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.
“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