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I am happy to say that things have never been better between my soon to be 18 year old daughter and myself! I honestly never thought we would…

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Your site has saved my sanity and my life. Maybe even my marriage. I work part time and have two young boys at home, my husband is supportive of me but until recently I thought I was going crazy. … Reading your writing not only inspires me to pick up the pen again, but gives me nourishment in the deepest places. I will fight for balance. Everything you write is spot on… And wellness is so incredibly multifaceted.  I was ready to give up hope, but understanding myself through your words is bring…
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The Introvert’s Love Affair with Solitude: Will It Always Be Taboo?

black and white alone by the sea

I began a conscious love affair with solitude five years ago.  I’ve been apologizing for it ever since.

I wrote the notes for this post on the backside of a final letter from my ex-husband.  A letter I found in a bedside drawer as I searched for a blank piece of paper to capture my early morning thoughts.  One of the reasons my marriage ended was because there was a disconnect between our views on solitude.  He saw my need for alone time as rejection of him.  I saw it as expansion of me.

Self-Preservation Not Personal Rejection

Personal expansion isn’t narcissistic.  It’s growing into your best self.  It’s hydrating a dying bloom so that it may provide joy naturally. Granted, there is such a thing as too much self-absorption. Loved ones must be nurtured as well, but in my case, time alone gave me light and energy that I never would have had if solitude was completely denied. I tried to take my solitude breaks when everyone was away at work or school. I always felt bad about needing personal space in the marriage.  The guilt caused me to second-guess my parenting style. My kids were taught that the best kind of parent was one who was ON 24/7. I fell short. If only my children understood that solitude helps mom love more deeply and more freely…

I had told people of my intention to be alone for a time. At once I realized they looked upon this declaration as a rejection of them and their company. I felt apologetic, even ashamed, that I would have wanted such a curious thing as solitude, and then sorry that I had made a point of announcing my desire for it.                        

~Doris Grumbach, ‘Fifty Days of Solitude’

zen-of-solitude-power

My daughter’s eyes widened with hurt and confusion.  I had just told her that I would NOT be helping with her third grade Valentine’s Party.  I had stayed home with her four out of five days last week when she was ill. There had been lots of bonding and mutual enjoyment. I had been home for two days this week with her brother and his turn with the flu. I was taking them to History Day at the middle school tomorrow. Evenings are almost exclusively devoted to their homework and needs.  I wanted the afternoon to myself. What I was failing to relay was the fact that my need for time alone was not a rejection of her company but a desperate need to explore my own essence.

I also know that if I do not take time for myself my presence becomes muddled. My thoughts are gridlocked and my demeanor is zombie-like.  I come across as there but not there. That in my opinion, is not good enough.

Most people come alive in relationships.  The more the better.  I am fed by relationships but inspired and transcendent in solitude. I need both.

In her book, Introvert Power, Dr. Laurie Helgoe shares her husband’s experience of dealing with her introversion and need for space. He likens it to a light being removed or a projector stopping during a feature film. I try to keep that in mind when requesting time to myself.  It helps me understand my loved ones’ reactions and feelings.

One of the primary missions of space2live is to explain and create understanding between introverts and extroverts when it comes to recharging and solitude requirements.

Introverts need space to live as their true selves.

We unfold like old road maps — creases released and possibilities endless —when immersed in open-ended time.  Extroverts need hits of attention and interaction to stay energized.  Different methods, neither better nor worse.

Effects of Solitude on the Introvert

I spent the morning reading quotes on love and solitude that resonated so deeply I felt at home and peaceful for the first time in months. I entered a state of flow that was so delicious and nourishing I didn’t want to leave.  I found a place to rest in the words of famous loners like Henry David Thoreau and Charles Bukowski.  It had been so long since I felt this belonging.  Like a parent’s lap or a lover’s embrace, the acknowledgment that solitude cravings are not selfish or bad, enveloped me in warm acceptance. It was like sitting late at night at the kitchen table with my dearest friends.  There was a feeling of freedom and shimmer.  I felt my inner creativity begin to stir.  She had been dormant for many busy and over-populated months.

