I started dating my ex-husband when I was 14 years 8 months and a sophomore in high school. We were married right before I turned 20. For all practical purposes, until we separated four years ago, I had been in a relationship for the entirety of my adult life. While we dated long distance when we were in college before we married, there was still a commitment and there were frequent phone calls and emails. I lived with roommates in college and housemates in my first year of grad school, so I’d never really lived on my own as an adult either. Throughout my adult life, I’ve had many people express dismay to me about how I would regret not having that "alone time" as an adult in my twenties. Despite their arrogant and self-certain proclamations, it turns out they were wrong about me.
The reality of it all after three years of living on my own part-time (and living with my kids the other 50% of the time) is that I don’t really like being single and living alone. I am the type of person who prefers to be in a relationship. While the time to focus on just me and not on a relationship with a partner has been beneficial, the experience of being single and living alone as an adult is completely overrated for me. That doesn’t mean it’s not perfect for someone else. When we separated, my ex-husband was *very* excited to have his own house and his own living space without a partner to share it with. In his ideal scenario at that time, he wanted a romantic interest who didn’t want to actually live with him. We’re pretty much opposites in this regard.
My time alone has taught me that the truism is right that it is far better to be single than to be in a toxic relationship. I spent far too much of my metaphysical energy shielding against my ex-husband’s negativity when we lived together. Yet despite being grateful to no longer need to face that problem, there are other things I miss about living with a partner. Even though I am an introvert, I like having someone around whom I can talk to and bounce ideas off of. I enjoy eating with someone else rather than alone. I like cooking for my partner. I hate being the only mature adult in the house who can take care of problems that erupt. I’ve learned that I can deal with the roaches when they need to be relocated from the house even though I don’t like doing it. I’ve learned I can’t fix the garage door on my own when it decides to quit working (thank heavens for repair people!).
On a deeper level, I have always known that I am a self-sufficient person. I've always been self-confident about whom I am. I've never believed that I needed a man to make me a good person or even an acceptable person in society's eyes. The dysfuctional situation I grew up in as a child taught me quickly how to take care of myself, physically and emotionally, so I didn't need this alone time as an adult to learn those things, though I can understand why many people do.
I am grateful that I didn’t end up in a relationship right after my marriage ended so that I could do a great deal of deep healing that most people never give themselves the time and opportunity to do. As a result, the partner whom I am looking for now is completely different than the one I thought I wanted four years ago. Yet despite the assertions of many others on the internet and in real life, the time I have spent alone has not taught me to love being single. It’s helped me confirm that I am a partnering type of person.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC