Caroline West Meads: ‘This Time of Year Brings Home How Lonely I Am’

Q: I’m a 53-year-old man who is struggling with loneliness. I have been single since 2015 and my social life has also shrunk over time.

I don’t seem to be able to make any new connections – either romantic or platonic. I have joined numerous dating websites but with very little success. This, along with my platonic struggles, is really affecting my self-confidence and mental wellbeing. 

Socially I have tried classes and meet-up groups but the members tend to be people of retirement age with whom I have little in common. It’s all so frustrating and I feel stuck in a massive rut. I have a half-brother who is ten years older who I get on well enough with. 

I am close to my widowed mum but I don’t have children of my own. The one area of my life that is good is my career, where I’m well respected. 

I’m a 53-year-old man who is struggling with loneliness. I have been single since 2015 and my social life has also shrunk over time (stock image)

I’m fiercely loyal to those few remaining friends I do keep in touch with but they live miles away and, of course, we menfolk find it hard to ‘open up’ about our mental health. The festive period just brings home to me how lonely I feel.

A: I’m really sorry to hear this. Sadly, loneliness is one of the most frequent subjects on which I get letters and, unfortunately, the isolation of the pandemic has contributed hugely to the problem. It can indeed have a devastating effect on both mental and physical health, and Christmas and New Year really exacerbate these feelings. 

However, while it might seem as though everyone else is partying and having a good time, many people dread New Year because they feel exactly as you do. You have already made a good start in pinpointing one of your problems – that men can sometimes find it hard to open up – and it is brilliant that you have taken the first step to write to me. 

There is no shame in admitting that you are not OK, so I would encourage you to explore your feelings more by embarking on therapy (see your GP for options). A huge part of the experience of loneliness can be caused by not talking to anyone in depth about your feelings.

Counselling can give you a place where you feel listened to, heard and seen. It can help raise your selfesteem and would enable you to tackle perhaps the main problem in your life – loneliness caused by the lack of a relationship. You have been single a long time, which can be very hard. 

As you begin to feel better about yourself and more confident, you will probably find that it is much easier to make deeper connections with others. It is also really important to reach out to people in a similar position. 

Look up the Loneliness Taskforce initiative – a coalition of organisations advocating for policy changes to address loneliness at both a local and national level – via Alone.ie or Volunteer.ie.

IS HE JUST STRINGING ME ALONG? 

Q: I’ve been in a relationship for the past two years with a man who is always lovely when we are together – the trouble is that I hardly see him. He spends only a couple of weekends a month with me and I am lucky if we get one night together in the week – even after all this time. 

He always claims to be working, playing sport or seeing his men friends and it is difficult to tell whether he is just stringing me along. I’m in my late 40s and maybe I think he is a nice guy only because I have been treated badly in the past (I was married for 20 years but my ex was not a good man). 

My two almost-adult children think he is ‘nice but not for the long term’. Should I walk away?

A: I very firmly believe that your partner in life should be your cheerleader. Of course, all  relationships have their ups and downs but a partner should be the person who supports you in life’s challenges and makes you feel as though you are important to them – and vice versa. 

It may be that it is still comparatively early days and your partner has been hurt before so fears commitment a second time.

He may be a workaholic. Or it may be that, yes, he is stringing you along or – and I’m sorry to raise this possibility – seeing other women. You are right to wonder if, because of your difficult marriage, you are accepting too little from this man. So ask yourself: does he make me feel secure? 

Would he be there for me if I needed him? If you can’t answer ‘yes’ immediately, and if he can’t understand that you need more from him, then I fear that this relationship may never give you what you need.

READ MORE:

Relationships counsellor CAROLINE WEST-MEADS answers your problems, including a young son who is cheating on his girlfriend 

Our relationships counsellor answers your problems: My husband has become a grumpy old man 

Our relationships counsellor answers your problems: Does my husband feel threatened by my career? 

Contact Caroline Write to Caroline West-Meads at: YOU Magazine, PO Box 5332, Dublin 2, or email [email protected] Caroline reads all letters but regrets that she cannot answer them all personally. DON’T forget: BEL MOONEY’S ADVICE COLUMN appears exclusively in Femail EVERY Thursday – only IN THE IRISH DAILY MAIL.