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LINK Why Romantic Relationships are not the Cure for Loneliness.

Wow, yes...

Pulling some parts out:

While we think that relationships solve loneliness, the truth is, relationships expose it...

Relationships only reveal the unhappiness and loneliness lurking within us. All the personal problems that we have with ourselves don't vanish when we find love. In fact, they will be magnified. Having said that, if we're looking for a relationship to fix us, that's also likely the wrong approach...

The relationships that we enter, only to stop feeling lonely, soon become the problem rather than the solution. In addition, our love to our partner ceases to be genuine if we're with them only to feel less lonely. In no time, the relationship becomes a destination rather than a journey. And when our partner fails to meet our expectations of making us feel less lonely, we leave and seek another partner to fill our empty voids...

A relationship is the perfect union of two imperfect human beings. No partner ever can fix the other. However, they will (and must) trigger our past traumas, childhood issues, and push our buttons. And we should be willing to work on them together...

The only solution that relationships offer is willingness, the willingness to work on the issues that our partner reveals in us...

Consequently, instead of looking for a relationship to end our loneliness, we should be in a relationship and stay receptive to learning new lessons about ourselves and our partner...

The most important thing we can learn when it comes to love, is that it triggers us to fix ourselves...

bleurowz 8 Apr 23

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We are born alone, live alone and die alone. Get used to it. Your own company is the most reliable and trusted source.


Love is not perfect nor a "union" is giving of our true selves.....negotiated accepted mutual as can be....loneliness is a desire to give intimately truthfully completely and grow out of work we set aside most possible romance for the tasks at hand in economy....MENDING WALL we build good fences safely with neighbors....and when love includes pregnancy and parenting we love our species to prevent loneliness in our futures


Loneliness is largely due to the absence of meaning or the feeling of significance in one's life.


Well-said. Also, we don't know people we have just met. You can hit it off well with someone and then you really get to know them and realize it's not going to work.


I have always said that special relationships, particularly with a S.O., gives you more of whatever you have. If you're insecure, lonely, and anxious, you'll be more so. If you're centered, content and relaxed, you'll be more so. It is not "fair" but it is true. So the old chestnut "become the person you want to be with" is very true.

Sometimes we have a partner who patiently bears with us and helps us become a better person, but since no one can save us, only we can do it -- that still only works if we rise to the occasion and help ourselves with their encouragement. Even then, there's an element of luck involved. It's better for two reasonably healthy, functional people to enter into such relationships, and for others to refrain until they figure themselves out.

With three marriages under my belt I've come to the conclusion that it's also more of a young person's game. I got the last one in under the wire but I'm getting more set in my ways and have fewer illusions and so if I were a free agent at this point it would be very unlikely that I would go down that road yet again. Everyone's different, of course.

@LetzGetReal Don't know what you read into that but it's just a midwestern expression for something one has experience with. I suppose I should be careful using it in this context because some people might conjure up ... other images.

"Special relationships give you more of whatever you have" -- I agree with that. Even less significant relationships are a mirror, I feel, of who we are and where we're at, whether it's romantic, friends, or family. I've learned as much from good ones as well as bad ones. That being said, your line again -- "It's better for two reasonably healthy, functional people to enter into such relationships, and for others to refrain until they figure themselves out" -- makes a whole lot of sense, because if it's a bad relationship, why focus so much time and commitment into something that is going to make you miserable. Especially if one or both of you don't take the opportunity to learn from it.

@bleurowz Agreed. It is not just your SO that this applies to.

I think a lot of our bad relationship decisions are based on FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), especially the variant where we tell ourselves, I'd better not let this one slip away because I probably can't do better, or it's extreme form ("It's a miracle anyone is interested in me at all, this is my one chance" ). Also, once we find out the relationship is toxic, the Fallacy of the Sunk Cost enters in ("I can't leave this 20 year marriage even though he beats me, because then it will all have been a waste" ).

@mordant My sister is a social worker who spent some time working at a women's shelter. From what I've come to learn from her victims of abuse become so traumatized that they become brainwashed to feel it's their fault for being beaten and their responsibility to make it right with their mate, and it makes it so much harder for them to leave their abuser -- the abuser's aim is to put themselves in absolute control, and in this way they succeed.




Great post!

We shouldn’t confuse love with happiness.

