3 Surprising Reasons People Feel Lonely on Valentine’s Day

Do you have a stereotypical picture of a person who feels lonely on Valentine’s Day?  You might imagine someone who wishes to be in a relationship and is sitting alone feeling sad.

In truth, most of us know how this stereotypical picture feels since we have been there ourselves at some point. Navigating the complicated world of relationships is not easy, so it’s likely that you have spent one or more Valentine’s Days alone, or perhaps for you, this year is this one.

Surprisingly, however, this image of loneliness is often highly inaccurate. A 2010 study by John Cacioppo published in the journal Social Science and Medicine found that feelings of loneliness were unrelated to marital status or the number of relatives and friends nearby.

It’s not only possible but common, to feel lonely when you’re not alone. And to be alone, but to not feel lonely. It’s because loneliness is not a state, it’s a state of mind. Loneliness is not a situation, it’s a feeling.

Yes, indeed, scores of people feel lonely on Valentine’s Day, and many are in relationships or surrounded by people. Many have no idea why they feel alone.

Whether you are actually alone this holiday or not, it is possible for you to change how you feel this Valentine’s Day. Start by understanding where your alone feelings originate.

3 Reasons You Might Feel Lonely on Valentine’s Day

  1. You are afraid to let people know the real you: I have seen this fear in many, many people who are actually quite likable and lovable. I call this fear the Fatal Flaw because it stems from a belief that something is inherently wrong with you. The Fatal Flaw can fester under the surface of your life, preventing you from letting anyone get close. “If they get to know me they won’t like me,” says the voice of your Fatal Flaw. You can be married, or you can be surrounded by people, but it does not help you feel less alone because none of those people truly knows or feels who you are. You have not let them.
  2. Counter-Dependence: Counter-dependence is a fear of needing or depending on someone. You are afraid to seek love because, to you, seeking love makes you feel, or appear weak. Counter-dependence has great power to influence your life. It can make you feel ashamed for wanting a partner. It can make you feel weak for having emotional needs. This leads to self-imposed isolation, of which you may not be aware. Even though you are the one preventing yourself from closeness, you may perceive it the opposite way; that others are keeping you at bay.
  3. You are holding yourself back from true emotional connections: For some people, emotional intimacy feels threatening. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, you hold your emotions separate, fearful of using your feelings as they were intended: to connect you with people. So when you have an emotional connection, you feel vulnerable, and when you don’t have it, you feel safe. But along with “safe” comes “lonely.” True love requires a true emotional connection. Emotional connection requires vulnerability. You cannot have one without the other.

3 Ways to Stop Feeling Lonely

Did you notice the one common element that unites these three factors that lead to loneliness? It’s fear. Fear of being known, fear of having needs, and fear of being vulnerable.

These fears are powerful and can do great damage to your quality of life. If you want to stop feeling lonely, you must battle your fear. The good news is, you can!

  1. Let someone in. You’ve been living your life closed off, because of your fear. Choose one person, and take a risk. Start trying to let someone know what you want, what you need, and most importantly what you feel. This may seem like a risk to you, but in reality, there is very little risk involved. Choose a trustworthy person and make a conscious effort to open up to her or him. You will be pleasantly surprised.
  2. Accept that there is no shame in needing someone. Wanting a relationship is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. Needing to feel close, wanting to rely on someone is a normal, healthy sign of your humanity. Being able to develop a relationship is a sign of confidence in yourself, not weakness.
  3. Make emotional connection your goal. Adjust your view of emotional connection from negative to positive. This is the ultimate way to face your fears. Next time you have a conflict with someone, make an effort to talk about it with that individual. Start paying attention to what other people are feeling, and see if you can respond to their feelings. Becoming more aware of emotions in yourself and others is an excellent way to move toward emotional connection.

The Takeaway

Once you realize why you feel lonely, an opportunity automatically presents itself. You realize that fixing your loneliness has nothing to do with anyone else, and everything to do with you.

Whether you find yourself on your own, a part of a couple, or surrounded by friends this Valentine’s Day, you can face your fears and see that there is no need to feel lonely.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is invisible and is often the root cause of these kinds of fears. To learn more about it, see the book, Running on Empty. To learn how CEN prevents deep emotional connections in adulthood see Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships.

Since CEN is so subtle and invisible, it can be hard to know if you have it. Take the Childhood Emotional Neglect Test. It’s free.

