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Is It Love or Are You Just Filling a Void? Mastering Aloneness and Creating a Real Relationship


I experienced a dating drought at the beginning of this year. My phone stopped ringing, my inbox dried up and I felt untethered. I felt real loneliness for the first time since my ex-husband moved out two years ago. It was strange. My whole being seemed to wither. I contributed meagerly to conversations. Writing ideas were few and small. I couldn’t even find good songs on the radio. I remember thinking, I wouldn’t make a good partner right now. I’m all deficit and no offerings. I was immersed in uncertainty. My housing was up in the air. My career path was amorphous. My kids were bickering and it WOULD NOT STOP SNOWING. I wanted a partner to help me. I wanted a co-decisionmaker, someone to make me laugh, rub my shoulders and tell me it was going to be OK. I wanted to fill a void. I wanted to meet someone. All the while fearing I reeked of desperation. I forgot I could make my own happiness. I forgot about the difference between loneliness and aloneness.

Loneliness vs. Aloneness

You misunderstand aloneness as loneliness; it is simply a misunderstanding. You are sufficient unto yourself. — Osho via The Good Men Project

lonely voidLoneliness is a longing for attention, understanding and comfort from another. It’s searching or waiting for companionship. It’s feeling incomplete on your own. It’s a deep desire to share your life. It’s a weariness from doing everything by yourself. It’s thinking your prayers will be answered if you could just find someone.

Aloneness is summoning strength from within and letting it flow outward. It’s enjoying your own company and finding pleasure in self-created activities. It’s self-actualization — living to your full potential and not being swayed by other’s opinions. It’s a wholeness unto yourself that fosters healthy emotional connecting.*

My personal opinion is that loneliness is the more common state. It’s effortless to slip into the anxiety and sadness of loneliness. Our extroverted culture perpetuates the image of happiness through family and coupling. Loners are losers. If you are single, don’t worry you’ll find someone soon. Although the stigma of single-hood is lessening there often remains a natural pressure or desire to belong to a group or pair. Lives increasingly filled with busy-ness (technology use, invasive work demands, longer commutes, overloaded schedules), limit time for face to face socializing and deep connecting. Even when you want to share good news it can be difficult to find loving listening ears. Long term loneliness is unbearable. It drives people to fill the void with the first acceptable person that shows up.

You may be filling a void if:

1. You hop from relationship to relationship. Searching and searching. You are ‘bored’ or ‘at loose ends’  by yourself and can’t spend an afternoon alone. Potential loneliness scares you.

2. You settle for a relationship that stops at knowing your partner. Understanding and relating are into-the-void-brazilextras you are willing to do without in order to have someone now.

3. You are in love with how your partner looks to the world rather than how he/she looks at the world. You fall in love with being a couple.

4. You change your values in order to make a relationship work. Selling out. Ex. Giving up religious or disciplinary practices.

5. Relationships end and you don’t take the time to go internal and process. You move on to the next one without considering the growth and development experienced in the last one. You are afraid to linger in pain so you cover it up with new excitement.

6. You use someone else’s belief in you rather than believing in yourself.

How do you get out of the loneliness/void-filling pattern?

Be good on your own first.

Ironically, in order to return to my natural happy and un-lonely set point, I needed time to myself.

I finally had a few days when the kids were in school and the house didn’t need cleaning for a showing. The space allowed fostered pro-activity instead of reactivity. My brain started churning out possibilities for housing and career paths. I read inspiring biographies and innovative books about relationships. I had dinner with old friends. I networked within my social circles. I looked into trips with friends and family.

I traveled to DC with the kids and it was incredible. We worked as a team and explored the city with gusto and curiosity. I’m in my element when it comes to exploring new places, finding great food and talking to strangers (I know, weird for an introvert). I love chatting up the locals and finding hidden treasures within the city. Sure, it would have been nice to have a partner to share the experience with but it was wonderful the way it played out. I ran into a friend from Minneapolis at Ford’s Theater. Our lodging and flights went smoothly. My energy was high and the kids were troopers. I did it on my own and it was awesome.

