Feeling Alone and Unloved?

There are certain times of the year when being on your own, perhaps without your children, can feel especially raw. Mother's or Father's Day, Christmas, Easter, long Bank Holiday weekends, holidays and key social events can be a real struggle if we are by ourselves, watching everyone else enjoying couples or family time.

Tips for when you're feeling alone and unloved;

- Remind yourself that often it's just one day. If you miss out on a Christmas or Mother's/Father's Day it can be all too easy to run with the emotions and get caught up in despair or frustration. Try to detach from those feelings and plan something to occupy yourself. Then, when you're next with your children or partnered friends you can have a lovely time together. Focus on making your together times special.

- Revise your perspective. Some of your alone time can be a great opportunity to catch up on jobs and chores. Use the time well so you feel good, that it's not been wasted. But also use it as time-out, some 'me time' to relax and listen to your music, read a book, go for a bike ride, a run, have a leisurely bath, watch a film, prepare your favourite food. If you're on your own relish having the place to yourself. Relax, de-stress and use it as a chance to treat yourself well.

- Avoid guilt-tripping your children or regaling them with details of your situation. Children are astute enough to sense how you're feeling and will usually be far more aware of what's going on than you realise. Yes, they may well allow one parent to bribe them with holidays and expensive gifts - why wouldn't they! But they'll also appreciate the other parent's daily efforts to feed and care for them, the things you suspect go largely unnoticed.

- Maintain an involvement in all areas of your life. Remind yourself that you're a person in your own right too. It's important to nurture your new identity and establish interests away from the home and your old couples or family life. Keep up to date with the news, popular TV, what's happening in your locale, so you're confident enough to participate in conversations and are ready to start building new social connections and attracting new friends.

- Would you be interested in accepting an introduction from friends or colleagues to meet someone they know? Might it be time to meet someone new and do something different? Mixing and talking to new people, particularly potential dates, is a great way to improve your confidence and self-esteem, motivate you to smarten and maybe update your appearance, look after yourself and remind yourself that you're more than 'just' an ex or a parent! Plus conversing with new people is an important skill, quickly lost if we're out of practice and haven't socialised independently in a while.

- Are you ready to consider dipping a tentative toe into the official dating scene again? Online dating sites are an increasingly popular way to meet new people and offer great practical advice. For example, be careful how much personal information you disclose, limit a first meeting to an hour and in a public place, and trust your gut instincts if you start to feel uneasy. But increasingly they're an efficient way of getting out there again.

- Manage your expectations and don't invest everything in a new friendship/relationship from the outset. Enjoy meeting someone new, the chance to practice your conversational skills, maybe flirt a little and make a new friend, even if it doesn't result in them becoming a lover.

- Make invitations. Take charge of the parts of your life you have some control over, like your social life. Be proactive and join mailing lists. Source free exhibitions, two for the price of one offers and early doors specials on meals. Become the go-to guy for fun and also accept when others reciprocate and invite you along. Keep in touch with what's happening around you.

- Provide reasonable options. Your friends and inner circle may wish to socialise but you and they may need to be careful about expenditure. A pamper evening, supper party, where everyone contributes a dish and/or bottle, or a games evening might be fun. Sporting options can be a great way to exercise and socialise at the same time.

- Also, try to make time for some of the things that interest you. Volunteer, join a class, walking group or other activity you enjoy. Maybe alternate child care with other parents and dedicate some free time to mixing and meeting people with similar interests to yourself. Enjoy sharing conversations, becoming friends and, who knows, maybe meeting someone new too.

Remind yourself that each situation has pros and cons. Being single isn't the end of the world! Alone doesn't have to mean lonely. In fact many people in unhappy relationships will envy you your freedom and the fact that you're now starting out afresh.

Susan Leigh, Counsellor & Hypnotherapist, www.lifestyletherapy.net

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