I scrolled passed a Facebook update that a friend had posted on Saturday night. It was simple and easy to overlook, tucked away amongst a clutter of unavoidable political viewpoints regarding Britain's new relationship status. It read, "It's been a long day. Great working on pride. Now to end the day with mussels and football. Alone but happy". Of all the opinions, view points and statements I had seen that day, it was the one that packed the most powerful and important punch.
Learning to fully depend on yourself and yourself alone for happiness is, in my opinion, THE most important lesson you will ever learn in life. A lesson that if learnt early on, can help create a contentment that you can never be deprived of.
I have always believed that in order for ANY relationship to be successful, whether it is with a spouse, partner, sister or brother, it must be formed of two whole people. I see it like a pair of little yellow Pac Men. The two Pac Men can easily live happily side-by-side as two whole circles, but if one has even a small chunk missing, it will begin to eat away at the other, until he has a chunk missing too. The two will then continue to eat away at each other until there is simply nothing left.
There are many reasons why we may have a 'chunk' missing, but I truly believe, that the first step in becoming a whole person, is in learning to value yourself and your own company. If you can master the art of genuinely enjoying being alone, and trust that you can rely on yourself to provide true happiness, you will become emotionally self sufficient. As a single person, this skill is beyond important as it allows you to feel truly content and thankful for the time you spend with yourself. The real impact can be seen though, when we apply the same principle to our relationships.
The company of others makes (most of) us happy. Generally speaking, people prefer to be in relationships, they like spending time with friends, fitting in and being part of a family. These things are wonderful to have, however we must not rely on them alone to make us happy. Depending on a partner for happiness and emotional wellbeing for example, can lead to anxiety when that person is not with you. You may begin to worry about a day that they may no longer be with you and this can lead to a desire to cling, which pushes the other person further away.
When we learn to depend on ourselves for happiness however, we enjoy the company of others in a different way. We spend time with them not because we NEED them, but simply because they make us happy. The pressure on the time spent together is gone. Because you have learnt to respect yourself, and your need for your own time, you will also respect your partner's own space, and as a result will probably feel more grateful when you are in each other's company, rather than feeling afraid of a time when you are not together.
Valuing your aloneness and finding new things that you enjoy, will also make time shared with others far more interesting! There will be lots for you to talk about with the people you already know, and you'll inadvertently find yourself building new relationships with people that you have things in common with - in my case, the bra fitting lady in the undies department at M&S!
If you are single, learning to really value your alone time and the things that you love, will ensure that you don't find yourself drawn to the wrong person, simply for the sake of filling a void and not being alone. Your time will become more valuable, and you will only be willing to share it with individuals you actually like - therefore making you ready to accept the right individual into the life you have made for yourself. Knowing that you are with that person because you want to be rather than because you need to be, will make the relationship stronger and more authentic, and you will have no trouble leaving if it feels wrong.
For those that have children, learning to love and respect yourself and your alone time is a skill that not only needs to be mastered, but an example that MUST be set. Your children need to see that you rely on yourself and no one else for happiness, not only because it is a strength that they must also learn, but because they too will one day need to leave you and enjoy their adult life. If they can see that you are happy to be alone, they won't feel guilty about moving away to create their own path. Not having the 'cling on for dear life' reflex, will probably also make them more likely to maintain a close relationship with you.
As a single parent, showing that you are emotionally self sufficient will help your children to trust that when you do introduce someone into your little unit, they are there for the right reasons. Your children will be more likely to trust your judgement, and you will also have no problem kicking that person to the curb if they do not come up to scratch for your little ones. There will be NO question about who you put first, as you will not be dependent on that person for anything. As parents we lead by example. Their relationships will probably mirror yours - so be careful about how you choose to conduct them.
For some, the idea of 'aloneness' is daunting, so I have made a list of some of the things you might like to try when learning about yourself.
Long baths - remember Chandler and his submarine? Whether you're male or female, here's a lot to be said for indulging in a good bubble bath.
Trips to the cinema - don;t wait for a friend to want to see the same film, go and see whatever you want, whenever you want. No one is going to judge you for sitting alone, and you'll get all the snacks to yourself!
Exercise - whether it's walking, running, yoga, swimming or dancing round the house in your birthday suit, the benefits to your health, well-being and self esteem are endless.
Upcycling/craft - taking part in or learning any new hobby can be really fun and you may even find a hidden talent that can be turned into a new business.
Cooking - treat yourself to something delicious you have worked hard learning to create.
Like any relationship, it takes a while to get to know the other person and find out what makes them tick, and it will take time for you to find out what you enjoy, but it is so worth the investment.
The relationship you have with yourself is the only one that will survive permanently from now until the day you die - so it's worth setting some time aside and putting the effort in, don't you think?
My six year old respects her alone time so much, she often sits away from us when we eat in public places! I'm trying not to take it too personally.