Achieving happiness in a relationship takes time and work from both partners.

I'm prepared to help fix whatever it is in his life that needs mending and try my best to make him happy. All I want in return is to be made to feel I have a "home" in his heart and made to feel safe/protected by him.

I will never choose to love or want to be with anyone out of loneliness. I've already learned to be alone long enough to appreciate my own company.

I will always choose someone to want a relationship with because I'm ready to love him and help work on making our relationship a happy one.

By editing all the bad things and putting our best qualities forward, together we can build a strong relationship we both can be proud of.

I am charmed by your turn of phrase "editing all the bad things". It is a way of saying, if I don't misunderstand you, that we have to pay way more attention to each other's good qualities than to that which is less than marvelous. Which is not a bad concept in life generally, since natural selection makes us way more aware of potential threats than of boons.

I believe that successful marriages involve a certain judicious "editing" as you put it. Without this alchemy we will see our partners as a bundle of neuroses and hot buttons and bad habits and never see past them.

I'm also a huge believer in maintaining this perspective when one of those less than wonderful qualities comes to the forefront and bites you. Too many people throw the baby out with the bathwater and sack and pillage their partner instead of keeping some sense of perspective. Nothing has disappointed me more in relationships than when some moment of inattention or selfishness (real or perceived) consumes my partner's entire perspective and causes them to demonize me as if everything I ever did right does not matter when it is most needed to matter.


I'm not lonely at all and the relationship that I am in is with myself. If you're not happy alone, you're never going to be happy with someone else.


There is always the option of NOT being in a relationship. People should not seek to end loneliness by being with another person; they need to seek the end of loneliness by being with themselves--in or out of a relationship. In fact, being lonely is a poor reason to be in a relationship.


I know that being in a relationship with someone who doesn't really care for you is more lonely than being alone.

Definitely. And to want to be in a relationship because it's going to keep you from dealing with loneliness doesn't work. Been there, done that.


I've never had a relationship that "fixed me." But I have had a bunch of trainings, therapies, group work, and "lessons learned" from relationships that didn't work out. As they useta say in Landmark, "I ain't well yet, but I'm a whole lot better." So now, I DO have a relationship, albeit long distance at the moment, that has survived a whole lotta sheeit that life has thrown at us. And we're still in love. Whatever that is.

@MissKathleen It's way too early for "happy." My best course of action--that i, for taking care of myself--is to stay open to new experiences.

@MissKathleen Well, not exactly. Once a really solid degree of trust has been established, I'm perfectly willing to change my profile from Open to Just here for Community. But I have to be a little more self-protective this time around. Seeing an investment of nine years apparently vaporize is disheartening. And that's an understatement. So right now, I have NO commitment. We'll just wait and see.

@Deiter I'm not sure how to answer your question. The relationship "apparently" vaporized, but it didn't. I stayed the course, and she got through whatever she needed to get through, which included some really tough painful work. I "waited," although I didn't really wait. I did some looking. But couldn't find anything that came even close. So here we are...talking.


I absolutely, 100% DISAGREE with this. I think relationships may be the ONLY way to for us to truly heal. Almost every mental health challenge I've ever seen results from lack of love and connection, combined with trauma (often attachment trauma) and that includes so-called addictions. Why do you think therapy heals? It's a relationship.

While it's true that when people enter into relationships unconsciously and merely play out old patterns, it can become toxic and abusive or drive us deeper into loneliness. But the solution to that is not avoiding or delaying relationships and pretending we can learn to become happy on our own in a vacuum. I submit that we literally CANNOT become happy on our own. It's a complete myth to think true happiness on your own is possible. We are social animals, evolved to connect and to stay in connection.

Almost everyone who is trying to sell becoming happy on your own is looking to hack attachment by replacing real attachment figures with imaginary ones like God or your Higher Power or your True Inner Self or whatever stand-in of the moment counts in place of the good-enough parents many of us never had. The only way to internalize love is to experience it from outside first. Period.

Moreover, love is not a mystery. We have cracked the code of love with attachment science. It's actually quite simple to understand, though it is hard to deliver if you've not experienced it.

Anyway, sorry for the rant, I just get deeply irritated when I see charlatans trying to sell snake oil. It's an Atheist thing, I guess. I also don't think I've ever read anything in the Elephant Journal that isn't b.s. spiritualism, imho.

