questions about being alone…

the subject of being alone comes up…a lot.  in all sorts of ways.  so i have some questions about things i’ve seen, heard, been complained to about extensively.  for the sake of clarity, think in terms of pre-marriage relationships when answering, since divorce is yucky and all.  and for the sake of being completely insensitive, i’m using the word “alone” instead of “single” because it makes people uncomfortable and that’s kind of what i want for these questions.

1.  is it better to be alone than in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship?  why or why not?

2.  what is the biggest fear about being alone?

3.  what is the best thing about being alone?

4.  what can you do to avoid being lonely while being alone? 

5.  is the feeling of loneliness more of a mental problem or an external problem or both?

i know at least a couple of these can be hard to answer, but i’m hoping it will start a dialogue that will serve two purposes.

  1. so i can gain a better understanding of what you guys are experiencing and feeling.
  2. so that maybe those of you who are alone right now won’t feel so isolated.  you might be without a significant other right now, but so are a lot of other people.  you’re alone, but you’re not alone in your alone…ness. 

it’s sentences like that last one that make me wonder why you people read what i write at all.

cheers!

 

 

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27 comments on “questions about being alone…

  1. I was halfway the second answer when I noticed this wasn’t for me to answer. I’m shutting up now, but I think you’re asking excellent questions (I know that’s not shutting up). From now on.

  2. I think it depends entirely on the person. I’m single, live alone, and generally spend a lot of time by myself. For some people, including good friends, that would be torturous. For me, its fantastic. I watch whatever movie sounds good, while eating cheerios for dinner, casually lounging in underwear and no one cares.

    Its definitely better to be alone rather than be in an unhealthy/dead end relationship. Working in the domestic violence field this year has made me appreciate solitude a lot more. Seeing how so many men and women stay in abusive relationships for fear of being alone, or because they are convinced no one else will love them, has shown me I need to love myself first before I can share my life with another person. I hope anyone out there who is single and lonely takes the opportunity to learn more about themselves instead of focusing on the need to find happiness from another.

    Can I get an Amen? Maybe? Just a wee one? Or feel free to tell me I’m delusional. That works too.

    • Big amen with regard to those in abusive relationships. A huge part of the manipulation and control is convincing them they don’t deserve better, and it’s a self-image that often continues in the person long after the abuser is out of their life. There’s two seemingly contradictory truths about this:

      1) Everyone has value as a human being created in the image of God, and no one deserves to be abused. Nothing justifies abuse. Abusers don’t abuse because the victim deserves it, they abuse because they want, in that moment or even in general, to abuse. It doesn’t necessarily mean the victim has never done anything upsetting. We all do upsetting things to each other at times. But the abuser still responds to that on the basis of what’s inside THEM, and has a responsibility for their reactions. Nothing justifies abuse.

      2) No human is worthy of love. Genuine godly love isn’t based off of our worthiness or attractiveness, it’s a decision and action by the one loving. It’s unconditional, and we can never be good enough to earn that. Human beings are pretty ugly creatures if you dig down into them. Most people who know me will tell you I’m one of the nicest guys. And it’s true. But I know all the reactions and impulses that by the grace of God usually don’t become visible actions, so I know I’m just as ugly inside as the next person. But God loves me anyway, and I have good family and friends in my life that also love me even when my flaws come to the surface. Because love doesn’t have to be earned. if you’re in a relationship, whether romantic or family, where you’re constantly having to try to earn it, it isn’t love.

  3. G Fresh says:

    1. is it better to be alone than in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship? why or why not?

    Yes. Although I’m not particularly happy about being alone, those people that I know that are in bad relationships are far more miserable than I am. That’s the one positive thing I can say is that at least I haven’t settled for just whomever would have me regardless of actual compatibility.

    2. what is the biggest fear about being alone?

    That it will never change. That 10 years from now I’ll be well into my middle age and still coming home to an empty apartment save for my two (by then incredibly old) cats.

