Simon shares the circumstances that led him to live alone and talks about the three stages of adjustment he experienced as he adapted to living solo.
I’ve written more than half a dozen articles for Solo Living, but I’m yet to address one of the most pivotal questions relating to my solo living experience – why am I living on my own?
I know a number of people who are living on their own, and there are a variety of reasons why they find themselves living solo: Personal preference and choice, bereavement, relocation, just not having met the right person to live with, and so on. My own situation is one of the most common – about a year ago, I split up with my wife. It was a perfectly amicable separation, the relationship just fizzled out after around 10 years, and we both agreed it was time to go our separate ways.
The upshot was that I ended up remaining alone in the marital home until we managed to sell it. I was suddenly thrust into solo living for the first time in about 15 years. At the time, I had no idea how I would cope and what the future would have in store. As it turned out, for me, there were three very distinct stages of the living alone journey…
Stage 1: The novelty value
I found the first couple of weeks of solo living a lot of fun. After the strain of a slowly evaporating relationship, I was suddenly free to relax. The metaphorical weight was off my shoulders, and I gained a huge amount of enjoyment from just being able to spend some time on my own.
Over the first few weeks of living alone, I found myself appreciating the freedom that you just cannot enjoy when you are cohabiting. I had no constraints over what I had for dinner, what I watched on tv or when I did the washing up and cleaning, etc. I was catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in ages. I spent hours reading books (something I hadn’t done in years). I went for long walks, and I generally saw a massive upturn in my wellbeing.
The freedom of the first few weeks of living alone is not intended to reflect badly on my wife. It’s just a matter of fact that living with other people has pros and cons, and I removed the cons. Unfortunately, this novelty factor wore off after a while, and I began to experience very different emotions.
Stage 2: The negative spiral
After a few weeks of living alone, a seemingly innocuous event occurred – The clocks went back. This seemingly irrelevant annual event had a huge adverse impact on my wellbeing. The darker evenings and colder days got me down far more than they had when I was cohabiting. Not being able to sit in my garden in the evening or go for a walk after work left me feeling more isolated and lonely. Adding to that was the ever-escalating cost of living crisis, and it is definitely fair to say that my living alone honeymoon period was well and truly over.
Negative thoughts started popping into my head. What if I ended up living alone forever? Will I be able to cope with that? How could I ever meet anyone? How will I get through the long, cold winter months, especially with the increased financial burden? The negative questions were seemingly endless, and my initial positivity evaporated. I had serious doubts that living alone was for me.
I’m not going to lie or dress it up, I was seriously down for several weeks. My anxiety went through the roof, I couldn’t relax, and I was getting upset at the smallest things. It was a really tough time. I knew that I needed to change, but as anyone who has gone through mental health issues will know, the path to recovery can be a difficult one to start.
Stage 3: The reality of living alone
Slowly (and thanks to a combination of counselling and medication), I began to address the issues. I became more open with friends. I did exercises to help my anxiety, and I began to have a more ‘reality-based’ outlook on my situation. Yes, there were still tough times, and yes, there are negatives to living alone, but I began to handle that and started to focus on the positives.
For the last few months, that is exactly what I have been trying to do. As I’ve discussed in my previous articles, I love planning. So I now plan my solo living days, regardless of whether they are working days or not. I feel like I’ve achieved a level of contentment with my style of living alone. I’ve no idea if I want to live alone for the rest of my life, but that prospect does not fill me with dread. I’m living in the moment and enjoying my solo living experience.
What stage are you at?
Perhaps you are brand new to solo living and having an absolute whale of a time. Perhaps you’ve been doing it for years, and it’s only the lifestyle for you. Or maybe, you’re going through a rough spell of living alone.
If you are in the latter category, then please remember that it will pass. As I explained above, I did not need to make any drastic changes. It was just a case of making a few small changes and slowly evolving. It is also important to know that there is help out there. For a start, this website is packed full of solo living stories and great advice. And without wishing to state the obvious, five minutes on the internet can help you discover meditation exercises and other self-help techniques that can really help you through tough times.
Regardless of why you are living alone, you are likely to experience a journey with peaks and troughs. If you embrace the peaks and learn to manage the troughs, you can help ensure your solo living journey is a successful one.
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