I’m so often hearing clients recite something along the lines of “I know I need to learn how to be alone.” It’s usually centered on a discussion about relationships. It’s the idea that somehow they need to get over the discomfort of not being in a relationship. Perhaps they’ve had a series of unhealthy ones or simply just lost one and feeling pressure to find another. There seems to be this widely held idea that the discomfort indicates a deficiency in independence.
“You need to spend some time alone…figure yourself out.” It’s a well-intended thought but, in my opinion, slightly misguided. There is a huge difference between being okay with being alone and being okay with being by yourself. Definitively, they are synonymous of course but let’s look at it perspectively.
Dependencies and co-dependencies are indicated when a person feels anxious, lost, or out of control without a partner guiding them or someone to take care of. These types of relationships can be very unhealthy. There likely are dynamics within a dependent/codependent relationship that view doing something independently as uncomfortable or threatening. This is very different from someone desiring companionship.
Humans are a lucky species equipped the skill of language. We are a social species. There are exceptions to the rule, but those exceptions don’t include introverts. Introverts still very much crave social interaction, but on a smaller, more intimate scale. At the heart of social interaction is companionship. An extrovert may be able to fulfill the needs for companionship through numerous friendships or less intimate connections, but aren’t usually opposed to the idea of deep companionship.
Companionship is a healthy connection between people that thrives on respect, admiration, and enjoyment of one another’s company and usually involves meaningful and trustworthy sharing. These relationships often make us feel more secure and we learn to depend and rely on them for those things. They aren’t necessarily limited to one person, but many people do choose to hold at least one person exclusive or prioritized to certain aspects of companionship. For someone to rely on this aspect of their life as necessary for optimal wellness is not an indicator of something wrong. To want to replace this when it’s lost is not concerning. The concern comes when the person compromises their self-worth or boundaries in order to accomplish companionship more rapidly or withstands mistreatment out of fear of not achieving companionship again.
So next time you hear or tell yourself “you need to be alone for a while before your start dating again,” just make sure you’re exploring the deeper meaning of that.