Seeking Solitude Puts a Strain on Relationships

Tracy Stengel

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I’ve always been a social butterfly, but my wings were clipped in March 2020 along with the wings of all the other extroverts on the planet. Lockdown was a blow I didn’t see coming. I found myself sipping a wicked cocktail of fear, uncertainty, with a generous splash of depression.

My coping mechanism during tough times was to gather with my posse and share each other’s burdens. Afterward, we’d all feel lighter and more carefree. But in the Spring of 2020, gathering wasn’t possible and even as restrictions lifted, meeting up with all your besties was still frowned upon.

Six months into the pandemic, I realized I didn’t mind solitude, sometimes even enjoyed it. There was more time to create artwork and to write. I took up yoga and Pilates which calmed my mind and gave me a sense of peace. My cooking skills improved. In time, the main ingredient in my homecooked dinners did not include a family-size can of Campbell’s soup.

My husband and I grew closer, bonding in the protective cocoon of our home and yard. A new appreciation blossomed for the simple things in life. Yardwork. Long walks. Curling up in the hammock with a good book.

Nowadays, most mandates are lifted, and a vaccine is available, but I still feel resistant to getting back into the old social swing of things. Fear of the variant aside, the world has changed. I have changed.

Some of my friends are disappointed I don’t want to go out every night of the weekend. They feel like I am pulling away from them. They feel snubbed. Invitations are becoming scarce.

Sometimes I am relieved. Sometimes it hurts.

In a recent Psychology Today article, Tony Evans, Ph.D. asserts that many people make assumptions about solitude-seekers. It is perceived they are difficult to get along with, are socially inept, and have all the warmth of a package of ribs fresh out of the freezer.

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Evans says solitude-seekers are often avoided because people don’t want to make the effort to reach out to them. It’s easier to avoid a stilted, uncomfortable interaction. Many people also exclude loners because they assume the person wouldn’t want to be included in the conversation, the lunch group, or get invited for drinks after work anyway, so why bother trying?

Evans contends these beliefs are probably wrong.

People assume that solitude-seekers are impervious to the pain of social exclusion. We assume that they don’t want to join our parties or work with us on new projects. But almost everyone dislikes being excluded. Even subtle forms of exclusion, like being snubbed by an anonymous stranger … can provoke a strong emotional response.

It’s been a trying time for everyone. Introverts and extroverts need to continue trying to make connections with our loved ones, friends, and the friends we haven’t met yet. We need to be patient with each other and ourselves.

After declining several invitations, maybe I need to extend some of my own.

I invite your thoughts in the comments.

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Tracy explores the world with a positive eye, an open heart, and a sprinkling of humor. Without laughter, she would be lost.

Onsted, MI
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