Dealing with Loneliness

This is a repost from my other blog, Keep Him or Dump Him?

On this blog we talk a lot about being the kind of women we know we can be, and not settling for anything less than the best in our relationships.

If you’ve been on that journey for even a short amount of time, you’ve probably come to realize something. It’s a lonely way of life.

It can get lonely when you feel like surely you must be crazy for holding out for the “right” guy. You might have even been called “too picky” and told you need to lower your standards. Nobody’s perfect they tell you. And you know this, but you also know that you are worthy of the deepest love and respect possible in a relationship with a guy. And so you continue to hold on to hope as best you can.

It can get lonely when you see another girl partying and hooking up with few consequences, while you continue to wait. She seems to have so much fun. But you know that even if her body isn’t showing the effects of it, her mind and emotions are taking a beating that she may not be aware of—or that she just isn’t equipped to acknowledge. Somewhere along the way she was tricked into thinking that this is the way it is done, this is who she is, and this is how it is supposed to be. It can be very tempting to want to try her way of doing things. It can also be very tempting to set yourself up on a high horse above her. Instead of judging her or joining her, you decide to love her and be her friend.

It can get lonely when you’re the last one of all your friends to be in a serious relationship. You find yourself surrounded by couples and feel like the third wheel. You may even begin to scrutinize yourself and think there is something wrong with you. You feel like you have to choose between bitterness of soul and just accepting reality. You fight the temptation to just go out and find any guy willing to fill the void in your life. But you realize that when you draw your strength from God, you can think a little more clearly and try to keep your eyes on what’s really important.

It can get lonely when you are being pursued by men that you know are totally wrong for you. You get tired of always saying no. You might begin thinking that you should just go ahead and take what you can get. You might start thinking that God is holding out on you and this is what you have to choose from, so why not just go for it. But you are reminded that God has good, exciting plans for your life and choose to focus on that instead—even if it is a daily battle to do so.

I speak from experience on all of this. “But Ashley, you’re a happily married woman now, and therefore I am going to stop listening to you.” (I remember totally tuning out married women’s opinions at one time in my life, too.) Yes, but I have a very good “emotional memory” and remember very, very well the way it felt to be alone.

I didn’t always handle my loneliness very well. Often I was very immature about it. I’d avoid friends who were in happy, healthy relationships because it just put a spotlight on what I didn’t have. I would totally ignore the advice of happily married women because my jealousy painted them as being totally out of touch with the real world and what it was like to be single. I manipulated guys for their attention and affection to fill the void in my heart, but didn’t understand that this was what I was doing.

Finally I found a decent way to deal with loneliness. I guess that after a while I just got tired of being miserable. I started taking a good look at myself to evaluate who I really was. It was painful and not fun. And—you guessed it—it was still lonely! But I was at least learning to be a little more content with it. I had a lot of alone time with God because I didn’t really have much of anyone else. I ended up reading the Bible a lot, journaling a lot, praying a lot. And after a few months of it, I realized that I was becoming a different person. And I kind of liked her.

I need to point out that just because a woman is married, it doesn’t mean she is never lonely. Loneliness has more to do with your soul than your relationship status. It comes and goes, often staying longer than we’d like. But sometimes a little loneliness is OK. When we are dealing with it in appropriate, healthy ways, it can be a tool that helps chisel us more into reflecting the image of God.

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One thought on “Dealing with Loneliness

  1. One of the painful experiences that I was forced to do was GROW UP emotionally while raising three children as a single parent. I had so many issues I needed to work through in the midst of doing life “alone”, but God had a plan. He always has A Plan. B Plan, C Plan….

    The pangs of feeling lonely can be more powerful than intense hunger pangs. Hungering for affection during my self-imposed moratorium (waiting), I viewed it as placing my sexuality in “cold storage”, worried that I’d never warm up again, much less thaw out! And that things in the intimacy department wouldn’t function quite the same anymore because I was rapidly aging past the “prime”.

