By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.
Just a few days from now comes my annual reminder that I’m still lonely.
Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be necessary. I’ve blogged about being romantic previously, as well as sharing the holidays with the lonely, so there’s a good chance I will be redundant here. Some things, though, are worth repeating.
In an ideal world, nobody should need a holiday to remind them to treat that special person in your life with all of the love, romance and attention that they deserve. But be that as it may, Valentine’s Day is still special for many couples to go above and beyond and have that “perfect day”. What kind of a jerk would I have to be to denigrate this tradition?
It is worth remembering, though, that there are many of us who are without a significant other. Valentine’s day has been a humiliating annual reminder to me that, again, I do not have that special someone with whom to spend the holiday.
You very well may know somebody who struggles with loneliness during Valentine’s Day as well. Please, enjoy it; have that romantic evening, revel in your relationship, enjoy your love. That’s not the point to this post. Love is rare enough as it is, and I hope you enjoy it, but if you have a lonely friend like me, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Please be respectful and avoid overtly obvious displays of affection in front of your single friend. Displays of affection are fine: hugs, kisses, holding hands are great provided it does not degenerate into public wrestling matches, make out sessions and groping. Basically, just observe reasonable public decorum, and save the intimate stuff for when you’re alone.
Don’t try to fix up your friend unless specifically asked to do so. I’m at the age where my friends have stopped asking themselves who might be a good match for me, and have started asking who do I know that is still single. It’s not that your heart isn’t in the right place.
Be okay if your friend does not want to participate in some given activities. I’ve been the “third wheel” far too many times (once is far too many, by the way). It’s uncomfortable for the friends, and uncomfortable for the couple. Parties can be stressful as well. Do ask them; it feels nice to be thought of, but if they don’t make it, be supportive. Please don’t pressure, and don’t make them feel guilty.
Please, no “Peter Pan” advice. I get so tired of being told “you’ll find somebody”, “there’s somebody for everybody”, “when you stop looking, she’ll be there!” It does not help. Period. Again, your heart is in the right place, but there is nothing helpful when hearing things like this.
Do not try to pressure your friend to “talk about it.” Loneliness and depression are deeply personal emotions. On top of that, we don’t always know why we feel this way. Sometimes, we just need to withdraw and deal with it in our own way. Be okay with that. Let your friend know that you are there when they want or need to talk, but let them be when they need to be alone.
Be an ear for your friend if s/he wants to lean on you. Sometimes, your friend does want to talk. Be open and available if they need you, without, of course, letting it cut into your personal time with your significant other. Your friend has needs, and so do you.
Have fun. Enjoy being with the one you love. But please show some decorum when in public. Not everybody is so lucky.