Clarity arises in unstirred pools.

still_water_lake_tahoe

Now, more than ever, we need our solitude. Being alone gives us the power to regulate and adjust our lives. It can teach us fortitude and the ability to satisfy our own needs. A restorer of energy, the stillness of alone experiences provides us with much-needed rest. It brings forth our longing to explore, our curiosity about the unknown, our will to be an individual, our hopes for freedom. Alone time is fuel for life.

                           ~ Dr. Ester Buchholz

I am most alive and myself when I am alone.  That sounds strange and un-American but I feel all of my loose ends grow together when I reside in a healthy space of reflection.  Ideas spark and surface when there is room between thoughts.  My whole demeanor shifts from raised shoulder blades, frantic answer searches and obligatory action to easy breathing, expansive thinking and thoughtful action. I become me, in the truest sense.

We Network, Therefore We Are?

The general belief in this culture is that if you are not interacting in a relationship you hardly exist.  We rely on others to shape and prove our existence.  They talk to us and touch us, therefore we are.

Introverts dig deep into their inner worlds to find existential confirmation. Too much external stimulation and interaction and our inner voice is muffled. We are lost.

Most of the time I feel more connected to others when I am alone.  I am able to ponder the universal through the lens of my own specifics. I have time to miss others or wonder about their feelings. A desire grows to love and engage with them.

The Acceptance and Benefits of Solitude

My wish is for solitude to be an encouraged and accepted state.  Those who crave it should not be ashamed or misjudged as selfish.  Many of our greatest inventions and works of art were born out of solitude. The benefits of making space for reflection are endless but below are a few of the key ones:

  • Less anxiety
  • More interpersonal understanding
  • More intuitive decision-making
  • Appreciation of beauty
  • Creation of art
  • Universal awareness
  • Thoughtful actions and reactions

Alone time should not be looked down upon.  It should be respected and understood.  Maybe someday we’ll talk of solitude breaks openly and encouragingly rather than with hisses and shakes of the head. In the long run humanity will benefit.

How do you feel when you immerse yourself in solitude? What are the results? Do you have a hard time asking for alone time? Does your inner circle celebrate solitude or group activities?

Further reading on solitude:

My Introverted Love Creed: If We Can’t Be Magnificent and Independent Together I’m OK Alone (space2live)

Famous Solitude Quotes (Lonerwolf)

Melancholic Quotes on Love (Lonerwolf)

Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto (Anneli Rufus)

There’s Nothing Wrong With You.  You’re an Introvert. (space2live)

Introvert Relationships: Love Me or Leave Me but Please Don’t Need Me (Too Much) (space2live)

In Defense of Introverted Parents  (space2live)

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33 Comments

  1. Kaustab Das June 6, 2015 at 11:20 pm - Reply

    Thanks admin…..
    This blog has been an eye opener…:)

  2. […] An Introvert’s Love Affair with Solitude: Will It Always be Taboo? (space2live) […]

  3. […] The Introvert’s Love Affair with Solitude: Will It Always Be Taboo? (space2live.net) […]

  4. Lisa August 25, 2013 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. I take comfort in knowing I’m not alone in my struggle. Just writing the above and getting the thoughts and feelings out made me feel so much better. Being heard and understood was the icing on the cake.

    You are right about how easy it is to reconnect when you and your husband could get away and focus on the relationship. My husband and I are able to reconnect occasionally as well although we haven’t been away together alone in nine years. Even so, we have these times that we will feel really close for awhile and I’m not really sure what triggers it but I like to call them “islands in time.” We seem to rediscover our love all over again and it’s effects will last a few weeks before we slip off into the choppy seas of life again and lose the deeper connection. These times are rare compared to the everyday grind and struggle.

