Dear Dr. Yael,
I am an older single person who struggles with loneliness, and I feel isolated. Everyone is busy with their own lives and doesn’t have time for me. On Shabbos I feel like an outlier, everybody is going to their families and I have nothing to look forward to but an empty house. It would be so great if someone would show some interest in me and perhaps even invite me for a Shabbos meal. I am too shy and I have been rejected too often. Are there any steps that I can take to get people to invite and socialize with me?
First let me commend you on your bravery for reaching out. Being lonely and feeling isolated is very difficult. It can lead to feeling depressed, and it is important that you reached out for help instead of letting it fester. You mention that you are shy. Perhaps others are picking up on a “leave me alone” vibe, instead of understanding that you are just shy and are actually craving someone’s attention. It may be a good idea to seek professional help to assist you in branching out and making more friends. It’s very hard to be single in the orthodox community as much of our world revolves around family; however there is definitely a growing singles community and it may be helpful to find a space where you feel comfortable. Perhaps a therapist can help build your self-confidence in social situations and help you feel more comfortable so you can approach others or appear more open for others to approach you. Building your self-confidence in social situations can help you make more friends, and maybe even help you date better.
Perhaps you are not struggling socially when dating, but I will include some tips for building relationships both in and out of the dating world. Building a relationship is a skill. If it’s something you need to work on, you can easily improve. With some interpersonal and personal enhancements, you can increase your chances of connecting with someone you can see as a potential friend or date.
- Ask questions. A 2013 Stanford study found that asking more questions increased someone’s odds of getting a second date. On the other hand, the study also found that asking too many questions is not usually seen as attractive, so ask questions naturally.
- Come up with interesting stories so the conversation doesn’t go stale. If you find that the conversation is getting awkward, have some interesting stories prepared that you can use to segway into getting the conversation back on track.
- Don’t be afraid to be yourself. This takes self-confidence, but a friend or a date will have to like you for who you are. This is a place where working on your self-esteem will really help. You are who you are and you will need to find people who appreciate that. Of course there is always room to be more positive, which makes people more attracted to you, but ultimately you need to find people who share your interests.
- Become more emotional. People like to connect to others on an emotional level, so it is important to try to get in touch with your emotional side.
- Find people who share your interests. If you can, make an effort to do things you like and talk to people around you. Join appropriate singles get together as often as you can to meet new people, both friends and potential dates.
Hatzlacha in trying to forge a new path and b’ezras Hashem (with the help of Hashem), you will be able to find new friends and begin to feel less lonely and isolated. Having a therapist can also help you navigate these feelings and feel better about yourself and your situation.