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The Beauty of Being Single: 6 Benefits of Solitude

Single Woman

“I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Shock. Rage. Sorrow. Excitement. Terror. These are just a handful of the emotions one experiences in the aftermath of a separation or divorce. Emotional rollercoaster? It’s more like being hit with the speed and velocity of a bullet train.

I should know. After twenty-five years of marriage to a kind and accomplished man, I found myself alone.

Our decision to divorce was neither acrimonious nor cruel; neither sudden nor impulsive. Rather, our decision to file for divorce was an incremental process.

We had more disappointment than hope, more unease with each other than affection and contentment. As difficult as it was to recognize the wrong turns we’d made in our two-plus decades together, we both realized that it was time for each of us to draw a new map.

While my husband remained in the home we had lived in together throughout our marriage and the raising of our daughter, the path on the new atlas of my life led me back to Italy, the country of my birth.

In retrospect, it was far easier to relocate to somewhere radically different from the place I’d called home for thirty years than it was to sit with the equally radical emotions aroused by separating from the person who knew me best.

Once the bags were unpacked, the boxes unloaded, and the small apartment I’d rented in the heart of Rome redecorated, I had to contend with the alien feeling of a naked ring finger and a heart full of pain.

The relief of our separation—no longer would I have to tiptoe around the mounting frustration and disenchantment between us—was short-lived; the rush of excitement at the idea of “a fresh start” evanescent as a shooting star.

With a job from home, only a shoebox of an apartment to tend to, and no wifely duties, motherly chores, or social commitments, I had only one thing to do and one place to go—and that was inward.

It was lonely in there. Where, I kept thinking, was that rock-solid husband of mine who was ready to jump onto the roof at a moment’s notice when the gutters overflowed?

Who would take care of me when I was sick, keep me warm when I was cold, ease me into sleep when I had insomnia? Who would share the beauties of life with me?

How could I live if I didn’t have a partner to love?

I was in profound disbelief (it wasn’t really over); angry (how could my husband let me go?); worried (would I end up begging for scraps of food in Piazza Navona?); ashamed (I should have tried harder); resolved (I’d get him back and we’d make it work), and adrift (life was pointless).

But then resignation arrived, and with it, a certain, glorious freedom. I was divorced, not dead. The questions I had? It was akin to asking a well where I could find a drink of water. And in their absence, new ones arrived: Who were my neighbors in the eternal city? Which interests could I develop? How could I create a routine that nurtured my values? And how could I march in single file?

As I began navigating life alone, I discovered that, while enormously different, a great deal of solace and satisfaction can be found in solitude. If you’re going through a similar transition, consider the following benefits of flying solo:

1. Your imagination will soar.

It’s true: Creativity emerges from quiet and an open agenda. Having long been a writer—but also a wife, mother, homeowner, and full-time corporate executive—I long ago learned to write against distraction.

In my new space, where the only distractions were those I created, my imagination was provoked in ways that I hadn’t experienced since I was a child. Without time- constraints and working to the tune of a television show I wasn’t watching, I found myself freer on the page, more productive, and thoroughly content daydreaming about a daydream.

If thinking of a long, unstructured weekend day fills you with the blues, use it to your advantage. Creative expression, whether through writing, drawing, or dancing, often proves to be cathartic for people.

Paint your way through anger, redecorate a room to lift your mood, or spend an hour imagining the places you have the freedom to explore in your new, unencumbered state.

2. Your life will become entirely yours.

Responsibilities have always been a large part of my adult life. From commuting to the office to hosting dinner parties for my husband’s colleagues, rarely did my former schedule allot much time for what I—and I alone—wanted to do.

In the absence of these duties, I found a surplus of time, energy, and excitement to pursue my passions. A candlelight yoga class? An art-house film on a Tuesday that would have been otherwise dedicated to household chores? Cocktails on a school night? Yes, yes, and yes, please!

I discovered the deliciousness of creating my own schedule and following what called to me rather than what was expected of me—and you are wholly free to do the same.

