Living Alone

It’s Singles Week or something like that, and the Huffington Post wants to make sure that you think living alone is s silly and juvenile a choice as they apparently do. It allows you to watch whatever you want on television and talk to your shampoo and conditioner while you take really long baths!

A recent census informs us that 27% — almost one third !! — of Americans are living alone. Some of that is due to isolating factors like death and divorce — but amazingly enough, much of that is by choice.

As one who has made that choice, let me lay down for the Huff Post some of the more serious reasons someone who isn’t an Adam Sandler character or Disney princess might choose to walk into an empty home at the end of the every day.

1.  Freedom from emotional violence and abuse.

How many singletons draw a deep sigh of relief and happiness when they turn the key to their door at the end of the day and not have to be confronted with the dysfunctions of an addicted parent or spouse, emotionally unstable, manipulative roommates, or meddling vicious family members? Some of us have had enough of that to last a lifetime. Been there, done that! Hello, beautiful, safe space!

2. Financial clarity.

For those who have ever owned or rented a home with a roomie or partner and had the relationship and the living situation turn suddenly precarious or disastrous because of the fiscal irresponsibility of another person, the expense of living alone seems like a small price to pay to know where you stand at all times.  The bills come in, you know where they are and whether they have been paid. If you can’t afford to live where you live, you are responsible and can do something about it. You’re not going to take someone else down with you, or be taken down.

3. Peace and quiet.

Many human beings just function better and have more to give when they can have a significant amount of silence and tranquility in their lives. I am one of those. As a “psychic sensitivo” and religious professional, I can speak for the need for solitude and silence as a major component of my well-being. I could join a hermitage, I guess, but I am fond of living and working in the regular world.

4. Happiness.

Despite the media image of the desperate single girl or guy or the pathetic loner, a lot of people who live alone are simply happier that way, for all the expected reasons. It is a preference that suits them, and now that the world no longer assumes the coupling off of every adult, they can choose a lifestyle that makes them happy rather than try to conform to society’s expectations.  Remember when gay people decided to do that? This is just part of that same sociological trajectory toward authentic and healthy expression of self. Just because there are so few stories, movies, songs and narratives about happy single people that aren’t yearning, angry or defiant (“I’m Better Off Without You!”) doesn’t mean that millions of single people aren’t grateful and fulfilled in their domestic freedom.

In other words, if you compare the personal narrative of someone who has co-habitated and is profoundly unsuited to that lifestyle to the narrative of a gay person who tried to “live straight” for a time, you’re going to find a lot of similarities. The mockery, condescension, suspicion and repressed envy shown by many folks toward singletons reminds me a lot of homophobia.  It’s an interesting phenomenon.

It may be that the singleton instinct is as innate as homosexuality.  That very likely possibility should stop some of the snide comments of the Huffington Post and the Smug Marrieds at the next office gathering.

5. Freedom To Choose and Maintain Authentic Relationships.

Loneliness is epidemic in America. It plagues single people but it also affects people who are married, living with roommates and living in nuclear families. Loneliness is not about being physically alone, but about being emotionally alone, isolated, misunderstood, unwelcomed, and unsupported. People who live alone get to choose their intimate relationships and friendships, and can thus carefully cultivate closeness with others who actually like them rather than those who happen to be related by blood or real estate contracts. And that’s awesome.

Most of us are looking for love. That quest doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with co-habitation.

6. “Honey, Could You Pick Up A Gallon of Milk?”

Harmony, cooperation and love between roommates and partners or family members is a wonderful thing and certainly makes life better. But for every supportive relationship I know of, there are many more that are strained, disappointing to both partners and that follow a pattern of deceit, blow-up and tenuous reconciliation. The emotional roller coaster is one that many of us make great sacrifices to avoid. We’re so much happier off that ride. Being supportive and supported is a commitment that extends past the front door for any good person.

These are the best housemates a girl could ever have.

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6 Replies to “Living Alone”

  1. So well put. And so important. There’s a lot of courage in coming home to an empty house, in knowing it’s your own sweet self that will buy the groceries, fix the toilet, rake the leaves, either with your own hands, or by building social or professional skills. No matter how you remember Boo Radley, you gotta admit, he built community.

  2. So much YES here! I never lived alone until I was 47 years old, having gone from my parents’ house, to marriage, to divorced-momhood, to another marriage, and finally to being a divorced empty-nester. As useful as it can be to have a domestic partner to help keep the “physical plant” up to snuff, I wouldn’t trade the sweet solitude for the emotional mishegoss I’m now well rid of. Heck, I can always hire folks to do the physical heavy lifting I can’t accomplish on my own.

    As you so astutely pointed out, a happy and successful single life depends on actively building healthy relationships with good people. That’s where the EMOTIONAL heavy lifting comes in, and it can be an effort for an introvert like me. It takes a little work to schedule social time with family and friends, but it’s worth it. Likewise, Sunday services at my little local UU can be the highlight of my week.

    There are far too many “settle-for” relationships out there, in which people are miserably partnered out of fear of being alone, or because “having somebody” has a higher status than singlehood. Such a situation can be toxic for someone like me–an introvert with a huge co-dependent streak.

    Thank you, PB, for standing up for Our People!

  3. I’ve wanted to do a sermon about this for years. Even popular psychology has yet to embrace singletons as well adjusted, happy and evolved. [Write one and give it at your church and at UUCGL!! – PB]

  4. So glad you took up this blog again. I have been married and single and married. The last marriage was an unplanned fluke which worked out but before it I really enjoyed my life very much. I was in my 40’s, had a good job that I liked and wonderful friends. Still my father said “I don’t want to die until I see you settled.” I said “I am settled. I am happy” but of course that was dismissed as “methinks she doth protest too much”. A few years later got married. The next year my father died – happily I hope about me at least but I was annoyed. I got more praise for getting married than I did for succeeding as a single mother and getting through law school and having a life I created and funded myself.

  5. Amen! I have a number of older relatives (one in her 90’s) who post-divorce remain single by choice. They do this because after much sacrifice they have their household and finances in order, their children are grown, and they do not want to risk disrupting their household by co-mingling it with another person. And yes, these relatives still have close, and even for some of them long-term monogamous and supportive romantic relationships. But living as a couple within the same household is not empowering for them at this stage of life.

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