Marriage To a Loner: Walking Down the Aisle Alone

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D.A. Wolf’s experience in marrying (and subsequently divorcing) a loner. 

I had no inkling initially, certainly not before the wedding. He was a charming storyteller with an easygoing personality, and seemingly comfortable at any sort of social gathering.

I never knew I had married a loner, and was walking down the aisle — in essence — alone.

It was only after marriage that I understood the nature of this typically introspective personality, and that despite the gregarious side of him that he could flip on and off like a switch. But when I’m honest with myself, he wasn’t the only one, though I can’t fathom why it’s taken me so many years to come to this realization.

The same description of a loner could be applied to me; perhaps he, too, was walking down the aisle alone.

I’m uncertain if my marriage created this aspect of my personality, or if it heightened elements already present. Perhaps this is why relationships are a challenge for me. Then again, couplings are always a puzzle; some come easily, others are a mess. It helps when we know ourselves – and what we bring to the relationship table.

Together Time, Alone Time

None of us can say precisely what the right amount of “together” time is for a given relationship. There is no formulaic solution or one size fits all, though certainly marriage requires sufficient shared time to sustain intimacy, or what’s the point?

But shared time should not overwhelm, rob one or the other of independent identity, or for that matter, squelch dreams.

Easier said than done, right? Especially in dual-career couples when kids come along, and the days and nights seem to slip away.

For some of us that blurred, frantic, at times tedious lifestyle spurs an even greater desire for time alone, an urgent need for solitude, or simply a little recreational boredom.

Then there are the jobs we pursue — those that require silence when we work, those that pull us deeply into our own heads, those that make it challenge for partners and spouses to reach us. I plead guilty on this score, knowing the way I work and the way I write, and recognizing the dilemma this poses for those who love me.

The Loner Personality

I have always been comfortable traveling on my own, learning on my own, and sleeping on my own. I was not comfortable raising a family on my own; single parenthood was never an explicit choice, and I wish I could have been part of a bustling, large, more “traditional” family.

But my loner tendencies have never meant I was a wallflower or standoffish, though many perceive the loner as something of a social outlier.

Psychology Today has this to say about the loner personality:

“Loners often hear from well-meaning peers that they need to be more social, but the implication that they’re merely black-and-white opposites of their bubbly peers misses the point. Introverts aren’t just less sociable than extroverts; they also engage with the world in fundamentally different ways… quiet time gives them an energy boost.”

While I’m uncertain if the loner is always an introvert, and nor do I consider myself “withdrawn” (though others may disagree), I find this telling, as the article continues:

“… withdrawn people typically have very high sensory acuity. Because loners are good at noticing subtleties that other people miss… they are well-suited for careers that require close observation, like writing and scientific research.”

Protective Walls: Keep Out!

Naturally, we learn ways to avoid being hurt when we’ve been burned. I know myself to have built walls over the years as a matter of protection.

I think of my ex-husband and consider his family. There was also a houseful of children and I suspect little emphasis on getting into their heads. They respect each others’ privacy, and tend to stay out of each others’ business unless explicitly invited in. His “loner nature” as I perceive it may have little to do with “keep out” signs, and everything to do with personality and temperament.

My loner nature?

While I’m an outgoing introvert, I’m unsure if it’s based more on history or also a matter of my nature. I spent plenty of time (happily) alone as a child — drawing and writing were always my companions. Then again, keeping my own counsel was helpful with an overbearing and prying mother. And as for walls? In the years since divorce, they’ve protected me, even as I venture to relearn the ways of trust.

Capacity to Connect

None of us walks this life without connection to others. As a parent, sensing when closeness was required and providing it has never been a problem. Letting go is somewhat harder, though I work to accomplish it as best I can, hoping that unlike my mother, I can be more empathetic, more observant, and simply more sensitive to my children’s needs for independence.

I also trust my sons completely, as I have raised them. I will not say I know them inside out—of course I don’t. But they’re like me—and their father—in a mix of needs for alone time and social time. Equally at ease I suspect with socializing and “loner” behavior.

