How did you handle lonely nights after your divorce?
May 17, 2013 6:11 AM   Subscribe

My days are full, though sometimes full of heart-ache. At night, once the pets and child are asleep, I am alone. Going out is not an option, and sometimes books, music and movies just aren't going to cut it. Did anyone find something surprising or helpful to them after a breakup that might help me get more comfortable with my alone time?
posted by SarahBellum to Human Relations (18 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Can you take up a hobby that doesn't require leaving the house but does require mental attention?
posted by mchorn at 6:16 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Connecting with people online could be helpful, it helped after my divorce. Forums for your favorite hobby, safe friendly chat rooms, online games etc can help you feel less isolated. It can take a while to find something you like that has some good people, but it is worth it.
posted by meepmeow at 6:20 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

YouTube ukelele lessons. Then uke-Skype with a friend. Cheap and cheerful.

(Buy a digital tuner. You'll thank me.)
posted by taff at 6:21 AM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Documentaries and adventure films. It's a way to expand your horizons (and get yourself out of the house) without actually leaving. It's a good reminder that the world is huge and full of possibility. You can get a fair number on netflix, others are watchable on a number of documentary sites, and others yet you can order from the film websites.
There is a good list in one of my previous questions.
(This didn't get me through a divorce, but a rough patch after a job change.)
posted by htid at 6:24 AM on May 17, 2013

Do you ever talk to your friends or family on the phone?

I never do, and recently found out that most of my closest friends call each other all the time just to catch up. I tried it and apparently it actually is a bit different/maybe better than email.

My parents weren't divorced but they very, very rarely went out and socialized with other adults. I do remember distinctly from my childhood that the after dinner/pre-adult-bedtime hours were very often spent catching up on the phone with relatives on the other side of the country or friends. Seems like a nice social way to pass the time.
posted by telegraph at 6:31 AM on May 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

Learn something. Sign up for a free online course (even Harvard are offering them now!) and learn anything from philosophy and art history to how to fix your car. YouTube guitar lessons. Do your own Nanowrimo (sp?). Make online buddies. Meditate. Write. Draw. Get yourself a friend with benefits (don't know if it's too soon for you). Do that thing that your ex used to hate but you can now do because they're gone. Put together a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Learn a language.
posted by Jubey at 6:33 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Starting to exercise had the twin benefits of making me feel better and helping me to sleep. You say you can't leave the house: is a treadmill or elliptical or cycling trainer a possibility for you, or would you be interested in yoga you can do at home?
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:37 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't know the specifics of how it works, but (and I'm sure other similar organizations) lets volunteers record audiobooks for the blind from home. It always sounded like such a win-win to me -- reading something new for yourself, helping others, having purpose/goals, etc.. Dang, I need to sign up!
posted by argonauta at 6:39 AM on May 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

You can't go out, but after the child is asleep you can invite a friend (one who doesn't have a childcare responsibility of their own) over to your house for an evening cup of tea. It can be nice to talk in low voices that won't wake your child and to have some company once in a while that's not about a kid playdate. People understand, often they will just come to you if you let them know that's what you need.
posted by third rail at 6:45 AM on May 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

It wasn't after a breakup, but talk radio programs helped fill the lonely void of being stuck in the house with a baby all day. An intelligent human adult voice was a good companion in those days.
posted by Liesl at 6:48 AM on May 17, 2013

Really good* live radio prevents me from being lonely in a way podcasts cant. Conversation based is good, but not required. Specialised music shows on things I like will do as well, with the announcer dropping in and saying 'How are you tonight' and reading tweets or texts from listeners works too. Sometimes I contact them too. Once I chatted to the announcer between tracks for about an hour. We even had an awkward date.

Do you have a volunteer run station you like anywhere near you? These are all about bringing community to you. If not, find one online and see what you might like on their grid. Someone will be making a show you love just because it makes them happy to do so.

*Good radio to me requires people presenting things to me because they find them interesting enough to share. I can't stand commercial radio stations. Or on preview.... Liesl said radio.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 6:51 AM on May 17, 2013

Seconding online friends. I played a lot of WoW after my divorce. I'm not necessarily recommending this, but it did help in a way to have an outlet for socialization that was always there and didn't require leaving the house.

Lately I have been enjoying reddit somewhat. Good subreddits are kind of like good IRC channels of yore. Some come with a really great community if you are willing to do the work to find them. (FWIW, I've found the makeup/nail polish subs to be decent, as well as specific TV show related subs. YMMV.)

Another option is to Skype/FaceTime with family and friends. Seeing a friendly face might be just the thing.
posted by annekate at 7:09 AM on May 17, 2013

Never divorced but went through a horrible break up.