Back at home, I started going to a new yoga class. I went there for me, not to meet anyone. I yogawanted the sensual and fitness experience of yoga. I wanted to be present and distracted from my brain chatter. It worked. The instructor kicks my butt. It’s the most difficult yoga class I’ve ever taken. It challenges me and I survive. As an added bonus, the instructor takes his shirt off mid-class, but I digress.;)

I took myself on what Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way calls an artist date. It’s a solo expedition meant to spark whimsy and feed your creative well. My date may have looked like retail therapy but it was more than that. I’m not a big shopper. I tend to consolidate shopping into three or four outings per year. I spent four hours in the mall on this night. I immersed myself in feminine purchases —jewelry, undergarments, makeup. I felt so girlie with my pink shopping bags and fragrance samples. It was the perfect boost for my feminine essence. My masculine essence had been working hard all winter making decisions, snow blowing the driveway and running the show. It was time to soften and play up my inner goddess. I left feeling whole and balanced.

One of the best self-elixirs is helping others. I have friends to support, readers to cherish, family to love and oodles of other opportunities to brighten others’ lives. Most of the time just being heard thrills people. I can listen deeply. It’s actually a great pleasure of mine. I feel useful and purposeful when I get to help others heal and shine.

Lonely now?

sensual and radiant goddessI filled up my social calendar and the winds began to change. Independence and wholeness are the sexiest most attractive pheromones. The scent of self-satisfaction plays in the air and draws seekers of light. Everyone wants to witness your glow, your radiance. Everyone wants to feel the love that flows from you.

At this point, loneliness has dissolved. Aloneness is in place and poised for an emotionally mature and carefully selected relationship.

How do you dissolve loneliness? Is your relationship a space holder or is it deeply real and rewarding?  

* Based on the words of Indian spiritual guru, Osho

If you’d like help working through loneliness, embracing wholeness or fostering fulfilling relationships, please contact me for supportive coaching sessions


If you enjoyed Is It Love or Are You Just Filling a Void… then you may also love:

How to Reconnect: Maintaining Sexual Interest, Engagement and Identity in Your Relationship

Introvert Relationships: Are Our Expectations for Love Unobtainable?

Does Your Partner Need a Lot of Space?: Introversion or Just Not That Into You?

4 Steps to Love and Independence

How My 91 Year Old Relative Showed Me the Secret to A Powerful Relationship (The Good Men Project)


About the Author:


  1. […] Loneliness is a longing for attention, understanding and comfort from another. It’s searching or waiting for companionship. It’s feeling incomplete on your own… It’s a weariness from doing everything by yourself. It’s thinking your prayers will be answered if you could just find someone – Brenda Knowles […]

  2. You Are Enough | NOTEWORTHY October 27, 2015 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    […] real with yourself can be tough. Here are some great tips to help you determine Is It Love or Are You Just Filling a Void?: Mastering Aloneness and Creating a Real […]

    • Brenda Knowles October 29, 2015 at 7:52 am - Reply

      Thank you for sharing! I appreciate it. 🙂

  3. Bharath September 27, 2015 at 9:22 am - Reply

    I felt void after a broken relationship. This article made my day..perfect one.

    Thabks for sharing.

    Love and peace to you

    • Brenda Knowles October 1, 2015 at 4:17 pm - Reply

      Thank you! I’m so glad you found the post helpful.:)

  4. BeroOo July 30, 2015 at 3:10 am - Reply

    You reminded me of how to be happy on my own without waiting for someone to make happy 🙂

  5. NorthernGirl January 29, 2015 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    I like your article. I have been reading many articles trying different tips to move past my loneliness. All of them talk about taking time to get past someone. But what if you have done that? I left an emotionally abusive relationship almost 5 years ago. It was my first and only boyfriend and I was 21. Now I am 26. I avoided relationships for a couple of years so I could heal and become me again. When I was no longer angry at him, and could look on the experience without negative feelings, I decided that I could open myself up to possibilities. However, possibilities have been next to non-exhistant. As time has past, loneliness has set in and has become a black hole. I have a wonderful circle of friends (who have all gotten married in the last couple of years), three to four nights a week I am active in clubs or activities, and live by myself. I made a list of what I wanted to accomplish in my life, and have achieved most of them. I lead what should be a productive and filling life, and do spend down time meditating, and do both journalling and stream of conscience journalling. And yet I crave someone to love and to be loved myself. I dream of walking into loving arms and getting hugged. While this craving for companionship and love ebbs and flows, when it is strong I tend to shy away from all men because I don’t want to stuff him into the void. I have talked about this with others. No one has anything that helps. Sometimes I wonder if there is any hope in overcoming this struggle, and I tell myself that as long as I am breathing there is hope.

