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Thursday, Apr. 17, 2014

Living alone isn't what it used to be

Friday, March 9, 2012

Time magazine's cover story this week features the 10 ideas that are changing our lives. Somewhat surprisingly, the first thing mentioned is that living alone is the new norm.

In 1950, only 4 million Americans lived alone and they made up only 9 percent of all households. And even then, it was usually a short-lived stage on the road to a more conventional domestic life.

But that's not true anymore. According to 2011 census data, the number of people who live alone is up to 33 million and the percentage of total households living alone is 28 percent. Those numbers mean people living alone are now tied with childless couples as the most prominent residential type, more common than the nuclear family, the multigenerational family, having a roommate or living in a group home. And instead of it being a transitional state as it was in 1950, today people who live alone are more likely to remain in their current state than anyone else except married couples with children.

And this is a world-wide trend. 25 percent of all households are people living alone in Russia, 27 percent in Canada, 29 percent in Italy, 31 percent in Japan, 34 percent in Great Britain and a remarkable 47 percent in Sweden.

I've lived alone for the past eight years, after going through all of my life before that living with somebody else. I lived with my birth family until high school graduation, had roommates in college, lived with my parents once again, got married and after twenty five years with my wife, I moved to McCook with my boys who went to college here and lived with me. Will followed Michael to Lincoln to attend UNL in 2001. By then I had gotten a divorce and was madly in love with the love of my life. She was here often for the next three years or so before she broke up with me so it wasn't until 2004 that I could describe my life as "living alone."

The magazine story discusses the pros and cons of living alone with the biggest con being loneliness, although most of the people living alone don't experience that very often and I haven't either.

I get to wear what I want, watch what I want, eat what I want and do what I want without needing anyone else's permission and that's a very liberating thing after having to gain some kind of consensus from the people I lived with for the first 50 years of my life.

But, as a sociologist, I know that a basic need for humans is interaction with other humans and I get that from my job and my social life. I'm involved with Rotary, some of my colleagues and I have lunch once a week, we talk to each other in the halls, I make life-long friendships with some of my students and I have my friends away from college that I see most every weekday for a couple of hours in the afternoon. So by the time I get home, I'm glad. The solitude of my own place, away from the rest of the world, often times brings me a peace like nothing else can.

Sometimes I get lonely too. Lonely for someone to share my life with, someone who cares about me and the things I experience, someone to hold hands with or watch television with, someone who loves me as I love them.

But when I get in those moods, they tend not to last long because there's only one person I want to share my life with and she didn't choose me. I dated a couple of girls after her but eventually stopped dating at all.

When you've found the best, there's no need to look at the rest and that's what I finally concluded about my own life. Living alone is a distant second to living with your soulmate that you share a deep and eternal love and passion with.

But it's far ahead of making the wrong choice. In fact, the magazine article says there's nothing lonelier than living with the wrong person and, although I've never had that misfortune personally, I know some who have.

I won't make the same mistake they did.


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I may be repeating myself from another blog but there are two driving forces in human nature, to seek pleasure and avoid pain. You may have linked up pain to relationships, and pleasure to doing as you want. I think this is ok, you have had the love of your life, a family and you seem to be alright with who you are. What more could you ask for and why fix something that isn't broke. The baggage that comes with relationships sometimes is overwhelming.

-- Posted by Keda46 on Sat, Mar 10, 2012, at 9:27 AM

As you note, 33 million of us are now living solo - but I think society still holds up coupled as the "right" way to live - and those of us who are solo have to justify it. Married people do not have to justify their decision! To me, this indicates a social bias against solos. To give solos a comfortable media space where solo is the norm, I've just launched a new online magazine, Flying High Solo (http://www.flyinghighsolo.com). It contains stories about interesting people, places, things to know and do, and is intended to support and inspire solos and strengthen our sense of community.

-- Posted by Bojinka Bishop on Sat, Mar 10, 2012, at 3:00 PM

GET A DOG.

-- Posted by rifleman on Sat, Mar 10, 2012, at 9:57 PM

I have yet to see a derogartory outlook on living alone Bikinis! Where is this descrimination? I think this may be a self inflicted alter reality. I would say that living alone is a phase in the circle of life for many. For some it may well be a trying time, but for most I would assume it is a phase in type of thing, expected to some degree.

I have considered the implications of it myself, although I believe I will be outlived by my strong and wonderful wife, still, one must explore the possibilities.

-- Posted by Nick Mercy on Sun, Mar 11, 2012, at 9:54 PM

From Genesis 2:18, Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him."

I swore I wasn't going to respond to this editorial, but here I am. No, it is not good to live life alone. We as humans were not meant to go about life alone, which is why God created woman for man, and man for woman.