    I do try to draw my husband out of his shell to talk about deeper things but in addition to his introversion is also the ingrained habits from childhood. He was raised by an emotionally and sometimes physically abusive mother. She has an uncanny knack for honing in on your vulnerabilities and weaknesses and uses that information to tease, taunt and willfully cause hurt to those around her. She really and truly enjoys watching others squirm. As a defense mechanism my husband learned to keep as much of his real feelings and thoughts to himself as he could. If you ask him a question or two, you will get a very short and to-the-point answer and if you continue to question you can see the frustration and annoyance set in at having his privacy invaded. I am very sensitive to this and know when to draw the line. You are right about a man being more open after physical intimacy. This is when he is a little more open than at other times. I know this and yet I still struggle with the selfishness and resentment about having to “give in” to the physical on his terms to get a little of the emotional intimacy that I crave. I begin to think, “I’m sensitive to your needs. When is it my turn to get my needs met in the way that would fulfill me instead of just as a reward for meeting yours?”

    I will try the idea of “talking” more through email. Maybe, as introverts, we will communicate better than face-to-face having more time to process thoughts. I also like the idea of telling myself that if I spend time with my husband first for a little while that I can go off and be by myself afterwards. I don’t know why I never thought of it that way before rather than an either/or proposition. It’s very difficult if I start to read a book and tell myself that in just a little bit, I’ll go upstairs when I know there is an expectation on his part and to actually stop when I know he’s waiting. It’s always, “One more chapter” or “another 15 minutes” and then that leads to “I hate having to stop when I’m enjoying the quiet so much” or “why can’t he find something else besides me to get fulfillment from.” Terrible, resentful, nonrational thoughts but they come just the same. Then the guilt, the resentment, the giving in…over and over again on through the years. I can really see this idea of going to him FIRST before getting comfy in my own private world as something that might just make things work better and smooth out some of the struggle. Thank you for that insight. Even if I end up falling asleep before I can get to my time for myself, that’s ok. I really do love my husband so I’ll try anything I can do to make things better and still be able to fulfill my needs.

    I’ve never read any of the books that have come out in recent years about introverts but I did read somewhere that extroverts will gravitate towards people and introverts wait for people to gravitate to them. Perhaps that’s why as two introverts my husband and I also have trouble communicating. We’re each waiting for the other to come to them.

    You have given me lots to think about and thank you for allowing your comment box to be the place for me to vent and share my thoughts at length. Thank you for “hearing” me.

    • Brenda Knowles August 27, 2013 at 7:46 am - Reply

      You are a very aware woman and your devotion to your husband and your relationship is obvious. Keep communicating with him. Speak in terms of your temperament being hardwired, as his is. That should ease his mind, so he doesn’t take everything so personally. Perhaps he is not feeling whole himself? He is looking to you to fill him up. Let him know he is complete. Perhaps he needs a circle of friends who have the same hobbies, they will build each other up and make themselves feel validated. Just a thought.

      Best of luck.:)

  5. […] The Introvert’s Love Affair with Solitude: Will It Always Be Taboo?(space2live.net) […]

  6. Casey Sheridan August 22, 2013 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    One of the things I missed while away on vacation was reading your posts. Now that I’m back, I have catching up to do.

    I’ve learned not to apologize for alone time. It’s like I’m apologizing for being me. Now, I explain to people without getting into too much detail (eyes start rolling if I do – HA!). If they don’t get it, well, I hate to be mean, but, that’s too bad. I can’t be me if I don’t have space.

    Anyway, I always love your posts. You’re so open and honest about you and what you’ve been through, and are going through. So many times you sound like me.

    • Brenda Knowles August 22, 2013 at 7:30 pm - Reply

      Thanks Casey. Good to see you here.:) You are right. Apologizing for being yourself doesn’t make sense. I had/have some re-training to do for myself and for my inner-circle. I let it be OK for too long for me to go without solitude. I made it all right for me to cater to everyone else’s expectations. I’m using my voice now and feeling liberated!! 🙂

  7. The Presents of Presence August 21, 2013 at 6:01 am - Reply

    I am so happy that I found your blog through ON THE HOMEFRONT! May your blissful journey continue as you embrace your true self! Thanks for speaking out. xo

    • Brenda Knowles August 21, 2013 at 6:27 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much for your kind words. The journey is blissful (and painful at times). I am so grateful for the freedom to speak, act and BE in accordance with my true nature.

