When you think of love, do you think of couples holding hands, romantic songs, or candlelit dinners? I bet you don't think of money problems, stress, and anxiety!
When people are knee-deep in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, or not feeling in control of their finances, they experience shame, fear, anxiety, guilt...But one of the feelings we often forget about is loneliness.
I remember when I came to this realization—it was a Saturday morning in San Francisco many years ago. I was sitting at a sidewalk cafe alone, drinking my latte and reading the SF Chronicle. I was watching couples and groups of people together talking, laughing, and really enjoying themselves.
I really felt my sense of longing deeply then, and I knew that it was time to address this NEED now. By this time, I was focusing on my financial issues, but without even realizing it, I had cut myself off from everyone in the process.
I knew it was time for me to do something about this—I had contact with family and a couple of friends on occasion, but the dating scene had been nonexistent for me for a long time. (Fortunately, my story does have a happy ending, which I'll share later in this blog.)
The cycle of shame around money problems can cause us to try and avoid the pain and shame that's eating at us. Instead of reaching out, we distance ourselves from family and friends. We isolate ourselves because we feel unworthy. Our financial stress makes us feel like we are undeserving of close and rewarding relationships.
Our attempt to avoid the risk of shame by shutting everyone out has the opposite effect that we want it to. At the time it feels less painful, but by avoiding others, we end up with a deep sense of longing.
And loneliness isn't just an emotional issue. Like financial stress, it can lead to physical problems, too. The National Institute on Aging recently released research that linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer's disease, and even death.
When I felt that overwhelming isolation so many years ago, it brought me literally to my knees. I went home that Saturday morning and sent a message to the universe—I asked my higher power what she thought of me starting to date again.
Long story short, within two weeks from that Saturday morning, I got my answer—I met the man I've spent the last 33 years with.
To know and be known requires vulnerability and the feeling that we "deserve" love and connection. Our unworthiness doesn't allow us to feel deserving, so how do we change that?
To heal loneliness, you need to understand that:
Love and connection are basic needs. If we don't address the REAL need, we'll find ourselves compensating—many times with things—to replace our deep craving for connection and love. Stop thinking of love and connection as nice-to-haves or things you don't need or deserve.
Money is an actor you cast. The role of money in your relationships with other people can add strength and meaning to your finances, or create weaknesses that may undermine both your financial plan and the relationship itself. Healing deprivation doesn't have anything to do with buying more stuff to fill the emotional void.
Connections are essential. No financial plan, no matter how sound, will leave us feeling secure unless we take into account our connections with others.
Money enters in some way into nearly every relationship we have. We provide for those we care about; we create special experiences for family and friends; we assist those in need in our communities; we have professionals who provide us services of all kinds. To truly heal loneliness, we need to make and keep connections with others.
For many of us—my earlier self included—the connection between our relationships and money isn't immediately evident. Or, we discount it as less important when faced with mounting money problems, and it becomes our lowest priority.
But having connections with others is a deep need; substituting this need with something else simply doesn’t work. Examining these connections, and how our relationship with money has influenced them is critical—not only to our financial well-being, but to our overall well-being, too.