I am in a long term relationship; we marked ten years together this winter. We have always shared a friendship circle and cultivated many new friendships together, but a few years into the relationship, in my early 20s, it hit me hard that I still felt lonely.
I told myself that my friends were really his friends because he’d introduced me to all of them. I didn’t have any close female friends at the time. I had workmates, but only “work” friendships. I remember living out of my partner’s bedroom for months when I had no friends to live with because I couldn’t face being by myself at the bedsit I rented. It was toxic, but I was happier being codependent than being alone.
I felt this way for a long time. A shift happened when I took a small photography workshop to help inspire my creativity at work. We each had a solo project, and I decided I would take portraits of women I knew. The idea was to meet for coffee, have a conversation, and I’d take their photo with my film camera. Skipping right past small talk, discussions soon turned to identity and loneliness. That many of us felt like we were little more than someone’s girlfriend, sister, or friend from work. It sounds so obvious now I’m in my 30s and a little more self-aware, but at the time it was a big “holy shit” moment. Getting my prints back was extremely emotional.
I understand why people believe that settling down, getting married and having kids is the “end goal” of adulthood. It is a narrative constantly fed to us (and rightfully questioned) in society. But why is adult loneliness still such a taboo? The narrative of "Single = Lonely" and "Settled = Complete" needs to change. Your relationship status does not dictate when, why or with whom you crave more connection. Reach out. Go for that coffee. Surprise yourself.