It's no wonder that overcoming loneliness is on our minds today: the desire to love and be loved, to be valued for who you are as a person, is a fundamental aspect that makes us human. As human beings, we seek a companion for love, support, and help. Yet, most marriages and relationships today end in divorce and separation.
The Numbers of Loneliness
According to a study from the CDC, marriages had a dismal 52% probability of success from 2006-2010. A more recent study shows there is a divorce rate of 2.5 per 1,000 people in 2021 which is down from 4.0 in 2000. However, numbers also show that marriage rates are down from 8.2 per 1,000 people to 6.0 in 2021. Meaning that while divorce rates are down, marriage rates are also steadily decreasing.
In a 2018 survey by Cigna concerning loneliness in our culture, around half of all Americans admitted being lonely most of the time. Two in five Americans stated that they always feel isolated from others, and one in four Americans said that they don't believe that there is someone out there who can understand them.
Most Americans in this survey on loneliness considered their friends and relationships to be too superficial. This prevalence of isolation, loneliness, and failed relationships reflect a sad state of affairs, where men and women, who by nature desire love and companionship, become disillusioned when what they long for seems unattainable.
The Nature of Love in Overcoming Loneliness
Love must be given unconditionally, an almost impossible task for human beings. When we love someone, we expect a certain response (time, attention, and affection), and it is a hardship when we don’t get it. But perfect love requires us to shed these expectations.
This kind of love is transcendental and, therefore, must come from a transcendental being who gave us this desire—which we call God. Our longing for love and companionship can only be perfectly fulfilled when we encounter the living God and ask Him to ease the challenges of our human existence—loneliness, isolation, and failed relationships. With the sincere effort to ask God about the nature of our existence, we discover that He is a real person who can engage with us.
Overcoming Loneliness through Transcendent Love
Love fosters a dynamic relationship between God and the human person, built on a strong foundation of God’s being and our natural inclination toward Him. This relationship is essential to discover the answers to life and quenching our thirst for meaningful relationships.
The desire for love and companionship can only come about when we attain the knowledge, virtues, and graces to understand the entire dynamic of human existence and the depth of our own humanity. The vocation of marriage requires the person to understand himself first. Through God, we come to know the fullness of our existence.
Love is a free, immaterial gift that comes from God and is fulfilled by engaging with God. We as human beings discover that we are much more than just flesh and bones; and, more importantly, that the desires that we long for can be fulfilled, for they were given to us through the unconditional love of God.
For more insight into love, check out Fr. Spitzer’s article "Love one Another as I Have Loved You."