When I first divorced, I felt soooooooo lonely. Even though I'd been miserable in my marriage, I was used to someone else being in the house and being part of a couple.
Today, 13 years later, I still feel lonely from time to time, even though I am in a relationship, have many friends and am engaged in my community. I remember that I often felt lonely when I was married, and when I was single before I was married, but have always found not only deep friendships, but also an active social life and romantic connection at every stage.
In other words, loneliness and marriage really have no automatic correlation.
“Even if your ex was the worst person ever, it is so human to experience loneliness,” says Brianna Sanders, a dating coach and a licensed professional counselor in Silver Spring, Md.
Loneliness is considered a health epidemic, with a February 2021 Harvard study finding that 36% of all Americans—including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children—feel “serious loneliness.” A survey of 10,000 American adults by insurer Cigna found an uptick of 18% in loneliness between 2018 and 2020 — a rise linked to depression, anxiety and even physical illness.
Sanders says that when a marriage or relationship ends, you lose more than your actual partner, but the relationship itself.
“Think about who you were in the partnership, any mutual connections, the dreams you had for your marriage’s future — all of that is either lost or needs to be redefined,” Sanders says. “Losing so much is enough to make anyone feel lonely.”
After a divorce or separation, you will become a lonely single mom
Bonnie Scott, a licensed therapist in San Antonio, Texas, and founder of Mindful Kindness Counseling, a private therapy practice, says even if a single mom doesn’t specifically miss being with their ex, she might feel lonely because she’s used to having a partner around.
“A divorce or separation is the end of something a person, at some point, felt hopeful about,” Scott says.
Having a wide range of emotions about your divorce — everything from loneliness to relief — is completely normal, she says.
Is it normal to feel lonely as a single mom?
Even if you have a lot of friends and a loving family, wonderful kids, you may feel lonely as a single mom. Why?
- Humans need human contact, and if you are used to having an adult companion full-time, that is now gone. You feel that loss. It is a form of grief.
- You are used to being part of a couple and now you are not. You still have to find your identity as a single person. It can take time, trial and error, trying on new personas and habits.
- You may have lost friends and connections to family members through your divorce or breakup. That is a real loss you must mourn.
- You spend too much time with kids, and not enough time with adults.
Some Reddit posts on this topic of loneliness and single motherhood:
Overcome the myth you will be lonely for the rest of your life
Here are some comments I heard when I divorced, most of them from people who love me:
Too bad. And it will be hard to meet men now that you’re a mom.
Better hurry up and get married while you’re still young and cute.
Only really neurotic / poor / loser men are interested in single moms.
A quality man will never commit to a single mom. They consider them used goods.
To one of the above, I actually said, square in her face (we were in a small elevator, crowded by myself, a toddler, baby in stroller, her and her dog): “FUCK YOU.”
Not only are all of those messages rude and unhelpful — they are untrue!
I have met hundreds and hundreds of single moms who have successfully found love and partnership. I have had a few great boyfriends in my single-mom tenure, including my current partner of two years — who loves the fact that I am a mom. In fact, he (like many men I know) prefers to date women with children. The reasons include:
- They are single dads, and feel the shared experience of parenthood is critical to relating to a woman.
- They missed the boat on being a father, and hope to enjoy that experience through step-children.
- They can quickly assess a woman’s character by observing her parenting.
- Some younger men are really into older women and moms.
- They just really fucking like you and want to date you.
Other times, great men simply fall for women who happen to have children!
As a lonely single mom, you will face several challenges
If you’re feeling like a lonely single mom, those feelings might be heightened when you’re faced with certain situations or when you’re dealing with the realities of single motherhood.
These are some reasons single moms might feel lonely:
They will have to make decisions by themselves
When you have a partner, you often rely on the other person as a sounding board and make major decisions together. Taking on the responsibility and pressure of making those decisions alone can make you feel lonely.
They might crave adult interaction
Even if she doesn’t miss her ex as a person, a single mom might miss having another adult around. This lack of adult interaction can be isolating.
In addition to losing the companionship of her ex, Scott says single moms might find that their social circles change or that it's harder to coordinate time with friends or family.
Might not have anyone to rely on
If you’re co-parenting with an ex who doesn’t share equal parenting responsibilities — or you’re a solo mom — the weight of single motherhood and lack of support can be suffocating.
“A single mom might find that the person who's supposed to be her co-parent is not showing up in meaningful ways, and that can feel really lonely, too,” Scott says.
Sanders says many single moms, especially new ones, believe they have to do everything alone.