    • Brenda Knowles January 31, 2015 at 3:19 pm - Reply

      Kudos to you for providing yourself with excellent self-care. You truly are very self-aware and mature in your thinking and actions. I was like you in that I took some time to return to myself after my ex-husband moved out but eventually I craved companionship and love. I do not think you will ‘stuff a man into the void’. You seem to have your head about you. You have not met anyone in the activities you participate in? I would say you are in the perfect position to meet someone with similar interests and values. You have good friends and a full life. You may frown upon online dating but I have had good luck with it. I have found that if you know yourself very well then you won’t get stuck going on inane dates with inappropriate men. You know what you want and don’t want. That is my suggestion. Otherwise, try something new. A bold new activity or service. See who you encounter. You will find someone. Remember every relationship takes effort. The best partners are the ones who are willing to stick with you and work through the imperfections. I have a good feeling you will find that. 2015 could be your year.:)
      Thank you for sharing your story.

  6. […] Is It Love or Are You Just Filling a Void?: Mastering Aloneness and Creating a Real Relationship […]

  7. […] Is It Love or Are You Just Filling a Void?: Mastering Aloneness and Creating a Real Relationship […]

  8. munso028 November 16, 2014 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    It’s interesting to think about loneliness and aloneness. I’ve been told by so many people that I have to be happy alone before I can expect to be happy with someone. Their reasoning is that I want someone to fill a void I find in myself. In truth, I like alone time; I need alone time. I also know that we are social beings. I can (and do) everything on my own; I’m confident in myself. And I want someone to share my life. I can be alone and do it all alone, but I don’t want to. I don’t NEED someone; I WANT someone. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

    • Brenda Knowles November 17, 2014 at 1:35 pm - Reply

      I hear you. It sounds like you are saying you can be happy alone but want your life enhanced with a relationship. Sharing experiences with someone else is a natural desire for most humans.
      The trouble comes in when someone has no idea who they are without a relationship. They morph to the needs and desires of each person they bond with but end up in an unhappy relationship because their partner doesn’t really know them and hence can’t truly love THEM.
      If you have self-knowledge and self-satisfaction then yes, yes, by all means create a magnificent relationship.:)

      • ori August 8, 2016 at 1:45 pm - Reply

        WOW amazing words i’ll copy them to read them again

  9. M October 11, 2014 at 9:22 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for this! This is exactly what I needed!

  10. […] Is It Love or Are You Just Filling a Void?: Mastering Aloneness and Creating a Real Relationship […]

  11. AJ July 14, 2014 at 8:40 pm - Reply

    Nice article but I think you should always cite the original source of this info rather than passing it off as your own- loneliness vs aloneness: it’s all been borrowed from Osho’s original discourses.

    • Brenda Knowles July 14, 2014 at 9:14 pm - Reply

      You’re right. The inspiration came from the article: How My 91 Year Old Relative Showed Me the Secret to a Powerful Relationship via The Good Men Project which I did recommend at the bottom of the post. I’m actually surprised I didn’t at least mention the article in the post. My bad.

  12. SD April 30, 2014 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    As much as I need/want my alone time, I have my moments of extreme loneliness and desperate emotional neediness, although they are far and few between. Sometimes I am easily overwhelmed by everyday responsibilities and yearn for someone to take over or fix things for me. Its a tall order from someone who is able to give so little to others. I have to remind myself that expecting things from others that I am incapable of giving in return is unrealistic.

