The Side of Being Alone that Sucks

It’s not all sunshine and freedom.

I often see articles and books touting the benefits of having alone time, and agree there are many. I’m one of the touters. I recently wrote something on The Joys of Being Alone and meant every word.

It’s not the first time I’ve analyzed the topic from a positive point of view and it won’t be the last. There is much to be gained from being and doing things by ourselves. There are also abundant pleasures to be found that just can’t be replicated when constantly accompanied. Balance is most important. Everything in moderation — alone time, socializing and even moderation itself. Being alone is not synonymous with being lonely, and is far from the worst thing in the world. However, I’ve been thinking that perhaps the less appealing other side doesn’t receive its due acknowledgement.

We tend to publicly portray ourselves as always alright. We smile when we’re dying inside, laugh to keep from crying, and pretend to relish the single life when we’d much rather be in a committed relationship. We don’t mention those times of mental and emotional exhaustion. Those days or nights we’re so tired and so lonely that our hearts hurt are kept a secret. Even if seldom, we all have these days. And that’s ok. We don’t need to prove our fortitude to anyone, especially not ourselves.

It’s imperative that we be present and make the most of undesirable situations in which we find ourselves. I’m not suggesting that we result to a ‘woe is me’ outlook on life. By all means, hold on to whatever gets you through and keeps your spirits genuinely lifted. This is about putting up a façade.

Moments of loneliness come to even the most independent among us. There are those days where you don’t want to be talked to or touched. Sometimes that desire to engage isn’t there because we’ve gotten too comfortable in our isolation. It sounds counterintuitive, that one would withdraw further when already feeling lonely. But the sadness and frustration of it all can be draining. No matter how comfortable you are being alone, we all desire companionship sometimes — and can get a bit dejected when it’s unavailable.

Research supports the importance of human interaction and relationships, including the idea that solid connections can improve our overall well-being. Harvard Women’s Health Watch reports, “Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.”

Innate anthropological desire for connectedness, affection and love is well-documented. It’s normal to long for someone with whom to share our life’s journey. This is not a sign of weakness, but of humanity. I guarantee that even content, comfortable, self-proclaimed loners experience instances where solitude feels like confinement.

If nothing else prompts a desire to have a special someone or fellowship with other people, holidays will often get it done. These are times traditionally slated for loved ones to come together and enjoy one another’s company. So, sitting at home alone eating a pizza while it seems everyone else is congregating for a barbeque or Thanksgiving dinner can be tough. If you do have family and friends to spend holidays with, then may come the wishing you had a partner to bring along, introduce to other important people in your life, share inside jokes and trade stories with later.

It’s not fun being the only single person in every room, especially when others take it upon themselves to make it a topic of conversation. Sitting through endless questions and deflecting unwarranted hook-up attempts can be exasperating, even if you’re happy in your current state. Then you get the couples that are all over each other and leave you feeling as though you’re invading their privacy, witnessing something you shouldn’t, but there’s no place else to go.

There are outings and activities that may feel awkward when undertaken alone. Concerts, vacations, nightclubs, live shows, sporting events, movies and dining out can all be enjoyed autonomously — Yet, these are a few that come to mind where sharing the experience with someone can improve it on occasion. I happen to be a person who can have a good time doing all of the above by myself. I meet people at the event or get so engrossed in the action that being unaccompanied doesn’t matter. Still, not even I want to do everything alone all the time.

We haven’t even gotten into the physical deficiencies that can result from being alone. Physical touch is an actual love language. It’s directly correlated to the ability of some to identify with the emotion. Not to mention that it merely feels good, is relaxing and comforting. The effects of lacking in this area cannot be overstated.

As liberating as being alone can be, the weight of it can be just as heavy. Sometimes it’s all a matter of perspective. Other times, valiant attempts at optimism simply fail.

There are essential elements of our existence that are fulfilled through companionship, relationship and social interaction. This is why being alone is tough for some people and a circumstance many flat-out avoid. It can feel empty, as though something is lacking. It tests your patience, tries your will and challenges your resolve. Being alone can get very lonely. It’s difficult at times, and we don’t have to pretend that it’s not.

Author of the critically acclaimed book on women and relationship status, “Single That.”

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