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7 Types of Loneliness (and Why It Matters)

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One major challenge within happiness is loneliness.  The more I’ve learned about happiness, the more I’ve come to believe that loneliness is a common and important obstacle to consider.

To be happy, we need intimate bonds; we need to be able to confide, we need to feel like we belong, we need to be able to get and give support. In fact, strong relationships are key — perhaps the key — to a happy life.

Of course, being alone and being lonely aren’t the same. Loneliness feels draining, distracting, and upsetting; desired solitude feels peaceful, creative, restorative.

It seems to me that there are several types of loneliness. Of course, not everyone experiences loneliness in the situations described — for instance, not everyone wants a romantic partner. But for some people, the lack of certain kinds of relationships brings loneliness.

Once we’ve pinpointed the particular kind of loneliness we’re experiencing, it may be easier to spot ways to address it.

Here are some types I’ve identified — what have I overlooked?

7 Types of Loneliness

1. New-situation loneliness

You’ve moved to a new city where you don’t know anyone, or you’ve started a new job, or you’ve started at a school full of unfamiliar faces. You’re lonely.

2. I’m-different loneliness

You’re in a place that’s not unfamiliar, but you feel different from other people in an important way that makes you feel isolated. Maybe your faith is really important to you, and the people around you don’t share that — or vice versa. Maybe everyone loves doing outdoor activities, but you don’t — or vice versa. It feels hard to connect with others about the things you find important. Or maybe you’re just hit with the loneliness that hits all of us sometimes — the loneliness that’s part of the human condition.

3. No-sweetheart loneliness

Even if you have lots of family and friends, you feel lonely because you don’t have the intimate attachment of a romantic partner. Or maybe you have a partner, but you don’t feel a deep connection to that person.

4. No-animal loneliness

Many people have a deep need to connect with animals. If this describes you, you’re sustained by these relationships in a way that human relationships don’t replace. While I love my dog Barnaby, I don’t feel this myself — but many people feel like something important is missing if they don’t have a dog or cat (or less conveniently, a horse) in their lives.

5. No-time-for-me loneliness

Sometimes you’re surrounded by people who seem friendly enough, but they don’t want to make the jump from friendly to friends. Maybe they’re too busy with their own lives, or they have lots of friends already, so while you’d like a deeper connection, they don’t seem interested. Or maybe your existing friends have entered a new phase that means they no longer have time for the things you all used to do — everyone has started working very long hours, or has started  family, so that your social scene has changed.

6. Untrustworthy-friends loneliness

Sometimes, you get in a situation where you begin to doubt whether your friends are truly well-intentioned, kind, and helpful. You’re “friends” with people but don’t quite trust them. An important element of friendship is the ability to confide and trust, so if that’s missing, you may feel lonely, even if you have fun with your friends.

7. Quiet-presence loneliness

Sometimes, you may feel lonely because you miss having someone else’s quiet presence. You may have an active social circle at work, or have plenty of friends and family, but you miss having someone to hang out with at home — whether that would mean living with a roommate, a family member, or a sweetheart. Just someone who’s fixing a cup of coffee in the next room, or reading on the sofa.

If you read this list, and you’re thinking, “Yes, I do feel lonely — so what the heck do I do about it?” you might find this post useful: Lonely? 5 Habits to Consider to Combat Loneliness. Or this: Feeling Lonely? Consider Trying These 7 Strategies. (These posts are different from each other, even though the titles sound similar.)

It’s important to realize why we feel lonely, because only then can we see how we might address it. If you’re no-time-for-me lonely, for instance, maybe a solution would be to work with people on a project, where you’d be doing an endeavor together, on something you’ve all made time for. My mother once noted — and I think it’s very true — it’s easier to make friends when you’re working on a project together.

Loneliness is a major factor in unhappiness, so it’s an important area to tackle, if you’re working on making yourself happier.

Want to learn more? When I researched loneliness, I was very surprised by what I found, which I wrote about here: Some counter-intuitive facts about loneliness.

If you want to read more deeply on the subject of loneliness, I highly recommend two books: John Cacioppo and William Patrick, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, and Emily White, Lonely, a memoir about the author’s own experiences and research into loneliness. Also, in my books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, I write a lot about how to build and strengthen relationships.

One of the keys — maybe the key — to happiness is strong connections to other people. The lack of these bonds, even temporarily, is a major happiness stumbling block.

Have you found any good ways to understand and deal with loneliness?

 

Also …

happinessprojectcoverfullviewAs I mentioned above, I talk a lot about strengthening relationships in my book The Happiness Project. Can’t help mentioning–it was on the New York Times bestseller list for two years, and has been translated into more than 35 languages. You can read sample chapters; watch the one-minute book video; request the one-page discussion guide or spiritual discussion guide; listen to a sample of the audiobook (that’s me, reading from the Introduction). Also, email me if you want to see my happiness-project chart and get a blank template to use yourself.

 

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

DearJames: There’s No Spark

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DearJames

I am over 50 & have been married for over 26 years. We have one child – early 20’s, independent but still at home. I have fallen out of love with my husband. I love him but there is NO spark. I have come to this realization within the last couple of years since becoming an (almost) ’empty nester’. I was too busy to realize this sooner. I have tried talking to him and we have tried counseling; counseling failed due to poor counselor. There is no intimacy between us. I know this is something I can’t live without. I have never cheated on him but I have had some recent temptations. He is (too) agreeable with any thing I suggest but it never accomplishes anything. He ‘listens’ to me and agrees but everything seems to go in one ear and out the other. He is not abusive or addicted to anything (drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.). He can’t possibly be happy with the way things are. I asked him if he was gay and he said no. He has difficulty with physical intimacy due to his being overweight & some medications he takes. He gives little effort to lose weight and get off his meds. I don’t know if I should stay or not.

