3645097917_f9dd3c52ab_zI was brought up to just assume that I would get married one day.  It was a given.  There was just never any question in my mind.  Even today, there is a pervasive expectation in our society for people to couple.  When they don’t, it is oftentimes presumed that something is wrong or that there is a problem and that they’re lonely.

Alone Is Not All Bad

For the last century, studies have shown that married people are healthier. They live longer, have lower blood pressure, have better mental health, and survive cancer more frequently.  The list goes on. Marriage is not a guarantee that you won’t be lonely. Many people are terribly lonely in a marriage.  I was.

It was not until I divorced, and lived alone that I learned to embrace solitude and to be happy by myself.  At first, I was terribly lonely and devastated because being alone went against everything that I had been taught was “supposed” to be. It just was not natural.  Or was it?  I found that I even prefer solitude.  Imagine that! For the last five years, I have been totally alone. No kids. No man. Nada.

I had a great deal of fear around being by myself.  I had never been alone.   Growing up, I went from a household with two brothers, to college with roommates, and then, immediately, to marriage.  Also, I think that I resisted it strongly because it wasn’t the vision I had in my mind of how life was “supposed” to be. I gradually -and I  mean over years – let go of my resistance to this, by being by myself.

Single Is Growing on Us

Seems I am not alone (pun intended). At least 1 in every 3 new households created during the 1990s was a single person. As a result, 26 % of U.S. households are single persons.  Besides not having to compromise at all on what movie to watch, playing the music as loud as I want, and being able to eat raw veggies for dinner for 5 nights in a row at whatever time I want, living alone provides for greater relaxation, less stress, and more free time for things like exercise and meditation, in my opinion.

Being alone also teaches independence. When the heat goes out in the middle of the night, and it’s 10 degrees outside, I kind of have to figure out what to do about it right then by myself.

There are even benefits to being alone for your brain.  A study at Harvard University by Bethany Barum and Daniel Gilbert, aka Professor Happiness, found that our memory actually works better in isolation. They think this is because, at some level, if not alone, your brain is always multitasking and paying some attention to the other person.

“I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
– Henry David Thoreau

 

image source:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevon/

15 Comments

  1. I certainly agree with you about the value of learning to be independent and content living by yourself. It’s not really alone anyway, like monastic solitude in a cell. You still live in the world. You have encounters of importance with other people everywhere you go. But, living on your own you learn to appreciate your true worth and worthiness. If or when in future you do decide you want alliance, you’ll make a better contract and a wiser choice of partner.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      You are right. It is not really alone. I do interact with others daily. However, there are days where I do not at all, and I truly love those kind of days. I like the thought of being entirely alone for an extended period of time somewhere. The issue now is that I do not know if I can or will ever want to adapt to being around someone else. It is a weird dichotomy because that is OK with me and it is not at the same time. I kind of like the idea of the eccentric spinster with all her cats! Never thought I’d say that.

  2. Nice insights.

    I am an only child, not yet married (though I am ever-hopeful, and just turned 50). Out of necessesity, I honed my good being alone skills from a young age. For a long time, always longing for that happy someday when I wouldn’t have to. I have had many wonderful relationships, but no marriage, and am finally fine with that it may always ever be just me. I have a wonderful man in my life, and at last, I can care for and love him for who he is, and not just for how he delivers what I think I need from another. Definitely the worst kind of lonely is the kind when you are with another. I would take alone over that every time.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Good for you, Leisa, for being fine with the idea that it may always be you. I am not sure I am there yet. In reality, I love being alone and like the freedom it allows me to live my life as I see fit, to pursue my goals and desires, and to make decisions based solely on my needs and wants. However, I also recognize that, deep down, I still buy into the idea of the need, at some point, to be part of a couple. I am sure that this will change and evolve as I do in the future.

  3. I don’t believe there’s the expectation to be married here in Australia. There are a lot of mixed families, step parents, which saddens me as that’s been a recurring theme in my life. I think being alone is healthy to establish independence and to learn who we are. I wonder if insecurity brings us together and then later we’ve nothing in common. I see this in my work. I like the idea of being married for sixty years, and becoming wonderful grandparents, but I’m not certain that’s the way we’re wired. Thanks for the honest article 🙂

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      I do think insecurity brings us together, but maybe that is a good thing in the end. Because, in the union, I think, a lot of times an individual finds their strength and will to be themselves because of the union.

      I have also revised my idea of “family.” To me, now, it has nothing to do with marriages or birth. It is a circle of people in your life about which you care and with which you share.

  4. Hi, Debbie

    This is a very interesting post. Don’t you think people automatically equate ‘being alone’ with ‘being lonely’? Being alone can be a very positive state; it does not automatically follow that you will be lonely. And, you can be in room full of people and be the loneliest person in the world.

    I like your blog and am currently trying to subscribe – my email gremlins are preventing me from doing so. I will persevere!

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Thanks for stopping by. I love your handle…”becoming herself!” Could be mine.

      Yes, I do think people often equate being alone with loneliness. I know that I used to. I am as surprised as anyone to find that is not true…and joyous! I find being alone can be a very blissful, peaceful, calm state. I am afraid I might become too stuck in it and cling to it just like I did not being alone. Therein is the learning, huh? Just as soon as we get comfortable….

      Thank you for the kind words. Do come back often if the security gremlins permit! 🙂

  5. Ande Waggener Reply

    Very interesting that the brain does better when you’re solitary. I’ve always treasured my solitude, even when I was married the first time. Then I had five years on my own, and I enjoyed the freedom very much. Now, I have the best of both worlds. I’m in a loving marriage, but my husband understands my need for solitude and space, and I get plenty of time to do my own thing and have the peace of alone time. I am never lonely. In fact, the only time I’ve ever been lonely was during my first marriage, when my husband was there, but not there. 😉

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      It does sound like you have found the best of both worlds. To be with someone who truly understands and respects the need for solitude…and does not take it personally offensive…would be ideal, I would think.

      Loneliness, I believe, is something individual within ourselves and the relationships we construct in our lives. I know I will never be lonely again!

  6. After the end of my 24 year marriageI too was aone for the 1st time in nrealy half a century. It took me time to get used to being alone. When I was in a relationship after my divorce I felt like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole Eventually I learned to lose my feelings of aloneness without being in a relationship and felt free for the first time in my life. It wan’t for years before the right person showd up and I felt free being in a relationship, but that took time as well. Now I am not attached to being in a relationship or not being in one. I am free in either.

  7. Thanks for celebrating the positives of being on your own. I love my husband but I also appreciate times when he’s away and the opportunity for solitude. I agree that having to figure things out on my own is also a real boon! I’m glad you’ve found happiness and comfort in your singleness.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      How does the saying go? “Necessity is the mother of invention” or, the impetus for learning, in my case. I have had to figure a bunch of stuff out…power tools, yard equipment, electronic gadgets and more. Some, I would happily turn over the operation and maintenance of to someone else, but that is probably not a good basis for a relationship. Ya think!? 🙂

  8. [Whoever can not spend two-thirds of the day alone, doing what he pleases, is a slave. by Nietzsche ]

    I am happy you are comfortable to live alone, find joys and peaces out of it^^

    And don’t forget also to find yourself a social joy out of your one-third of time ^^

    Best Luck, Sandy

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Sandy, thank you for commenting and sharing the Nietzche quote. I so agree with it. Because of a brain injury, it was actually very difficult for me to be around people for any length of time – too much stimulation. Now, the challenge is, as you say, to find the social joy one third of the time.

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