Being single for the first time in my 50s has been really eye-opening. I think that I unconsciously avoided being single because I feared coping alone. Due to a traumatic childhood, long-term consequences have included an intense fear of been single and alone.
My beliefs about being single pushed me to stay in a relationship beyond its sell-by date. Being single for the first time in my 50s is a scary prospect but at the same time incredibly liberating. I will explain why…
Being single allows you to focus on you
Whenever I was in a relationship, I tended to put my needs behind the needs of my partner in many aspects. Somehow their life goals became the structure for my life. Depending on the relationship, my personal life structure shifted. This meant that I never really forged ahead as much as I could have towards my own dreams and goals.
Looking back, the overall direction in my life was right but my ambition was heavily diluted by the aims/goals of my partner. This may sound weak and I guess it was in many ways. This is the downside of a people pleaser.
Since being single, I have had an unrestrained focus on myself and what I want from life. It’s been a lesson well worth it and an interesting behavioural experiment.
More behavioural experiments
Life consists of multiple behavioural experiments whether you realise it or not. We all take chances in life and many of the things we try don’t come with a guarantee. A behavioural experiment allows you to test out your beliefs. In my own example, I had inaccurate thoughts about what being single would be like. The idea of being single for the first time in my 50s conjured up all sorts of negative thoughts and images. I worried that I would never find somebody to love. I worried that I was over the hill. I worried that others would judge me as being unsuccessful in love, and the list goes on.
Now that I am doing the experiment of being single for the first time in my 50s, none of those issues are actually a problem. Anticipatory stress is often worse than the actual event. If you want to be more confident in life create more behavioural experiments and push through your fears. It’s the quickest way to shift your thinking and make rapid change.
You enjoy other interests apart from a relationship
Being single has expanded my horizons. I spent far more time with my friends and spend more quality time doing the things I love, such as being in nature and being around animals. I have started to listen to music more often – something I used to do when I was younger. Music is a fantastic way to lift your spirits and it’s one way that I measure my mental health status. The less I listen to music, the further away I am from my true self. Spending too much time focusing on what your partner wants will shift you off your best path forward.
Being single reinforces your values
Being single in your 50s (any age for that matter) is a wonderful leveller because it encourages self-reflection. Since I have been single, my values have been screaming loudly in my ears. Listen more to music, get back to the basics, stop overcomplicating your life and increase your experiences in life – travel, get out of the house (Covid has been getting in the way for all of us). In other words, get out there, do more behavioural experiments and grow as a person.
My values include connecting with others, travelling, self-improvement, and focusing on the right priorities.
I find it incredibly exciting when I think about all the adventures that lie ahead. It’s all up to me and although that is scary and some ways, it is also the ultimate freedom. Being single for the first time in my 50s hasn’t been without it’s struggles. Some nights are very lonely but they don’t last forever. Every lonely night that I have experienced has also been a growing experience. It has shown me that I can cope and that the world does not come to an end if I feel lonely. A very empowering realisation!
It also means I will be less likely to accept an unhealthy or unhappy relationship due to fear of being single. Fear stops us from doing so much in life, yet when we push through that fear and get through to the other side, we wonder why we worried so much. This is why behavioral experiments are so useful and effective.
Growing from life’s struggles
The silver lining is there every hardship in life teaches you something. Be more you experienced struggle, the greater your resilience to cope in the future. When you survive something difficult, your brain takes note. Think of pushing through fear and getting out of your comfort zone like going to the gym. Your brain is a muscle and when you try new experiences, your brain develops new neural pathways. You are effectively strengthening your brain’s ability to process difficulty and stress. The more you avoid, the weaker your brain remains. Pushing yourself in the gym strengthens your body’s muscles and pushing yourself to experience new things in life strengthens your brain’s muscle, so to speak.
So whenever you are going through something difficult, Pat yourself on the back and know that you are strengthening your resilience and your confidence for the future. It’s not all bad.
I believe in being philosophical about what happens in life and trying to see the funny side as well as learning the lessons. I hope this post has inspired you to push yourself a little more and not be afraid. Get out there and do what you fear!