The most common question I get is, “I’m scared to live on my own – how do I leave my relationship?” The answer is that you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Here’s what one reader says on 10 Reasons Breaking Up is Hard to Do:
“I’ve been married for almost 26 yrs, I’m not sure if I want a divorce or separation. My husband has always put his needs before mine, I work a full time job as does he, I come home feed the dogs, make dinner, clean, I go to grocery store, etc… my husband basically does a little yard work and an occasional chore. He has never been lovey dovey towards me and I have always hoped with time we would grow closer but if anything I feel it is getting worse. I have a depressive personality and low self-esteem so having to hear him criticize me every day makes me cry on a regular basis. He never wants to do anything with me anymore. I have been thinking of separating for a long time but honestly I am scared as hell about living on my own, can I do it and if not what then? Please help.”
Here are a few tips for overcoming your fear of living alone after being married for decades…
Learn how to live in uncertainty
I’m working on my Master’s of Social Work at UBC, and my practicum placement is with the Alzheimer’s Society of BC. I’m involved in support groups for caregivers; in a meeting last week, a man said that he has to learn how to live in uncertainty. The doctors don’t know if his wife will live for two years with her disease, or 20. He said the hardest part of living with his wife’s illness is the uncertainty.
Uncertainty is one of the constants in our lives – whether we’re healthy or sick, in love or alone, or on the brink of divorce or marriage. There is no way to overcome your fears of anything in life (so the title of this article is a bit misleading!). The only way to overcome your fear of being alone is to be alone. Will you still be afraid? Maybe. But maybe not.
If you have nobody to share your fear of uncertainty or being alone with, read How to Find Someone To Talk To.
Remember that anticipation is worse than reality
Another thing I learned from that same meeting is that we build things up in our mind to be terrifying, but when they actually happen, it’s not as bad as we thought.
Last night I took a pregnancy test, and I was so scared that it would be negative. I would love to be pregnant! We can’t have kids, but my period is two months late, so I thought maybe a miracle happened…but the pregnancy test was negative.
The thought and dread of that negative test was far worse than the actual minus sign on the stick. Honestly, facing reality and seeing that it’s not as bad as I thought is MUCH easier than living in fear of what could be.
Figure out what you’re afraid of
Right now, you’re working full-time, taking care of all the household chores, socializing without your husband, and living without love.
Why are you so scared to live on your own? Make a list of reasons. Are you scared you won’t be able to pay the bills? Find a place to live? Be loved again?
For each fear, write down a possible solution. For instance, if you’re scared you won’t be able to pay the bills, then a solution may be to look into how much it’ll cost to live alone. Compare that to your income. How will you deal with your fear, which is now specific and practical?
You may find Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg very helpful. He shows that most people who are living alone – whether in their twenties or eighties – are deeply engaged in social and community life. There’s even evidence that people who live alone enjoy better mental health and have more environmentally sustainable lifestyles.
Don’t keep struggling alone with your fears of living alone. Get information and support to move forward in strength, love, and freedom!
For more tips on overcoming your fear of living on your own, read How to End a Relationship When You’re Scared to Be Alone. The comments at the end may be especially helpful – you’ll see you’re not alone.
And, as always, I welcome your thoughts below. I can’t offer advice on how to overcome your fear of being alone, but you may find it helpful to share your experience. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and even hope and healing!