BTW, if you're tempted to cite "codependency", look up the phrase "The Myth of Codependency" for another perspective.

@ejbman You're entitled to your opinion, but did you even READ the article? It's not saying you should stay out of relationships, but to not look for a partner to avoid dealing with our own stuff -- in fact, it says that it's in relationship that we can have that opportunity to work through our stuff. And the piece is just about romantic relationships -- of course, none of us grows up or goes through changes in a vacuum, but this piece is focusing on romantic relationships. I suggest you read it before going on a rant.

@bleurowz I absolutely read the entire article, every word, and I object to almost all of them. Some of them are irresponsible, damaging, and a part of what is so wrong with our entire culture. Our entire culture is taken with the myth of individualism. This is a deep issue, which I can take to a place which is very, very well thought out, grounded in not only logical philosophical investigation but also personal and professional experience.

For instance, do you know the ways in which individualist cultures contributes to the myth of meritocracy? The way that stems from Calvinism, as you can see if you read The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber ( Do you know that in collectivist cultures, although many of their inhabitants have genetic markers for depression, they do not exhibit depression ( Being in interdependent relationships is a protection again depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and on and on. In fact, I think the tendency to get depressed when lonely is a sign of deep strength - it is the sign of a person who cannot tolerate the failure of their society to provide a part of their birthright and reason for being: to connect closely with others, collaborating in ways that are both powerful and satisfying.

Romantic relationships are the closest thing to the collectivist experience we get in our culture. There are certainly downsides to that, as we put a lot of demand upon a single partner. It would be ideal if we had closer family and community ties, as @Deiter suggests. But in the absence of those we seek it in romantic relationships. But why do we do that? Is that because our impulses are wrong? Is that because it is wrong to ameliorate our isolation and loneliness by seeking connection with others? NO!!!! I don't mind saying that it is downright evil to shame the need we have to connect with others. Why? Because when people feel blocked from connecting with others, romantically or otherwise, they get depressed, suicidal, turn to drugs, etc., etc.

I REALLY got steamed up by this passage in particular:

"You see, love is dependent at its core since it involves another person. That said, love is unpredictable. It doesn’t matter how much we know our partner. We might know them so well, but we can never know what emotions they will reveal in us. In addition, we can never know which turn our relationship might take"

Why in the hell should we fear dependency and unpredictability? People are not predictable robots that deliver positive experiences likes a Pez dispenser. You know what IS predictable? Alcohol. Drugs. That's why people turn to them instead of people, and get dependent on them instead. No, when it comes to other persons, we should WELCOME and CELEBRATE dependency. It is our greatest strength, and the one quality which allowed us to become the dominant species on earth. If you doubt this, read Sapiens ( and Homo Deus ( by historian Yuval Noah Harari. He has pointed out the obvious truth that nature is not a contest of survival of the fittest, but survival of the most cooperative. Tigers are more "fit" than we are, but we rule the planet because we can cooperate better. We do that by learning the ins-and-outs, the complicated vagaries, the situations demanding emotional intelligence that connecting with others requires. The fact that it can be difficult and trigger past traumas only shows how screwed up our society is, not how screwed up we are for wanting to experience the power of what we are evolved to embody.

Anyway, I could obviously go on about this at length. Suffice it to say that my passion comes from seeing all the damage that lack of connection causes to people, personally, economically, socially, from a mental health perspective, from a public health perspective, on and on. Here's my overwhelming response to the article:

Do not EVER try to shame people for wanting and needing to connect, romantically or otherwise. It is both our birthright and our greatest strength. It may even be the meaning of life.

@ejbman I don't know where you got individualism out of this article. It seems to me you think that if people don't live collectively or are not in relationship then they are isolated and messed up in some way. Also, how would you explain the myriad number of people who are in relationships and still messed up? The answer is, there is no easy answer. Relationships have their merit, but it's the quality of relationship, not just relationship itself, though I get the feeling you think that's the only solution to all our problems. I can't even have a discussion with someone who only sees things in these extremes, and if you think the article is shaming, then that's your take on it. I have no qualms with the way people want to live. If you see the way you live as working for you, that's fine, but don't make assumptions that there's something wrong with someone who doesn't see things the way you do. Agree with @Deiter, there's no steadfast rule for everyone.