  8. […] The Introvert’s Love Affair with Solitude: Will It Always Be Taboo? (space2live) […]

  9. […] I began a conscious love affair with solitude five years ago. I’ve been apologizing for it ever since. I wrote the notes for this post on the backside of a final letter from my ex-husband.  […]

  10. Luna August 13, 2013 at 7:26 am - Reply

    Brenna, I really admire your strength and ability to stand up for what you believe is the best for you, despite being a mother. Like many things, society seems to have gotten it wrong again, brainwashing everyone to think that being a mother means 100% self-sacrifice 100% of every day (and if you don’t submit to this dictatorship-of-thinking then you’re an evil person, naturally). But mothers are still human-beings as well, who need both alone-time, and time to Involve rather than constantly Evolving with the tumultuous world outside of them. You’re definitely not alone in your plight, and although I’m not a mother yet, I understand the frustration and anger that comes with not having your needs understood or respected. Keep up the work ~L

    • Brenda Knowles August 13, 2013 at 6:19 pm - Reply

      Thank you for understanding and expressing respect for the need for solitude and personal evolution or your lovely word, Involving. I know so many women, as well as myself, who feel like they are bad moms and people if they don’t give their whole being to their families. Once everything is given there is nothing left but a resentful shell. There must be a chance to tap into energy sources, whether that be an internal endeavor or an external one, it’s crucial. We need to tap into the light in order to be a light.

      Always good to hear from you Luna. I appreciate your thoughtful insight.

  11. Jeni Gray August 12, 2013 at 6:29 am - Reply

    Wonderfully said, I feel relief knowing there are others like me!! 🙂 I have been on my solitary journey for just over five years myself. It has been a glorious expansion of me – I had no idea who I was before this. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  12. elizabeth2560 August 11, 2013 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    Another post that tells my story, even though it was my husband who left me. One of the underlying reasons for his unhappiness was our extrovert / introvert differences, albeit the reasons he gave were as seen through his eyes (‘I need more attention than you can give me’, ‘when together you want to go into another world’ etc etc).
    One of the advantages of this happening to me at my age (late fifties) is that I AM truly alone and I can fully embrace my solitude. Interestingly I am finding I am having deeper connections now with my favourite people, because I can pick them off and engage fully with them on a one by one basis. My mother, each of my four children, my siblings, my friends. I am not crowded out by my extrovert other half and the need to ‘socialise’ and ‘have fun’ rather than truly and deeply connect.
    I am growing through this experience in a very deep and meaningful way.
    Thanks for you enlightened post.

    (PS. Yes, it is difficult when the children are younger. Going for a walk or taking a shower were my life-savers! These days, the kids understand my need for space)

    • Brenda Knowles August 11, 2013 at 8:51 pm - Reply

      Oh Elizabeth you are blossoming so beautifully! I love that you are connecting deeply with your special people. I have found that same loveliness. When you are married, friends often fall by the wayside. It’s difficult to nurture other relationships when you are pouring much energy into a strained one. Sometimes partners are where you find depth and connection, sometimes energy is experienced outside the relationship.
      Keep on your enlightened path. I love to hear about your happy growth.

      • elizabeth2560 August 14, 2013 at 8:02 am - Reply

        Thanks for your kind comments.
        And the same goes for you too,
        You are blossoming into the real enlightened you 🙂

  13. Morgan August 10, 2013 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    I appreciate this post very much! I read Thoreau in school, but not in years. I think I will pick it up again to read!

    • brennagee August 11, 2013 at 9:39 am - Reply

      I have a copy of Walden that was published by Sterling Innovation and edited by Laura Ross. It has all the important messages already highlighted and thoughtful questions and room for notes at the end of each section. I highly recommend this version of Thoreau’s book. Enjoy!!