Jonice

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Sazia - February 18, 2021 Reply

I got into a relationship that was truthful for the first time. I had a great time with my partener because he (imma girl) was like me I mean he had almost the same views as me. We did differ and he did respect those. But some time later my parents, in fact, found out that I’m in a relationship and made me promise by the Quran ( our Holy Book), not break relations with him as a lover. My partner did understand what happened but I noticed soon after we started running into conflicts and I sometimes feel he is kind of like my parents, maybe a low grade form of. What do I do now??? Like do I move on ? Do I attach? Why do I feel so guilty moving on ? We still talk but not as lovers. So, do I not talk ? He’s the only one I poured out my heart to. He isn’t of the type that he’s gonna use my info against me but still I’m hell confused about this relationship. Please help.

Dee - February 15, 2021 Reply

I have had to break all connections with people who were closet to me, repeating the same painful relationship dynamics with me being there for them, in between accepting comments that were degrading, then supposed to act like nothing happened, if I spoke up I was ignored, hung up on, treated like garbage in return. When I desperately needed them I got nothing. I saw I was relating in ways that weren’t healthy, ways I learned in childhood growing up with narcissist codependent parents. I was the invisible child at times the scapegoat with 3 other siblings. Father took every opportunity to tell me I wouldn’t mount to anything and compared me to my older sister, praising she while putting me down. I was the sensitive one too.
I knew deep inside the few people I was hanging onto were not good for me, having narc traits, all about themselves when they spoke, etc., but it was all I had. Finally had enough and slowly let them go. Now I have no one. I don’t think I ever had a person outside of myself there for me emotionally or that treated me with the value and respect I deserve. They don’t own up to things they do even when I speak up about it. I’m now 50, it’s very hard to heel and grow with no support and this has always been a challenge, and why I would stumble and fall down, many times throughout my life, all the way down into a depression before I could pick myself up to the minimal to keep going in life. I don’t think I’ve gotten far at all in overcoming my issues which is why I haven’t gotten far in life as well. I don’t know how I’m still alive and often times wish I wasn’t here, especially with what’s currently going on in the world, restrictions on living and interacting.
I don’t know why I just don’t meet healthier people

    Jonice - February 15, 2021 Reply

    Dear Dee, we do, unfortunately, tend to attract people who represent to our unconscious minds our experiences with our own parents. I encourage you to spend some time focusing on yourself and your feelings as the beginning of the path to changing the kind of people who end up in your life.

Maria - February 15, 2021 Reply

Thank you dr. Jonice Webb you are transforming life I am more aware and I pay more attention be focused on my feelings, needs , and wants. Fears being alone the roots are coming from childhood. I appreciate your expertise and excellent articles.

    Jonice - February 15, 2021 Reply

    I’m so glad to be helpful, Maria. Keep up the good work!

Charlotte H - February 15, 2021 Reply

Really thought provoking article. I really enjoyed Valentine’s Day this year as I made it about having a nice time with my young nieces and family. I found that I enjoyed it so much more than Christmas which I found really hard. I think I feel more lonely at Christmas because the expectations are so high for it to be magical and wonderfully full of love and warmth which it never feels for me. There was no expectation for Valentine’s Day this year as we are in lockdown. I have no choice but to be single! And I’m connecting with my nieces more since I came to understand my CEN and how it affected me. Thank you so much for helping me with this through your writing 🙂

    Jonice - February 15, 2021 Reply

    Dear Charlotte, thank you so much for sharing your realizations and experiences with us. I’m proud of you for figuring out some very important aspects of how to make yourself happy.

Richard - February 14, 2021 Reply

I have had very severe depression in the past and sometimes I still get it – though through professional help and working on myself I am much better at dealing with it now and know it will eventually pass. I am not talking though about feeling rather miserable. I am talking about having suicidal thoughts. This is something I would never do though. Too many people would be devastated and also there are times when life is OK. Although I am often very lonely I am also in many ways quite resourceful at being alone – perhaps too resourceful. I heard a famous psychologist say on You Tube that depression is deeply contagious. I have always suspected as much. I do not want to drag anyone down and make them feel depressed too. I fear that if there is someone out there I could have a relationship with they would be better off having a relationship with someone else rather than being influenced by my depressed moods. This is what always makes me put the brakes on when I meet someone I really like. I am aware though that my thoughts about contagiousness are on one level an excuse because I fear intimacy. One factor was that I was once close to someone who was themselves very damaged – I realised the relationship wasn’t helping either of us and we split up. After this they committed suicide. Although I know they were very damaged in their early childhood and adolescence this still haunts me. I fear I will damage someone else.