@Deiter Thank you for your voice of calm and reason.

@Deiter Thanks for engaging honestly and sincerely.

I will say that there is probably some more ideal balance between individualistic cultures and collectivist cultures that we haven't found yet. There are certainly problems with collectivist cultures. For instance, it's hard to let your freak flag fly in China and get acceptance from others. There's the old saw about the nail that stands up gets hammered down. Absolutely collectivism can be oppressive. But on the other hand, you have modern isolation in individualistic cultures. People are literally dying from loneliness. Suicide rates from isolation are at very high rates, as are substance abuse problems. Being alone does not make people happier, it makes them sick. Autonomy may be a drug, but it is a poison pill.

You also talk about introverts loving their space. I can understand and affirm that to some degree, but I also have to point out that there is a relationship between introversion, culture, and maybe even attachment trauma. If a culture has more than its fair share of introverts, are they born or made? I would tend toward thinking introversion is a response to attachment trauma - that is, to being forced to learn how to be OK with aloneness and adapting to it (often with wonderful success), but having to do that instead of being able to fulfill your evolutionary birthright as a social animal. I hope this isn't taken as saying that introverts are broken, or that I am trying to shame those who prefer more time alone. But I also think we really need to fix the narrative that our culture perpetrates that aloneness is an ideal to be held up, sought out, and promoted, when it is actually against our natures. How can I say it is against our natures? Because I treat people who suffer from connection problems all the time. Also the research I cited.

As far as Paris and its lights, I submit that you can't really enjoy it unless you do so with at least one other person by your side. When you can't, you may find yourself writing about it, so that at least the experience you had doesn't get lost forever in the echo chamber of your own mind, but might be shared by someone else. Also, I have to scold you a little for a false dichotomy: you don't have be collectivist on a farm. You can be collectivist in Paris. It is, after all, the city of love and romance.

Lastly, there is no such thing as free will: []

As far as arguing with me in the future, why not? Afraid to change your mind? 😉

@bleurowz I got individualism out of the article from lines like:

"The most important thing we can learn when it comes to love, is that it triggers us to fix ourselves."

What does it mean to "fix ourselves"? We literally cannot "fix ourselves". That is a myth.

Also: "...we must learn how to be happy on our own..."

No, we really don't. I don't think we really can. We can contort ourselves into shapes that are happy-like, but I don't think we can be truly fulfilled if we are not in an emotionally close connection with at least one other person. We're just not evolved for aloneness.

Are there people who have had to do so, and done so relatively successfully? Sure. And more power to them if that's the best they can access. But the idea that we should seek that as an ideal is a perversion of who we are as humans. Again, we are not evolved to be alone.

As for the rest, see my response to @Deiter.

@ejbman Fix ourselves, possibly not -- understand ourselves, yes. A matter of semantics, IMO. You want to believe that being in relationship is the only way to be happy, that's you're choice. I'd like to be in a relationship, right now I'm not -- does that mean I should feel "less than" or incomplete in some way? See, I used to think like that, that I had to find someone in order to be whole, because in my mind it did equal being incomplete in some way, so I equated being single with being a failure -- I mean, that mindset alone would have sent me into those self-destructive behaviors you mentioned more than anything. But see, also, just because someone is single doesn't meant that they don't have close friends or family -- that close connection you mention -- and it doesn't mean that they don't want a relationship, but that they want quality, not just anyone because it's "wrong" to be alone... I never said being alone was the ideal, nor does the article.

@ejbman @Deiter Regarding your comments, ejbman, about introversion, it's an inborn trait, due to temperament. That being said, there's a difference between introversion, shyness, and social anxiety/phobia. Healthy introverts are comfortable socially and in close relationships; unhealthy introverts can develop shyness or social anxiety from trauma or from upbringing/early experiences where their caregivers didn't understand their trait. As an introvert myself, I've done a lot of work to understand this. Also, our western society considers introversion a weakness, when it's really not, which only makes it more difficult. I'd suggest reading or watching anything by Susan Cain, she's an expert on the subject.

@Deiter I'm glad to know we probably agree!

Gotcha on the free will point. Sorry if I sounded like I took it too seriously. As for Sapolsky, I love him! I really enjoyed his book Behave (, and I recommend it.

