Myth: We need close relationships to be happy.

‘Don’t we need close friends and healthy relationships to be happy?

No, despite what the gurus tell you. It’s a common myth and a cruel one. I dread to think how many people mistakenly believe they are destined to remain unhappy because they don’t have close relationships.

As explained in the introduction, we evolved to have an innate need to feel valued, and to feel connected with those around us. That is evolution’s way of getting us to stay in the tribe. If we feel part of the tribe . . . connected with the tribe . . . we satisfy our ‘deep need to belong and are rewarded with core happiness.

(When we don’t feel connected with the tribe . . . with those around us . . . we feel anxious. That is evolution’s way of nudging us to change the situation.)

Having close relationships is a wonderful way to satisfy our need to feel connected. But it’s not the only way. We can satisfy that need if we feel connected with the people around us – the shopkeeper, our neighbour, the gym staff, the people we meet . . .  When we feel connected with the people around us we feel connected with humanity. And that’s enough to satisfy our ‘deep need to belong’. That’s enough for core happiness.

We don’t need to have long conversations with these people – often a smile and a nod will suffice. As the proverb goes, ‘The shortest distance between two people is a smile.’

Some people talk and talk, but that doesn’t mean there is a quality connection. (Often, poor conversation skills lead to disconnection.) As corny as it sounds, if you feel comfortable wishing a passer-by ‘good morning’, and mean it, there is a good chance you will feel connected with the human race, and satisfy your ‘deep need to belong’.

So, don’t let the happiness gurus tell you that you need close relationships to be happy. You don’t. You just need to feel connected with humanity.

But if you do have healthy, close relationships, enjoy them and look after them.

Q. ‘But some people really need to be surrounded by friends. My sister finds toilet cubicles lonely.’
Your sister needs to find another way to get a sense of belonging, to reduce that dependency. Otherwise her neediness might result in her being exploited, easily influenced, or hanging out with ‘the wrong’ friends.
Having quality connections with the people we meet in life allows us to be more discerning about the relationships we do choose to have.

Q. ‘Mr Bashful, Kathleen Puckett wrote in the magazine, ‘New Scientist’, 4th September, 2011:
 “. . . During my 23-year stint as an FBI special agent, my colleagues and I looked into what Kaczynski, McVeigh and Rudolph (three mass murderers) had in common. The results were startling. All three were highly intelligent and well educated, with no previous history of criminal violence. But they all shared a profound inability to forge meaningful relationships.  . . .  (They were) all repeatedly unable to connect socially to the groups whose ideology they shared.”
 ‘Mr B, doesn’t this indicate that we need meaningful relationships?’
No, but it might indicate we need the capacity to forge meaningful relationships. If those murderers were unable to forge meaningful relationships there is a good chance they were also unable to connect well with anyone. As I say, it’s the quality of the connections we have with all people that matters.


4 Responses to Myth: We need close relationships to be happy.

  1. Felicia Kidd says:

    Hello I am a 46 year old single parent and never been married. How do I keep from feeling lonely like I’ve missed out on happiness.

    • Mr Bashful says:


      When I wrote the two books I was trying to solve the puzzle of what makes a person happy, resilient and connected. And that included how to make a person less lonely. I understand that most people won’t apply the tips that I present. That’s the same for other self-help books and other guide books too. There are countless self-help books around, yet most of the people who read them are still troubled. Or lonely. Either the self-help books give poor advice, (that’s common) or they give good advice but it’s asking too much to expect the reader to apply the tips. (That’s common too.) I’m one of those readers. I might read a book that sounds perfectly sensible, but not get around to actually applying the ideas in it. I have owned a book on how to project my voice for six years, but I haven’t yet practised the suggested exercises!

      But to answer your question: how you can stop feeling lonely and be happy? I’d like you to go to the ‘Happiness Myths’ section and read: ‘Myth: We need to be loved’ and ‘Myth: We need to love’. Hopefully they will persuade you that you don’t need a relationship to be happy.

      I would also suggest that you read Parts 8 & 9 in my other free online book, ‘The Umpteen Ways to Satisfy Our Deep Need to Belong’. 

      I don’t believe anyone needs a relationship to be happy, though when a single person is lonely and unhappy, it’s hard to accept that. It’s easy for a lonely person to see happy people in healthy loving relationships and assume that their relationship is why they’re happy. But they’re not happy because they’re in a relationship; they’re happy because they’re satisfying their innate need to feel connected, (and in a five-star way). People can feel connected in other ways. If we can feel connected, even if it’s only the one-star way, that’s good enough to satisfy our innate need for connection. And to be happy. That’s what my other free online book, ‘The Umpteen Ways to Satisfy Our Deep Need to Belong’ is about.

      I am 60 and have never married. Countless times I have thought how lovely it would be for me to have a healthy loving relationship with a woman. However, I have not felt lonely. And, I’m happy. I think it’s because I apply the tips I describe in the books (though I can’t be sure) and I understand why a person who is alone doesn’t have to be unhappy. They just need to feel connected. I’m fortunate, because my innate need for connection is met.

      I hope my suggested readings persuade you that you don’t need to have a relationship to be happy. A healthy loving relationship is a wonderful bonus in life, but it’s not necessary for happiness. I know that’s hard to believe, but I’ve managed it. As have countless others.

      And, if you do manage to avoid the general self-help inertia most of us experience and actually apply the tips in each book, you might well find that in a year’s time you will notice that there have been changes within you, and that you’re happy. So that when you do find a relationship, it’s not necessary, it’s just a lovely bonus.

      Warm regards,

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