    3. what is the best thing about being alone?

    I was gonna say being able to do whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it, but then I thought about it and for me, that’s not really a good thing because I LOVE doing stuff for other people, serving and whatnot, but I don’t really like doing that for myself. So really, nothing. There is nothing good about being alone that I can see. Maybe when I was younger, but not at this point in my life.

    4. what can you do to avoid being lonely while being alone?

    Hanging out with my rapidly dwindling supply of single friends or the one or two married couples that I don’t feel uncomfortable third-wheelin’ it with. Work on various building projects. Hobbies. Workout. Read. Watch a lot of Netflix. But these are really just band-aids. None of them last very long.

    5. is the feeling of loneliness more of a mental problem or an external problem or both?

    Both. They kind of perpetuate each other.

  4. Heidi Kruck says:

    1. is it better to be alone than in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship? why or why not?

    Alone, I think. Sometimes, at my loneliest, I like to entertain the other thought, but I’ve spent enough energy and emotions removing myself from harmful friendships to ever want to do that again in any relationship. Plus if you’re in the middle of an unhappy or unhealthy relationship, you might miss out on something better. At least that’s what I tell myself.

    2. what is the biggest fear about being alone?

    That it will be forever. And in my mid 30s, having never been in a relationship, this is a hard fear to combat. It’s really hard to believe that the next 20 years will be any different than the last 20. Also, that as my friends pair off, I lose my place in their lives, which has already happened to some degree, but only seems like it can get worse.

    3. what is the best thing about being alone?

    Being able to do what I want, whenever I want, and spend my money however I see fit. Trip to Ireland in a month because flights are cheap? Yes. Writing an extra big check for a charity I support? Yes. Dropping all my plans to spend the evening with someone I haven’t seen in a while? Yes.

    4. what can you do to avoid being lonely while being alone?

    I struggle with this a lot. I can actively keep busy and seek out people to be around, but then I exhaust myself and end up crashing and burning (which makes the lonely even worse). I tend to go in cycles: stay busy and ignore the lonely or stay home and be sad. I haven’t really figured out a good medium.

    5. is the feeling of loneliness more of a mental problem or an external problem or both?

    Mental mostly, probably. It’s how I can spend good quality time with people I love and then be in a serious funk because I’m the only single one in the whole group. Partly external, though, too, like when I want to do something and there’s no one around to do it with. That’s changed for me in the past 5 years though. I’ve finally given up on the idea that I won’t be alone any time soon and just started doing things by myself. Which sometimes helps with the keeping busy and sometimes makes me feel lonelier.

  5. This is a subject I love. 1. I don’t think there is a good reason for staying in a bad relationship. Been there done that, waste of time. 2. I think people’s biggest fear is that they will grow old or die alone. Reality us that usually one partner outlives the other even if you do go the distance. 3. For me the best thing about being “alone” my freedom to do as I please. I spent most of my life trying to accommodate others and now I don’t have to. 4. The best thing you can do, especially as a single woman, is cultivate a large number of supportive women friend’s. Women still generally live longer than men and if you have this network you’re never really alone. I am alone when I want to be but I am never lonely. 5. Feeling lonely, in my opinion is a mental state. And, besides the network of friend’s, the best thing you can do is learn to enjoy your own company. After the death thing, most people want to be in a relationship as a distraction from spending time with themselves. I could say more – but that is the nutshell version.

  6. Michael Mock says:

    1. is it better to be alone than in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship? why or why not?

    Ye gods, yes: it’s far better to be alone. I do understand that some people find being alone a lot more uncomfortable than I do, but still: if you’re in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship, and you can’t resolve whatever problems are there, then there’s no point in staying.

    2. what is the biggest fear about being alone?

    I don’t have one. Admittedly, I may not be the best person to answer this; I once went four months without speaking – to anyone – except in response to a direct question, just to see if I could do it. At the end of the experiment, I concluded that in fact, I could get along just fine while being completely solitary… but, also, that I very much preferred not to.

