#SEVEN. ‘EVERYONE KEEPS TELLING ME I NEED TO LEARN TO BE ON MY OWN’.
These words were spoken to me by someone close; and anyone who knows me knows that you can’t say something like that to me and not expect my mind to go flying off thinking about it. Matters of the heart, friendships, relationships, healing, emotions, people, life; these are all things I care deeply about.
So, of course, these words kept swirling round my head. But what does it actually mean? Does it mean we should all take physical time to be alone regularly? Does it mean we should all simply learn to love our own company before embarking on new relationships? Does it mean if we aren’t okay with being alone that we have unresolved issues? Man and woman weren’t designed to be alone. Nature ensures that we find people attractive, that we want to make babies, that we want to show and receive love. So why is it SO important to learn to be alone? Allow me…
I did a bit of research on the objective side of these questions; the science behind it. Taking regular time to be on our own (AKA one of the world’s favourite things at the mo — SELFCARE) scientifically reduces rates of depression. The busier life you lead, the more important this time is for you. Apparently, this alone time can increase our empathy levels; I guess it’s good reflection time. It can increase our creativity and productivity levels; we have time to gather our thoughts and inspire ourselves going forward. Our stress levels can be reduced, our time management improves; we are generally more satisfied by life.
What I have come to realise, both by reflecting on my own life experiences, observing others and reading the objective factors in this little conundrum, is that alone time doesn’t HAVE to mean stepping away from people; removing yourself from a relationship or potential relationships. It also doesn’t HAVE to mean taking 30 minutes a day to have a bath and sit in complete solitude. Selfcare comes in so many forms, and taking time to go for a walk, exercise (even with other people), having an evening to yourself etc can all be a part of learning to be alone. It can mean any of these things, whatever it is that you value FOR YOURSELF, but there is no set plan that works for all of us objectively; hence it being important to identify what it is that makes us feel good as individuals. Being able to be on your own means we aren’t DEPENDENT on anyone else. It means that if your friend bails on you for the drink you had planned that you aren’t thrown into an absolute frenzy trying to make new plans; jumping on tinder for a new date and the like! I’ve definitely been there; after my divorce, when I had child free nights, I DID NOT WANT TO BE ALONE. I would go for dinner or drinks most child free nights because it was better to sit with someone, anyone, than sit and be alone. I don’t know what I was scared of but I know I couldn’t do it. If I did have an evening on my own, I would go to bed early and sleep the time away. I look back and it’s so so sad that I felt this way. I’ve come a long way since then, but it’s probably only during this lockdown 3.0 that I can hand on heart say I have truly learnt not only to be alone, but to enjoy being alone. I have rediscovered my love for things I hadn’t done for so long. Friends and family have noticed the change in me; most importantly I have noticed the change in me.
I know this post is about being alone, but let’s just flip the coin and think about relationships. It’s not very realistic to think that we work on ourselves as individuals for a set amount of time, then one day we wake up and we say ‘great, I’ve learnt to be alone so now let’s go looking for love’. Usually the healthiest relationships come about naturally, because it works for both people in that moment. I didn’t have much of a gap between my last two relationships; not because I went looking for the second one, it did genuinely just happen, but because of that it wasn’t until I came out of that relationship that I was able to embrace the love I had found for myself through that time. Being alone is needed for reflection; reflection is key to growth.
I think in general it is important to have gaps between relationships, but sometimes the right person comes along and, actually, I’m not sure anyone grows as a person by delaying a relationship for the sake of following a standard. You’ll likely be distracted from focusing on yourself because you’ll be thinking about the thing you’ve denied yourself of; thus, increasing your unsatiated desire for this person which, if it goes on too long, is potentially less healthy. It is possible to do both alongside one another, but only if both individuals are on the same page about this. If one or both parties haven’t dealt with previous traumas and ‘learnt to be alone’ then at some point the cracks begin to show. The important thing here is to recognise it; have the break up or the break that you need. Focus on yourself, learn to be alone. The door may or may not be closed forever; in time you will learn what your version of being alone and self-care is, and you’ll find yourself happy again; I promise, I’ve been there.
Thinking back to post #THREE which was about the emotional trauma response, it is SO important that we acknowledge what it is in our lives that we want or need space from. What are the experiences that have made you the person you are today? What are those past experiences, or past traumas, that intrinsically impact your life decisions without even realising it? Do you find yourself avoiding being alone? Do you find yourself shying away from TRUE commitment, but also never really wanting to be alone? Does having constant meaningless flings and short relationships truly stop you being alone? Or does it perpetuate the situation, like plastering over the cracks but never truly healing them? Even if someone really special comes along you’ll likely find a way to sabotage it because even though being alone doesn’t fill you with joy; it’s scarier to be with someone properly and depend on them, right? These are, of course, all unhealthy ways to be. A healthy relationship has two healthy individuals (WHO HAVE LEARNT TO BE ALONE) enjoying all the value they bring to one another, supporting each other in the harder times, but never actually fully depending on them emotionally. By finding our own form of space and self-care we can be open to a healthy relationship; but until we perfect the art of looking after ourselves first; we will never be able to have a HEALTHY relationship with another.
At the end of the day, the right person for all of us is the person who supports our dreams, who inspires us to love the life we are living, whose life can entwine with ours but whose life won’t take over ours or dampen our spirits. As always, it’s about balance. It’s meeting a person who you want to have weekends away with exploring the world, the person who you want to lay on the sofa on a lazy evening with, the person who says ‘okay great, go have fun’ when we want to go and see our friends or do our own thing. Learn to be alone and you won’t find yourself looking for this person, it will happen organically and, most importantly, you’ll be truly happy in the meantime.
We must love not because we are lonely, but because we are ready.