‘I’m alone pretty much all the time. The older I become, the less hopeful I am this will change’

Tell Me About It: Loneliness is a fundamental human emotion and one reason it may be so intense is in order to push us into breaking out of our safety zones and taking the risk of connecting with another person


I am in my late 30s, I am single and I have struggled to make and keep friends. More specifically, I struggle to nurture any meaningful long-lasting relationships with either men or women. As I have aged, I have found my loneliness to have become even more profound. The prospect of filling the void in my life feels like it’s diminishing more and more as the years go by.

I found that while I got to know many people over my years, those people did not really care much about who I was, or really want to get to know me as an individual. I found myself being treated as nothing more than a form of short-term entertainment and once I have served my purpose I would often be forgotten about indefinitely.

I have spoken to counsellors, cognitive behaviour therapists and my GP about this issue in the past and have found their response/advice to be the same: “Join sports clubs and societies.” Having heeded this advice and agreeing with it in principle, I still find myself alone pretty much all the time, even when surrounded by others. The older I am becoming, the less hopeful I am this will change. This is especially the case when family becomes more important than friendships and I feel I would find myself further sidelined for more important things.

Additionally, I see that my struggles with making and nurturing friendships are having a negative impact on trying to meet people of the opposite sex. I’m concerned that I would be too heavily reliant on a partner if I ever ended up in a relationship and I would end up treating them as some sort of emotional crutch, which is likely to be seen as a red flag. This coupled with the challenges of making friends has left me with little to no self-esteem or confidence, and no answers on how to resolve the predicament I am in.

All of this has led me to several different behaviours that are certainly not good coping mechanisms, such as spending money on things I don’t need, in order to fill the void. And also intentionally pretending to not see people I recognise on the street (due to feeling bitter), and bouts of depression where I would not talk to people.

Given all of the above, I am not certain if this is more of a general attitude to life issue or whether there is something more going on that needs to be addressed.


What you want is healthy and good – real friendships and a good non-clingy relationship, so these aims are not to be discarded if your life is to be fulfilling.

However, you do sound bitter and resentful, and this will inevitably have a negative effect on people who might be in your life as acquaintances, and hinders the development and maintenance of friendships. Loneliness is a fundamental human emotion and one reason it may be so intense is in order to push us into breaking out of our safety zones and taking the risk of connecting with another person. To move from acquaintance to friendship requires some vulnerability and usually we do this with some sense that the other person is worth it, ie that we like and trust them enough to let them know something of our true selves.

This means that you have to like that person, admire them somewhat and wish to get to know them better – do you have people in your life that fit into this category?

We do not let just anyone into our inner lives, and this is why we put so much time into social connections, so that we can judge better who might become lifetime companions. There is an aspect of this that is time and energy related – when we are young or in school, we spend huge percentages of our lives in the company of peers, and this often leads to lifetime friendships. What this tells us is that committing to spending good amounts of time with a group of people often leads to friendships, but we can give up before this happens, leading us to believe that we, or they, are not interested.

It is true that if we spend time with others in a club or society, it can lead to social possibilities, but what leads to deeper connections is where there is a common goal so if you are involved in a competition with your group or if you are volunteering for a common good, there should naturally be deeper connections. The advantage of these last options are that there should be no time for critical thinking, which can lead to giving up early or deciding that others don’t value us (unless we are clairvoyant, we really have no idea what others are thinking). Commit to a group or club and stick to it for longer than you think you should – you will be surprised how much you are connected if you give it enough time.

You ask if there could be underlying issues that need tackling and, of course, this is a possibility. The way to give this serious attention is to partake in group analytic psychotherapy (www.igas.ie). This is an effective form of personal therapy that takes place in a group setting. This approach supports the idea that many of our beliefs and actions are outside our conscious awareness and uses the group to promote insight and deepen understanding of the nature of human relating.

You have suffered enough from loneliness to push past any blocks you might have to investigating this option and offer yourself the best chance you have of making your life fulfilling.