The Truth About Men and How They Feel About Being Alone
The author of gives us an open, unvarnished look into his solitude difficulties.
I used the summer heat as an excuse not to leave the apartment on my first night alone. That one night went into two, then three, until I’d only left my apartment to go to work and then return, with my coworkers and strangers on the street being the only people I’d had any actual contact with. I promised myself I’d try to battle the loneliness the next week, but I knew deep down that this wasn’t new behavior for me.
For the most of my life, I’ve struggled with depression. But it had been a long time since I’d been genuinely alone, with no one waiting for me when I arrived home or in the next room. I became accustomed to being alone as a child, travelling between my parents’ homes through their divorce and attempting to fit into yet another school. After my mother moved out of state when I was a teenager, I spent the majority of my high school years sleeping at strangers’ homes, on their floors, in their basements, and in spare, forgotten rooms. That sensation is constantly present; it is simply pushed to the back of my mind. Even now, when I’m in a room full of people, I can detect it, a tinge of loneliness that I can’t quite place. I think we all feel similarly from time to time, but my way of dealing with it was to try to ignore it and attempt to act like I was fine.
In fact, until my wife departed to pursue her PhD nearly three hours away, I believed I’d forgotten what it was like to be truly alone. We didn’t live that far apart in terms of miles or minutes, but it was still enough that we only saw each other on weekends and during breaks. She needed to be in one area for her work, and I couldn’t relocate without losing my job, which was necessary to keep us both afloat. We agreed that it would be alright. Couples spend the majority of their time apart.
Then I drove home that first night after dropping her off more than 100 miles distant from our apartment. Our modest apartment, which had been a dream home for me after so many transfers as a youngster, now felt huge and lonely. While she was gone, I was responsible for all of the books on the shelf and the paintings on the wall. Instead of hanging our nicely framed wedding photographs on the wall as promised, I just gazed at them. I took a seat near the window. I reached for a book on the shelf, telling myself that I should read anything to help me clear my thoughts. I opened the book, which I’d found peace in many times before, but there was nothing there. I turned on the TV, but that didn’t help either.
The lonely sensation had set in: that wet, gloomy pessimism that kept telling me, even though I knew better, that I’d never truly had someone to rely on, that there was something wrong with me or unusual about me.
After a few days, I realized I needed to be among other people and that isolating myself wasn’t helping. I strolled down the street to a bar, ordered a drink from the bartender I’d been acquainted with, and sat there staring at it.
I was drinking by myself, I thought. I used to like going out on my own for a quiet beer before returning home to my apartment, a space filled with the sound of my partner’s voice and her energy, but today I was drinking because I didn’t feel like I had anyone else.
After that, I cut myself off. It was one thing to drink alone; getting drunk because I was lonely was probably not going to help. I paid, walked back to my empty apartment, and sat in the silence on my couch until I fell asleep.
I slogged through my typical morning ritual at work a few days later, slogging through junk that had filled up my in-box overnight—most of it emails I’d never seen. “Jason, don’t you simply want to be alone?” was one subject line that attracted my curiosity.
I thought that was a strange indication, so instead of saying “no” to an email, I clicked it.
“Jason,” the email began in one typeface but quickly changed, indicating that I was on a nasty spam list and not waiting for some strange supernatural intervention.
“Isn’t it wonderful to be alone? Wouldn’t it be great if your man cave was the finest man cave in the world, where you could do your thing without being bothered?”
I tossed it in the garbage without reading what it was attempting to sell me or get me to read, but as I sat there thinking about how we’re always persuaded that being alone is ok. We have the internet, which is meant to be just as good as personal connection in connecting us to individuals all over the world. Is that correct? And for males who have been taught from a young age that we are meant to prefer to be alone, being a loner somehow fits into our masculinity.
We’re taught that we’re meant to be cowboys, mavericks, and soldiers, and that we should be tough. What we’re not informed is that being alone implies being closed off, and being closed off, no matter how much we want to believe in the tough man on his own, may lead to some terrible places.
I began to consider it even more. Is it true that guys like being alone? Is it abnormal that I crave connection? Most of my friends are female, and I’ve heard several of them openly admit to feeling lonely on a regular basis, both in private discussions and publicly on social media, but I can’t recall a male friend admitting so. I understand that loneliness is not gender-specific, but the way certain individuals are trained to deal with it at a young age is.