What fell by the wayside during your relationship—friendships, hobbies, unread novels, moving to the city of your dreams—are exactly where you left them. Only now you have the time and devotion to give them the attention and energy they deserve.

3. You will learn self-reliance.

While I was the master of my own life, I was also the one solely responsible for making sure that such a life worked.

Going from a dual income to one was daunting at first—until I recalled the gift I had for budgeting pre-marriage, which allowed me to buy my first apartment before I turned twenty. A leaky faucet, a flat tire, a frustrating day? I bought a toolset and watched YouTube videos, befriended our local mechanic, and learned that Rainer Maria Rilke was entirely right when he said that no feeling is final.

The more self-reliant I became, the more confident—and happy—I felt.

Should you find yourself in the same place, start slowly but stay determined. Pick one area of your life where you need to become self-sufficient, whether it’s in balancing your checkbook or learning to cook for one. Once conquered, attack the next…and next, and next, and next, until you find yourself surprised that at one time you depended on anyone else at all.

4. You will befriend yourself.

With only myself to please and take care of, I embarked on a new relationship—with myself.

I was tentative at first, much as one is when they first start dating someone new. Would I like a glass of cabernet out of habit because it’s what my husband often ordered, or did I think a Viognier might be a better fit with this dish? Would I like to stay at home and take a bath, or venture out to a café with a newfound friend?

The more I began treating myself with the kindness and attentiveness I showed toward my husband and daughter, the more I got to know myself on a deeper, truer level, realizing how much of what I did and what I ate and how I acted was an act of either submission or compromise.

If you’re in a similar position, listen to your needs, honor your wants (within moderation), and tune in to what your heart is telling you. The more you take care of yourself, the better equipped you will be to deal with the conflicting emotions your newfound single status has likely stirred.

5. You will learn the art of a healthy inner monologue.

Marriage and motherhood don’t leave much room for listening to one’s inner voice—there’s enough noise as it is. Alone, I was introduced to a whole cast of inner players I had silenced out of necessity for years. Some of these voices were unkind—judgmental, condescending, or tempting me in unhealthy directions—but with time and practice, I learned to conduct inner dialogues that were loving, beneficial, and illuminating.

As you set out alone, give yourself the time and space to listen to the voices inside of you. Silencing those that are cold or self-sabotaging will allow you to hear the tenderness and determination of others. And, with time, you will cultivate an ability to listen to what is best for you—and the backbone needed to ignore all the rest.

6. You will find peace with your past.

Those first few months alone were ripe with recrimination. If only I’d done this; if only he’d done that. How could I have done this; how could I have done that? I was reprehensible, a failure, destined for a future of take-out alone and two too many cats. But, again, with time (a true salve for most things), I realized that the old adage is true: Everyone we meet comes into our lives for a reason.

My marriage was not so much a failure as it was a stepping stone on my journey. I had lost, but I had also learned.

If you’re bearing similar grief, consider compiling a list of what you have gained rather than focusing on what you’ve suffered; what you look forward to rather than what you miss.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that the greatest lesson of all is that the person you were looking for was right where they were supposed to be all along: within.

Single woman image via Shutterstock

Profile photo of Lauretta Zucchetti

About Lauretta Zucchetti

Lauretta Zucchetti’s work has been featured in numerous publications, including Maria Shriver’s The Shriver Report, Literary Mama, Blog Her, Lifehack, A Daring Adventure, and Grown & Flown, as well as in NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH SO HELP ME GOD: 73 Women on Life’s Transitions. An author, life coach, and motivational speaker, she splits her time between Italy and San Francisco.

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  • Supriya Rao

    Thanks for the beautiful article. Especially the last line!

  • Andrea

    This is truly a great piece, Lauretta! Thanks for sharing. It’s exactly how I feel, too. My relationship ended last year so being alone felt daunting at first but now I see it as getting reacquainted with a really good friend whom I had lost touch with. And guess what? I love getting to know her again 🙂

  • Abhai Preet

    I sorely needed to read this lovely article tonight. I’ve been freelance-writing for many years, but have become bored and disillusioned with conjuring up content for money. Your article makes me realize I have a lot of heart-level content to share and, perhaps, my writing career hasn’t ended after all. Thank you.

