Single people feel it, sure. But just because you have someone to call your partner, it doesn't mean you can't feel lonely. Your partner might not listen to you when you talk about your interests. They may not get certain parts of your personality, and may be low-key condescending when you express that side of it. Maybe they are just never actually present because they're working too much or always distracted. You get it.
"Almost all people experience loneliness from time to time," Snyder says. "If you happen to be single, sometimes that feeling can result in the thought, If only I weren't single, I wouldn't be lonely." But the truth is you really don't know that, and you don't want to end up in a relationship that doesn't feel right deep down. So just remember that lonely feelings come and go, Snyder says. "When they come on, just observe them — like any other feeling. Don't give feelings of loneliness special privilege."
Romantic relationships are really only one way to have those close connections with people that make you feel happy and fulfilled. You can also feel those things by cultivating strong, meaningful relationships with friends or family, Taitz tells Tameans Health. (She recommends having at least five close relationships.) Remember, loneliness is a state of mind, so if you're spending your time hanging out with close friends, you won't be worrying so much about when you're going to find your next boo.
Look, we know these aren't romantic connections, so they'll feel different. But if all your friends are going out without you and you're always just chillin' at home, that can also stoke feelings of loneliness — especially if you see social media posts where they seem to be having fun. Btw, if you do notice your friends are getting together, don't assume that they didn't invite you on purpose or that they like each other more than they like you. These unhealthy thoughts are called maladaptive social cognitions, says Taitz, and they'll just keep you from creating deep, fulfilling relationships.
"These thoughts contribute to the lonely feeling,” she says, and by targeting them, you can engage in behaviors that will free you from loneliness. One of those behaviors? Take charge. Reach out to these people and coordinate a time when you can get together and do something you all enjoy.
Sometimes these might be one and the same — for example, you might realllly have fun volunteering at a soup kitchen — but they don't always have to be. If you like going to the movies, ice skating, hitting up museums, hiking, etc., then do it! Don't wait for a relationship to get you out there living life. "I hate this idea that being single is like waiting in an airport for your life to take off," Taitz says. "You could do those things by yourself, and that's not settling — that's living your life, and it's actually going to increase the likelihood that you're going to meet that partner."
Participating in activities that are in line with your values can also help you feel better about being single, because they'll give you a sense of purpose, which can be really fulfilling, Taitz says. Just think about how accomplished you feel when you ace a class or get a promotion or leave the gym after an AWESOME workout, and it makes sense. "It should be a mix of pleasure — things that you enjoy or used to enjoy and that are passive and easy to do — and things that involve mastery — things that are difficult but possible," she says. "We need to balance work and play."
With all these activities, try to be fully present in the moment. (Yep, we're talking mindfulness.) "If you're going to see Hamilton, but you're comparing yourself to everyone else who's there with a loved one, you're not going to feel connected to your life, connected to the show, or connected to the moment," says Taitz.
This could mean self-care in the sense of treating yourself, but it also goes deeper. You want to treat yourself with kindness and love, just like you'd treat a partner or your closest friends. So if you always have food in the fridge when your friends come over, then you should also have food in the fridge when you're alone, Taitz says. Don't deprive yourself of the joys in life because you're single — hold yourself to the same standard of care.
Because if you're tired of being single, it can be easy to get carried away with dating. You might try to spend a whole day with someone you think you'll really like, but it's actually not a great idea because it’s your first time going out. Or you schedule three dates in one week (maybe even with three different people). Spending all this time focusing on your dating life can lead to burnout if they end up not working out, Snyder says. "Most people feel miserable going on too many bad dates. It's a good idea to not date too much, and to make it a quick meeting for coffee rather than a major event," he says. "With a shorter, casual meet-and-greet date, there's not as much of an investment of time, money, and emotional energy."
It's fine to take breaks from dating here and there. But if you're nervous about going on more dates because they just rack you with anxiety and never turn out the way you want, then you might never feel ready, Taitz says. "If you're scared about it, you don't need to wait to feel better. Go on a date, be really nice to yourself, and acknowledge how hard it is. Accept that it's OK to be anxious, and you can still go out anyway," she says. "The thing that's going to feed your anxiety is avoidance. You deserve to have the life that you want, and you don't need your emotions to dictate your readiness."
It's no good to be a pessimist, and having that attitude can tarnish the possibility of a date actually turning out well. "Sometimes we make predictions based on the past, and that's really not helpful or accurate," says Taitz. So try to avoid making assumptions like "I went on a bad date, so apps don't work for me." Take it a moment at a time and avoid gross generalizations that affect your ability to connect with people, she says. "To meet the people that we most connect with, we need to experiment and open up, and being pessimistic can get in the way of that."
Don't forget: People in relationships can be lonely, too, so don't settle for someone just because they look good — they could still be an asshole and you know it. It's always better to focus on your values when deciding if a person could eventually be your partner. "It's about what you want your life to be about, and what do you need in a partner — what values really matter to you," Taitz says. So, for example, if you care about kindness and advancing your career, then you should be looking for a partner who cares about those things too, she says. That said, these values should also be a part of your daily life. "It's easy to say that you want someone who communicates well and then struggle to have a courageous conversation with them. So in addition to looking for what we want with other people, I think we really need to look inwards and do our part as well."
It's fairly common for people to think of being single as not being "fully adult," Snyder says, and there are so many reasons for why someone might feel like that. One example: They might feel pressured by family to be set in their career and married (perhaps with kids, too!) by a certain age. And if it's not this belief, then there's also the stigma that people who are single are unhappy. "If I told you that Mary lived in San Francisco, she works in real estate, and she's single, you would make certain assumptions that she's less happy and more lonely than if I just said that Mary lives in San Francisco and she works in real estate," Taitz says.
Always remember, she says, "it's about luck, not because there's something wrong with you." And speaking of luck, both experts say there are more single people today than anytime in recent history, so hey, you're not alone and it looks like there are plenty of potentials out there.