IRC was a godsend for me.
RPG games online or on your computer
Anything else Annekate suggested.
posted by stormpooper at 7:27 AM on May 17, 2013

Best answer: One combo I found oddly soothing post divorce was working on a jigsaw puzzle while listening to a book on tape (something not to demanding so I could fade in and out a bit). Maybe because these provided different types of distraction (narrative, reasoning, visual, tactile, auditory), while also leaving my mind free enough to kind of 'feel around the edges' of what had happened and how I felt when it wanted to. YMMV, and probably any combo of hand/mind work would serve the same purpose.
posted by pennypiper at 7:27 AM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

When I divorced, it was the first time I had really lived alone in my life for any extended period of time (no kids, just a cat.) It was a hard transition because I was so used to having people around; the people and the activities around them filled my time and kept me distracted from my inner dialogue. So, with everyone gone, I had to deal with the anxiety of being alone, decide whether it was a referendum on my value as a person (guess what? it isn't), and I balanced it with some nights having things to do. For me it was study groups (I was in graduate school at the time) and then karate when I graduated ( which helped me immeasurably), but I also understand if you can't leave the house because of your child (can you arrange for a sitter once a week?). I do like some of the suggestions of online things to do, or yoga (although with someone might be better than on your own since this is about dealing with the loneliness, not practice.)

I would encourage you to listen to that inner dialogue and try to figure out what it is saying. Be gentle with yourself, and be honest. It took me a while to figure out what mine was saying and I was filled with anxiety and sadness and frustration, but in the end, I am much more comfortable being alone than I was ever before my divorce and much more at peace.

Or, maybe try guitar (or heck, another course on coursera? You've got the time; you can learn something new! :)
posted by absquatulate at 7:27 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

First of all, I'm sorry that you are going through this. My husband and I have been having a difficult time of it, and hadn't been spending much time together, and I know how lonely it can be.

I also lost my dog on Saturday, so I also have been struggling with what to do with myself when previously, a little puppy cuddle made everything better.

First of all, the fact that you are up after your kids (unless they are little) and your pets, makes me think for some reason you are staying up late. I find that early morning exercise really helped me with that. I do an outdoor boot camp loosely based on Crossfit, but something like Insanity or P90x depending on your level of fitness might do the same thing. It made me feel strong, and confident, and made it easy for me to go to bed at 9:30 before the sadness set in.

Second, are you getting human interaction outside of your kids? Do you talk to your coworkers, eat lunch with them, etc. I found getting more human interaction during the day, helped me cope with loneliness at night.

Third, do something productive. Sometimes when I try to sit and read, or watch a movie, my mind wanders, and when I'm sad, it wanders to the things that make me sad. Do something that uses a little more brain energy or thought or that makes something better in your life -- cleaning, organizing, knitting, cooking for the week, any hobby you like.

Fourth, I agree with everyone saying talk to your friends. I was embarrassed of how I was feeling and avoided this for a long time -- it does help.

Best of luck to you.
posted by hrj at 8:08 AM on May 17, 2013

What helped me during my divorce were yoga and dog rescue.

I volunteered with a dog rescue/non-profit and was able to "work" after hours, from my home computer. I assisted with adoption applications (speaking with potential adopters, who could only usually speak after business hours anyways), setting up foster homes, setting up the weekly transportation of dogs... I also did some fostering.

It was so nice to focus on doing something good and doing good for others.

Also, I don't know if this may be an option for you, but I took in a roommate to help with expenses but her companionship was wonderful, too.

I would spend time on the phone with friends/family.

Lastly, I read a lot.

This too shall pass. I'm a year-and-a-half post divorce and I've never been more self-assured/reliant.
posted by itsallfunandgames at 8:16 AM on May 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

I cannot speak from divorce, but a horrible breakup.

I was so lonely it hurt and I was used to everything. The late night phone calls, the intimacy (human connection), the knowing that someone else in the world cares about you and is concerned for your well-being. It's raw, you can't even breathe.

The only thing that helped me was watching Friends over and over again. I couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, couldn't even go outside to get the mail because all I could think about was my ex. Everything was a trigger for memories. My house, the driveway, quite literally everything. And it hits you like a tidal wave. Excruciating stuff, but you'll be all better for it. Time really does heal all wounds. Right now, you just need to laugh, cry, let out the negative and realize, maybe this is for the best. Maybe the relationship wasn't as great as you thought it was. Maybe.. just maybe... there might be something more magical in store for you.

But.. until you get to that point where you can breathe again. Romantic comedies, stupid comedies, anything that can get you engrossed in the plot line and involved in the human emotion of the characters. One step at a time. I wish you the best.
posted by lunastellasol at 12:36 PM on May 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

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