I'm not surprised you tend toward melancholy if it's true that you had to adapt to aloneness from an early age. As I alluded to earlier, I think feelings of depression are often an absolutely adaptive reaction to lack of connection. I also think developing a vibrant imagination is consistent with that experience. Don't take this the wrong way, but I think lonely people in the distant past may be responsible for inventing imaginary friends that they took too seriously, and hence, religion. But that's another thread.

I do believe everyone craves company, even if they deny it. And your point about the elderly is heart-breakingly accurate. They are another casualty of our individualistic culture. More collectivist cultures tend to revere the elderly and keep them as active members of daily life, relying on their wisdom and perspectives, allowing them to rightfully feel purpose and connection. Our fast but unwise culture shunts them to the side. Tragic. We will all be there.

@bleurowz It is never my intent to make you or anyone in your position to feel "less than" or a failure. if you are not in a romantic relationship. Far from it!

I just want to make sure that you are never shamed for your impulse and desire to be in relationship, and that you are not led to feel wrong for your feelings or loneliness, or anything you might do in terms of finding romantic connection in order to ameliorate your feelings of loneliness. There is nothing wrong with seeking connection, and when people say you should fix yourself, get comfortable with loneliness, stop seeking connection, wait until you are perfect before finding love, or fear dependence on others, I bristle. I bristle because all of those things are normal, natural, good, right, and proper, and avoiding them leads to terrible problems.

I absolutely affirm that close emotional connections to family, friends, and community can fulfill us as much or possibly even more than romantic relationships. I would never want to take that away from someone either. I also affirm being selective about finding good connections and appropriate partners. No problem there. I mean, I've seen people use that to enable their avoidance of others and remain stuck in pain and disappointment from past relationships, but that's relatively rare, in my experience.

Mainly, my goal is to affirm that connection is good in itself and that desires for connection are good and healthy. You also don't have to feel like you have to "fix yourself" before you get into a relationship because often it is hard to be healed without a relationship - especially if your problem is loneliness! "Fixing" your feeling of loneliness on your own can sometimes end up meaning a person just becomes cold and hard and selfish, or dependent on unhealthy things, and then cannot even let someone in when the chance arises. That's just sad. And it contributes to our culture of narcissism, I feel. That's where the irresponsibility of articles like that get under my skin.

I hope you don't think I'm accusing anyone in your position of being narcissistic because you are trying to adapt to loneliness and make the best of it and be as happy as you can. I just don't want people to twist themselves into contorted knots inside because they've been shamed for wanting romance when they feel lonely.

@bleurowz Certainly some people are naturally more introverted than others because of their innate temperament, as you say. However, it is often unclear where that ends and attachment trauma begins - as you also suggest, from your personal experience.

Once again, I don't want to shame anyone for making the best with what they've got, whether from nature or "nurture" (or lack thereof). Nevertheless, from a general policy standpoint, in terms of what I would recommend to people in general in an article about relationships, I would not promote getting more comfortable with being alone. That's just not who we are as creatures, in general.

Thanks for the reference to Susan Cain. I will check out her work. There's always more to learn!

@Deiter, @bleurowz I'm really surprised to hear you both express how hostile you feel our culture is towards introverts. That's not my experience. I tend to think our culture is more accepting of introverts than any other culture I've ever seen. For instance, a friend of mine lived in Chile for a while. She was dating a local fellow. She pointed out that it was hard for them to share private moments of affection because if you were not around six or eight people at all times you were considered antisocial. That is not our experience in our culture at all. We are much, much more introvert-friendly - and even introversion-promoting, than most other cultures. Heck, our use of computers and screens alone is making introverts of us all.

@ejbman @Deiter We are an extroverted society where how outgoing and active you are is praised above being quieter and more thoughtful. I know I got picked on a lot when I was younger for not being social enough. ejbman, I'm wondering if what happened with your friend is the effect of western culture making more of an impact. I'm also thinking more about eastern cultures where being quieter is more praised; although that seems to be changing as western society is becoming more a part of the culture there, too. Maybe, also, the stigma is diminishing here because we are also becoming more understanding sooner of the trait.