    • Brenda Knowles May 3, 2014 at 1:44 pm - Reply

      I apologize for my slow response time. I also fall into chasms of overwhelm. Too many everyday details and tasks can push me over the edge. I would love to share some of the duties with someone else. I especially wish for someone to help with decision making and home repairs.
      We all give what we can. I’m sure you’ve already considered simplifying your life to the point where you have free time and feel less overloaded. I keep my close friends to a minimum and don’t join too many groups/committees/organizations. I am looking forward to moving into a smaller home and renting, thus less worry and work for me. I know I must have fewer responsibilities so that I can do what I value most. Big hug and peace to you. I know you have something of value to offer others. Perhaps you are a good listener? Most people would kill for a good listening friend.:)

  13. […] Knowles on her introvert blog Space2Live was surprisingly controversial. At its core, it’s about the difference between being lonely, and being alone, but it sparked a small flurry of responses. Some people took exception to her association of […]

  14. susipet April 21, 2014 at 2:46 am - Reply

    Ah yes I remember this post divorce…. So hard for me then to work out whether I was just filling a gap in my life or not…

    • Brenda Knowles April 21, 2014 at 8:38 am - Reply

      It’s been interesting. I have actually seen many men ‘filling the gap’. I don’t want to be that space filler. I hope to connect with someone who wants more than a helpmate. This round I’m looking for spiritual/emotional/physical intimacy and intend to offer the same in return. Why not go for the whole enchilada? 😉 I may be alone for a while but that’s OK.

      • susipet April 21, 2014 at 8:40 am - Reply

        Yes … Way better than being a space filler. I held out and it’s been worth it… So I wish you well!

  15. vincenzofrancesco April 18, 2014 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on whirl.wind.rider and commented:
    Those of us who struggle with a difficult past where invalidity prevailed may have a hard time distinguishing the difference between dependence and love. This post articulates the enormous difference.

    • November April 21, 2014 at 10:19 am - Reply

      I also struggle with a difficult past. I’ve just realized/discovered that my mother is a narcissist and continually tells me that my introverted behavior is “wrong”. (Even though it’s obvious that I am exactly like my dad–and when I point that out, my mom “lies” and tells me “no he’s not like that!”) Because of her controlling/sheltering/molding, I’m probably more dependent than I wish to admit.
      And because I felt I couldn’t depend on my husband, I left him. (Among many other reasons, including feeling lonely and ignored.)

      Perhaps it’s my dependence speaking, but I desperately want to find someone who gives to ME (instead of how it’s been in the past–me constantly giving and not receiving sufficient support in return). I know it’s not time to seek out a new relationship, but I already worry…..through the experience of my marriage ending, I believe I’ve discovered that I cannot live with another human (friend or significant other). I’m already trying to brace myself for the rejection I will feel when I have to be honest about THAT. What man is going to want to date a woman who he knows will never live with him?

      • Brenda Knowles April 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm - Reply

        It’s quite possible you are burned out and raw sensitive from an unhappy marriage and henpecking from your mother. When my ex-husband moved out I was both sad and relieved. The freedom from his presence felt so good. I still love an empty house to myself.

        I think it is possible to find someone who matches your giving. The way to happiness through giving is to have some self-interest involved. I learned that from Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take. If you give and give without getting anything in return you’re a doormat and miserable.

        There is a growing number of couples who do not live together. Separate houses keep their relationships running smoothly. So don’t be so certain you’ll be rejected.

        My suggestion for you right now is to love yourself and find what gives you the most joy. Your happiness is your responsibility. Let it come from within. When you glow from the inside the best kind of people are attracted to you.:)

  16. vincenzofrancesco April 18, 2014 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    Sometimes it is easy to lose perspective and forget the truths you have articulated so well. Thank you for the reminder and God bless you.

    • Brenda Knowles April 18, 2014 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      Aw thank you! I’m so happy the post spoke to you.

    • RR August 12, 2015 at 9:21 pm - Reply

      So nice words sir

  17. sheketechad April 18, 2014 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    As usual, you capture the truth simply. For me, I had to understand and accept that I may live alone for some time, perhaps, always. Once I envisioned that, I began working towards fulfilling my own future story. It is amazing how many new people I began to make connections with. Not all potential partners, for certain. I am fortunate, as I rarely feel ‘lonely’. But that shift in my own mind helped in some manner, and came out after my solitary camping trip.

    Keep up the amazing work 🙂

    • Brenda Knowles April 18, 2014 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      Yes! We have to make our own future story then see if anyone shows up to join us.;) I am rarely lonely as well but for some reason the beginning of this year hit me hard. I’m good now.:) Just needed to start creating my own story. You are always an inspiration. I love your positive and beautifully introspective nature. Keep sharing your story.

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