    3. what is the best thing about being alone?

    Being able to set my own schedule. (For me, personally, that means I can get writing done.)

    4. what can you do to avoid being lonely while being alone?

    It’s been a while, but… I used to go to clubs, sometimes; just being around people was often enough for me. And, if we’re using “alone” as a dysphemism for “single”, rather than in a more general sense, then I’d add “hang out with friends”.

    That would, in fact, be my big advice for not being lonely when you’re single: have friends of your own.

    5. is the feeling of loneliness more of a mental problem or an external problem or both?

    Eh? This is one of those areas where I don’t entirely understand the distinction. Or perhaps it’s just that I don’t understand why the distinction would matter. I think it can be either, and it’s usually a mix of both, but it doesn’t really matter; the answer to loneliness (as opposed to being comfortably alone) is to find people you enjoy interacting with, and interact with them.

    Which is where I usually launch into a discussion of social media and online communities, but I’ll spare you.

  7. 1. is it better to be alone than in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship? why or why not?

    It’s absolutely better to be alone than in an unhealthy relationship. An unhealthy relationship is by definition damaging, and will almost certainly cause you further relationship troubles down the road. It’s baggage and misery you don’t need.

    2. what is the biggest fear about being alone?

    I think instead of saying the fear that it will last forever or that you’ll die alone, I’d phrase it as the fear that you’re going to miss out on a lot of good experiences. It doesn’t seem as though there’s many experiences a single person can have that a married person can’t have. There are obstacles, sure, like the expense of 2 tickets to Europe vs 1 (or 3 or 5 or 7 if you have kids). But there’s no rule inherently disqualifying you if you’re married.

    If you combine this with a commitment to remain virgin till marriage, then sex is one of those experiences you may fear missing. I’d really rather not die never knowing for myself if it’s as awesome as others say it is, but I’m not willing to give up my promise to God and myself in order to find out.

    Lack of kids can be another fear. Sometimes I look at the world and think it might not be a bad idea NOT to bring a kid into it. Yet at other times I think it’d be sad for my male line to die off with me. And while men have a much longer biological clock to work with in terms of their own fertility, at some point most of the women who are going to be of age range to be interested in you are not going to be of age range to bear kids unless God pulls an Abraham and Sarah story on you. :>

    3. what is the best thing about being alone?

    I can’t really say I feel the do what you want when you want side of things quite the same way as some do, because I don’t actually *live* alone. As long as I live at home, I still have to mesh my life with my parents’ lives. And even if I moved out of the house, there’d be other demands on my schedule with work and such. So I think for me it’s more that my stuff is my stuff. What I own, I own, and nobody else has a claim on it. If I were married, I’d have to share. When I decided to change what was on the walls in my room a few weeks ago, I decided and did it. If I had a wife, her opinion would have to matter on that.

    4. what can you do to avoid being lonely while being alone?

    Keep communication with God, family, and friends. And I like what someone said above about being comfortable in your own company.

    5. is the feeling of loneliness more of a mental problem or an external problem or both?

    I’d say a mental problem that can be influenced by external sources at times, but is ultimately primarily internal.

  8. Jeremy says:

    I’m just going to answer number 2:

    The biggest fear I have of being alone is that there will be no one to truly share my ups and downs with. Who will I call when I get that new job or that big raise? Who will I call when I just can’t handle my boss anymore or just want to lie in a puddle on the floor? Who will I have that emotionally intimate relationship with? This may sound weird coming from a guy, but I’ve had a best friend and a wife and she left. Having someone that I can truly be honest and vulnerable with freaks me out.

  9. Edwin - Awkwardlist.com says:

    Sentences like that sentence you were referring to IS why I read your blog haha just kidding 🙂 Great post, it reminded me of this blog post I read:

    http://todayithink.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/thursday-quiet-and-solitude/

    🙂

    Edwin

  10. Abby says:

    1. is it better to be alone than in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship? why or why not?

