Solo living is on the rise – but it’s not a lifestyle that everyone understands. That means those of us who live alone spend a lot of time explaining ourselves!
The joy of running a blog and an online community, is being able to set the record straight. So we asked people who live alone to tell us the things they secretly wished their friends and family knew about their lives.
Here’s what they said.
1. Living alone doesn’t necessarily mean we’re lonely
When it comes to living alone, there is a huge difference between being by yourself, and being lonely. If I want to curl up with a book, potter around my house, or daydream in a luxurious bath, then being by myself is absolutely fine. In fact, being able to do these things without interruption is one of the greatest joys of living alone!
But if I want to download after a hard day and there’s no one to hear me out, then I might well start to feel a bit lonely. That’s especially true if I’ve recently gone through a separation or a bereavement.
Here’s the thing though – lots of people feel lonely sometimes, and it’s not something that is unique to those of us who live alone. We want you to know how much less lonely many of us feel now than we did when we lived with others – especially where we were in relationships that weren’t working out.
In other words, we may be lonely, or we may not, depending on our circumstances. Unless we’ve explicitly told you that we are struggling, then you may be worrying when you don’t need to be. It’s all too possible that we’re actually connected, happy, and enjoying our solo lives!
2…but telling us ‘we’re so lucky’ can feel a bit misplaced
Alongside ‘aren’t you lonely?,’ the other thing we hear quite a lot is ‘you’re so lucky.’ That can be fine – when you mean it in a way that is genuinely about recognising the upsides of living alone. But when accompanied with ‘it must be nice not to have any responsibilities,’ it can feel like a particularly backhanded compliment.
First, no life is perfect – and our lives are no different. We have good days, and we have bad days – just like you. Sometimes we feel on top of the world, other days we just want to sit and eat ice cream. When you tell us our lives must be ‘so great,’ we either feel guilty for having ‘down’ days, or guilty for enjoying ourselves. Either way, it probably isn’t having the impact you intended!
Secondly, it grates when you imply that our lives are somehow more carefree or less taxing than yours. We may not have children living at home (at least not all of the time), but we still have responsibilities. We’re solely responsible for our households, our finances, and our lives. We may have demanding careers. We are more likely than those in couples / families to be called on to support family members who need care, to step in as babysitters for nieces and nephews, and we often play active roles in our communities. Our lives may look different to yours, but that does not make them any less full of responsibility.
3. We’re not all looking for a life partner
The vast majority of people who live alone are also single. That means that we’re used to embarrassingly personal questions. How are our love lives? Are we seeing anyone? How are things going with X…?
One of the things we want you to know is that this isn’t always something we want to talk about. It might be uncomfortable for us to discuss our dating lives with you if we are struggling to find someone. It might be early days and we’re not sure how it’s going yet. We may have been through trauma that means we don’t want to be in a relationship with anyone. We may have chosen to concentrate on our own lives for a while. We may have decided that a long-term relationship simply isn’t for us. There are a growing number of people who have made that choice, and are perfectly content with that decision.
The other thing we want you to know is that it bothers us when you define us by our ‘singleness’ – especially if your description includes a negative (e.g.: ‘not married,’ ‘not with anyone yet’). Our lives are multi-dimensional, rich, and full of meaning – just like yours. We have friends, hobbies, jobs and interests. We manage our finances and our homes, we have jobs and social lives – we balance everything without help, and we mostly do it well. We’re our own heroes. In other words, there’s more to us than our relationship status – so let’s find something else to talk about!
We know you’re worried about us, that you want us to find someone special, and that you think our lives will improve when we do. But when your worry is driven by your own assumptions about what a ‘good’ life looks like, it can make us feel like we’re failing because we’re not living up to your expectations. Or it can feel like you don’t respect the choices we’ve made, or that we have a different world view.
We want you to know that living alone doesn’t mean living without love – we just find it in different ways. We may not have chosen – or been able – to walk the same path as you in life. But not all lives unfold in the same way, and living unconventionally doesn’t mean that our lives are less valid or less meaningful than yours. All we really if your respect and acceptance for the way we live, in the same way that we respect you.
4. We need our friends and family more than you know – and it really matters when you cancel on us!
For those of us who live alone, our friends and wider family are our primary connections. We invest a lot of emotional energy into ours – this can make us amazing friends! We know that we are not necessarily your primary connection, and that your partner and your children come first. That’s fine. But when you need to cancel or change plans, we can find it really difficult – probably more difficult than you would find it if we cancelled on you. We have to plan ahead more than other people to make sure we have a healthy amount of social contact during the week, and it doesn’t take much to throw out the schedule. But we don’t have anyone else to fall back on. We may not always show it, especially if we’re introverts, but having time with you is incredibly important to us.
So if you do have to cancel, give us some notice – and please reassure us that we’ll see each other soon!
5. Living alone comes at a cost…but you’d have to pay us even more to give it up
We pay a high price for living alone – literally. We pay 100% of the mortgage or rent, all of the bills and other household costs. And we pay more for goods and services and holidays because we don’t get couples discounts. There’s an emotional cost too. We are solely responsible for decisions about every aspect of our lives. We have to work harder to get the social contact that we need to stay healthy. And society still give us a hard time for being single (when we are single).
While living alone has its difficulties, it’s a way of life that many of us would struggle to give up. Having our own space and peace is important to us. While it can be scary dealing with everything, it is deeply empowering and uplifting to be entirely responsible for yourself. We know that no relationship is guaranteed. But we have the tools to fall back to be able to build full, rich, meaningful lives for ourselves. We’re not afraid of being alone – and that means we’re confident setting a higher standard for ourselves. We shape our own space, and we make our own decisions. We know who we are, and we prioritise personal growth.
Secretly? We probably think that you should try living alone for a while, too.
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