  14. Leana Delle August 10, 2013 at 1:54 am - Reply

    I find that there is a societal judgement of those among us who prefer our own company. I, however, have always been curious about those who don’t. I’m so grateful to have discovered your blog and to connect with others who feel as I do. I am perceived as an extrovert by many but have always preferred the authenticity that’s only attainable (for me) within my own little haven.

    Thank-you for sharing,
    Leana Delle

    • brennagee August 10, 2013 at 5:36 pm - Reply

      So nice to meet you Leana. I checked out your website. You’re a writer-girl too!;) We writers need our private havens in order to feel at home. So glad you found space2live. I love the little community that gathers here in the safe space. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I want to check out your book…

      • Leana Delle August 11, 2013 at 12:26 am - Reply

        Yes, we do need our private havens, and we do need to stick together. SO glad to have found your blog. Looking forward to your posts!

  15. Love this post as I read it from hiding in our parked Miami an at the waterpark hotel on our family "vacation". I came out to the car to get some snacks and here I sit 45 min. Later! Hahaha August 9, 2013 at 11:56 pm - Reply

    Love this post as I read it from hiding in our parked Miami an at the waterpark hotel on our family “vacation”. I came out to the car to get some snacks and here I sit 45 min. Later! Hahaha

    • brennagee August 10, 2013 at 9:19 am - Reply

      I totally get it. I just took my kids to a waterpark last week. I had fun that day but the next day I was a rag doll from stimulation and dipping dots overload.;) I’m getting anxious just thinking about a waterpark hotel “vacation”. Best of luck to you. May your kids pass out early at bedtime.:)

  16. Melanie Marttila August 9, 2013 at 8:22 pm - Reply

    Love your blog and your thoughtful posts. I am an introvert married to an introvert, so we get each other totally. I just finished Quiet and have The Introvert Advantage queued up 🙂 Just wanted to let you know how much your posts help me to navigate in the world and still maintain my authenticity.
    Thank you!

    • brennagee August 10, 2013 at 9:24 am - Reply

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I love both of the books you mentioned.
      Since you mentioned you are an introvert married to an introvert I have a question or two for you. Do you ever find your partner needs too much time away from you? Are you both fairly independent? I get so many questions about introvert relationships that I thought I’d get your perspective on the double introvert couple.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate your time.:)

      • Melanie Marttila August 10, 2013 at 1:17 pm - Reply

        Brenna,
        Phil and I are both very independent. When our relationship started, I still had some work to do (damaging lessons from the past that led to depression and such severe self-doubt neither of us thought we would make it for a bit–but Phil stuck with me and I sorted my shit out). I’ve always thought, though, that your ideal partner comes equiped to deal with your trauma, and vice versa. Phil’s issue was anger. I’m so laid back I generally don’t take the bait, or if it’s important, I persist calmy, and he realizes in fairly short order the error of his thinking. In the last fifteen years of our marriage, we’ve both turned the corner, so to speak. We’ve always been the best of friends, things are even better now.
        He’s Mr. Science (computer sci career, with cosmology, astronomy, and geology as hobbies) and I’m Ms. Artiste (writer, designer, sketcher, etc.), and we have the most fantastic conversations. He supports and inspires my work. We have the same priorities.
        If you’d like to chat more about this, you can email me: melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com
        I’d be happy to share. Funny how social media opens us up, eh?
        Mel

        • brennagee August 10, 2013 at 5:44 pm - Reply

          Thank you so much for sharing Mel. I was going to suggest you private message me at space2live@yahoo.com but you answered before I got back to you. I will re-read your reply and think if I have any other questions. I am both personally and writerly curious about the introvert/introvert relationship.:)

