Being alone is not the same as loneliness

Steve Burtt

Mississippi Press

December 5, 2004




A friend of mine recently separated from her husband and almost immediately she was involved with another man, bringing a great deal of drama into her life.

She didn't ask for my advice, but I gave it anyway.

I told her that she needed to be alone for a while. She needed to take time to rediscover herself, refocus her life and recuperate from a failed marriage.

"I don't want to be alone," she told me. "I don't like being alone and I'm not going to be alone."

So, there. I've been told and I completely understand. For most of my life I did not do "alone" very well. I was very uncomfortable without a woman in my life.

We live in a culture that does not promote or encourage aloneness, particularly at this time of the year. If you are single, there is sure to be a number of friends and relatives always trying to fix you up or find you a mate.

A multi-million dollar industry thrives in this country just to bring singles together with somebody else. We're not really comfortable with somebody being alone and heaven help us if somebody really prefers being alone.

But, after more than three years of living alone, I can finally say that there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. Loneliness is a sad emotional state. But being alone can bring freedom, self satisfaction and personal growth like you've never felt before.

I have friends -- and the list is growing -- who will never marry again, because they have found so much fulfillment in being alone.

One of my friends says the only thing worse than being alone is wishing you were alone. Well, that's true, but kind of sad and negative, too. Let's be a little more positive and say the only thing better than being alone is being with your true soul mate. But what I'm saying is that you can't find your true soul mate if you rush the process of personal development.

I was married for many years, and I must admit that I found comfort and peace each time I did it. But now I'm in recovery, very similar to recovery from an addiction. In 12-step recovery programs, it is recommended that you not get involved in a relationship for the first year. This takes away the pressure and distractions that a relationship always carries with it. The recovering addict can focus on moving on with his or her life.

With introspection and work, the recovering person is usually much better off for the experience and has much more to offer someone when, and if, romance comes along.

This time of the year, it is easy for single people to fall into that holiday blues trap.

The key for me has been staying active and being in touch with friends and relatives, but at the same time recognizing that personal relationships don't have to revolve around romance. The romance will come when the time is right.

Correspondent Steve Burtt can be reached at or at (228) 522-6401.