    Jonice - February 14, 2021 Reply

    Dear Richard, first of all, depression is definitely not contagious in any sense. It does not spread based on interactions with others. And I am sure, having never even met you, that you did not cause suicide of anyone. It is a very personal decision that almost always stems back to childhood in some way. I encourage you to, instead of feeling guilty, vow to do for yourself what your ex was sadly not able to do. Give yourself the emotional attention and validation that you likely did not receive in childhood.

      Richard - February 15, 2021 Reply

      Thank you Jonice for this excellent advice that I will not only take to heart but also do my very best to apply. I hope you had a good valentines day. You certainly deserve to with all the work you do helping other people to find their strength and help themselves.

        Jonice - February 15, 2021 Reply

        That’s very kind of you to say, Richard. Thank you!

    Bridget - February 15, 2021 Reply

    Your comment ressonated so much with me. I have also struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts for years. I had a breakthrough this weekend- though- I think it all comes from a place of unworthiness. I have subconsciously tried to find reasons to dislike myself. Trying to find reasons why I am not worthy of love. Not even for myself. The hardest work I do now, is trying to befriend myself. To have an unconditional love towards myself. Yes, I am imperfect, I make mistakes, sometimes I even hurt others- but that does not justify me to hate myself. I can (try to) allow myself to make mistakes (as everybody does), and STIILL regard myself as worthy- and completely love and forgive myself- no matter what. Thanks, Jonice- for helping me on my way to self- love.

      Jonice - February 15, 2021 Reply

      Excellent work, Bridget. And thank you for your helpful words for Richard.

NancyAnne - February 14, 2021 Reply

I love Mona’s comment about not wanting to impose herself on anyone. I feel that completely. I also don’t experience loneliness on Valentine’s Day even though I am alone. I find my own company more comforting than risking another awkward or disappointing situation. I have a lot of work to do too!

    Jonice - February 14, 2021 Reply

    Dear NancyAnne, it sounds like you may be ready for that work! I’m so glad.

Gary - February 14, 2021 Reply

I know that what you say is true. And I realize that I have grown up totally out of touch with my feelings. I am at a later stage in life and I am so sad that I have lived my life without this connection. Occasionally, when feelings happened, I didn’t understand. And it would usually drive me back to an addiction. And now, I feel emotional connection with friends and family slipping away because I have given up. I am grateful you have identified this. It took me years of wandering, but I accept CEN and truly believe this is how I got here. I am just afraid that it’s too little too late. I have been lonely in a crowd my entire lifetime. I had a dream many years ago, where I stood alone on one side of this huge valley, and everyone else in the world was on the other side. My life is just been a self fulfilling prophecy of this dream.

    Jonice - February 14, 2021 Reply

    Dear Gary, having an addiction is a terrible distraction from healing CEN. I encourage you to find a CEN therapist near you and allow someone to help you heal.

Ray - February 14, 2021 Reply

Dr. Webb

1. I am cursed with an extremely high IQ, whenever I try to let anyone see “the real me” they run away, I have spent most of my 68 years trying to play dumb so I can fit somewhere, anywhere, but it doesn’t work, I give up. I gave up about 20 years ago.

2. Needing someone. There is no shame in needing someone, we all do, but nobody has ever “been there for me” when I needed someone. I have spent thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars helping people who needed help, but there has never been anyone there for me, not mom, not dad, nobody. Everybody has a life that does not include me.

3. Emotional connection. Why bother? Nobody ever connects with me. Never has. Most likely never will. Some people are just destined or doomed to live alone.

I’ve been to six therapists (over the last 40 years) all of them nice people with good intentions and none of them had the slightest idea what to do with me.

I understood CEN – Chronic Emotional Neglect – in elementary school, I didn’t have a name for it, I just knew mom and dad were too busy with more important things like work and church to pay much attention to me, by the time I was 7 or 8 I understood very well I was on my own, there was no overt abuse, they were good providers, food, shelter, clothes, church, school, but that’s all. I think mom and dad were both schizoid, I think all my grandparents were probably schizoid, a multigenerational thing.

