Are we lonely if we live alone? This is a question put to me on the JVS show ob BBC Radio this morning. A study comparing lifestyles from the 1970s to today show a sharp increase in one person households , in fact single person households now account for nearly a third of all homes.
But should people living alone be portrayed as having a sad lonely existence? Is living alone lonely or liberating?
As women over 50 today we have far more options open to us than women of 40 years ago. There is no stigma associated with being single. We have choices.
I lived alone for most of my 30s through to my mid 40s. Did I feel lonely? No. For me living alone was a far happier (and in my case safer) situation than to stay in an extremely difficult, violent and unhappy marriage. I could make my own choices and was able to regain control over my life. I was able to focus and relaunch my career and had good friends. I had a terrific social life- which took effort at first – initially I joined a very sociable fitness club and went along to all the events – quizzes, theatre trips- meeting people I could then socialise with outside of organised events.
I still invited friends for dinner – I did not use the fact that I was single as an excuse not to entertain, and happily booked tickets to events with friends. I did the ‘rounds’ in the summer, Ascot races, Cartier polo, Henley Regatta. There seemed to be countless birthday dinner to attend – in fact I was part of what fondly became known as the ‘Group of Six’, 6 single friends (3 male, 3 female) who always made sure we were around to celebrate each others birthdays and do something together on bank holiday weekends.
Coming home to an empty house
I never came home to an empty house – I had a cat who would bound to the front door to greet me as soon as I arrived home. ( my husband often says that he had to wait for the cat to die to come first in my affections!!).
But it did take some effort- if I didn’t want to spend weekends alone I did have to plan ahead. Now of course, we have social media to connect with people. You can always ’chat’ on twitter as you watch Strictly or cheer on your Wimbledon (Federer for me in case you were wondering) favourite. Socialising today does not mean face to face. I had one friend who always used to pop around with a bottle of wine on a Sunday evening to watch the Forsythe Saga together – now we would probably tweet in similar circumstances.
So was I lonely living in alone? No, in fact I was probably far more sociable living alone than I am being part of a couple. In fact it was a huge adjustment for me to live with someone again as I had become so used to not having to consider anyone else’s plans or interests to consider.
I was asked on the radio this morning why I changed my life if I was happy as I was. Well, I met the right person at the right time and was ready to move my life on to a different stage. I often say it would have been great if I could have married and had my husband live in the house next door- just to retain my own space – not really an option !
When single, I was asked, did I not miss coming home to find the kettle on and my dinner cooked for me? I don’t have that now!! As lovely as my husband is, he has never quite mastered the art of cooking – I can live in hope on that front!
Personally I believe that living alone does not mean having to be lonely.
If you want to listen to the show- I’m on at about an hour into the programme http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p014w328
I would love your views and experiences on this one!