10 Reasons Women Are Lonely
1. An increasing number of women are unpaid caregivers.
Over 29 million Americans, 75 percent of whom are women, spend a good portion of their time caring for a loved one, friend, or neighbor. Some are caring for aging parents, others for a grandparent, child, neighbor, or friend, but they almost all have two things in common: feelings of isolation and significant depression.
There are numerous reasons for this, from the increased burden they carry to decreased social and personal time. This is especially true for the nearly 50 percent who work full time. Whereas once they connected with friends after work, perhaps at the gym, or on the weekends, now they spend their afternoon and off days at doctors’ appointments or engaged in other related activities. Though they need more support than ever, they simply don’t have the time for deep and consistent human interaction with those they aren’t caring for.
The solution: If you know a caregiver, take time to reach out.
2. Quantity has replaced quality.
Facebook can feel like a popularity contest, and it’s easy to allow our worth and identity to become tangled with how many friends we have, and likes and comments we receive. We might be tempted to evaluate ourselves and our friendships based on these random and often superficial interactions, interpreting rejection where there is none.
When this happens, a hole begins to form within us that, often, causes us to become more social media-obsessed. We can start to believe that if only we share a cute picture or post an insightful comment, everyone will know how competent and thoughtful we are. But whatever fulfillment or assurance we receive in the moment soon fades and can leave us lonelier than ever because what we truly need is community. We need quality more than quantity—to spend time with those who know us deeply yet love us anyway. We need to connect with those who’ve seen more than our selfie smiles, who’ve sat beside us as we ugly cry or lash out in anger, and choose to stay.
The solution: Invite a friend (or someone you’d like to become a friend) for coffee—and leave your cell phone home.
3. Unresolved past hurts.
I travel the country speaking to women, often on topics relating to loneliness and rejection. More often than not, one’s fear of rejection keeps them in isolation more than the actual rejection they may or may not be experiencing. And this is true for women of all ages and backgrounds. One might assume those who are older have reached a certain level of confidence and therefore ability to form deep connections with decreased defensiveness. Unfortunately, I’ve found the opposite is often true, especially if we haven’t dealt with past hurts effectively.
Every relational break up or struggle, if not surrendered to Christ, can leave lasting scar tissue and cause inner lies to form, like, “Everyone leaves eventually”, “No one can truly be trusted”, or, “They don’t really care about me.” To move past those self-defeating and imprisoning lies, we need to mourn our hurts with Jesus, ask Him to reveal our false perceptions, and to give us the courage to embrace relational risk.
The solution: Learn how to resolve conflicts and push through relational difficulties to develop deeper friendships.
4. Our culture`s emphasis on independence.
Independence sounds great on the surface, but it’s contrary to the interdependent life Christ calls us to. God created us to live in community, and as such, we find our truest, healthiest, and most fulfilled selves in the context of Christ-centered relationship. Scripture says church members are family and part of one body, united by God to feel deeply connected with one another. When a brother grieves, we’re to grieve. When our sister rejoices, we should as well. This necessarily implies a certain level of authenticity and transparency—of revealing our vulnerabilities and admitting that we need one another.
The solution: Share your needs with others, let them help you, ask about their needs, and find ways to help them.
5. We compare our relationships to everyone else`s filtered highlights.
Our Facebook feeds have become flooded with images of girls’ nights out, happy, smiling families, and perfect date nights. However, we don’t see the fights and frustrations between every posed photograph nor all the nights our friends spend alone viewing everyone else’s posts. Sitting in our quiet living rooms with our crabby children and busy spouses, we may think everyone else’s relationships are stronger, healthier, and more fun.
Our typical response? To join the selfie-craze, if only to prove to others—and ourselves—that we’re not as disconnected as we feel. But this only increases our isolation by keeping us strapped to our computers and living superficially. However, when we take the time to connect with others face too face, we discover most of us experience hurts, conflict, and moments of loneliness and isolation. We may even find the friend our hearts long for.
The solution: Foster authentic, face to face relationships and view social media much like you do reality television—based on truth but heavily doctored for entertainment value.
6. People spend less time outside.
Where once cul-de-sacs were filled with laughing children while parents gathered together in driveways and on porch swings, technology has drawn everyone inside. Children, on average, spend at least three hours per day engaged with some sort of media, be it television, Internet surfing, or playing video games. Their parents average over five hours of TV per day. Add on the demands of work and school and one realizes there’s not much time left to step outside and connect with the neighbors.
