What do debt and loneliness have in common? After all, loneliness is an emotional state, and debt is a financial one. So how and why are they even related?
Turns out, debt and loneliness share a strong hidden link which most of us are unaware of. Studies have discovered that feeling we have only a “few friends and feeling alone or sad […] can make people more frivolous with their money” (source). Since humans are social animals, the negative side effects of emotional and social isolation can impact us in significant ways. Think of a time when you felt loved, connected, and not alone? During this time, money was likely the last thing on your mind. When we have an abundance of emotional acceptance and interconnectedness, we have a sense of the core inner security. This powerful and positive feeling makes everything else seem very manageable and in our control. While money as such doesn’t stop to exist to us in that state, its meaning and value do.
In contrast, when we feel emotionally alienated, heartbroken, or socially rejected, we seek security in the things we can buy. In the article “Loneliness Loop: Why Feeling Sad Makes Us Shop and Shopping Makes Us Sad,” the connection between debt and loneliness becomes very clear. Both men and women turn to shopping therapy when dealing with emotional traumas and loneliness. This is when our budgets and any money-saving knowledge seem to simply disappear. Instead, the thing we believe will make us socially desirable or emotionally safe becomes a necessity we have to have at any financial cost.
Whether it’s buying clothing, shoes, or a new house, subconsciously we believe that it will ease our emotional burden. As the author of the Loneliness Loop article accurately states, “medicating our loneliness at the mall can make us lonelier, over time, as shoppers begin to learn that it is challenging to form a meaningful relationship with a wristwatch or brag about one’s children to a porcelain vase.”
As single parents, isolation and loneliness is something we tend to experience on a daily basis. Yes, we have our beloved children, but our bond with them is of a different nature. As adults, we also need to feel deeply connected to other adults.
While two-parent families have a bond that allows them to feel supported in key areas of their lives, single mothers carry the world on their shoulders. Compared to single people who can easily go out and mingle with friends and make new social connections, most single mothers prioritize their responsibilities to their children above their personal time. Combined with continuous financial pressure and tight resources, it can be easy for single mothers to form the loneliness loop and accumulate debt. As mothers, we might be tempted to justify spending too much money on toys or clothes for our kids. While we can see these purchases as selfless, we often end up spending more money than we have just to feed our own loneliness as a parent. We might also be projecting our loneliness on our children, and feel the urge to buy more things for them to ease this feeling.
So now that we see how debt and loneliness feed off each other, let’s see what can be done to stop this cycle.
1. Focus on the positive side of being a single mother.
Accept your situation, and leverage some key benefits of being a single mom. Learn why being a single parent might be ideal for raising an emotionally healthy and adjusted child. Read inspiring real-life stories from famous single mothers to boost your confidence and positive outlook in life.
2. Practice the art of letting go of a mother’s guilt.
If you are like most single mothers, you did not plan to become a single parent. Something had to be really broken in your marriage for this to happen. Even though it might be hard at first, make an effort to let go of guilt and shame you might have developed as a result. Check out this post in Forbes magazine to learn a few strategies on how to do it. Mother’s guilt doesn’t serve you or your children any good and makes it more difficult for you to break free from the loneliness loop.
3. Understand what loneliness is and how to beat it.
It’s been shown that “lonely people are often holding onto pessimistic and bleak predictions about the prospects of finding companionship, social connections, and supportive relationships” (Ross A. Rosenberg). This means that the feeling of loneliness can be overcome by tweaking our thoughts and self-talk. There are many steps you can take to empower yourself to beat loneliness. In his TEDx video, psychologist Guy Winch explains why we need to practice emotional aid when it comes to loneliness, shame, and guilt. You might also want to check out this article, where Ross Rosenberg offers 11 tips to overcome loneliness.
In summary, loneliness is not something to be ashamed of and is not your fault. Learn to recognize its genuine source and empower yourself with better ways to deal with it than turning to shop therapy. Create a good budget and see where you can re-allocate finances to enjoy life experiences with your children rather than things. This will allow you to get out more, worry less, and feel more empowered and capable as a mom!