-NO Spark

Dear NO Spark

Asking someone for directions is easy: understanding them so you arrive at your intended destination requires a whole other set of skills. Continue reading

Ready, Aim, Bullseye: Seven Sentences That Will Go Straight to Her Heart (and why they work)

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I know that when my husband married me, he took on hefty responsibilities—not just for himself anymore—but for me and our future children, including promises to…

  • Please (always),
  • Provide (as much as possible),
  • Protect (when necessary),
  • Problem solve (as called upon), and
  • Procreate (as agreed upon)

But it wasn’t enough.

Because my appetite for attention was insatiable and his execution was never up to feminine standards, my subtle calls for transformation (“hints”) began to sound more like commands. Of course, when that approach didn’t work either, I resorted to ultimatums. It nearly broke us. What I didn’t understand at the time of course was how insecurity—common feminine anxiety—was the actual saboteur. Misdirected and misunderstood, my fear-inspired attempts to connect with my husband actually threatened to disconnect us—permanently.

You’ve probably jousted like that with your own wife and know what it feels like to be knocked off your horse. Chances are her heart remains a moving target, and your efforts to play Cupid continually fall short. As frustrating and demoralizing as that may feel, I’m here to ask you not to give up on her, or yourself. There is a way to aim those well-intentioned arrows with pinpoint accuracy.

In this archery lesson, we’ll identify seven relational values women prize most (beyond the above five “P’s”). Honoring these seven feminine needs or desires, practically universal to women, will work wonders in allaying her fears; minimizing behaviors that hurt you both.

Note the first letter in each value: their alphabetical order will help summon up the right one at the right moment. Champion archers, in the heat of a tournament, have to know their stuff by heart. Continue reading

6 Ways to Handle Wedding Stress

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The “Big Day” is almost here. You aren’t sleeping or maintaining focus at work. If you are irritable and grouchy with everyone, including your fiancé, it’s time to get a grip and get back into control of yourself before the best day of your life turns into the worst day ever. You want to look and feel your best on your wedding day in order to enjoy it. Here are six ideas to make sure you are a beauty and not a beast on that big day. Continue reading

Intent of the Day: All the Love

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Happy Valentines Day!
May you find that you have so much love to give.
May you find that you are showered in all the love you hope to find.
May you find that there is never a shortage on love in your life, only that it is multiplied over and over.

In case you’re needing any help getting the declarations of love going, here is some inspiration from some of our favorite stories to help you: Continue reading

Intent of the Day: Love All Year

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On the eve of Valentines Day, it’s entirely possible that you’re sweating the big day tomorrow. There’s a lot of pressure to prove just how MUCH you love someone one day a year which means you’re having to do a check-in on where you’re at, where you should be at, how you compare to other couples in your same place… oh look at that. More sweat.

We here at Intent.com are of the camp that believes that proving your love isn’t a once-a-year kind of thing. Instead we hope to communicate love and commitment all year. Truthfully, a grand gesture can do wonders, but they will never measure up if they aren’t met with consistently showing up. The little things add up and it doesn’t mean you have to be a well of little things. Perhaps finding your few little things that you do on a regular basis is the difference between needing one all-out extravaganza in early spring.

How to do that? Here are 3 small ways you can consistently say ‘I love you’ all year long: Continue reading

Intent of the Day: Healthy Relationships

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Stuck in a cycle of unhealthy or unfulfilling relationships? You’re not alone. As you seek to express the feelings and ideas in your mind, an important next step will be connecting with people who help you feel heard and empowered. When we feel safe and loved, we are so much more likely to be active and impactful in our intentions. So we’re starting with step one. Our intent is to seek healthy relationships. These are people who are patient and listening, people who are kind and honest, people who are encouraging and also ready to share their hopes and inspiration. Do you know the names of those people? If so, maybe this is a good time to invest in those relationships. If not, maybe this is an important time to find people who are ready to rise to the occasion along side you!

On the hunt? Here are 3 things to help you find and develop healthy relationships:

Continue reading

Exercise Together: 3 Exercise Techniques To Bring You And Your Spouse Together

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Many couples spend hours after work watching TV and not talking. It’s easy to fall into this routine. However, If you are hoping to figure out how to spice things up, then it is necessary to find something that both of you like to do. One of the most beneficial things that a couple can do together is exercise. Exercise will get you both in shape and loving each other’s good looks once more. Often, couples disagree on the exercise format. Which often keeps them from doing their workout together. Here are three exercise techniques that will are fun, healthy and will strengthen your relationship. Continue reading

Intent of the Day: Sharing the Warmth

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What exactly makes you feel at home? And what does home feel like? As tough as it can be going out your door, there’s something special about having a place or being a person that radiates kindness and warmth. Sharing that warmth means interacting with people who don’t have to be afraid or ashamed and we are committed to creating that environment. Our intent today is to share a little warmth.

Need help warming it up? We’ve got 3 things to help: Continue reading

Dream Weaving: Three Ways To Prepare Your Marriage To Change the World

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I stare with awe at the Brooklyn Bridge every time I visit New York because I know that it wouldn’t be there if it Emily and Washington Roebling hadn’t faced down every conceivable challenge during its fourteen-year construction.

Whenever I visit Boston, I wonder at the life of John and Abigail Adams, who of necessity, lived apart more than together during the tumultuous birthing of America.

And when I enter the hospital room of a loved one, I thank God for Pierre and Marie Curie, who worked side by side nearly every waking minute of their entire marriage to produce the miracle of radium.

The fact is, if we dug into the back-story of most of the world’s grand accomplishments, we would undoubtedly be impressed with how many of those accomplishments are the product of grand marriages. Continue reading

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