    Seriously? Alone is not necessarily unhealthy but a toxic relationship is. If not handled well, both can leave emotional scars though.

    2. what is the biggest fear about being alone?

    That being single means I am not worth wanting so I will not ever find someone.

    3. what is the best thing about being alone?

    Being able to rearrange my home and schedule spontaneously and frequently without confusing or bothering anyone else… and the time I flew to South Korea for New Year’s Eve/Day with friends.

    4. what can you do to avoid being lonely while being alone?

    Work really hard to cultivate friendships, even when you and your friends are busy. I wrote a lot more about this here: http://stairstories.com/2012/02/22/missing-friends.

    5. is the feeling of loneliness more of a mental problem or an external problem or both?

    For me*, it is usually a matter of focus. If I am consistently paying attention to the relationships and very full, non-boring life I do have, I end up enjoying those things.

    *My experience is limited and I don’t want to speak for anyone else.

  11. hugam says:

    Yikes. So many questions! I’ll summarize my thoughts:
    Backstory: self image has always been a major issue in my life (which is another story) along with other things. In my last relationship, I didn’t realize how I was being used and manipulated. Being a helper and willing to serve when needed often left me drained and at the end of my rope. So yes, being alone would trump being in a unhealthy/dead/unbeneficial relationship. Is that easy? Uhh, I submit to you it is not. I want kids. I want a family. Granted, all these can happen without having a significant other or husband (in my case) but I also see how there is wisdom in having things in a particular order. I’m afraid my past mistakes will flaw me and make me unlovable and that I will, as other mentioned, be alone forever and not be able to have family/kids of my own and be that person people pity because I love to watch kids of any age and actually enjoy it (tangent). Best thing about being alone? Bah. If being with close friends counts, then being able to do things with others….whenever. But I’d also comment that being in a relationship doesn’t mean tied down and loss of independence! You have to be your own person too. It’s an all-of-the-above problem. It starts in the mind-seeing all these couples, feelings of being alone, and wondering about how your story will unfold…all while seeing your friends engaged, married, and having kids of their own. Tough stuff to be happy about, when all you do is pay for shower gifts of all kinds every month (possible slight exaggeration).
    All in all, it’s a process…Being happy with where you are…seeing what sort of things you can happen upon…and if it’s going to be for just a season, then you’re prolly working on other things in your life so you’re better prepared for when you aren’t alone.
    If that’s my summary, you should see my ramblings. (;

  12. susanft says:

    sure it’s better alone than unhappy. but i can certainly understand why people compromise and go with the second option – especially if you live in a coupled world or are watching your friends pair off when you aren’t.
    loneliness sucks it just does – and it is also seen, i think, as a bit of a weakness (eek neediness alert!) for someone to actually admit they ARE lonely.

  13. 1. is it better to be alone than in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship? why or why not?

    it’s better to be alone then an unhealthy relationship for sure. I think if you are unhappy in a relationship you should really consider why you are unhappy. is it really because of the relationship or is it something else?

    2. what is the biggest fear about being alone?

    for me it’s not so much a fear, it’s just a desire to have someone to share life with. it’s wanting to have that special person to celebrate the wins with and to turn to for support when you are struggling. someone that can help you be a better person.

    3. what is the best thing about being alone?

    time, money, freedom are probably the most often talked about advantages. you don’t have to worry nearly as much about how your choices effect someone else. for example if you don’t like your job you can walk away from it without worrying about how it effects your significant other, in a relationship it’s harder to do that.

    4. what can you do to avoid being lonely while being alone?

    build and invest in friendships, hobbies, travel.

    5. is the feeling of loneliness more of a mental problem or an external problem or both?
    it’s both.

