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Learning to be alone is hard

Community Member

Hi all

I am seeking tips and advice from people about being alone and learning how to be ok with it after a long term relationship.

I was with a partner for 8 years. Through that time, much of what I did was associated with what he enjoyed doing, his family and our network of friends together. I enjoyed that time very much but as a younger person all those years ago, I didn’t (at the time) see how this was unhealthy, as our life was very much “his life” and lead very much by him. Ultimately, reaching almost 30, a lot of our breakup came down to this. I started to feel very trapped and scared about a future I wasn't certain of.

we separated about 18 months ago, I had a brief relationship about 5 months ago however it was short lived and a very bad match. Both of these breakups have hurt in different ways.

having spent my 20s in a relationship, I’m very uncertain about what and who I am.

All of my Friends are in relationships and I often feel that they don’t have alot of time. (They’re buying homes, having babies, getting engaged or married now) - which is joyful, but we have very different lives.

I have a great (but highly stressful job), I am a carer (on and off for a family member) and I live alone.

I’ve found myself drinking alot to pass the time, unsure about going out and generally feel anxious in social settings - really quite simply because I don’t know who I am.

That might sound strange or silly, however previously I was a very confident person, found joy in every day and loved socialising.
I found now I become overwhelmed.

Please help, any ideas on working through finding joy again, and working through being alone? and feeling lonely.

Would appreciate your suggestions very much

8 Replies 8

Community Member

Hi there Sparkly

I am 28. I have never been in any relationship so I guess my experience was completely opposite to yours. However there is a tone I can appreciate within what you've said.

The tone I speak of is when you talk of looking back on your 20s and wondering what you've missed out on or similar to this - about being undercertain about what and who you are.

I am now of the view (After several years) that maybe this is EXACTLY what the 20s are about. The 20s are about digesting the things we went through in our teen years.

They are about trying things. I guess yes, your experience in your 20s is very different in formation but it is coming from the same place - trying to navigate this thing called life.

Personally, I don't believe that it is the end. For either of us or indeed anyone who goes through their 20s. Perhaps in many ways, the 20s are a bit like the teen years - filled with uncertainty, where things could go wrong. But you give things a go in the hope that you find a way through.

We are where we are now because maybe that's just how life has happened. I don't believe it's right or wrong.

Who can say at this age that they know who they are? I think anyone who says this is lying to themselves OR maybe have just been fortunate enough to find that out. One of the beauties of life is that we are all so different. We go on a different course or path to everyone else.

I see where you come from re: socialising. I have noticed that since lockdown I have not been able to see or speak to some people I considered friends. Maybe it was time for those friendships to end.

I feel alone too for what it's worth. I think many are probably feeling it. just today i spoke to an friend from high school about it. Perhaps its the time of the year. The crazy world we now inhabit. I found out that people were asking after me on the other side of the world - people i had only met once through a friend in another country.

I am not religious anymore but I do believe that at some level we are all connected through our experience of this thing called "life" and that has made me realise that perhaps, just perhaps, we aren't really alone. BUT yes, we are lonely and we feel it.

My approach now is to seek to make every interaction you have with another person the most genuine it can be. Don't go for the low hanging fruit. Seek to extend the connection we all have at a base level as conscious beings of the homosapien species.

I do hope some of this has helped.

Hi Hamsolo

Your reply is really special. Thank you. 🙏 a really big sincere thank you for taking the time to offer that perspective.

I have not considered some of the points you have so kindly made. It is true- being in your20s is difficult. Life is complicated and can throw so much challenge. Feeling lonely has been a big part of it, but you’re right - a lot of people are feeling it currently.

lockdowns and having the world shift so much make that feeling all the more overwhelming.

I also appreciate the “low hanging fruit” concept. That’s so true!

I will do my best to make the connections I have really mean something!
I’m glad some of those people in your life have thought of you- that’s really heart warming - especially when we feel like we feel disconnected.