I can only hope they will know trust sooner than I did, and will not see it broken to the extent that I experienced. I have faith in their capacity to connect, and I hope they will live with the necessity of fewer walls.

 

This article originally appeared, in slightly different format, at Daily Plate of Crazy.

Image Credit: Eusebius@Commons/Flickr

 

 

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About D. A. Wolf

D. A. Wolf is a freelance writer, marketing consultant, and devotee of fine footwear & French lingerie. She admits to two sons in college and eight imaginary friends in Paris. When not saving the world one high heel at a time (or blogging at The Huffington Post), she can be found at Daily Plate of Crazy, reflecting on relationships, parenting, pop culture, and anything else that strikes her fancy. Find her on Facebook at MyDailyPlateOfCrazy or Twitter at Big Little Wolf.

Comments

  1. Thanks for putting this out there. I too am a loner and people just don’t get that about me always.

  2. I think some of us are loners and it seems so “normal” we don’t realize. But it isn’t always easy in a relationship… Thanks for reading and commenting, Chad.

  3. eric cartman says:

    Beautifully written

  4. everydayathena says:

    I would like to read the Psychology Today article mentioned above, but no link/citation is provided.

  5. I’m an extrovert, and I was married to a loner. In some ways it was good because he let me run our social lives, but over time it became very taxing. Your description of your ex may as well be a description of mine! I’m much more understanding of loners/introverts now (I always used to say, “Shy people confuse me. Speak up!”). In the long run, I think the loner in him what killed our relationship.

    • Marriage is really so much more complicated than we anticipate. I’ve known two loners who do well together, and a mix of loner-extrovert (for lack of other better term) that work well. Where I think it becomes problematic is when we don’t understand each others’ preferences and temperament, not to mention the impact it may have over the long run.

      I will add that someone pointed out to me that there is a difference between being a loner and being emotionally unavailable. It’s quite possible that I am one and not both, but that my ex was – at least with me – both, making a real connection virtually impossible.

      • That is true about the distinction between loner and emotionally unavailable. Sadly, I think my ex was both. He loved me as best as he could, but it wasn’t enough.

    • Extroverts don’t understand introverts but it seems that its always the introvert that “needs to change” or ruins things When in reality it goes both ways. America has painted this illusion that the extrovert is the ideal. In reality I think a balance is what’s most healthy. Allow an introvert their space so they can freely give when with people and sometimes extroverts need to chill and not be so extra. Not all introverts are “shy” when quit and not all extroverts are “people-persons” just because they talk a lot There’s pros and cons to both but we tend to elevate the extrovert more.

  6. Great piece – and to your point about the extrovert/introvert quote — people inherently misunderstood extroverts and introverts. It’s not that introverts are less sociable, or that extroverts are more bubbly. It’s where you get your energy. Introverts can entertain crowds with the best of them, but are exhausted afterward because they get energy from being alone. Extroverts can write and read and be by themselves (as I am), but are often tired at the end of a quiet day.

  7. Eloquence at it’s best. While nowhere near divorced (I assume), I can relate to the points. Growing up as an only child definitely played a part in me being most comfortable when alone. It’s hard to explain to a spouse that grew up in a full house, that I don’t need to always be around people, as she seems too. It’s equally tough to fill the roles of “head, protector, and provider” when these roles are counterintuitive to one’s personality.

    Finding a balance is a consistent struggle, and probably always will be.

    • Ah, @Darrk Gable, you open up yet another fascinating topic – the extent to which any of us can fill the roles expected in marriage given our personalities, our temperament, our capacity to evolve and compromise essential parts of ourselves. How little we know of the dynamics and complexity of maintaining a family unit when we actually marry. That balance and struggle comes in many variations.

      I wish you luck with yours, and understand the dilemma.

      • I’m late to the party, but wanted to say I loved your article. Your final comment about the extent to which we can fill the roles expected especially resonates with me.

        When I discuss the need to understand a partner’s basic needs, I don’t always give proper respect to the limitations of the person trying to step up. Knowing yourself first and choosing to step outside your comfort zone for the sake of another is not natural for anyone. It must be acknowledged, desired, and then practiced!

        Thanks for the thoughts!

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