My local paper, the Washington Post, just ran a story with the title “Why are young adults the loneliest generation in America?” Besides a recounting of the latest research (all of America came across as lonely) the answer that was offered is that young adults prioritize activities that achieve goals, not meaningful connection. So much to say about this but I will summarize with this: This is the fruit of turning our tweens and teen years into overachieving accomplishments and not finding the time in the schedules to simply play and be with friends. My job in my life is a youth pastor for over 35 years. I’ve seen this not-healthy trend up close.
From a survey by Match.com of over 5,500 singles of all ages, ethnicities, and walks of life:
57% of Millennials say they are lonely.
Another interesting stat: 65% also don’t find dating advice useful. Oh dear. That’s not good for me. I’m going to give you advice–that I believe is useful. (Source.)
I’m sorry that you are lonely. But I also don’t find you diseased. I don’t find you as having something wrong with you. Loneliness is normal. And it sucks too. But you won’t only experience loneliness when you are single. Loneliness also happens when you are married. Loneliness just is. We all get to sit in it for seasons of our lives.
Happy news, huh? Just a reality check.
There are relationships you can grow that will help you through those seasons of loneliness. And they are not always romantic relationships. Though that is the desired relationship we want when we are single and lonely. There is the rush of “fun” emotions in a romantic relationship. There is new companionship in a romantic relationship. There is the learning about the other in a romantic relationship—which means someone cares to hear you. Sometimes in our loneliest moments we just want to be seen, to be heard.
Know this first though: Relationships that resolve loneliness must have certain elements such as safety, unconditional love, and deep commitment.
Three big factors which we will talk about soon. But note the first part. A bad romantic relationship will not resolve your loneliness. Even if you are in the midst of the rush of emotions. Even if you are in the midst of new companionship. Even if you are in the midst of learning about the other, the very one who is hearing you right now.
If you stay in a romantic relationship that does not have safety, unconditional love, and deep commitment you are going to end up lonelier than you were before this relationship. You are going to end up more wrecked too.
Read this now before it is too late. Before you contort yourself so you can be with someone and try to force a relationship to grow.
When you are lonely you are more likely to contort yourself and lie to yourself about this match.
What safety is in a relationship? This is all about boundaries. Yes, I’m addressing boundaries yet again because you need to be brave enough to establish boundaries for all of your relationships in your life. This act of creating boundaries for everyone allows you the freedom to walk in vulnerability.
What unconditional love is in a relationship? At first glance this seems like a big duh. This is why we are trying to grow a relationship. We want so deeply to be unconditionally loved. But if you are contorting yourself and/or lying to yourself about this relationship now, your relationship will never grow to get there. I’m afraid the foundation of how you started will remain the foundation of your relationship story and your marriage, if you marry this one. This fact will not change no matter how much you change to change this fact.
Unconditional love is someone who is on your side. Someone who is for you. For the broken you that you are and for the growing you on this continual road of faith. You are loved in both of your areas of growth.
(I googled “unconditional love quotes” and found so many that reference a love without boundaries. It was scary sick. I came up with my own definition.)
What deep commitment looks like in a relationship? There is deep commitment to you and then there is the even deeper commitment to live a dependent life of faith on God. Dependency does not have a strong connotation. The most-oft connotation of dependence is weakness. But think further on that. Are you brave enough to live a dependent life of faith? Dependent that you know God holds the big picture of your life in his hands so you are making the gutty decisions every day trusting this big picture while trusting that you are wise enough to make the best decisions for every day? Trusting enough to go up the staircase even though you only see the first stair (my favorite definition of faith)? This is not weakness at all. This one is gutty and brave.
There are two types of deep commitment needed here. One is not more important than the other. You need to set the boundaries to have both. And know this, you are worthy to expect the one you are dating to have both.
So that is my useful dating advice. May you be one of the 35% to have found this to be useful. I hope to spare you a lot of heartache, even now when you feel so lonely.
(photo credit: Pixabay.com)