It’s Valentine’s day today and I find myself reflecting on the fact that I’ve been living on my own for well over a year, after many years in several long term relationships. Once the thought of this would have filled me with anxiety and dread, but there’s actually a lot to be said for it.
I read in a newspaper last weekend that more people live alone than at any time in history. In Paris at least 50% of all households contain single people and in Stockholm it’s over 60%. The decision to live alone is becoming increasingly common, and although it was slightly thrust upon me, I have to say that I am not entirely unhappy with my present situation.
That’s not to say I discount the many years I spent in relationships. Some were better than others, but in all of them there were moments of great joy and pleasure. It’s just that when you are in a committed relationship, there are inevitably compromises that need to be made, by both parties, for the relationship to be successful.
The biggest benefits of living alone are that it gives you a greater sense of personal freedom, a greater sense of self awareness and obviously the ability to determine your own agenda (and the incomparable pleasure of eating cheese and onion sandwiches any time you like!). When I first started living alone I struggled to appreciate these concepts. I’d spent so long in relationships that I defined myself as part of a couple and had very little independent identity.
Ironically, since living alone, I’ve found that I’ve become more sociable. Where once I was content to stay in and just be, I now find myself going out to restaurants more often, the cinema, and enjoying my other pursuits – like playing poker – where my circle of friends has expanded. I didn’t fully appreciate it, but I was stuck in a rut. Not an unpleasant rut, but a rut nonetheless.
I have a better relationship with my children and grand children and that’s probably due to the fact that I now have a better relationship with myself.
It helps that technology has improved our ability to communicate through many more mediums and I can connect with friends and family as and when I want. I can also choose to be alone when I want, to read, to cook, to keep myself fit or simply to sit and dwell and enjoy my company.
I do get lonely some times, but being alone is not synonymous with being lonely and it’s worth noting that you can feel unbearably lonely when in an unhappy relationship. Living alone is infinitely preferable to being in a relationship that leaves you unhappy and unfulfilled and certainly to one in which you’re not valued.
That said I do know that a loving relationship is worth having, I’ve experienced them and nothing compares to being able to reach out and touch someone you love. Indeed as someone else put it so succinctly; I have lots of people to do things with, but no-one to do nothing with. Lasting love seems to have eluded me to date, but who knows what the future may bring.