a better partner, and what could you have done more effectively? How are you more enriched, expanded or wiser because of this relationship and because you went through this experience?
This is the first step in healing from the breakup of your relationship. As soon as you begin making sense of what happened, you will start working through the issues and the emotions generated by your relationship, and as a result, you will feel more energized and hopeful.
Second, you have act in order to not feel lonely and alone. You have to create new friendships. You have to actively—not passively—go after new romantic possibilities, and you have to continuously put yourself in social situations.
Third, what other new beginnings or changes do you want to create in your life? Now—while you are in between relationships—is a great time to get your personal life, the tasks and chores that you’ve put off, career and/or education in order.
Fourth, what are your relationships like with the people in your family? How about your old friendships? Perhaps now is the perfect time to clear up some of those relationships, and to strengthen or deepen the others.
Fifth, make your home environment comfortable. It will make you feel better.
Sixth, continuously invite new people into your life.
Lastly, make peace with yourself. Make every effort to improve your feelings of self-esteem and self-worth. List two dozen ways you can nurture and pamper yourself, and then commit to do several for yourself a week.