“It’s OK to need help, and it’s OK to want help,” Sanders says. “You deserve it.”
If you’re a single mom who needs financial assistance and access to free resources, we’ve written a number of articles that can help:
Loneliness will be heightened when kids are with your ex
Feelings of loneliness can develop when your kids are out of the house and you’re left alone.
“When you are faced with your own thoughts and silence before falling asleep, that’s when feelings like to make themselves apparent,” Scott says.
Scott says celebrations, holidays, and birthdays can be particularly difficult times if your kids are with your ex.
Feelings of depression when no one is there to comfort you
Sanders says if your loneliness feels like a heavy cloud that you cannot shake, that may be a sign you’re depressed.
“Depression doesn’t always mean crying all the time,” she says. “In fact, depression more often looks like having zero interest in things, finding it hard to find excitement, or otherwise not feeling much of anything.”
Scott says these are some signs you may be depressed:
- Trouble sleeping (not enough or too much)
- Changes in eating patterns (not enough or too much)
- Increased substance use
- Uncontrollable feelings of anger
“It could be a feeling of disconnection from people who are important to us or to our own feelings and emotions,” Scott says.
She says if a pattern is new, happens more days than not, and sticks around for more than a couple of weeks, you should check in with a medical or mental health provider.
Break from single mom loneliness by surrounding yourself with these 7 kinds of friends
Combatting single mom loneliness is no joke — but surrounding yourself with good friends can help.
Here are seven friends a single mom should have:
1. A trusted friend
Sanders says above all, it’s important to surround yourself with people who are present, emotionally available, non-judgemental, and validating — but also willing to call you out if you’re self-sabotaging.
“It can be majorly difficult for single moms to find friends because a lot of people don’t understand what single motherhood really is, so they say a lot of unintentionally insensitive things that do more harm than good,” Sanders says.
2. A motherly mentor
Having a friend who has “been there, done that” can be invaluable when you’re a newly single mom. This friend can give you a glimpse of what it’s like to weather the storm of loneliness and come out stronger.
3. The dude
Single dad friends will tell it like it is and give you a man’s perspective on dating, parenting, and getting along with your ex.
This is a non-judgmental friend who will get you out of the house and help you explore the world of post-divorce dating.
5. A friend who is close
After divorce, sometimes you just need someone who can be there — to help you pick up your kids, grab groceries, or babysit in a pinch. Scott recommends finding someone you can count on for emotional support, fun, and stress relief.
“Single moms need community, and that might be made of friends, family, fellow parents from schools or daycares, or faith organizations,” Scott says.
6. Your ex (you heard me)
No, I’m not joking! If you didn’t have a toxic or abusive relationship, you can be friends with your ex — it just might take some time.
7. A FWB (yeah, you know me)
After divorce, sometimes you just need to have fun (and have good sex). A casual relationship can help you move past your ex without a serious commitment. Find a FWB and forget about being a lonely single mom.
How do single moms cope with loneliness? 5 ways
Here are some ways to mitigate loneliness as a single mom:
- Lean into alone time with the goal of enjoying your company.
- Make new and meaningful connections outside of your current social circle. This can be through a new hobby, new faith community, fitness group, or even online like our Facebook group Millionaire Single Moms.
Discover a sense of belonging
Join a local sports league, get involved at your church, volunteer at an animal shelter, and just get out there.
When it comes to combating loneliness, there is no stronger medicine than spending time with good friends. Surround yourself with people who understand your struggle and offer you judgment-free support when you’re feeling lonely.
Seek connections through apps
If you’re looking to make friends after divorce, consider downloading an app. Read: 25 apps to make friends and meet new people in 2023
Find a friend with benefits
There’s no shame in having some adult fun after divorce, especially if you find someone you like and trust to call on when you just want to have good sex.
Consider a hookup
If you’re not ready for another serious commitment, ease into the dating world with something casual.
How do single moms overcome loneliness and find happiness?
And if you’re ready to start looking for love again, we recommend joining eharmony, one of the top dating sites for connecting singles who want meaningful partnership. We recommend eharmony because:
- A- Better Business Bureau rating
- Free basic plan
- One of the largest dating apps of its kind (responsible for more than 2 million love connections)
- Only major dating app devoted specifically to serious partnership
- Vetted profiles (so you know you’re talking to a real, single person)
- According to a study, couples on eharmony are more likely to get married and less likely to get divorced compared to couples who met on other online dating sites
Humans need human contact, and if you are used to having an adult companion full-time, that is now gone. You feel that loss. It is a form of grief.