    However, I owed it to myself the time to heal. Am I not worth it?

    When you’ve been dumped as many times as I had, the pain of feeling lonely was NOTHING in comparison to the pain following a sexually intimate break-up. It was likened to dying a thousand deaths. Sometimes, the pain was almost as severe even when it was a romantic non-sexual relationship, because the brain keeps a record of emotions with associated triggering events.

    Because of the fleshly craving for physical closeness, it was like withdrawing from a powerful opiate.

    What happened is that with time I found myself healing and life wasn’t so bad being alone. There’s a huge difference between being alone and feeling lonely!

    The worst times usually came at night when I’d cry myself to sleep pleading with God. Didn’t He have anyone out there for me? Was I so deplorable that I didn’t deserve at least somebody — anybody? For quite some time It didn’t even occur to me that I deserved His Absolute Best.

    Finally I realized. I had made the pursuit of THE relationship an Idol. And we know how He feels about idols!

    The more I spent time with Him expressing these feelings, the more I realized He just wanted me all to Himself. That’s when I began to really trust Him for whatever His Absolute Best might be. Even if it meant going through life single. Plus, the closer I got to Him, the better equipped I became at paying attention to His promptings, not to mention better equipped at DQ-ing (disqualifying) the Mr. Wrongs out there.

    But He had to get me all to Himself, first. That was my baby step in the “waiting” — it was a proactive act of my will to be in vibrant, contented relationship with Him alone — and always turn to Him during the worst of the “lonelys”.

    You see, I needed to be His Bride first so that I would truly be ready to be the Bride for the man He’d chosen for me.

    If it’s taking a long time, be Glad! He’s making you into the beautiful Bride He has always planned for you to be!

    But what if, you say? What if I’m destined to never be married?

    I had a conversation with Him about that, too. I said, “Lord, I really don’t think you cut me out to be celibate, but I choose to be abstinent until marriage because the alternatives out there stink. And if I have to remain abstinent the remainder of my life, then I’m counting on YOU to give me what it takes and get me through whatever it is, to accomplish that goal!” I had to SURRENDER.

    God always has something far better in mind for us than we can ever imagine. We grieve when we don’t get what we think we really want. And that’s okay.

    What if He has a great assignment that only you can accomplish for His kingdom as a single person? It was true in my life. I became involved in a ministry called “Christian Heritage Week” that I served as Director and kept it going on a shoestring budget. I even ran for public office (my children suffered neglect during that time, but God will have to even up the score on that one because I was simply being obedient to His calling!) Life was very fulfilling on MY OWN. I didn’t have the dream job making beaucoup bucks, but I counted my blessings in that God still found me uniquely qualified to serve Him in spite of being twice divorced.

    I worked hard on becoming a nicer person, and built a gate in the walls around my soul. I learned that there are safe people to invite in, and still learning to distinguish who are the not-so-safe people to keep out (yes, some are brazenly clear, but I tend to be a slow learner). I spent a lot of time unlearning maladaptive behavior patterns [aka “sin”] and replacing them with healthy habits like a priority time with God in His word. I decided not everybody has to like me — but I need to be comfortable with just me. Alone.

    And the biggest hurdle of all, I tried to focus on the positive things in my life. I was a born pessimist.

    Life was dull at times, but that turned out to be okay too. Life gets too helter skelter at times. Learn to slow down and truly FEEL — allow yourself the luxury of feeling pain and sadness; tears can be healing and you’ll get over it! “Stuffing” just invites all sorts of issues — this too I share [as an armchair psychiatrist]. I advocate occasional pity parties 🙂

    Oh, and the journaling thing? I’ve got a boxful of journals recording all the bad stuff, including anger at God for not responding to my gimmee, gimmee, gimmee desperation.

    How thankful I am that He said ‘No’ to me so many times. His Absolute Best is Always worth the Wait. “A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul”.

    Like

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