This month on the site we’re discussing how to live with triggers. The truth is, triggers are everywhere. There is nowhere you can go to be 100% trigger-free. You can avoid certain triggers, yes; but just like with allergens, there are some things that exist in your environment that just can’t be avoided. You may be wondering how triggers connect to relational health. The truth is, there are many things that affect our decisions, and there are many triggers that can cause us to make unwise relational choices. For me, feeling lonely is a trigger.
Here’s the thing about loneliness: although we can do things about it, sometimes we can’t control it. Feeling lonely is something our culture is becoming more and more susceptible to.
There are many things we can blame: too much work or not enough play (we act like machines). Not enough human interaction in day-to-day activities (think robots on business helplines). Replacing in-person connection with social media (“talking” to thousands, but feeling disconnected).
There is also a lot of pressure to be “in a relationship” in some circles–it could be your school, church, family–suddenly you have a problem you didn’t realize was a problem: single-hood. (it’s not a problem, by the way)
And if you’re like me, sometimes you just feel completely alone and you can’t even explain why.
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It’s in times of loneliness that we become desperate.
Suddenly, we are willing to make compromises, willing to skip some steps, willing to take whatever we can get. And we can find ourselves in unhealthy relationships we don’t want to get out of.
Because the truth is, none of us want to be alone.
Loneliness led me from bad to worse when it came to my relational choices. The grand finale being a drawn-out verbally and emotionally abusive one.
Getting out of an unhealthy relationship isn’t easy once you’re in it, and the healing afterwards takes time, too. There are implications to our relational choices, and we need to take them seriously and not be triggered into making bad ones.
Is your loneliness getting in the way of healthy relational choices?
Here are some red flags to look for:
- Do you find yourself compromising what you will or won’t put up with in a relationship?
- Do you make excuses to yourself for why you’re staying with the person you’re with?
- Are you ignoring the advice or input from friends, family, or therapists regarding your relationship?
- Have you ever felt the desire or instinct to leave, but the fear of not having someone made you stay?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then there is a good chance loneliness is contributing negatively to your relational choices.
There is good news, though; you can learn to manage or “live with” your loneliness without it pushing you into unwise and unhealthy relational choices.
Here are a few things you can do:
Simply entering into a relationship doesn’t often resolve feelings of loneliness; but finding community does. Consider joining a group or club, or engaging on deeper levels with friends and acquaintances. Community is all around, you just have to look for it!
By this I don’t mean go out and have lots of sex or find an intimate partner; I mean get intimate with the people already in your life. Often a lack of intimacy within friendships contributes to that feeling of “having lots of friends, but still feeling alone.”
Talk about it:
Talk about your loneliness with a therapist, counsellor, or mentor. Try to dig down to the root of it and find out why you are feeling so alone. Perhaps it’s due to a fear of intimacy or vulnerability in friendships, a lack of community, or a sense of not feeling loved or wanted by others. All of these things can be worked on and improved in time with a little effort.
Get a roommate or a pet:
It may seem funny to combine these two things, but don’t underestimate the impact having someone say goodbye before you head out the door and acknowledge you when you come home.. This can be found in roommate, or, if you are out on your own (and wish to keep it that way), a pet. Note: some pets are a lot of responsibility, so make sure you’re ready. However, even something as simple as having a fish on your desk to talk to can make a huge difference.
I hope by reading this you will not only discover if you are allowing loneliness to trigger you into making unhealthy relational choices; but also that you will feel better equipped to prevent (or stop) this from happening.
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