Growing up my greatest fear was being a father like my father, distant, remote, emotionally disconnected, I decided to break the cycle, no kids. At least I have not inflicted that curse on anyone else.

Other than suffering from sometimes excruciating loneliness I’ve lived a pretty good life, I like my work, work is my best friend, I’ve written dozens of songs and hundreds of other poems, I’m in the process of writing four books, when I retire in two years I’ll “come out” as a cowboy jazz singer songwriter poet, my new career . . . but that too is isolating, anything that makes you different, not “normal,” is socially isolating.

So I will spend this Valentine’s day, as always, alone.

Now, I cannot imagine being emotionally connected with anyone, I have no idea what that would be like, it’s a language I never learned, a world I’ve never seen, for all of my life I’ve felt like the picture of Tiny Tim looking into the toy store through the window, standing outside in the snow, knowing nothing in the toy store (of relationships) is ever going to be for him.

Music has been my therapist, my friend, there’s a great song recorded by Frank Sinatra, written by Rod McKuen, these are the words,

In me you see a man alone
held by the habit of being on his own
a man who listens to the trembling of the trees
with sentimental ease

In me you see a man alone
behind the walls he’s learned to call his home
a man who still goes walking in the rain
expecting love again

A man, not lonely
except when the dark comes on
a man learning to live with
memories of midnights
that fell apart at dawn

In me you see a man alone
drinking up Sundays, spending them alone
a man who knows love is seldom what it seems
only other people’s dreams

    Jonice - February 14, 2021 Reply

    Dear Ray, thank you for sharing your experience of “alone.” I wonder if you have looked toward connecting with your own emotions and emotional needs as a potential solution for your aloneness? CEN breeds aloneness in children and adults. Perhaps it’s not your high IQ but your lack of connection with yourself that prevents other people from connecting with you? I do not know the answers to these questions for you but I hope you’ll put some time into considering.

    Elizabeth - February 15, 2021 Reply

    Hi Ray
    I totally get the high IQ as an isolating factor, together with the attendant over-excitabilities (cf Dabrowski), indeed, being a rare bird has its challenges. But I have found that I can connect through emotions, and even more importantly, I can connect to parts of myself through emotions, so attending to my CEN did pay off big time. And no, I don’t dumb down, but neither, do I impose my intellectual and other excitabilities on others. Good luck!!

mona - February 14, 2021 Reply

This so me!
I try to read people on weather they need or want me there at that moment…. I don’t want to force my presence on anyone. Sometimes I’m just not sure..
I have a lot of work to do as you can tell!

    Jonice - February 14, 2021 Reply

    Dear Mona, this is no way for you to live. You are constantly trying to discern something no one else is even thinking about. I encourage you to focus on your own feelings about yourself. Do you want to get to know yourself better and do you like and love yourself? The answers can be found by paying attention to your own feelings.

Annette - February 14, 2021 Reply

I just don’t feel any connection or feelings for anyone apart from my kids .

    Jonice - February 14, 2021 Reply

    Dear Annette, please consider why this is. Is it what you want? What is blocking you from others? There are ways through any walls you may have and I hope you will try.

Ruth Ives - February 14, 2019 Reply

What about all the people who have lost a partner from bereavement and this is their first Valentines Day alone? It’s not that you want someone else or are a loner, it’s just that the day no longer features in something to share with a partner. You may have many happy memories of previous years but nobody to cuddle up to now.

See clearer now - February 15, 2017 Reply

Another top read! Thankyou Jonice, your articles and book have made a huge difference to my awareness of what’s been going wrong in my life, and also how to change direction!! One of the biggest challenges has been: stopping being so hard on myself. Listeniing for and limiting the damaging self-guilt trips that lead to self sabotage. Learning how to treat myself at least as kind as I treat others. I’m getting there, but it’s bittersweet: I really only saw these traits in myself after seeing them a friend who treats himself very hard, and who seems to fit exactly so much of what you write about CEN. He’s very stressed but will barely talk about it. Because of this I think I have a type of survivor guilt. Its making it so much harder for me to move forward. Any thoughts?

    Jonice Webb PhD - February 15, 2017 Reply

    It’s hard when you are outgrowing a close friend or family member. My advice is to try to be there for him as much as he’ll allow it, but not at your own expense. It’s very important to not be held back by someone else’s “stuck-ness.” Keep moving forward because the best way you can help him is by setting a good example for growth. Keep up the good work you’re doing!

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