More people are living as singles today than ever before. In the United States, there are 95.7 million single adults -- a number that represents 43 percent of all U.S. adults. Why? Not only are people marrying later, but given high divorce rates and that women outlive men by an average of seven years, it's likely that a married adult will again be single at some point in his or her life.
Despite these numbers, attitudes have changed remarkably little. There's still a mindset that if you're single, there must be something wrong with you. Many people believe that marriage is the ideal lifestyle and we're barraged by messages reinforcing this notion. Movies and music tell the same story: Without love, we have nothing. It's difficult to even imagine a movie that ends with the hero living joyfully alone instead of happily-ever-after with a mate. The classic line in the film, Jerry Maguire--"You complete me" -- reinforces what many singles believe: If I could only find my soul mate, I'd be happy.
Opposites attract for the same reason that relationships fall apart. Most relationships are driven by an unconscious need to recreate or compensate for childhood experiences. Take the example of a man who grows up in a family where he's never allowed to express joy or excitement; he'll be looking for someone else to bring those expressions into his life. Or a woman who never feels safe or secure on her own -- she'll spend her life seeking safety and security from others. These relationships can be exhausting, because it takes considerable energy to manage the conflicts that inevitably arise again and again.
As babies, we're whole human beings with tremendous potential. As we grow up, we adapt to our families by adopting thought and behavior patterns, some of which erode our innate wholeness. If you don't feel whole on your own you're always going to be seeking someone else to complete you. Many people spend years waiting for someone to make them complete. Others settle for unfulfilling relationships out of fear of being alone. But when you learn to be alone without being lonely, you can experience a sense of well-being on your own or in a relationship.
Inspired by my own divorce that left me penniless, terrified, and devastated, I developed a method to help others live a happier life on their own or with someone else. I call it Mastering the Art of Aloneness. It involves recovering your innate wholeness -- who you are beneath the layers of your conditioning--and shedding old, self-defeating patterns. In my new book, Solemate, I guide readers through the process and provide tools to help them.
The first step involves changing your perceptions. If you believe that "there must be something wrong with me because I'm alone", it will have an enormous impact on how you see yourself, how you feel, and how you live your life. You may actually be setting yourself up for rejection and loneliness. How? When people feel bad about themselves, they project that to others. Other people are less likely to engage with someone who lacks self-esteem. To make matters worse, low self-worth may cause you to withdraw from the very people and activities that can enrich your life -- reinforcing feelings of loneliness. And, when you feel depressed, you're less likely to take care of yourself. You're less motivated to exercise and it can interfere with your sleep.
People with low self-esteem often seek comfort in unhealthy ways. Some overeat or numb their feelings with alcohol or drugs. Still others use compulsive shopping, sexual promiscuity, or workaholism. Everyone is different. But, the bottom line is: If you believe that you can only be happy with a partner, you fail to fully live your life, waiting instead for someone to rescue you. The challenge is to break the patterns that keep you from living your life to the fullest. To live a more satisfying life alone, you have to decide to think differently. And you have to start doing things differently.
Instead of viewing aloneness as a shameful condition to cure, think of it as one of freedom and opportunity. At first, this isn't easy. Changing ingrained preconceptions about aloneness -- especially before you've changed your reality -- is the hardest part. But, simultaneously, you also start changing your behaviors. The more you engage in new behaviors, the more you create new results. Here's an example: Let's say you have a free Saturday. You can stay at home feeling sorry for yourself because you're alone with nothing to do. You can sit around watching television and feeling lousy. Or you can look at it a different way: "I have a free day to do anything I want. I can go to the gym. I can go to the movies. I can work in my garden, make myself a delicious lunch, and read a great novel." Then do something. But make a conscious effort to avoid doing something that will make you feel isolated and sad. By being more active, you'll create a new experience and reinforce your new perspective on aloneness.
This approach can infuse every aspect of your life. You'll begin to see opportunities you've never seen before -- instead of being trapped in negative feelings about aloneness and the conditions they invoke. Mastering the art of aloneness is not about being alone. It's about treating yourself well, fully living your life, and activating your potential. It's about becoming your own cherished solemate.
Lauren Mackler is the author of the international bestseller, Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life. She is a life, career, and relationship coach, psychotherapist, and host of the weekly Life Keys radio show on www.hayhouseradio.com. You can follow her on Twitter, watch her videos on YouTube, become a fan on Facebook, and read her Live Boldly blog You can contact her through her web site at www.laurenmackler.com.
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