Texas Tech University

Loneliness and Standardized Marriage

by María Paula Cedeño

Feeling lonely is a part of life. An idealized view of marriage makes it worse.

For months I've been noticing a common problem present in young people. This problem affects every age group, yet I've observed that young adults feel more pressured by it. What I'm referring to is loneliness: the type we feel when we are part of a society in which the standard expectation is that everybody has somebody.

My interest in this phenomenon appeared out of personal experience. I was eager to understand why I felt the way I did and what factors could be contributing to it. As I started investigating, I realized that this feeling was bigger than I thought it to be. To my surprise, I discovered that everyone experiences loneliness. Every person I spoke to commented that they have felt isolated at some point in their lives, especially in their young adult years.

At first, I was shocked. How could everyone feel lonely? What was the common denominator? As I analyzed the situation, I came to the conclusion that society is largely to blame.

a lonely person

Young people often feel isolated.

Modern culture has taught us that marriage is what we should aim for in life. We should study, get a job, find a significant other, marry them and start a life together. Young adults are in the stage of life when they're supposed to meet the person they will grow old with. And while it's true that human beings need to socialize, live in societies, form relationships, and reproduce, they were not born to spend most of their lives committed to someone. What we commonly know as marriage was not the norm until the Romans.

People are not monogamous by nature. Before the appearance of marriage, humans would have romantic interactions without feeling the pressure of spending the rest of their lives with their partners. Marriage was created as a beneficial relationship between men and women that would bring a life into the world; it bound men and women, guaranteeing that their children were biologically theirs and each had responsibilities to them. It was a help for women to not have to raise a child by themselves. Over the years, our society has twisted the concept of marriage into something that adds pressure and stress to our lives.

Most relationships aim for marriage because of the social and economic advantages it offers. Consequently, most people aim to be in a relationship. As people around us get into relationships and we don't, we tend to feel left out or that we do not belong. There is also the stigma that if someone can't seem to maintain a relationship, they have something wrong with them, resulting in them questioning whether they are different from the rest and can't be loved. All these feelings and factors can lead to lonesomeness and sadness.

But loneliness is part of life, so what's the problem?

A person with a computer on a bed

A romantic relationship is not essential for happiness.

Feeling lonely can make us rush into relationships we aren't ready for. Healthy relationships require a certain amount of maturity and emotional stability that could be missing when we are constantly looking to attach ourselves to someone else. The pressure we feel to be in a relationship is a central reason why people endure toxic relationships. We become so afraid of being alone that we put up with physical or emotional abuse. Such a feeling can also generate a fear of abandonment during healthy relationships, causing them to become toxic.

When we feel lonely, our bodies are in constant fight or flight responses; as a result, when loneliness is prolonged, it can lead to depression, anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, sleep disorders, and other issues that affect our mental and physical health. In a recent Ted Talk, Karen Dolva explains that among the consequences of constantly feeling lonely, there is a “29% increase in heart diseases – the equivalence of smoking 15 cigarettes a day – a 32% increase in having a stroke, and double the likelihood of getting dementia.” In other words, people can die from feeling lonely.

Loneliness is not a problem that can be solved, and we cannot just tell people to stop feeling it. Such advice would probably cause more difficulty. Nonetheless, as a society, we have the responsibility to try to change and combat this problem. We must change our attitudes toward romantic relationships and understand that although they can be beneficial, even beautiful, they are not essential for our happiness.

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