I Have No Real Friends, Feel Lonely All the Time

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Reader’s Question

I am a 45 year-old man. I’m healthy. I eat well and work out. I’ve always been very happy. I have a great marriage, a nice house, and a really good job. But lately I have been feeling lonely and alone, and I don’t even know why.

I am surrounded by people but still feel all alone, like I’ve turned invisible. I’ve also had incredible feelings like nothing I do really matters or has any meaning. I feel like my life is so mundane. Everyday is the same thing over and over and over. I’ve tried to combat these feelings by doing some new things I’ve never done, like kayaking and hiking. I did enjoy those things, but in some ways it made me feel even worse because I was doing them all alone. I don’t have any “real friends” other than my wife. She doesn’t want to do those things, and she’s always at work anyway. I feel like I spend far too much time at work too, but we have no choice because we need the money. I feel like my “friends” at work are really just work colleagues, acquaintances, not real friends. I think maybe my problem is that I don’t really have any real friends. But I don’t know where I could meet new people and form friendships. I live in the country, and I don’t know many people. I’m also really very afraid that if I try to make new friends my wife will feel threatened, like she is not good enough to make me happy.

I’m so bored and lonely, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling this way. I’ve wondered if it is somewhat common or “normal” to have feelings like this at my age. But these feelings have been becoming almost overwhelming, and I don’t know what to do about it. I need some advice.

Psychologist’s Reply

You state that although you actually interact with several people during the day, you still feel “alone.” Loneliness and feelings of boredom are not uncommon complaints, especially for individuals whose lives have become uneventful and mundane. But feelings of emptiness and isolation can also accompany various levels of depression, and so it would probably be a good idea to visit with someone who can assess whether you’re showing other signs of a mood disturbance.

Experts on the topic of loneliness suggest that there are a few basic variations of this feeling:

  • Social isolation or loneliness, which stems from a lack of a vibrant, invigorating social network;
  • Emotional isolation and loneliness, which stems from the lack of pleasurable intimate social attachments;
  • Spiritual/psychological loneliness, which stems from a lack of a satisfying sense of purpose, personal fulfillment, and meaning in our lives.

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Experts also agree that there are some things a person can do to help combat loneliness:

  • Be active. It’s not just enough, however to engage in activity, especially solitary activity. Rather, become involved in activities that facilitate genuine and meaningful social interaction — such as community groups, clubs, sports or recreational activities, etc.
  • Go where the people are. Make it a point to venture out where the potential for human interaction is high.
  • Work on your social skills. All too often, we become so immersed in the daily grind that we let our skills at fostering relationships become rusty. Sometimes we need to push ourselves to attend intimate gatherings and discussions, and to nurture new relationships. It’s not enough to just be in the midst of others. Rather, we have to work at cultivating true friendships and other meaningful relationships.

With a little work, some patience and persistence, and possibly some help from a professional, life can most likely be exciting again.

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