Some attribute air conditioning, in part, for this trend. In 1965, only ten percent of homes in the United States had central cooling. Therefore, when the temperature rose, people often migrated outside. Now, when the temperature becomes too hot or too cold, comfort drives them indoors, limiting their interaction with others. Over time, this helped create a culture of individualism and isolation. Covered porches still exist, but they are much less populated than before.
The solution: Spend more time outdoors, perhaps sitting in your driveway, and look for opportunities to engage others.
7. Our nation has become politically polarized.
Each election, ugliness and ever-deepening wedges form between those who once called themselves friends. In the past people with different views and ideologies could engage one another with kindness and respect, but now political disagreements often lead to hateful words and severed relationships. Somehow people have gone from, “I disagree with you but respect your opinion,” to, “If you disagree with me, you’re ignorant and hateful.”
Studies say Americans haven’t been this divided since the Civil War. Some news sources are saying we’re “hopelessly divided.” This deep and aggressive fracturing does more than simply draw boundary lines. It creates a “walking on eggshells” effect where everyone is entering discussions with caution and distrust.
The solution: Recognize someone can disagree with you without being evil, hateful, or ignorant.
8. Technology has drastically decreased face-to-face interactions.
When I was young, before youth had cell phones and high-tech video games, we simply hung out. We’d have sleepovers dominated by giggle fests and long, mindless, and unimportant conversations. Other times, we’d simply sit side by side, with nothing to say and really nowhere to go, but we enjoyed a sense of camaraderie in that. There’s a relational depth that occurs through boredom, when you realize friendship is more than having fun or distracting oneself with Youtube videos and Instagram stories.
It’s not that technology and social media are bad, but increasingly, we’ve allowed these tools that were supposed to keep us connected to distance us from one another. When a friend is hurting, whereas once we hopped in the car to stop by for coffee, now we shoot a quick text while watching Netflix movies. And for those who already struggle with social anxiety, cell phones and instant messaging make it all too easy to engage with others while remaining isolated. Has our screen to screen interaction lessoned our sense of relational commitment by luring us toward what is most convenient and comfortable?
The solution: Periodically pop in to see a friend or neighbor and invite them to do the same.
9. People worship busyness.
When our daughter was young, most parents chose one activity for their children, centered schedules on dinnertime, and kept their weekends relatively engagement-free. Parents weren’t afraid to allow their children to experience boredom, and though a few chased little league stardom, most realized their kiddos weren’t likely to become the next Mike Trout or Tom Brady. Nowadays, driven by a growing fear of missing out that is, unfortunately, contagious, parents register their children in one specialty camp or traveling team after another while they themselves work later and often remain tethered to their phones long after their work day ends.
Our increased schedules have led to hectic, fragmented living that hits one of our historically greatest social endeavors—meal times. In the 1960s, people spent, on average, 90 minutes eating dinner. Now they’re done in less than 12. This habitual rushing creates a sense of impatience that hinders deep relationships, limits our time to engage, and our expectations to do so. In other words, we’ve come to expect busyness and piece-meal interactions.
The solution: Prioritize relationships above events and achievements and make sure our schedules reflect this.
10. People are less connected to their local church.
According to Barna Research, though Americans still prioritize religion, they are spending less time in institutionalized church. And of those that do attend, a significant proportion engage in church hopping, with one in six cycling through a handful of chosen churches rather than planting roots in one. The problem with this is Scripture says we’re to form one interconnected body. As we worship and study the Bible together in a committed faith relationship, our lives merge on a deeper level. We’re more apt to share our struggles and to reach out to those who are struggling. I believe this is, in part, how “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6), and how those who aren’t lonely show Christ’s love to the “orphan and widow” and all who feel marginalized and unnoticed.
The solution: Find a church you feel at home in, get involved, and determine to stay.
Our society encourages us to living independently, to reveal our Photoshopped highlights, and to maintain numerous yet shallow relationships. Driven by convenience, we often placate our need for community with quick text messages and Facebook comments and likes. But though those actions might, temporarily, appease our need for community, unless we take time to actively build relationships, America’s growing loneliness epidemic will only continue. But each day, by choosing to step outside, engage, and remain connected, we can defy this trend of disconnectedness.
Originally posted on ibelieve.com