Alone. It can be such a scary word. Alone isn’t quite the same as lonely but it can be the precursor to a state of loneliness.

So here I am in my non-alone state having being married for nearly 20 years and I find that I am surrounded by lots of female friends and acquaintances who are single.

And many of them refer to themselves as being alone rather than single.

Like the glass half empty/glass half full scenario, the word alone conjures up all sorts of emotions.



A strong sense of self.





Many friends are taken aback at still being single in their forties. Many friends are relieved that their former partner hit the road and are enjoying spending time with themselves. Many friends veer between gladness and sadness.

And there are some who wear their quiet despair at being alone like a cloak.

I feel sad for someone today. Really sad. She was the girlfriend of one of my husband’s business associates. I only met her a few times but was struck by how painfully shy she was. Like a Victorian heroine who sits in her room all day and writes poetry. She was incredibly shy but also incredibly pretty. When she actually mustered the confidence to look at you and smile it was like a light coming on in a darkened room.

Anna is sad today. She and her boyfriend split up on the weekend after a year together. Her shyness ended up working against her. It made her clingy and needy.

She was suffocating me, her boyfriend said. I can’t be someone’s reason for living, I just can’t.

Don’t ever leave me, she said. I can’t get by without you.

What a horrible thing insecurity can be. It’s as if you open the blinds in the morning but just can’t see the sunlight. It’s like smelling the most delicious meal in the world but being unable to eat. It’s as if you signed a guarantee before you were born preventing you from ever really knowing yourself.

We all have insecurities. They are an unavoidable part of being human. It is a crying shame that some of us learn to face those insecurities head on and go postal on them, while others let those insecurities beat them and shape who they become.

I wish someone had sat down with Anna years ago and had said to her : It’s OK to be shy. It’s OK to be unassuming. But remember, always remember, that you are a worthwhile person. You are worth it.

It might have stopped her from clinging to a man who despite feeling she was worth it couldn’t overcome the sense of being stifled when he was with her. Who felt imprisoned by her need. Who cried in front of my husband at having to let her go.

When he told Anna it was over she said nothing. She cried quietly, with genuine sorrow. It broke his heart to see it.

She wouldn’t speak to him. Wouldn’t look sat him.

It was as if she was already alone, he said. As if I was already gone.

He is upset, guilty at hurting another, but relieved he no longer has to be someone’s everything.

She is sad and alone.

And I feel bad for her.

I don’t mean to make light of this but this line really fits in this instance –

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.

20 thoughts on “Alone

  1. So sad Selma. I’ve been both sides of that fence as I am sure anyone over forty has been and it is not nice. As Dr Phil would say, the one leaving suffers earlier and by the time of the separation he/she is ready to move on. But the one left behind cannot escape the feeling of rejection and continues to suffer much longer and twice over. “It’s hard being human”.


  2. My best friend (long distance friend now) is painfully shy, but not the dependent type. Nothing worse than a broken heart and always worse for the one left behind, because of the shock of it coming out of nowhere (usually).


    You’re right. It is hard to be human. I actually should have said that. I think the one left behind suffers more too. Rejection by someone you truly love is so tough. No wonder there are so many songs and poems written about love. We are all trying to make sense of it.

    The shock is hard to bear. A broken heart sucks. The pain is too much. I’d rather have a broken leg.


  4. Indeed it is sad and a pity that there are quite many nice people who don’t really know their own worth.

    Though I feel for people like Anna, I also understand her ex-boyfriend. It is an unbearable load of responsibility to be someone’s reason for living. I hope this will make Anna stronger, I truly hope she will overcome the sorrow and find another source of meaning in her life. Within herself, I mean.


  5. Funny, I was just having a conversation about this with an old friend last night. We’ve both been divorced a long time and have passed the point where we *need* to have a partner to feel complete. While I like having a man around and would like to be in a relationship, being alone is comfortable to me. As such I won’t just date anyone. I’ve known so many women who would date anyone or stay in crappy relationships rather than be alone. I feel lucky I’m secure in myself – I credit my parents for that, as I’ve been comfortable with who I am all my life. While I feel bad for Anna, I understand why he let her go. An insecure person can be a real burden.


  6. And it’s not just insecure partners who can be burdensome – I grew up with a friend who was terribly insecure. She was so needy, constantly needing me to reinforce our friendship in her mind. When we got to high school and many more friends came into the picture it got worse and worse. She moved to another city then, and I remember what a relief it was. We’re still friends – but I’m thinking that move saved the friendship!


  7. It is amazing how alone one can feel when the expectation is that we must be with someone. To build our world around someone to the point where we believe losing them is like losing the Sun is a recipe for disaster. We must love ourselves and know that the other people whom we love and share our life with may enhance the experience however they are not the experience. When we know and like who we are the insecurities begin to fade away.


  8. I think being alone can be a blessing at times. I just wish people could see it taht wasy instead of the “desert” between relationships.


  9. Funnily enough I had a very similar discussion at lunchtime after my run. One of my friends is married and her husband wants to go everywhere with her. Not because he doesn’t trust her but because she is his reason for being. And she was saying how she just couldn’t stand it any more and is learning to regain her own space and time.

