THE PROBLEM I’m 29 and I work in fashion. My job’s great. But my social life isn’t. I hate to admit it, but I’m lonely. I went to Bournemouth University. I lived in a large student house and had a brilliant time. But my uni friends are now scattered round the UK. We keep in touch on Facebook but it’s not the same as being able to meet up regularly.
I had a boyfriend from uni, but we split up a year ago. He’s in Liverpool and as I’m now in London, it just wasn’t practical. We’re still mates, but I haven’t found anyone new. I work long hours, and all my colleagues – apart from two gay guys – are female, so I’m not going to meet the man of my dreams at work! I’ve tried internet dating, but hated it.
Weekends are the worst. I live way out in north London and I know I should go into town and do things, but somehow I don’t. I’ve always had masses of friends so I don’t know how I’ve ended up alone. Can you help?
Christine: Loneliness is horrible. And it’s very hard to admit to – because in today’s society very few people do own up to it. Instead, we all make out that we’re having a riotous social life. And I think sites like Facebook foster that impression.
Debs: You’re right. Whenever I chat with friends on there I pretend I’m having a great time.
Christine: Has it ever occurred to you that some of them may have similar problems to you?
Debs: I hadn’t thought of that. It’s not something you can ask, can you?
Christine: Perhaps not. Do you see any of them at all?
Debs: Not much. And I really miss them.
Christine: The years after university can be tough. After graduation, people go their separate ways. And often they’re so busy trying to carve out a career that they don’t realise just how far and wide other friends have had to go in order to pursue their ambitions. And then it kind of hits them that they’re grown-up and doing OK workwise, but that there’s no one to just hang out with – especially if they’re not in a relationship.
Debs: That’s it exactly.
Christine: I really admire you for tackling this problem, Debs, because it’s important. Did you know that loneliness is reckoned to be as bad for our health as smoking?
Debs: God, no. That’s awful.
Christine: I wonder if you can put your finger on what’s stopping you getting out there and making new friends?
Debs: It feels like a huge effort. I just wish my old friends were nearer.
Christine: Is there a reason you’ve moved to London?
Debs: If you’re in the fashion business, you’ve really got to be in London. Anyway, I like it apart from feeling lonely … I suppose one of the things is that my mum fixed up for me to live with her cousin. She’s nice but she’s 62, and we have nothing in common, and she lives right out beyond the end of the Northern Line. So when colleagues invite me to things after work, I’m always worried about disturbing this lady if I come in late, and also I don’t like walking back to her house from the Tube after midnight.
Christine: It doesn’t sound ideal. Can you invite friends there?
Debs: No, I don’t feel I can. To be honest, I think that’s what the big problem is. I’m not happy there and it’s too far out of the centre.
Christine: Well perhaps that’s something you could tackle. Living in central London is expensive though …
Debs: Yes, but I spend loads on transport, including taxis. I think that where I’m living is holding me back. I hadn’t realised it before.
Christine: Maybe you should have a look on a site like Gumtree to find out if there are any rooms going – perhaps in a big house where you’d live with other young professional people.
Debs: I’m definitely going to do that. Just the idea of it cheers me up! I hate where I’m living, and I’d love to have people my own age around me.
Christine: Also, if you were nearer the centre, maybe then you’d feel you could do things in the evening – and you’d meet friends that way, and maybe a new partner too. What would you like to do if you got your housing sorted?
Debs: I’d really like to improve my French – because there’s a possibility that I might be able to get a job in Paris next year. If I didn’t have to worry about late Tube trains, I could sign up for an evening class, and also get involved in some of those social groups where French and English people meet up to get practice speaking each other’s language. I know someone who does that and she loves it.
Christine: That sounds good.
Debs: Also, my colleagues are mostly nice, and I’d like to do more stuff with them, which I probably could if I moved. The other thing is that I could invite some of my uni friends to come for weekends if I got myself into a relaxed sort of house where you can have mates to stay.
Christine: Will it be hard for you to tell your mum’s cousin that you want to leave?
Debs: Not really. I don’t think she likes having me there! And she doesn’t really need the rent I’ve been paying. So, thanks, Christine. I think the whole accommodation thing was getting me down and stopping me having a life in London. I need to sort that before anything else. I just hadn’t realised it.
Christine: Well, you came up with the solution yourself. So, well done – and best of luck with it.
Christine Webber is a former TV news presenter. Since 1995, she has been an award-winning health writer. She is also a psychotherapist with a practice in Harley Street. She holds diplomas in integrative psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy. And she also has numerous coaching qualifications. Christine is the author of 12 self-help and therapy books. Find out more at christinewebber.com.
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