We have all met a person who choose to live life alone. We've met them family reunions, bars, and other social gatherings. We've all heard their stories of elaborate vacations, collections hobbies, well decorated homes, and sexual conquests. All made attainable by their choice of living alone. These stories seem to go on forever. These stories are always one sided, the listener cannot get a word in. Boring!

What they are really saying is "I have a huge hole in my life and I cannot seem to fill it. So I collect dolls/toys/home furnishings/etc, or I play golf/pool/darts/go to all sporting events/etc, or I go on vacations/shopping sprees/etc, or I'm really into causal sex". We, as the listener, find our eyes and mind wandering. To which the single person asks "Do my stories bore you?" Out of weakness we say "Oh no, please go on". In reality, we're begging for someone to hand us a gun with a single bullet to stop this insanity.

We've all watched as the love of our lives walked away from us. Whether it's a girlfriend who says were just not right for each other, or a wife who walks out the front door with her bags packed. We all scream "she just doesn't know me!", when in reality, she does. We soul search and even sometimes ask the love of our life, why. Most of us find out and make the necessary changes in our lives for the next love of our life.

Some choose not to. Being alone allows them to cling to their nasty habits. Whether its drinking, drugs, pornography, inattention, they cling and justify their behavior by acting pathetic by shifting the blame from themselves to the one who rightly walked away.

Love is a living being within all of us. Love needs air to breathe, it cannot be smothered. Love needs food, it cannot be starved by inattention. Love needs space to grow, it cannot be stifled by servitude. Love is fulfilling. Singleness is not.

-- Posted by Chunky Peanut Butter on Mon, Mar 12, 2012, at 7:48 AM

Very good post, Chunky!

We all fill up the hours and days of our lives with something, be it work, golf, internet surfing, collecting dolls, shopping, travel--something. Or someone. People or things.

What we choose to do with our lives should be a personal decision. I believe in freedom and that includes freedom of choice, the freedom to make bad choices and wrong choices is part of that.

You accurately describe the lives of many singles and childless couples. Unless we are very fortunate, most of us will live along part of our lives. I think a time of loneliness creates a welcome contrast to later times of togetherness. It helps us to better appreciate the times when we are not alone.

I have only spent 6 months out of over 60 years alone, so what the heck do I know about it.

-- Posted by JohnGalt1968 on Mon, Mar 12, 2012, at 9:39 AM

Chunky, I would recommend looking to 1 Corinthians 7:1 and just keep reading. Jesus makes it quite clear that marriage is for the weak willed people who can not control themselves sexually and the married are the ones who are plagued by worldly things. Which makes sense because I hear married people talk about their elaborate vacations, nicely decorated homes, going golfing/bowling/fishing/hunting or whatever sport or hobby they're into at that time. Jesus even goes on to say that it is better to be unmarried and devoted to the Lord's interests. than to be married and devoted to a spouse's interests.

Jesus says it is the nature of the unmarried person to be devoted to the Lord and less concerned with worldly things than the married person. You say it is the nature of the unmarried to be more concerned with worldly things. Guess who I'm going to believe? Hint: not the one who contradicts Jesus.

That's probably why he warned us against judging others too. If we had the ability to accurately judge others then there would be no need for God to do it. Married people have their place in society just like those who are unmarried and neither should be ashamed of their choice because Jesus endorsed both. Although, not equally because He said it is better to not marry and be alone.

-- Posted by hometown1 on Mon, Mar 12, 2012, at 1:11 PM

Wow, hometown1. The contraception discussion left me a bit iffy, but now you're starting to make me wonder whether or not you actually know much about what you're talking about. A little bit more research into 1 Corinthians reveals that it is Paul's words to the church of Corinth, not the "words of Jesus" that you claim them to be. Taking it a step further, in the section you're referring to- verses 25-40- Paul even says that the following verses were not a command from the Lord, but his own judgment. One can glean this information with just a few minutes of going to biblegateway.com and reading that selection, as well as maybe a bit of research to find the context of the book, which 1 Corinthians 1 can help with. So, how did you miss it?

I do like how you agree that people who can't keep their sexual passions in check are weak willed. I wonder what that says about unmarried couples who use contraception when they have sex.

Matthew 19:1-12 actually gives verses with Jesus talking about his views on marriage. I'm not sure how well it fits in with this conversation, but it is his disciples that bring up the idea that it is better to stay alone than to get married, and this is in response to Jesus discussing divorce. While it does appear to support your viewpoint more, it more supports the idea that it's better to be alone than get married and later want out of it, which I wholeheartedly agree with.

Also, saying things like "it is the nature of the unmarried purpose to be devoted to the Lord" is a tad silly. The "solo" atheist who writes into the paper to complain about people talking about Christ being the reason of the Christmas season and belittles the faith of others isn't any more devoted to the Lord than the married couple who don't have time to do church activities other than Sunday services.

-- Posted by bjo on Mon, Mar 12, 2012, at 3:56 PM


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Mike Hendricks
Mike at Night