I recently had a friend in a long-standing marriage comment that they wouldn’t mind living alone. I was surprised. Their comment had to do with everyone needing space, time alone. Residing on your own provides that.
When my husband passed away in December 2015 I was thrown into living on my own for the first time in my life. I went from living with my parents to living with my husband, and we were married 34 years. I don’t mind living alone. There are benefits. My friend’s comment got me thinking, do I like living alone or have I adjusted out of necessity?
When you are married or involved in a co-habitation relationship patterns develop as to who does what. One person pays the bills, another handles correspondence. One mows the lawn and snow blows, the other cleans the bathrooms and vacuums. Cooking involves making foods that both people like and predominately follows the preference of the person cooking. Decorating incorporates the likes and dislikes of both people. Each person tolerates things they don’t particularly care for out of consideration for the other. It is a cooperative living arrangement that also provides companionship and support.
When residing on your own there isn’t anyone there to help carry the load. You must figure out how to juggle it all on your own. When like me it is suddenly dropped in your lap it has a definite learning curve. Sometimes things don’t get done in the time frame you would like. The benefit is that there is no one is there to interfere with what you want or the schedule you keep.
I can eat dinner when I want, whether it is 6:30 pm, 9:30 pm, or anywhere between. I can cook what I want the way I want. I only have to consider my own palate and my own schedule. If I don’t want the TV on, it isn’t. If I want the radio blasting at 2:00 am while I clean house, it is. There is no noise, no one talking as I read my book with my meals. Pictures on the walls, knickknacks set out, and the arrangement of furniture can all be changed to the way I prefer. This is a slow, gradual process. The house is slowly becoming more “me.” I have made subtle changes that most people probably wouldn’t even notice. I’m sure they will become more prominent over time.
So that brings me back to my friend’s comment. Do I like living alone? Yes and no. I think living alone has been a good experience for me. I have learned to do things I never did in the past. The basics of life always handled by my husband such as taking a car in for maintenance, handling the banking, trading in my vehicle for a new one, applying for a mortgage modification, meeting with a financial advisor, paying bills, gathering information for yearly taxes, mowing and trimming the lawn, etc. now must be worked into my schedule.
My husband, Ron, handled a lot. I’ve never even painted a wall or put windshield washer fluid into a vehicle. He handled it all. Ironically Ron taught our son and daughter to do house maintenance, yard maintenance, how to use the generator, power washer, electric drills, shop tools, and how to hook up the trailer and pull it. He just never taught me. Those were things he took care of and there was no need for me to know how. Ron took care of me. That is what he felt his position was and I accepted it for thirty-four years. Good or bad it is what it is. Now I move forward.
I think living on my own and learning new things has boosted my self-confidence. I have to handle things and if I don’t know how I make inquiries to find someone that does. I have dealt with a plumber, a heating and cooling person, camera repair, computer support, and resolved issues with a hot tub repair. I have ventured into the unknown and survived.
I also think living on my own has been good from an emotional standpoint. Ron and I were very wrapped up in each other’s lives. We were happiest when it was just the two of us and we spent probably 90 to 95% of our free time together throughout our entire marriage. We attended festivals, events, shopped, did photography, traveled, ate meals, watched TV, and so on together. We had a few things we each did on our own, but the majority was together.
The reality is most couples are not as completely consumed in each others lives as we were. They spend more time doing things on their own and socializing with others. Living alone has allowed me to adjust to doing things on my own. I am still learning how to involve others in my plans so I am not always a solo act.
I think this adjustment period is important. If at some time in the future I become involved in a relationship in which the decision is made to reside together I will be better prepared for the reality that most couples do not spend the majority of their free time wrapped up in each other’s life. It will most likely not be such an all encompassing relationship as I had in my marriage. I will also know that I am making that decision because it is a person I want to spend time with, not because I am lonely and/or trying to recreate what I had in my past.
So now we are back to where we started. Do I like living alone? Yes and no. It has been and will continue to be a growing experience. I have adjusted. I am comfortable and would consider myself happy on a day-to-day basis. I don’t desire it in the long term. I hope that in my future I find someone who is interested in residing together and enjoying the benefits of daily companionship. In the meantime I will make the most of living alone and enjoy it.