@ejbman I have never felt shamed either way, whether wanting to be in a relationship or wanting to being alone. I also don't consider myself lonely because I am alone. Loneliness to me is really about lack of connection -- you can even be in a relationship and still be lonely, if the connection isn't there, and sometimes that can even feel lonelier than being alone. I agree, we don't have to be fixed -- but too many people, including myself, have looked to a relationship to solve their problems or to avoid having to take responsibility, which was my impetus for posting this in the first place.

@bleurowz, @Deiter

I've been reading some scientific literature and I think you might be interested in what the author has to say on this subject. She especially cites John Bowlby, the celebrated researcher into attachment:

"Contact with intimate others is the primary way humans have evolved to deal with anxiety and fear. Proximity to an attachment figure tames fear and offers an antidote to feelings of helplessness and meaninglessness."

"...attachment theory depathologizes dependency needs (Bowlby, 1988 ). Bowlby suggests there is no such thing as overdependency or true independence; there is only effective or ineffective dependence (Weinfield, Sroufe, Egeland, & Carlson, 1999). The more effectively dependent a person can be, the more confidently separate and autonomous he or she can be. In general, Western societies have denigrated dependency needs in adults and exalted the image of the separate, self-sufficient individual. Feminist authors remind us that women are often pathologized for their focus on closeness to others (Vatcher & Bogo, 2001)."

from Attachment Processes in Couple and Family Therapy, edited by Susan M. Johnson and Valerie E. Whiffen, Copyright 2003 by The Guilford Press., 72 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012.

@bleurowz I wonder, if in light of what I just posted above, you may be pathologizing yourself and others for having: "looked to a relationship to solve their problems or to avoid having to take responsibility". Perhaps there is a certain sense in which that is exactly what you should do. I mean, what is it you are referring to in this statement when you talk about "having to take responsibility"? For what, exactly, are you supposed to be responsible that you are avoiding responsibility? For feeling lonely?

@ejbman To put it simply, owning my shit. I looked to other people to solve my problems and blamed them when they they couldn't. You want to talk about attached? I was so dependent and attached that I was afraid to show my feelings around other people for fear they would reject me. I molded myself around other people's needs at the expense of my own in order to make them happy. I had to learn how to own what I was feeling so that I could have healthy connections with the people in my life, and it was only after that that I could truly get close to people. No, I didn't learn it in a vacuum, I had a lot of help and support from people who knew what they were doing -- but even with years of that, nothing changed unless I could make the change.

@bleurowz I think I have a little bit better idea of what you went through from that description. I don't want to tread on your experience or seem judgy of it. Quite the opposite. This is why I wonder whether, as in so many examples (I'm thinking of AA here), a person is shamed for having needs and urges that are actually perfectly natural.

Yes, the person may behave in ways that are harmful, because they don't know how to perform "effective dependence" as per the quote. However, it was not the impulse towards dependency that was the problem, only the means by which the person tried to fulfill the need for dependence. In AA the problem dependence is on alcohol, and the person is shamed for being dependent, instead of simply taught how to avoid alcohol and seek dependency in healthier ways (i.e. from others). I mean, when AA works it is because the person develops dependency on the AA community, imho.

Similarly, if people exhibit problematic patterns of getting their dependency needs met from others (i.e., remaining unaware of needs or demanding and blaming), they are shamed for being dependent, instead of taught better means and strategy for getting their dependency needs met from others (i.e., becoming aware of needs and graciously asking for them to be met, providing reciprocity, etc.).

Again, my main objection to the article and its perspective is that it seems to shame dependency, instead of calling out the real problems, and without really offering the proper kinds of solutions.


Good info. ?

It reminds me that loneliness is a universal condition and a relationship isn't going to cure it. Even just looking for someone while in that mindset has been a set-up for disappointment for me.

@bleurowz Your posting came at a very relevant time for me, for which I thank you by the way, because I have been in that mindset for a week or two. Felt like I had lost my mojo and fell back on the 'if only I had someone blah blah blah nonsense...'. As you say it's not a healthy mindset and absolutely sets you up for disappointment. The article reminded me of that ?


Loneliness comes about because we lack purpose, not because we lack a partner. If you don't work, volunteering will do wonders. From the environment, to seniors, animal shelters, and even writing or sending care packages to our troops overseas. You'll get a chance to commune not with a person, but with a group of people like you.

Mike2 Level 2 Apr 23, 2019

Very interesting!


I think they do....until they don't

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