Wednesday, August 6, 2014

being alone is for dummies

Editor's Note: Yesterday, I wrote a post entitled 15 things women need to stop saying.  #14 read as follows: " 'I'm not good at being alone.'  This has become the common excuse for women who are always in relationships. First of all, none of us are fantastic at being alone-- but it's a healthy skill to hone and it's way better than dating someone just for the sake of it. And inevitably, there will be times in your life when you're alone whether you want to be or not.  Learn to get better at it."

One of our readers disagreed and her comment was so great, it deserved its own post. Any more thoughts on this debate?  Comment below!

Learn to be alone really feels like the du jour thing to say. Everyone and their mother is advising each other that we need to be alone at some point to figure ourselves out or something. Apparently there are some mysteries in life that can only be discovered silently in one's own head. Which is why therapists were never invented. Because people do their best thinking alone.

This really feels like a modern western construct if you ask me. For starters, people are social creatures. The most social creatures in the entire animal kingdom. When a wolf goes off alone, he does so to die. And we are more social than they are. Nowhere in history did people live alone like they do now. People lived with their families until marriage and often still continued to live with their extended families and multitudes of children. People continue to live this way in most other parts of the world. This is in no way an endorsement of large families, I'm just pointing out that people are hard wired to be close to and form attachments with other people.

I think a lot of why we go from one relationship to another is because we don't have the close networks of family and friends that we used to have and people need that closeness. It doesn't make us weak, just human. Unmarried women used to sleep in the same bed, share each other's secrets, call one another bosom friends and weave bizarre wall decorations out of each other's hair. Have a relationship like that now and people will think you're nuts. The only acceptable very close relationship we are allowed anymore is a romantic one.

Look I'm all for someone wanting to take some time off to be alone, but I don't think that it's always natural or even desirable. And, I happen to know a number of people who have been alone for a while and they're not any closer to figuring themselves out or learning how to successfully be in a relationship. And on the flip side of that, there are plenty of people who are able to go from one relationship to the next but still learn the valuable lessons of each failure. I, for one, have never spent that much time alone, but when I look back on my previous loves, I could see how each one was closer to what I needed in a partner. Eventually, I found exactly what I wanted and I married him.


  1. I like this post. And I think it goes hand in hand with #4 from yesterday's list: "There's no shame in wanting to be in a relationship-- and even though a lot of us are really busy, we're also generally good at multi-tasking."

  2. I love this post because for the first time, someone was able to give me a different perspective on serial monogamy. BUT I still think there's a happy medium here. I've seen friends get out of serious relationships, then meet someone too good to pass up right away. As much as they would have liked the time to be single in between, it seemed like a silly exercise if it meant losing out on something great. I'm all for that. But I've also seen friends "slumming it" so to speak with people who came with lots of baggage and red flags, purely because they couldn't deal with the notion of being alone. That's when co-dependency comes into play and I still think that's problematic. Being alone doesn't necessarily have to be a way of "finding yourself" but maybe just realizing that you're enough. Either way, dating or not dating-- I highly recommend living alone if you can afford it. The two years I lived on my own without my boyfriend or roommates was amazing, wouldn't trade it for the world. One last thing I'd like to add though-- we don't really hear men say "I'm not good at being alone" am I right about that?

  3. I really like this post. I was in a serious relationship living with my boyfriend and when we broke up my best friend and I moved in together and people always joked we were "together", but as 2 single people living together and always hanging out it did start to feel like a relationship (a frouple=friend couple). She has a bf now and it is a little lonely, I finally have given in to online dating... So again really enjoyed this post and saaara's comment!