    I love being alone. I like being with people too but being alone is the time I need to recharge my batteries and keep sane. I think for me that a part-time relationship will always be best and probably for more people than would admit it.

    Poor Anna. I suspect she should go to counselling to boost her self-confidence and sense of self-worth so that this does not repeat itself forever.


  10. I felt so sorry for Anna after I read this. I am sure she is a very nice lady, and there are many men who would appreciate having a companion who would care for them. I have been alone for 3 years now. At first it was difficult, then I sort of got past the yearning of wanting someone to converse with in the evening. During the day I am busy, but it the evening after the work is finished, I like nothing more than to have a pleasant discussion. I miss that. I am reminded of how much, every day at dusk. Please give Anna a big hug for me and tell her everything will eventually work out.


  11. Hi SHIONA:
    It is an incredible burden, for sure. I hope that maybe it will be the catalyst for helping her move forward too.

    I am really glad you don’t feel that need to get a man at all costs. I have a close friend who has gotten herself into many unpleasant situations because of her fear of being alone. Some of those guys were not suitable at all!

    I know what you mean about insecure friends. I had one in High School. I didn’t regard her as my best friend (I hate that label) but she regarded me as hers. She would ring me all the time after school and on weekends. If I was sick and stayed home she would turn up at the house with flowers. When I rejected her for being too clingy she attempted suicide. It was extremely ugly. I think that’s why I keep a lot of people at arms length now. She did scar me. So yes, I completely understand how smothering insecurity can be.

    Hi TOBEME:
    I wish I had said what you just have. You are like the wise man sitting on the mountain and I don’t mean that in a facetious way. Thank you.

    Hi LIBBY:
    I know. My sister has gone from bad relationship to bad relationship due to her fear of being alone. She says I couldn’t possibly understand because I am married, but I do. What’s the rush???

    Hi RELUCS:
    I do hate that kind of neediness. It’s so stifling. My Dad is a bit like that with my Mum and rather than seeing it as being caring I see it as manipulative and possessive. Relationships can be so hard. Whew.

    I love being alone. I always have. I have my little sanctum sanctorum established in the house and no one bothers me there. I couldn’t get by without it.

    I hope Anna gets out of the cycle. Otherwise she’s always going to have a broken heart.

    Awww. You are a sweetie. Someone will come along when you least expect it. I just know it.


  12. The story of Anna broke my heart…
    I know how insecurities can destroy one’s life, relationships and make you miss out on opportunities. I’ve seen it happening many times around me and I’ve seen women who simply cannot imagine existing without a man standing right next to them… It is sad, for both parties. One is always scared of losing and exhausted from always feeling alone and the other one is angry, resentful for he has to carry the burden of another person’s entire weight on his shoulders… I sometimes wonder why things have to be this hard.


  13. Amen. When I first met my now-husband, I had just moved to Chicago and I suffocated the living shit out of him because I didn’t really know anyone or have much going on besides my job. It was the No. 1 reason we broke up for a year — he couldn’t be my sole reason for living and I needed to make a life for myself outside of my relationship with him. Breaking up for that time was brutal for both of us, but looking back, I’m so glad we did. We are in such a better place now.


  14. I have tried to comment on this post several times…. I can’t. There are no words to properly convey the PAIN associated with all sides of this (I’ve been in all three) – his, hers, and yours. I think it’s just as painful to watch as it is to be in the thick of it, albeit a different sort of pain.

    Excellently written – it’s a perfect post.


  15. Hi KATE:
    I am so glad you got back together and that everything worked out. It’s really hard when you are in a strange city and the only person you really know is your partner. It is a test of your mettle, for sure. Hope you stay in that better place for good!

    Hi TEX:
    It is painful no matter what your perspective. I hate to see someone suffering emotionally. I just hate it. I would rather suffer myself. And you’re right – there really aren’t sufficient words….


  16. That is very sad for her. Actually, I think its really sad for anyone to NEED someone else like that. She obviously doesn’t know her own worth – and that’s the saddest thing of all.


  17. Insecurity is like kryptonite to a good, stable relationship. Says the guy who has been single for more years than he cares to remember! I, while not being a woman, can completely understand the sentiment. I can remember instances, where I have been alone in a crowd. It’s the worse feeling in the world. I can remember going out with friends, all of whom are married or in a relationship, and having a great time. Then comes the ride home, and while they all have someone with them, I look across the car to an empty seat and wonder why. The ride home is quiet, and an empty house is even quieter.
    As I’ve gotten older, it has been easier to deal with – not like it was before. We protect our hearts as if they were as fragile as a spider’s web. The last time I was foolish enough to open up the chambers of my heart to the possibility of finding love, it caused me nothing but pain. And regret. The feeling of “why did you open yourself up again”.
    Sorry – I don’t like being negative, but this sort of opened upon some strong emotions within me.


  18. Hi MANOJ:
    Your comment really touched me and I appreciate you sharing your experiences. It is incredibly difficult to meet someone these days, harder still to find someone who shares the same values as we do. However, I have noticed with all my single friends who have met someone that it just happens when you least expect it. Even though you may have been hurt before don’t be scared to try again. You are a great person and deserve all the best life can offer 😀


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