The Benefits of Living Alone After a Breakup

In every relationship, there’s one person who leaves unused seconds on the microwave timer for the other person to be annoyed about. But since the demise of my long term relationship, I am now both of these people in my home. I never hit the clear button, but every time I look at the microwave, I wonder why I can’t see the time. It was definitely me and not my ex. Insert fears of dying alone here. This is a frustrating downside of the #singlelife, but there are so many benefits to living alone that sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever go back.

Say what you want about the joys of being single, but it’s not all dancing to Lizzo in the kitchen with your cat. The prospect of living alone can be scary and lonely. It’s not just loneliness that scares people, though. People think living alone makes you weird and that it may not be good for your health. I asked therapists and other single solo dwellers to tell me what happens to people when they live alone.

You learn to enjoy your own company

When people say they’re scared of being lonely, what I often hear is that they’re scared of getting to know themselves. But when we take the time and effort to get intimate with ourselves — and that can manifest in anything from cooking breakfast naked to nights awake in bed reconciling with thoughts we’ve avoided for years — we often find that we actually enjoy our own company.

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“Having time alone allowed me to explore what I am like when the pressure to be social is turned off,” says Brooke Fallek, a 25-year-old publicist who lives alone in NYC. She got her own place after going through a period of intense loss — within the space of a year, Fallek lost all three of her grandparents. She tells me that she wanted to live alone in order to give herself some mental and emotional space to heal. “As someone who recharges through alone time, I expected to find a sense of calm from having my own space. That turned out to be the case, but what I didn’t expect was feeling more comfortable in my own skin.”

But isn’t the point of being a social animal to connect with others?? Our culture tends to dismiss single living or even demean it as an existence that is incomplete, says Brittany Bouffard, a Denver-based psychotherapist. But, “learning how you like to spend your time, how you work, what you choose if no other opinions are available — these are vital understandings,” she adds. Living solo can help us understand ourselves more completely.

There are a lot of subtle things we don’t notice about ourselves when we’re always around another person, perhaps in a partnership. When I was in a relationship, I would always ask my partner for input on everything from what to wear to how I should spend my time. It wasn’t intentional, but most of the decisions I made were joint decisions. I never had to figure out the details of my preferences because there was always another person’s to consider.

When my partner moved out, one of the first things I did was cover a cow skull in rainbow lights and hang it on the wall. It’s not a decor choice that everyone would agree with, but it makes me really happy.

When we first split up, the subtle textures of my likes and dislikes were new territory. Now, they are fully mapped terrain, and I think that knowing my own internal landscape so well makes me more interesting, not just to me, but to others.

You get more confident about asking for what you need and offering what you have

When you live with a partner or a roommate, you don’t have to work very hard to get your basic social needs met. There’s another human around by default. But if you live alone, you have to work for it. If you want to share your ups and downs with another human, you have to reach out. This is a double-edged sword. A lot of folks find that learning to manage the daily rollercoaster of their emotions alone feels complicated.

“It can be tough sometimes to get out of a depressed rut and really isolate myself since there’s no one physically there to hang out with or talk to,” says Kayla Hockman, an account executive who lives alone in Los Angeles. John Simon, an editor who lives solo in Virginia, agrees: “Some days, I wake up feeling miserable because I have no one to talk to about my feelings.” This is so real. It can be really depressing to not have someone handy to share your joy and pain with.

On the flip side, what I’ve found is that living alone has strengthened my relationships, platonic and otherwise — precisely because I have to work so hard for them. I have to make an effort to go to an event or a friend’s house. It’s less convenient to connect, but because it takes some effort, it feels more valuable.

The effort people who live alone have to put into connecting can make for more satisfying connection. The truth is that, before I lived alone, I was kind of emotionally unavailable. I was busy being available to my live-in boo and it shut me out, to an extent, to other relationships. Fallek agrees that there’s something about living alone that makes you more open. “Meeting new people is exciting — having so much time to process my own thoughts has made me more present and genuinely interested when chatting with a stranger,” she says.

You can throw yourself into your creativity

Writing is the real love of my life, and it is the relationship I put the most time and effort in to. When I lived with my partner, I felt under constant pressure to work less and play more. The problem was that writing is my idea of play. “I can focus on my passions without having to divide my time or being made to feel guilty for not doing so,” agrees Nina Dafe, who lives alone in London.

Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, you may find yourself being more creative about how you live your life. “For the first time I was able to truly explore my own aesthetic, not having to consult others about furniture, art and decor choices,” says Fallek. “ I experienced a new feeling of confidence in my home.” When my partner moved out, one of the first things I did was cover a cow skull in rainbow lights and hang it on the wall. It’s not a decor choice that everyone would agree with, but it makes me really happy.

All the projects that get stuck in the negotiation stage when you live with someone else can be a easier to follow through on when you live alone. Margo Benge, who lives alone in Texas, decided to start her own publishing company. Simon finally did some things he had always wanted to do. He took a bunch of digital marketing classes and launched his career as a relationship coach. “The joy of accomplishing a long-term goal is unparalleled,” he says.

Marina Abramovic, the Serbian artist who’s 2012 piece, The Artist is Present, became a viral sensation on Youtube, says that cultivating solitude is a requirement for artists. You could argue, but she turned performance art from a thing only other artists knew about into a pop cultural phenom, and it’s hard to argue with that. As Joe Fassler said in The Atlantic, “It’s not drugs, poverty, or wild lovers that make a great writer. It’s discipline and time alone.” Well, if the minor annoyances of a flashing microwave clock and spooning with my pitbull instead of a human are what it takes for me to make better writing, I think it’s a fair trade.

 

10 Toxic Habits Caused By A Fear Of Being Alone

Humans are social creatures. We don’t want to be abandoned and left alone. But left unchecked, that fear of being alone can lead us to some toxic habits.

Things like not speaking out, not speaking your truth, and even sabotaging your own relationships can be caused by the fear of being alone. What toxic habits should you be on the lookout for?

Here are 10 toxic habits caused by a fear of being alone.

1. Apologizing excessively.

“I’m sorry” are two of the most powerful words in any language. Expressing them can have the power to build others up, to let them know you feel their hurt, but it can also tear you down if you don’t mean it. You should never apologize for something which you are not sorry about. You especially shouldn’t apologize because you think it will keep people in your life.

2. Picking no battles.

They say it’s important to pick your battles and not fight over every little thing. That’s pretty good advice up to a point. You don’t want to fight over everything, but you don’t want to fight over nothing too. When your boundaries are crossed, when something has happened that makes you truly upset, don’t fear picking the battle because the other person might leave you behind. If they did leave you for speaking your truth, that is their loss, not yours.

3. Being afraid of speaking up.

Of course, not everything is about a “battle.” Sometimes we just need to speak up about what we’re feeling, what we’re thinking, even if it’s over something super minor like doing laundry or washing dishes. If you have something to say, speak up! As Dr. Seuss said, those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.

4. Avoiding the things you want.

You don’t need to sacrifice yourself and your goals in an attempt to keep people in your life. If your journey is taking you down a different path, that’s okay! People do come and go from our lives because our paths are no longer convergent. It’s something you just have to expect. But you’ll meet new people and make new friends. You won’t be alone for long! Don’t let the fear of being alone keep you from your dreams.

5. Letting things go too easily.

Letting go of things too easily goes hand in hand with not speaking up and picking your battles. If you have someone in your life who is being abusive or simply not good to you, you don’t have to let those things go. In fact, it’d be better if you didn’t, even if you speaking your truth did mean that you were alone. It’s better to be alone than to be with toxic, hurtful people.

6. Overworking yourself.

One of the most toxic habits of people afraid to be alone is overworking. There are times where you feel like you have to do all of the work in the relationship in order to keep it going. But in any relationship, be it romantic, familial, or platonic, there needs to be some kind of equitable division of effort. You can’t always do the dishes. You can’t always be the one to reach out. You can’t be the one to overwork yourself to make it all work.

7. Sabotaging relationships.

One of the worst toxic habits on this list is the sabotaging of your relationships. Sometimes, when we’ve felt abandoned before, we think we’ll be abandoned again no matter what and engage in activities that will create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Be the kind of person you’d want to be with. Don’t just assume you’ll be abandoned again.

8. Being a doormat.

In a moment, we’ll talk about why you should be able to say no. Choosing not to be a doormat is similar in many ways. A door mat is someone that gets walked all over, that others wipe their feet on. It basically means you allow people to disrespect you without ever speaking up about it. Don’t be a doormat! People won’t leave your side because you spoke up about your boundaries. And if they do, they’re not worth your time anyway.

