Tuesday, July 9, 2013

3 Ways for How to Live Alone After a Breakup or Divorce

A contra dance is like an amusement park ride we make for ourselves. 
- Unknown

If you were in a relationship for a long time and recently broke up or got divorced you may be experiencing anxiety about being on your own. I married well into my 30s and experienced a long period of time being single, so when I got divorced it was a relatively easy being alone again.

However, I do remember in my late 20s when everyone was pairing up into couples and having kids, where socializing as a single felt extremely uncomfortable. During that time, I made a promise to never let my singleness stop me from doing things I love like going out to dinner, seeing a movie, or traveling. At first, it was awkward to make this leap into a culture that seems to validate doing things as a couple; however, the more I pursued adventures by myself the more comfortable I felt.

Here are some tips I've gathered along the way for making this transition from being in a couple to learning to do things alone. Above all, if you ever feel awkward, out of place, or like the third wheel use it as an opportunity to see yourself as an observer. Become a detective of life and get to know the people and environment that surrounds you. In this way, you may feel more connected and less out of place.

Dine Out Alone

Being able to sit at a dinner table for two in a restaurant all by yourself and eat a meal without a book or interacting with social networking devices surrounded by sea of couples and families might take a little practice. However, I'm guessing the fear behind being completely alone at a table without any distractions might stimulate issues of self-worth. What will people think of me?

The truth is people are probably not thinking anything about you. In fact, they're probably not taking much notice of you at all. So in many ways you can be like a fly on a wall, observing life around you and absorbing all of it. Dining out alone gives you the opportunity to practice being an observer and a witness of life.

Nevertheless, you may need to build a scaffold to make your way to this realization so here are a few tips for dining out alone.

Bring something to read like a book or magazine. Sometimes I've brought a small journal or sketchpad to jot down ideas and drawings that come to me while I'm in a new place.

Look for a restaurant where you can sit and order food at a bar. A lot of people who are single eat at the bar of a restaurant and you can often strike up an interesting conversation with these friendly folks.

Another great place to have a meal alone is at a sushi bar because it's more communal -- singles and couples sit at the bar because everyone is being entertained and delighted by the chefs. Look for other kinds of restaurants like this such as a Japanese Steakhouse. Seek out places where people sit communally around a table or are served family style. When I lived in Wisconsin, the Friday night Fish Frys at the local church was a fun place to eat with a community of people. Find clubs or organizations that serve pancake breakfasts, spaghetti suppers, or special meals which connect a community of people.

Travel Alone

I've always enjoyed traveling alone because it feels as if I'm on a secret adventure. Also, I meet the most fascinating people when I travel alone because there are so many other people out there traveling alone too!

However, in the beginning if you are reluctant to travel alone, you might enjoy staying at a hostel or bed and breakfast where you can connect with other people. Also, you might choose to go on excursion trips where you travel with a group of people on a tour, volunteer to do work, or take on some kind of adventure like learning to scuba dive. Educational trips can help you feel safer and more at ease while being on your own.

Join Group Activities

One of the best ways to feel more comfortable about being single is finding activities where it isn't necessary to be in a couple. You'd be surprised how many things are out there that don't require you to be paired up.

One of the best social gatherings I've experienced is contra dancing. Both couples and singles show up to this lively dance and switch partners throughout the whole evening. It's a tradition to not dance with the same person after every dance. Also, because the patterns of the dances naturally build community by changing partners in the movements, by the end of the night you will have probably danced with all the men and women in the room no matter your gender. It's great fun and you never feel left out. See the video at the top of this post for why people like to contra dance and what it looks like. Usually you can find a local contra or folk dancing organization in your area.

Here are some other suggestions for group activities. Many special interest groups can be found through Meetup.com, churches, and community centers.

  • Hiking Groups
  • Biking Groups
  • Tribal Bellydance Classes
  • Drumming Circles
  • Game Groups (board games, cards, bingo)
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Singing Groups
  • Charity Organizations
  • Church
  • Recreational Sports Leagues (softball, soccer, basketbal, etc.)
  • Classes (cooking, gardening, fly fishing, art, wine tasting, etc.)
  • Single Parent Organizations

If you are experiencing a breakup, separation, or divorce, you may choose to download my FREE ebook Divorce Care Package, which offers tools and ideas for helping you through the process of letting go of a love relationship.

To have me facilitate a workshop or retreat on mending after the loss of love, check out my Web site here.