Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Ok, this will have nothing to do with writing, science fiction, fantasy or horror. Well, maybe the latter... you may be horrified by what I'm about to write. *g*

I've read so many sad tales of the lengths people will go to just to have a relationship (JR's blog has several); have watched scores of friends settle into less than fulfilling relationships because they didn't want to be alone, that I'm speaking out. (Warning - long blathering ahead)

Several years ago, a number of friends of mine and I were going through relationship problems at the same time. One friend was dating, but felt that every man she met just used her for sex, another friend's husband had left her to "find himself" after 20+ years of marriage, yet another called off her engagement because her fiance just seemed to shut down and quit communicating with her, and I had just broken up (for numerous reasons) with a man I was briefly engaged to.

As I was laying in bed one night, I asked myself why I had even agreed to get married in the first place, when the truth was, I really didn't want to and knew it when I said 'yes'. (The same could be said the both times I did go through with it.) I then thought of the other women.

On their own, they were all capable, intelligent, vivacious, fun and charming. Yet they seemed to lose themselves in relationships - they would turn either controlling and bitchy, or clingy and insecure, allowing themselves to be treated badly. (More often the latter.) I thought of men I knew who, on their own, were intelligent, charming, fun and acted with integrity. Yet, put a woman in their vicinity and they turned into something else entirely.

I kept asking myself "why?" Why do we do this to ourselves and each other? Don't we, at heart, want the same things? After a while, I began to believe that maybe not. Maybe we really don't want the same things. Maybe we're just hardwired very differently. (I still don't have any answers to that - if you do, please share.)

In the end, I decided that all I could focus on what was I wanted for myself. I realized that in each instance of a long-term relationship, I was looking for a sense of security. Not necessarily financial security - just a sense that there was someone else who would help me out and take care of me if I needed it. It was a strong enough desire that I was willing to sacrifice key parts of myself to try to fulfill it. That's when I realized that no one else will ever be able to give me that. It's impossible. We never know what each day will bring.

I started focusing on what made me happy, and I realized the times I was happiest in my life only once had to do with someone else (my daughter) - every other time I was alone. The transcendent moments of joy that I experienced were when I was doing something completely and solely for me. I realized that I'd spent the greater portion of my life caring for other people - mother, brothers, husbands, child - very seldom did I ever just take care of me.

Thus, I decided to forgo relationships entirely and I've never been more at peace with myself. I've spent the past several years alone raising my daughter and trying to work in some "me" time. When I received the contract for my first short story, I experienced a happiness that I have to say I've never had in a relationship. The weekends I spent with my critique partners, pouring over our writing, brought me more pleasure than any weekend wondering what to wear on a date.

Which brings me to my point: I wholeheartedly believe that one of the greatest problems facing mankind is that people don't know how to be alone and be happy. They search for solutions outside themselves: sex, alcohol, drugs, religion, marriage. Yes, I said it: marriage. For some, it's just another escape. Yet we see what happens when people don't know how to be happy by themselves and marry the first person who comes along: ugly divorces, unhappy or unwanted children. Then they just keep on going to the next person, making things worse.

I often feel like an alien on this planet. You see, I don't know another soul who truly feels the way I do. Several people (most) pay lip service to the idea, but when it comes right down to it, they'd still rather be in a relationship, even if it's a bad one.

People don't believe me when I say I like being alone. They think I'm just hurt/bitter/afraid/deluded, whatever. They say I just haven't met a good man (or had good sex) - um, no, I've known good men, had good sex. That's NOT the issue. Then they look at me in horror and say, "But don't you get lonely?" They can't comprehend when I say that honestly, I'm not even sure what "lonely" means. I don't know what they're talking about. Does that make me an anomaly? Maybe.

I'm not afraid. I like my life. I see it as pure potential. That's exciting.


Stewart Sternberg said...

People are threatened. When I got divorced, wives shunned me, trying to keep me away from their husbands and families. I was the man who represented Divorce. The man who might give their husbands ideas.

You are the woman who enjoys her own company. You are threatening to people who whisper to themselves late at night, frightened that the shadows creeping across the wall may be the closest thing to intimacy that they might know.

Kate S said...

It's funny Stewart. You just can't win. Women are crazy. My ex-brother-in-law's wife blamed me for HER divorce. Her reason? She said I should have known that Hector would always do what his brother did. WTF?

Others were certain I'd be going after their husbands next.

Though it sounds like it wasn't easy for you on the other side as a divorced man. Interesting.

JR's Thumbprints said...

There will always be this false sense of security with people. For some, it's being in a relationship; for others, it's being alone. The key, at least for me, is to have some "alone" time where I can sit back, reflect, write, and wonder whether I'm making a difference. I believe each and every one of us has some "preexisting condition" that perhaps makes us do irrational things at times. The key is to find that place that makes you comfortable, that makes you feel at home with yourself.

Susan Miller said...

I love this post and agree with everything that you are saying in this. The last man that I had an intimate relationship with told me that I would never find anyone to treat me better. Oh please, I said, you're under the impression that I need someone, and I don't. He seemed puzzled.

The only problem that I have found is sex. I don't want to have random sex and don't feel like I'm wired for that. Yeah,, I know, but it's not the same and all women know it. Do you think this is why you write about it? And isn't that some type of torture?

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm not sure that it's that men and women are wired so differently, as that it's "each" person who is wired differently. Each of us is a member of an alien race exclusive to ourselves.

I agree absolutely, though, that the secret to happiness is learning how to be alone. I was perhaps fortunate in that I grew up on a largely isolated farm and didn't go to any form of pre-K or Kindergarten. For six years I learned how to live alone through most of the days and nights with my parents there to protect me and make sure I had food. I've always been happiest alone ever since.

jedimerc said...

I wandered over from Stewart's blog and saw that this first post spoke volumes... I can relate to Stewart's comment about divorce. For the first couple of years it seemed like I was a pariah... now, not so bad.

Like you, I am comfortable in the skin of myself, even if when I write the old wounds tend to come to the surface (but that's what is helpful and useful about writing). Basically, I do not need anyone else to validate my existence like I seemed to need to before. You are right, it is liberating and enjoyable. Admittedly, there are times when it might be nice, but I seem to be able to appreciate the moments much more these days.

Kate S said...

JR - "The key is to find that place that makes you comfortable, that makes you feel at home with yourself." I agree, JR. For me, that's usually alone. Not as in "I'm afraid be hurt if I let anyone in" alone, but as in, the things that give me great pleasure are solitary pursuits.

SUSAN - Oh, this is a blog in itself! :) I'm not even sure where to begin... maybe a separate blog is in order for both paragraphs of your comment.

CHARLES - "Each of us is a member of an alien race exclusive to ourselves." I love that line Charles. You know, you may be on to something regarding your background. Mine was similar. I think being a natural introvert helps as well.

JEDIMERC - "Admittedly, there are times when it might be nice, but I seem to be able to appreciate the moments much more these days." Of course. I'm not anti-relationship, nor anti-marraige, I think it's great for the people who want it and approach it from a position of strength, caring & sharing. I just have a suspicion that many don't do that.

As for me, it just wouldn't fit into my life-style at the moment and I don't have a problem with that, nor do I have a problem with spending the rest of my life alone if it comes to that. It just bugs me that so many other people do seem to have a problem with my decision. Weird, and none of their business, but Stewart's probably right and they feel threatened somehow.