All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong? ~ “Eleanor Rigby” song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
As a psychologist and couples’ coach, I’ve witnessed plenty of lonely people over the years. However, loneliness appears to have become an emotional epidemic in recent years!
Cigna, a major U.S. insurance company, published its landmark U.S. Loneliness Index on June 16, 2019 in the American Journal of Health Promotion. Cigna surveyed over 20,000 U.S. adults age 18 and older with this Index. The survey revealed some astonishing results:
Almost half of the respondents reported sometimes or always feeling alone or left out.
About 25% expressed that they rarely or never feel understood by others.
The loneliest segment of the population was generation Z, those between ages 18-22.
Per usual, I will focus my remarks on couples, citing several key observations and explanations for the loneliness trend.
Many couples have indicated that they feel overwhelmed by long work hours, excessive job stress, and/or feel encumbered by family responsibilities and other activities. They don’t find or take adequate time to connect with their partners and frequently “miss” them.
Most concerning to me is that individuals are out of touch with their own deeper thoughts and feelings. They get so engrossed in various life demands or events (such as above) that they minimize contact with their inner nature, including their very essence. As a result, they too often have little substance to offer their mates during the seldom times that they do try to communicate beyond mundane conversation.
Couples widely complain about what they regard as an excessive amount of media or electronic-device engagement by their partners; often they accuse each other of over-involvement. Decades ago, the main sources of such activities were television viewing and reading magazines or newspapers. Since the turn of the millennium, people around the world are devoting an ever-increasing amount of time and energy to the many uses of iPhones and to online presence, including various social media sites and video games. All of these can perpetuate isolation or create a major distraction from connection with one’s spouse and family.
As folks can be “lonely in a crowd,” they often experience very limited satisfaction or contact with most of their social media “friends” due to a preponderance of superficial postings and less face-to-face connections than in the pre-online era. The same holds for emailing and text messaging.
Here are a few suggested remedies, besides the obvious one of reducing the amount of time and energy spent on the activities mentioned above:
Focus on self-development for personal growth and to enhance what you offer to your mate.
Take daily quiet time to introspect or meditate. Doing so develops presence, centeredness, clarity, and inner peace, all which serve to counter loneliness.
Genuinely and regularly inquire about your partner’s needs, feelings, interests, experiences, and values. Also, initiate expressing each of those to your beloved.
Identify your love languages and make a concerted effort to accommodate each other’s preferences for ways of giving and receiving love.
Enroll in couples counseling or coaching to increase your communication skills and to bolster your intimacy in various areas.
Your Relationship Coach,
Jim Sharon, EdD is a licensed psychologist and couples' coach who has over four decades of professional experience serving thousands as a counselor, as a life and relationship coach, and as a seminar and retreat facilitator. Dr. Sharon has authored two books and many professional publications, most recently, Secrets of a Soulful Marriage: Creating and Sustaining a Loving, Sacred Relationship (with Ruth Sharon, MS), published by SkyLight Paths, 2014. Jim and Ruth have been married since 1970, have raised three adult children, and have three young granddaughters.