  14. janakaye says:

    Very timely. I recently wrote down in my journal a “big lie” I wrestle with as I battle with who I am as a woman who may never marry, and redefine what that will mean for my life: “If I am single for life, that means I am barren, unloved, and alone.” (for the record, of course this does not apply to everyone who is single, but simply reflects my experience and personal struggle with alone-ness, to use your word, Sharideth)

    That’s an ugly, ugly statement. And it’s a belief that I often mistakenly live from…that I will never really “be ok”, because I am single where I would not have chosen this life.

    My married friends remind me that loneliness is not the domain of singles alone, and, alternatively, that being alone can be a blessing (that one comes from the ones who are just waiting for the day when they can pee or shower without being followed by the tinies)., but it does seem especially prominent in the life of singles.

    1. is it better to be alone than in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship? why or why not?

    -Not always. It is maybe better to be alone than to enter into an unhealthy or unhappy relationship knowingly, but every married friend of mine has gone through periods of unhealthiness and unhappiness. Some have quit the relationship because of it, but those who have fought through it, gone to counseling, and/or worked through the fire together come through stronger.

    I have to remind myself often that have chosen being alone over some relationships. I don’t know if in the end those would have been truly unhappy or unhealthy…I have to believe that the fact that somehow I was inexplicably ANNOYED within an inch of my sanity by some of these fellas was some weird form of God’s protection, as most of them are relatively happily married by now.

    2. what is the biggest fear about being alone?

    I agree with GFresh that another 10 years of the same makes me want quietly disappear. And also, doing my taxes and making big decisions (especially financial) alone freaks me out.

    3. what is the best thing about being alone?

    There are lots of good things. Sleeping in. staying up late. Netflix queue with no Dog the Bounty Hunter. I think though, that the biggest thing I am grateful for is also the biggest burden: being completely in responsible of my time. It’s great to be able to focus on service, projects, or events…I am able to do things that my married friends just can’t make time for, like volunteer for major events and fundraisers at my church, or work on big art projects. However, when the lights go out at the events, and I arrive home dead tired to a dark house which somehow bred dirty dishes and laundry while I was working 18-hour days for the event, it doesn’t seem like such a nice thing.

    4. what can you do to avoid being lonely while being alone?

    I create. I cook, write, paint, or do a small home project. I “make a dent” in my world somehow. one of the best things I find that helps is exercise. The other best thing is to focus on someone else intentionally, either serving somehow or just calling or writing an e-mail to say hi.

    5. is the feeling of loneliness more of a mental problem or an external problem or both?

    It’s a bit of both, although I think a lot of it is rooted in perspective. Even though I *feel* alone, often, I know that I am not really alone. But it’s hard to remember that when you’ve tried to text or call 5 of your closest friends because you really need to talk to someone, and none of them are available, or when you’re making a big, scary Monster decision that might cause you to fail big-time, or if you’re simply trying to decide what matters most in your life, like choosing between mowing the lawn or cleaning the litterbox on a typical Friday night.

  15. I’m not sure if this is aimed at me, because I think I just don’t accept the premise behind some of the questions. All the same, i thought I’d have a go.

    1. is it better to be alone than in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship? why or why not?

    Alone won’t damage you. The alternative can.

    2. what is the biggest fear about being alone?

    Does not compute. Fear doesn’t even enter the equation for me. In general, alone is a good thing for me, although in the sense of not having a romantic partner it’s a sense of not having someone to share the happy alone time with.

    3. what is the best thing about being alone?

    No stress, recharge the batteries, keep things ticking over (get into a settled routine rather than having to juggle stuff around), lots of thinking time (and no one dragging me out of my thoughts all untoward)

    4. what can you do to avoid being lonely while being alone?

    Does not compute. I’m an introvert (see above answers) so generally I like being alone. I am more likely to feel lonely in a gathering of people.

    5. is the feeling of loneliness more of a mental problem or an external problem or both?

    No. It’s neither. For me, it’s my natural and happy state (but again, having one person who is happy to share that with me would be nice – alone just the two of us together).

