I am tired. I am so damn tired…of being single.
Deep into a three-day women’s self-care training in Bali, something hit me like a brick wall. With tears welling up in my eyes, surrounded by beautiful women who kindly listened, I finally let myself feel the “suck” of being perpetually single.
Let me be clear here: I’ve been alone for most of my life. Apart from a few short relationships that lasted less than six months, I’ve pretty much hashed it out on my own and tried to make the best of it.
There are some obvious things about this that aren’t fun—not having a plus-one, regular sex, a hand to hold, or person to come home to.
There are little things that you don’t notice at first, but start to accumulate both physically and emotionally, like paying extra for rent because you live alone, or not cooking at home because it’s just you to feed, or trying to coordinate with friends to go on vacations.
And then there are the secret things—things that you’d only say to the women huddled in sisterhood with you.
Things like, apart from the few short-term relationships I’ve had, I sleep alone.
I’ve slept alone, for a decade.
Humans are complicated creatures. We’re logical, spiritual, emotional, and (on a mammalian level) primal. While we need space and boundaries, we also need socialization. We need relationships for both emotional and physical reasons; humans need touch.
Not just sex (although that’s a big one), but simply the physical touch of other humans. Psychologists and doctors around the world have studied the benefits: less stress, better brain function, better communication with others, and stronger immune systems—just from physical contact with other humans.
It’s essential to the human experience, and I can personally say that the cumulative effect of going without human touch for long periods of time feels traumatic. That’s not to say that I don’t miss sex or wish I had a partner; I do. But the lack of physical touch from other human beings feels like an essential human component missing from life—it’s an isolation.
Many single people deal with this isolated feeling in different ways. Mostly it’s with casual sex. This is great for a lot of people, and for those who can emotionally detach I say, “good for you!” Sometimes I wish I could (it would certainly be easier), but no matter how much I’ve attempted to let myself be completely vulnerable with another human being, and then pretend I care less than they do, I fail.
For myself, and the rest of us who are unable to (or choose not to) connect in this way, letting someone into our life sexually means letting them in emotionally. In my personal experience, once you’ve had amazing, connected, loving intimacy with a partner, you no longer want casual intimacy—or as a dear friend phrased it, “drive-thru sex.”
Sex isn’t what we’re actually after anyways. If we want orgasms, we can give them to ourselves—we know our bodies pretty well. We want the goods (you know what I’m talking about). We want to be held, snuggled, spooned, and cuddled until the sun comes up!
We want human touch. And for a lot of us, it’s not worth the emotional rollercoaster of casual sex to get it.
This is such a complicated human need, as touch is just about the only thing we can’t just go out and procure. We can buy sex-toys, hire therapists, have emotional connections with friends, belong to communities, and get roommates.
But touch is one of the few things that can’t just be fixed, and it’s no one’s fault. It’s an arbitrary sentence—sensory deprived and solitary.
So what’s a girl to do? There are only so many self-love affirmations and lavender baths one can take!
Here’s what’s worked for me so far:
1. Deal with the feels.
Part of changing how you feel is to actually acknowledge it. While I’m not one to wallow, sometimes we need to feel what we’re feeling to identify it. So let yourself do what you need to do to—let it out. If you want to cry, scream, or dance around your house in your underwear, do that! Take that lavender bath. We won’t feel better until we enable ourselves to really tap into our emotions and stop pretending to be “fine.”
2. Connect to you.
Loving yourself is key here, so love yourself in every way you know how. This can be anything from taking care of yourself physically with a haircut, or giving yourself a massage, dancing, doing yoga, sitting in meditation, or giving yourself time to read a good book. The important thing is to let yourself feel loved.
3. Join in.
Connecting with others in a healthy way makes us feel like we belong. This can be anything from coffee with a girlfriend, joining a weekend softball league, teaming up with a friend for a hike, or learning a new hobby with a group. Even if you don’t click with everyone, you’ll at least have learned a new skill!
4. Find an outlet.
Creativity plays a big part in how we work through challenges so we can accept them. So whether it’s drawing, singing, dancing, journaling, or painting, find that outlet and let ‘er rip!
These are the things that have worked for myself and those close to me. While I think focusing inward, acknowledging the emotions, connecting to others, and expressing those feelings is best, I’d love to hear what works for you!
Author: Norma Jean Belenky
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton