Secret #1 Learn to enjoy being alone
"To let a fool kiss you is stupid. To let a kiss fool you is worse.” - E.Y. Harburg
As a certified Gottman educator and a couples coach, I talk to a lot of people who are either in strained and unsatisfying love relationships, or who are desperately searching for Mr. or Mrs. “Right”. I thought it would be helpful to offer a blog series on the 13 secrets I’ve learned over twenty years as a couples coach on how to find fabulous friends and love relationships.
When I was planning this blog series, I actually didn’t plan to have 13 secrets at first; but by the time I was done there were 13 on the nose. I’m not a naturally superstitious person, but even I was wondering if 13 was too unlucky a number for love advice! Then I realized it would be better to turn that negative thinking around and call it our lucky in love number 13!
Drum roll, please!
13 "Lucky in Love" Tips for Finding Relationships: Tip #1
Learn to enjoy being alone.
It may seem counter intuitive, but one needs to learn how to be alone before one can successfully attract high-quality friends and lovers.
It's essential to learn the difference between aloneness and loneliness.
Loneliness is a very normal emotion; sometimes we pine for other people or we wish we had company. However, a critical task in life is learning how to be alone, how to enjoy your own company, how to not need other people to entertain yourself or feel good about yourself. It’s a very important part of living a full and happy life: learning how to be alone and not lonely.
Unfortunately many people don’t want to face being alone, so they spend much of their lives fearing aloneness and keeping themselves artificially busy. This can lead to being a workaholic, just to avoid alone time. Being alone with oneself can be daunting.
Why are People Afraid of Being Alone?
If you’re afraid to be alone, the causes can be deep, subconscious fears. For example, perhaps you are afraid to face feelings about a painful experience; perhaps you are afraid to think about experiences or people that have hurt you in the past, or situations that are hurting you now. You may feel uncomfortable with those emotions, so you stay super busy in order to avoid them. Or, if you have low self-esteem, you may tend to think badly about yourself when you’re alone.
Many fears of being alone originate from fear of death and mortality. If you don’t sit still, then you don’t need to think about the fact that life is not permanent, or that you don’t have a plan for your life, or that you may be disappointed or feel “stuck” in your life.
These are difficult feelings to manage, and a lot of people I see in counseling are terrified to be alone for one or more of these reasons. And I’ll tell you what I tell them: even though these issues are difficult, it is extremely important to learn to face them. You need to discover that you’re worth knowing and that sometimes it’s better to prefer your own company to hanging around people who haven’t earned your friendship and love.
How I Worked Towards My Goal
The goal is for you to be able to confidently say, “If I didn’t have any friends or love relationships, I would still find lots of cool stuff to do and things to think about on my own because I like myself.” You need to truly believe to your core that you’re an awesome person if you want others to think so, too!
I want to tell a personal story about how you can start to practice being alone and facing your fears, whatever they are. I have to make a confession; before I went to college, I was a bit of a TV addict. I grew up watching a lot of television and the TV was always on in my house.
When I arrived at college my freshman year, I decided to live for an entire year without television and break my “addiction” to it. I’m really not sure why I made that decision, except that it’s my nature to challenge myself, and I knew deep down that television was filling a void and deep uneasiness I had about being alone.
I had a little apartment and the first few months without TV were excruciating. I didn’t know what to do with myself! I was alone with my feelings. I was alone with myself. I realized I didn’t know who I was. Those first few months were extremely stressful. I was climbing out of my skin. I wanted to go out and buy the biggest TV I could find!
But I avoided my impulse to do that. Instead, an interesting thing happened. As I sat with my feelings and the discomfort of being alone, I started to calm down. I began to do a lot of cooking, and I started new hobbies. I regularly had friends over for dinner. I would sit quietly for hours and think about issues that were meaningful to me. I read. I became calmer and less anxious. I discovered a lot of things about myself I liked.
I no longer dreaded being alone.
I did that for an entire year and changed for the better as a person. It was a very healthy experiment for me.
How can you bring that experiment into your life?
You certainly don’t have to cut TV out of your life for a whole year like I did, but you could do it for a week. One of the assignments I give my clients is to sit by themselves alone with no distractions for 15 minutes a day. Some people find it extremely uncomfortable even to do that.
Just keep trying!
Tolerate your discomfort, and eventually it will pass. You’ll learn what an awesome, magnificent person you are! And if you need help managing difficult emotions that arise when you find yourself in stillness, remember a good therapist can help you to cope and move forward.
Let me know how you do if you try the “no distractions” exercise, and I’ll be back next week to share secret number 2 to creating healthy relationships!