Thank you for your kindness today
It means a lot- and I will mull over some of your words/ perspective and try to open my thoughts up in doing so- amazing what another perspective can do.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Sparkly and Light,
I went through a similar thing a few years ago when I left a relationship of 16 years. I had been told and come to believe that I would never survive on my own, so I felt very fragile and self-conscious on my own. At first it almost felt suffocating, but over time I came to enjoy my time on my own. Treat it as a period of self-discovery, because it won’t last forever, you will invariably meet someone and you will come to look upon this time fondly. I started out small, going for walks while I listened to music, going different routes and getting to know my new area. Then I started stopping in to get coffees, and eventually built up to having breakfast on my own out. The first few times I hated it so I brought the paper but I ended up loving my sunday morning ritual. Take this time to explore your hobbies - I didn’t have any so I joined a pottery class, and then an indoor sports team etc. I went to the movies on my own and went on dates, but I was enjoying my own company so much I wasn’t keen to rush in. If your friends are at different stages to you then I think you need to meet some new single friends or women who are in a similar situation to you. I had a lot of success meeting like minded people who became friends through bumble, it was so easy because I didn’t feel self-conscious (we were all there for the same reason). Looking back, I was so afraid but needn’t have been, it can be hard to step out of your comfort zone at first but eventually it becomes your new comfort zone. I also suffer from social anxiety, and funnily enough it used to be a lot worse before I started going out and meeting new people, now I barely suffer from it at all. Regarding loneliness, things still do seem relatively fresh for you so I think you just need to be patient and give it some time, but it will go I promise you xx

well said Juliet_84

I echo all of what you said

Hi Juliet

youre absolutely correct. Thank you so much for taking the time.
It’s funny, reading your words on a Monday evening after eating dinner by myself in Melbourne after a long day at work.

there is something really great about it, but! It’s all very new. I guess it’s about becoming used to your own company and then enjoying it?

I believe I am in the middle of those two experiences- I’ll get there but your advice is lovely to read and provides some hope.

i would like to enjoy things more - and I really want to start feeling a level of comfort with my routine.

it’s not easy, but today I felt glimpses of feeling slight ease. it’s easier to feel optimistic after reading your reply and knowing that people move through this really strange phase of ~adjusting~.

Thank you so much 🙏

Hi sparkly and light,

My absolute pleasure 🙂 I wasted so many years in an unhappy relationship because I was so afraid to be on my own. And then I learnt that being on my own wasn’t so bad after all, and was infinitely better than the situation I was afraid to leave. But it was the “fear” of being on my own that terrified me, not the actually being on my own part. I now look upon that time as the best time of my life and wish I had longer. But I was wracked with fear, lacked confidence (not surprisingly considering the relationship I had come from) and was extremely self-conscious and lonely at the start. I remember I used to go for walks past the restaurants at night just to feel close to people. I had also been in a relationship with a dominant person, so we did everything he wanted, ate what he wanted, watched what he wanted so it was an adjustment. But then you start to notice little things you like, coming home after a hard day’s work to peace and quiet, eating whatever meal I wanted for dinner, leaving the dishes until the next day, watching my show on TV! It sounds as if you are slowly starting to move into this new phase, and it will continue to get better I promise. Be prepared that you will still have bad days that will rattle you but they will become few and far between. And your new routines will start to feel old and familiar. But once things start to feel comfortable, don’t forget to keep doing new things. Use this time as a period of self-discovery, of learning what you love, what you hate etc. A regret that I have is that I wasted so much time not doing things I wanted because I was afraid of what strangers would think, what if people looked at me etc. it took me until my 30s to finally get comfortable in that respect. The most important relationship that you will ever have is the relationship with yourself. Because once that is solid you will never put up with someone who threatens your peace, will never settle for less than what you deserve or stay in relationships that aren’t good for you because you are afraid to be on your own. And you will start to make relationship decisions based on compatibility and how they treat you etc and will have healthier and more fulfilling relationships as a result. And one day when you have a mortgage, a husband, a dog or cat, and all those other things that keep you tethered to the spot, you will look upon this time fondly as I do now and wish you had longer.

Thank you Juliet.

i hope so! It is really tough and I relate so much to what you have said.

It’s funny you mention the TV! it’s hard to choose when suddenly there is so much choice.
there is something so comforting to know that someone else has felt this before too.

thank you for your kind words and encouragement.

I am starting to get into some kind of “groove” - baby steps.
youre right- it does get easier.

I hope you have a great December and Christmas and thank you again for your perspective and reassurance - it does go a long way🎄

Hi sparkly and light,

You have no idea how much your warm response has helped me today. You’ve really made me feel good after a particularly bad day, so thank you for that. I relate so much to your situation too and think that I will be in a similar situation in the new year. I’m not looking forward to the initial stage but know that things get better and I’m excited for a happier future. Life is really too short to stay in unhappy relationships, we deserve love and kindness and respect. Good on you for choosing that for yourself. I believe good things come to those who persevere, and I’m so glad to hear that you are starting to get into your groove. It’s a shame that there isn’t an option to connect on this site, as we have so many shared experiences (perhaps that’s one for the moderators) and could help ease people’s loneliness. Alas, I hope you are having some success with expanding your friendship circle?