  • Annie

    This article was spot on….. I became a widow almost 3 years ago…. the steps were the same for me…. Finding me again was scary- there were many sad days- and then- I realized- I was still alive and might enjoy life again! Loved it!

  • Katydid

    A line from a movie spoke to me a few months ago. I have been divorced for less than a year after a 30 year marriage, that, like yours, was not angry or combative, but just slowing went away.

    An elderly woman in the movie said,”I have been a daughter, a wife, and a mother … now I just want to be me”. I spent 30 years placing my ex-husband and son’s needs over mine. I was always doing what I was “supposed” to do. In the case of my son, I wouldn’t change a thing, but he’s 28, and has his own life. I can now make decisions without thinking about schools, or carpooling, or how close the airport is. I was always waiting. Waiting for someone to get home from work or school. Waiting for my ex to hear about a job in another city … with another move. Waiting for things to change. But now, my time is mine. Yes, scary, sometimes sad, sometimes thrilled. But mostly adjusting to enjoying being me.

  • lv2terp

    Great post! Wonderful advice and an inspiring piece 🙂

  • Gina Schuran-castillo

    I really like the way you describe your inner process. That is not easy, when the blues suddenly hits you. I lost my husband of 34 years 5 months ago. We already had started our retirement and moved to Mexico. Now I am here alone and I have many ambivalent feelings. I am so used to care and live to love one particular person. There is a part of me now I am now using very little and it feels awkward like I am and I am not myself when alone. Does this make sense?

  • This beautifully written and full of wonderful insights. I divorced seven years ago after a 20 year marriage and initially felt like my world had fallen apart. Now I would say these past seven years have been some of my happiest.

  • Roger Bruton

    “Shock. Rage. Sorrow. Excitement. Terror. These are just a handful of the emotions one experiences in the aftermath of a separation or divorce” Lauretta – add bereavement to your list. The thing about that is that there is no possibility of going back. It’s horribly final, and the shock is the worst part. But everything else about your piece rings true.

  • lauretta zucchetti

    I am so glad that you like this article, Andrea. Yes, loneliness comes and goes but over time it eases up doesn’t it? Good luck with your new/not so new friend!

  • lauretta zucchetti

    Dear Abhai, I am moved that you write from your heart, to me. Yes, to stand “naked” in front of people is sometime not easy but key to spread wisdom and love, if that is what you aspire to do. Thank you for commenting and I am glad that I could help!

  • lauretta zucchetti

    Thank you so much!

  • lauretta zucchetti

    We grow don’t we? It’s amazing for me too how much happier I am in so many ways, even though the mourning period isn’t over yet (25 years for me). But grow we must, and sometime this kind of situation is for the best. Thank you so much for your comment. I am glad that you are happy at last,

  • lauretta zucchetti

    Thank you, Roger. I am sorry to hear about your loss and, if you look closely, you will notice that the same exact emotions of shock, rage, sorrow, excitement (eventually) and terror (when fully recovered) are also true for bereavement, even though the person has left her body and we can’t “see” him or her anymore. I focus on the love that I felt and that is my companion until I have fully recovered, and I hope that you find some solace as well in your own process of healing. All best,

  • lauretta zucchetti

    Thank you for commenting on my post Annie. I am glad that it helped, and even more glad that you are enjoying life again. It is comforting for me too that so many people feel or have felt the way I describe in my piece. We are all in this together as they say! Thanks again,

  • lauretta zucchetti

    I so relate! I too felt like I had become a cardboard with the picture of ME on it but nothing inside. All the waiting, all the doing for others, all the interminable decisions that had nothing to do with MY life. Now it is in some ways harder, but in so many ways so much better and I hope that it is so for you too. Hang in there. We are strong and we are capable and life is just beginning to smile back at us, again!
    Thank you for commenting,

  • lauretta zucchetti

    Dear Gina,
    I am so sorry about your loss, after so many years and the plans you had about retirement! I can only imagine what it must feel like (mine was 25 years so not as long), and your being confused about your “new” role. I can only encourage you to take time and to be kind to yourself. When we love others (easier to do than loving ourselves) for so long we no longer know “how to” love ourselves and it is a job in and all to itself. Feel free to contact me through my website if you want to chat. Thank you again for being so candid. You are not alone!