9. Clinginess.

The impulse to cling to the people we care about when we’re insecure about abandonment can be a strong one. But it must be resisted. There are few things that will push people away faster than being overly clingy. This can manifest in the form of too many text messages and phone calls and pushing way too hard to hang out with people. Keep a respectful amount of space between you and the people you love, but don’t be aloof.

10. Never saying no.

I think in general, saying ‘yes’ is a good thing. It opens you up to more experiences, you get a better perspective on the world and life, but if you’re not careful, the word ‘yes’ can come with a price tag. If you ever feel uncomfortable with yes, simply say no. It’s better to temporarily disappoint than to do something that you don’t think is okay.

 

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Thanksgiving Tradition

The lady at the counter says, “I hope you’re not eating that for Thanksgiving!” I coolly replied, “Oh, no. My daughter loves these things. I always keep them in for her.” (a bold-faced lie)

My family has always celebrated Thanksgiving, but Christmas was always our big holiday. I’m always welcome at my older sister Janice’s house every year. She has a big house and we refer to her place as Holiday Headquarters. There was one year many years ago when I was invited to go to my other sister Gabrielle’s house all the way down in North Wildwood, New Jersey. Back then I was newly divorced, and I just didn’t feel like making the drive all the way down there. My daughter was little then and with her Mom and that side of the family for Thanksgiving. I was just happy that my ex-wife was out of the house and out of my life for that matter. I was looking forward to a day of listening to music, watching movies and eating and drinking. I like to be alone. I’m a very social animal, and I get my energy from those around me, but I just wanted a day of sweet nothing and solitude.

I lived in Woodbury, NJ back then. I drove over to the local convenient store and picked up a box of frozen Ellio’s Pizza. It’s a cheap and tasty treat I have loved since I was a lad. The lady at the counter says, “I hope you’re not eating that for Thanksgiving!” I coolly replied, “Oh, no. My daughter loves these things. I always keep them in for her.” (a bold-faced lie)

That night I happily sat on my sofa watching some cool movies, drinking Ketel One vodka and tonics, and eating my delicious Ellio’s Pizza. I had a nice, quiet Thanksgiving. I was grateful to have a family that cared about me and most of all that little Lorelei was in the world.

So I joked around with my sisters about that day, and of course they felt bad for me. They didn’t want me eating frozen pizza and drinking liquor by myself on Thanksgiving, but that’s what I really wanted to do that day. So it’s sort of become a family joke every year for Thanksgiving. It came up again this year, when I declined my sister’s invitation. It’s not that I didn’t want to see her, but I’ve seen her a lot lately, and my parents have passed, so what’s the point? Once the main anchors of a family die, usually the children retreat to their own little families. She understood and we’ll all get together at her annual holiday party in December at Holiday Headquarters.

I went to the Midtown Diner and had a huge breakfast at the counter. Scrambled eggs, bacon and french toast. It’s too much food, but I crushed it all and it was delicious. I went back to my house and did some writing. Lorelei escaped the clutches of having to spend Thanksgiving with her mother. She went to her boyfriend’s mother’s house. She’s a hard-core vegan and made some really creative dishes. I’m glad she’s happy and I’m sure they were glad to have her there for the holiday.

I finished a chapter, and wanted to get something to eat around 4:30. I left the house and walked down to South street. Everything was closed, but I didn’t feel like going into Walgreens where I’d have to get something to heat up or bake in the oven. Then I looked to the left and remembered there was a new 7-Eleven a block away.

I stopped in and was surprised at all of the people in there buying stuff. Maybe I could start a little Thanksgiving club with them. They could come over with a load of 7-Eleven food and I’d supply the booze. I picked up some things and headed back to the house.

The city was deserted. Dark and eerily quiet because everybody was off doing their family things. I got home, went to my desk and fired up an old episode of Columbo on Netflix. I poured myself a vodka and club soda. I don’t drink Ketel One anymore at home. Too expensive. I only have it out now in a martini, straight up with a twist. My current brand is Platinum X7 by Sazerac. A 1.75 bottle is $20. My favorite thing to mix it with is Polar club soda with lemon that I buy by the liter at Walgreens. I tore open the small bag of Lay’s potato chips. Then opened the box that contained the quarter pound 7-Eleven hot dog, and spread mustard along its length.

Changed it up this year! Wanted to send a pic to all of my sisters but decided against it.

A man who can sit in a room alone and be satisfied is a man that has found inner peace.” – My Dad

 

 

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