February is here and with it comes an overwhelming slew of Valentine’s Day imagery and reminders of who is coupled up and who is not. Even during “normal” times, this time of year can bring up feelings of loneliness for single people — feelings that are only exacerbated by the current social landscape we’re dealing with due to COVID-19.
As Americans near a full year of living in our new pandemic-prompted reality, many are dealing with extended periods of solitude. Single people and those who live alone are likely feeling the emotional weight of this more than those in relationships. Quarantining with a significant other brings its own set of challenges, but if you’re craving companionship and intimacy, the grass probably looks a lot greener on that side of the fence.
If you’re feeling lonelier than usual this Valentine’s season, know that you are not the only one. Many singles are finding this to be an extra challenging time. Though we can’t always control when romantic relationships come in and out of our life, here are some tips to keep loneliness at bay this year.
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Seek to Understand the Coupling Impulse
Even before the pandemic forced us to spend much of our time inside and alone, the phenomenon of wanting a partner more than usual during the cold winter months was well-documented. Sometimes called “finding your winter” or “cuffing season,” it refers to the idea that people are more likely to seek out partnership when there is less to do and when they are dealing with symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
Depending on where you live, this time of year may severely limit your outdoor activities. This reality has a double impact this year when the outdoors might be our only option for safe socializing and recreation. Plus, shorter days and less sunlight can bring on feelings of hopelessness or fatigue.
Knowing this, it makes sense that many single people are increasingly interested in finding a relationship right now. We were already primed to think about coupling up more during the winter months, and this year the pandemic has taken it to the extreme.
So, next time you find yourself wishing for a partner and wallowing over the fact that you don’t have one, take a moment to question where these yearnings are coming from, and recognize the external factors at play. Yes, you might want to be in a relationship, but if you peel back that desire you might find that really what you want is to not be bored, to feel connected to others, to get more sunshine — all things that don’t actually require a partner.
Connect However You Can
We are social creatures and extended isolation can leave us feeling extra lonely and dejected. As humans, we crave connection, companionship, and intimacy. Sometimes we only recognize how essential these things are to our well-being when they are taken away.
Romantic partnership is a special type of connection; it’s normal to desire it and miss it when it’s absent from our lives. The value of other types of relationships, however, should not be overlooked. Connection, in all its forms, adds something beautiful and meaningful to the human experience, which is critical to our flourishing and growth.
While connecting with others might look different these days, make sure you’re putting in the time and energy to make it happen. Strive for high-quality interactions with family and friends. Schedule video or phone calls, and try to be as present for them as you would if you were spending time together in person.
You can also schedule virtual time with your loved ones where you don’t have to talk, and instead can just watch a movie together (using a service like Teleparty) or do a co-working hour. Just because you don’t have a built-in person to do things with in the form of a relationship, doesn’t mean you can’t have a rich social life and enjoy different kinds of companionship.
Time feels warped these days. On the one hand, it feels impossible that it’s about to be March again (that was fast!), and on the other, the days seem to blend together and crawl by (when will this end?).
A year is a long time. So is two years — god forbid we find ourselves living like this for another 12 months. But in the grand scheme of our entire lives, it’s really not that long. Placed in this context, it’s a miniscule amount of time. It’s important to keep this in mind before making a rash decision to try to rid yourself of loneliness, something like getting back with an ex or coupling up with the first person who agrees to go on a date.
The truth is, being single will always be better than staying with the wrong person or settling for someone you don’t like all that much. And, this time can be used for getting to know yourself better and becoming more comfortable with spending time alone. As my therapist told me last spring, this is a time of germination. We might not be able to see our growth just yet, or what it’s leading to, but it is slowly and surely happening under the surface.
Dating and navigating romantic relationships (or lack thereof) is already messy and difficult in the best of times, and trying to do it during a pandemic is a first for all of us. Be gentle with yourself as you move through feelings of loneliness this season — and remember that, single or coupled, you are already whole and deserving of joy, love, and connection.
If you’re struggling with loneliness this year, consider speaking with a licensed online therapist — it can be a good first step toward feeling more satisfied with the connections you have.