  16. Charmaine Stanley says:

    What timing… Curious to see that this is well timed for other people, not only myself!

    1. is it better to be alone than in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship? why or why not?
    Of course it is better to be alone than in an unhealthy relationship, so much harm and hurt can be avoided. Being in a relationship does not define a person.

    2. what is the biggest fear about being alone?
    Practically? As a young woman, alone in the house or on the street I am aware of how vulnerable and unprotected I am. The thought of defending myself seriously frightens me.

    Emotionally? I fear never having children, being unable to experience the joy of watching them grow up. Having to fend for myself the rest of my life instead of in partnership with a husband, it’s already daunting having to deal with all the bills, the companies getting things seriously wrong and the months of frustration dealing with it all by myself with limited experience (learning fast…).

    3. what is the best thing about being alone?
    I don’t know. Certainly not “freedom” or “independence”, had enough of that slice of life now thanks.

    4. what can you do to avoid being lonely while being alone?
    Usually chat online with family and friends overseas. Depends on mood whether I actually feel lonely when I am alone.

    5. is the feeling of loneliness more of a mental problem or an external problem or both?
    I tend to think of it as more of a mental problem. For me, loneliness is often a barrier built by negative self talk. The further down the spiral I am, the harder it becomes to reach out to people who are simply a phone call/message/email away.

  17. Lynne says:

    1. is it better to be alone than in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship? why or why not?
    Alone, definitely. I can be my own worst critic when I’m alone or feeling lonely. I don’t need someone else to potentially make me want to blame myself for no good reason with co-dependency, verbal or physical abuse, or any lack of love.

    2. what is the biggest fear about being alone?
    Not being loved. Or, you know, dying alone in an apartment with a million cats only to be discovered weeks after my death, being eaten by the cats.

    3. what is the best thing about being alone?
    Not having to worry about making someone else happy.

    4. what can you do to avoid being lonely while being alone?
    Activities with friends. Friends, friends, friends.
    Roaming the internet seriously doesn’t help. I’ve fallen asleep to cheesy romantic comedies on Netflix before and it just makes me feel pathetic.

    5. is the feeling of loneliness more of a mental problem or an external problem or both?
    It’s mental for me. Because of a childhood pilfered with bullying (including by my “friends”) I’ve spent my entire life having to get over the idea that my friends actually like me. I’m so afraid of rejection that I go through a lot of mental hoops because I call a friend up just to go get coffee or lunch or something.

  18. Regan says:

    Answering before I read any comments so if I repeat your idea, it’s because we think alike. 🙂

    1. is it better to be alone than in an unhealthy or unhappy relationship? why or why not?
    I would say yes. I am comfortable with being alone. I don’t always like it, but it’s not terrible. A bad relationship can be terrible. Fighting, cheating, manipulation… leave me out of that mess.

    2. what is the biggest fear about being alone?
    I think my biggest fear is that I will be alone for the rest of my life. Hoping that I will get married one day helps me to stay positive.

    3. what is the best thing about being alone?
    I like being able to do pretty much what I want without asking anyone else’s opinion. Don’t like the temperature in the house? Change the thermostat. Tired of the car? Buy a new one. Want to fry chicken at midnight? Yes, go ahead.

    4. what can you do to avoid being lonely while being alone?
    I think for singles it’s extremely important to have community, both to avoid loneliness and also to prevent bad relationships from getting off the ground. I am close to my family, and spend quite a bit of time with them. I am also very involved in my church, and to me the church is like an extended family. So when I feel lonely, I tend to migrate to those communities.

    5. is the feeling of loneliness more of a mental problem or an external problem or both?
    Uh… what? Yes, it’s mental. Do you mean by external that it can be ameliorated by having people around? Because I think that goes back to having a community. If you are not in close relationships with your friends/family, then being around them is not going to help you feel less lonely. So I would say, yes, it’s more mental than external, using my own definition of what I think you mean. 🙂

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