What It Took Me Far Too Long To Realize About Loneliness
Feelings of loneliness, regret or depression are never exclusive to one partner or the other. What is, is how each individual chooses to express or display, or not display, their emotions outwardly.
If you’re in a long-distance relationship, dynamics are shifted and your trust and efforts tested. Here is where the true strength of the relationship lies, and it’s important to foster honesty and communication each step of the way.
If you’re finding it hard to be honest with your feelings, take this as a moment of reflection for the both of you and lay everything out on the table. Changing that mindset from “me to we,” is key in bringing your bond closer, even if you are physically apart.
My first night living without my wife, I used the summer heat as an excuse not to leave the apartment. That one night turned into two, then three, until finally an entire week had passed, and I’d only left my apartment to go to work and then head back, my co-workers and strangers on the street the only people I had had any real contact with. By the next week, I told myself I’d try to fight against the loneliness, but I knew deep down that this wasn’t new behavior for me.
I’ve dealt with depression for most of my life. But it had been a long, long time since I’d been truly isolated, nobody there when I got home or waiting in the next room. As a kid, I got used to being lonely, moving between my parents’ houses during their divorce, trying to figure out a way to fit into yet another school. Later, when I was a teenager, after my mother moved away to another state, I spent the bulk of my high school life sleeping in strangers’ houses, on their floors, in their basements and spare, forgotten rooms. That feeling is always there; it’s just pushed deep into the back of my head. Even now, when I’m in a room filled with friends, I still can sense it, some hint of loneliness that I can’t quite place. I think we all feel similarly from time to time, but my way of dealing with it was to try to ignore it and attempt to act like I was fine.
In fact, I thought I’d forgotten about what it felt like to really be alone until my wife left to pursue her doctorate over three hours away. The distance in miles or minutes wasn’t that much, but it was still enough that we’d only see each other on the weekends and during breaks. She needed to be in one place for her career, and I couldn’t move without giving up my job, which helped to support us both. It would be fine, we agreed. Couples live separately all the time.
Then, that first night after I dropped her off more than 100 miles away from our apartment, I drove home. Our small apartment—a dream home to me after so many moves during childhood—suddenly felt so big and empty. All the books on the shelf and pictures on the wall were mine to take care of while she was away. Our newly framed wedding photos sat on the floor, and instead of putting them up on the wall like I promised, I just stared at them. I sat in the chair by the window. I picked a book off the shelf, telling myself maybe I should read something to help put my mind in a different place. I opened the book, a thing I’ve found solace in countless times before in my life, but nothing. I turned on the TV, but that didn’t help either. The lonely feeling had set in: that damp, dark hopelessness that kept telling me, even if I knew better, that I never really had anyone to count on, that there was something wrong with me or different about me.