That was something I considered before my wife and I FaceTimed. It had become our new evening routine. We spoke on our phones for a little time, digitally face-to-face, instead of kissing good night. It wasn’t quite the same as having her there, but it was close, and I liked catching up with her and talking about our days apart. But I wanted to be certain that this new chapter in our life would be unique. I pondered saying nothing when she asked how I felt about the gap between us. She was acclimating to her new school, making her own adjustments and attempting to succeed. But I made the decision to be forthright.
“I’m feeling quite lonely,” I said, concerned that I was making a mistake. She’d only recently begun school, so perhaps I was throwing her off. I followed up instinctively, “I’ll be alright, though. It’s a significant change.”
There was a brief gap in the conversation.
“I’m lonely, too,” she said, “but we’ll be great.”
And just like that, I realized I wasn’t as alone as I had thought. I even wondered what would have occurred if I had called out to someone in the past—a teacher, a buddy, or even another person in a similar situation—and made that little, mind-altering transition from me to us.
A Surprising Cure for Loneliness, Anxiety, and Other Personal Issues
It’s not always about coming up with the ideal answer to whatever is making you sad. It’s about posing a different type of query. The author of demonstrates how to do so.
Have you ever had an issue that you couldn’t figure out how to solve? You undoubtedly pondered ideas for hours on end, maybe losing sleep in the process. I’m sure you were attempting to tackle the incorrect problem. When you can’t discover an answer, it’s usually because you’re asking the wrong question.
Let’s look at the question, “How may I locate a spouse?” as an example.
It’s not a question just because it concludes with a question mark. “Find a spouse” becomes a definitive statement when “how might I” is removed. This might be seen as a response. As a result, finding a spouse may be viewed as either a query or an answer.
But to what question does “Find a Spouse” respond?
There might be a large number. The following are some possibilities:
What are my options for finding companionship?
How can I be looked after?
I’m not sure how I’ll be able to stop working.
How can I get (more) sex?
How can I persuade my parents to quit bothering me?
How can I improve my financial situation?
How can I make my social life better?
How will I be able to keep up with my friends?
Each of these issues, when viewed as a problem, offers a plethora of remedies. Finding a partner is one option for each of these problems. In reality, it might not be the best answer to any of these issues.
One of the primary reasons we lose sleep over an issue is that we mistakenly believe we are dealing with a question when we are actually dealing with an answer (a solution) that isn’t a suitable fit for our actual problem.
One method to get out of this bind is to ask yourself, “What would it mean to me if I solved this problem?” The answer to this question can then be transformed into a new, more productive one.
If I feel I need a partner to fulfill my desire for companionship, the true issue (question) is “How can I find companionship?”
Finding a marriage is now only one of several options for finding companionship. By reframing the query, I’ve shifted my perspective and greatly increased the number of alternatives available.
I can take a different approach because I haven’t been able to locate a partner yet: I can ask what finding a husband would do for me.
It would, I suppose, provide me with company. “How may I find companionship?” is the new question. Possible responses are depicted in the figure below.
I’m no longer on the lookout for a partner. That’s all there is to it.
Identifying what you want from the answer to the problem you’re stuck on elevates you to a higher level and, in turn, a better question.
Changing the question frequently enough will result in a satisfying conclusion and the original challenge will vanish. In this case, if I can discover a way to remain companionable without marrying, the matter of finding a partner will be irrelevant.
Starting at the upper level, this method can be repeated. If I’m having trouble figuring out how to find camaraderie, I’ll ask myself, “What would it mean to me if I discovered friendship?”
The following are some possible responses:
I’d have less boredom.
I’d be socially stimulated.
I’d be intellectually stimulated.
I’d feel less isolated.
I’d feel more at ease.
I obtain a new question by selecting the one that looks most resonant (I would feel less lonely) and transforming it into a query. “How do I make myself feel less lonely?” is a far cry from the initial query, “How can I locate a spouse?”
Many married people experience loneliness throughout their relationships, thus even resolving the primary issue (finding a partner) may not fix my loneliness issue.
The following is the current state of affairs:
Use this approach if you’re trapped and can’t sleep because of a problem. It may often lead to a plethora of new possibilities. The initial issue vanishes, and the best course of action becomes readily apparent.
However, in order for this to work, you must be honest enough not to cling to the original question, no matter how familiar you are with it. We have a tendency to create excuses to justify our problematic conduct. Remember, we don’t refer to them as excuses; instead, we refer to them as reasons. Of course, they’re all good reasons, aren’t they?
When asked, “How would I benefit if I had a solution to my problem?” there isn’t necessarily a single response. It’s only a matter of asking a different how-might-I question and repeating the process until you get the Aha! feeling that comes with understanding your true problem.