      • Lisa August 23, 2013 at 4:38 pm - Reply

        I’m an introvert SAHM knee deep in kids for the summer married to an introvert. On the Myers Briggs test, I score 100% introverted and my husband scores 95%. However, I feel like I don’t understand his type of introversion. I can’t wait until day’s end and to be alone with a book and the quiet house. He can’t wait to be alone……with me. Intimacy is our biggest obstacle. After many nights of me avoiding the bedroom to surf the internet or read books or just watch tv, he starts to resent my activities and makes comments such as “Why is it so important what other people are saying that you can’t come up to bed until 1 or 2 in the morning?” I long to be authentic and say “I would come up a lot sooner but the thought of having to cuddle and touch and be physical is so revolting to me and feels so invasive that I put it off longer and longer.” I don’t want to hurt his feelings but feel like to give him the attention he wants, I would be giving away my very self. I long to be close him on a cerebral level but while his interests lie in fishing, home projects and restoring old trucks (he doesn’t do this last activity but reads about a lot), my interests are faith, reading about the deeper questions of life, figuring out what makes people tick, cooking etc. I feel like I can only share my innermost thoughts in bits and pieces like quick sound bites before his eyes glaze over and I’m talking to his back as he leaves the room. I’m just getting started and he thinks the conversation is over. I admit I do the same when he speaks of his interests. I’m not innocent either. I just don’t know how to bridge the gap. I think sometimes our religious faith and belief in the strength of family and keeping your vows are what hold us together during the worst of times. I am grateful we have that, however, because we do love each other even if we can’t seem to make deep intimate connections due to lack of common interests.

        There might be something to look into in how men experience introversion and yet still are drawn to physical intimacy and are able to more easily leave their own head and focus on the physical and how women experience introversion and yet we seem to need to find the energy and desire to leave our space in our own minds and connect physically.

        It’s not that my husband and I don’t have a satisfactory intimate life. In fact, when I am able to come out of my head it’s really good. It’s the frequency and type of intimacy that we have problems with. The physical quality is great when I’m able to come out of my head and just be physical. He wants me at least 3-4 nights a week and doesn’t seem to need a connection outside the bedroom to be intimate in the bedroom. I want a deep, meaningful, intimate connection of both body and mind. I may even be up for the frequency he wants if I could get that kind of intimacy but with only a purely physical one, I have to summon a lot of energy and it’s energy I don’t have 3-4 times a week.

        • Brenda Knowles August 24, 2013 at 10:02 am - Reply

          I appreciate your honest and open comment. I promise to respond after pondering for a bit. For now, know you have been heard.

        • Brenda Knowles August 24, 2013 at 10:36 pm - Reply

          I have experienced every aspect of what you so candidly revealed. Physical intimacy was so hard for me to provide when the emotional intimacy wasn’t there. I dreaded going to bed because I was either going to have to hurt my husband’s feelings or go through the motions of unfulfilling sex. Neither option was authentically me. I felt so false.

          The only time I felt a spark of deep emotional intimacy was when I swept my (then) husband away for a free un-scheduled weekend just the two of us. In the free space we became a man and a woman again, not just husband/wife, introvert/extrovert, mom/dad. We visited new places and started thinking about a trip to Peru together. The excitement and future planning changed us for a time. The buzz of the getaway wore off and we returned to our routines but just for a bit we saw each other differently.

          It’s difficult to grow intimacy when your conversations lack depth and vulnerability. If there is any way to get your husband to talk about what makes him feel most alive or what he fears the most, start there.

          Is your husband more open and intimate emotionally after physical intimacy? Sex is a space for men to be vulnerable. Sometimes once they open up during sex they stay open for a while. I know it is the reverse order for women usually (emotional intimacy leads to amazing physical intimacy) but perhaps this is the only way to get him to open up.

          I’ve known some couples who write letters to each other to build intimacy. A meaningful email every once in a while is an evocative invitation to share.

          I completely understand the late night surfing. I often stay up late or get up early just to have time to feed my own mind. Could you snuggle with hubby for a bit and then go play on your computer? I know this looks good in theory but often once you get in bed you don’t have the energy to get out again. Just a thought.

          I do think male introversion is different than woman’s. Men are allowed to be stoic and the strong but silent type. They have deep physical and visual desires. It’s just how they are wired.

          I’m rooting for you. I will tell you that once I found a partner who I felt emotionally connected to, sex became magnificent and something I looked forward to. Our introverted brains love that internal buzz.

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