  • lauretta zucchetti

    PS I didn’t get paid for this piece, FYI. Most of my posts are for free…:-)

  • lauretta zucchetti

    Thank YOU for reading it, Supriya, and for your kind comment!

  • Roger Bruton

    Lauretta, I was surprised AND pleased to read your reply. While there is barely a day that passes without remembering Gillian, over the past (nearly) five years I have “moved on” a surprising amount. Once you give yourself permission to do so, life becomes a lot easier. I like to think that she would be pleased with what I have been up to since that terrible day.

  • Brav3

    I find this article comforting and helpful. My ex gf broke up with me a month ago and I am still going through all those emotions ( Grief, sadness, anger etc). What I am not able to understand is people that are in far worse situations than me ( Divorce after years of marriage or kids) are able to continue with their lives. And here I am struggling everyday. How did you find that courage Lauretta? Or maybe there is inherently something really wrong with me. I don’t understand.

  • The thing about a recent break up is that it takes time to heal. My ex fiancee and I broke three and a half years ago. The first few months after we broke up, I experienced exactly what you did. There is nothing wrong with you.

    I have also found that reading the book, “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle helped me to look at the past as the past (a set of facts) and not as ‘this happened to me’.

  • Thank you for this, Lauretta. After being single for over three and a half years, there are days that I truly do feel alone. This article helped me remember that I never am truly alone.

  • Brav3

    I have read that book before, so as The power of now. It did help for a while.

    I have started to think that if people prefer running away from relationship or marriages so that they can get that spark again, my understanding of committed relationship is flawed and old. And I shouldn’t bother with relationship again.

    What’s the point? After few years, any relationship will doom to fail because the spark will fade and ‘ work through’ things will start to pop up. And then one will face the cycle of painful emotions again.

  • raychil

    I have been single for few years now and I love it! Would take someone flipping amazing to tempt me away. I love having complete independence, no need to comprimise with anyone at all, having my own place all to myself n however i want it, can spend all my time however I want… I would find it really hard to merge now coz I love living like this. Maybe ive become too independant lol but i love it. Yeh realtionships can b fun too but so is being single 🙂

  • Those are good points and I have thought that way as well (being the one who left and regretting it later). Having loved and lost and seeing my friends struggle with their relationships (if those still exist), I realize that what will happen will happen. What matters is what we make of life.

  • Rahdi Hossain Raahi

    This is so… beautiful. The internal process of yours is described in such a wonderful way. I can relate to this entire piece of writing very well, actually. It seems weird, but that’s just what it is! The depth and the style this is written in, I think it’s just impressive. I want to take a moment to let the author know of my heartfelt gratitude and benevolence towards her. Dear woman, you are awesome;.just keep being you, and keep spreading your word. I resonate with you. Your world must be full of the strongest force of this universe: love.

  • Garethh Robertson

    Thank you, from the very depths of my heart. I have recently separated from my long term partner of 7 years. She was my world and I moved countries twice to be with her. I have also had the feelings of “what could I have done” but I slowly realise that she and I were never meant to be, no matter how much I gave up. Thank you for this little piece of sanity.

  • Ashley Butcher

    I feel your pain. I have been with my partner for 11 years and moved out of state twice to be with him. It feels good to know others share similar feelings and experiences.

  • Christina

    I am 32 and have been with my future ex husband for 12 years . He asked for a divorce 3 days ago and ripped my heart out of my chest . I am a roller coaster of emotions and can’t imagine being alone . I don’t know myself without me and him. I’ve never lived alone and am terrified of loneliness and change . I am counting my blessings and I have many but right now I am hopeless . It’s a reassuring to read articles like this and see there are others like me even though right now I feel alone . Learning to focus on myself I really hard, especially when I really feel like I have no individual identity. Nowhere to go but forward , but with articles like yours I can breathe a sigh of relief that I will be ok!