How much social interaction is "normal"?
August 4, 2008 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Coming out of a 5-year relationship and need help recalibrating my expectations about what is a "normal" amount of social interaction.

I'm just getting out of a 5-year relationship where we lived together for the last 3 years. From the beginning, we spent *all* of our time together. We did a lot with other people, too, but always as a unit. I've really gotten used to always having someone around, whether it's to sit around and watch TV or to go to a museum or baseball game on the weekends. Instant activity partner, all the time!

Now, single, I find that I've totally lost touch with how much time is a "normal" amount of alone time. I live in NYC, which makes it especially hard to get some perspective on this, because I feel like everyone is out doing something cool all the time.

I realize that this is something that varies greatly from person to person, but I'm just trying to get a handle on what an average week looks like socially for you single big-city kids out there. How many weeknights do you have plans? How busy are you on an average weekend? How often do you find yourself with an entire weekend with nothing to do? I feel like having reasonable social expectations will really help me deal with this in the short/medium term future.

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I am at the opposite end of the spectrum right now, being involved in a longer-than-my-usual-span relationship. It is all well and good, but adjusting to new schedules involving/not involving someone else definitely take time.

Before this relationship, my week typically lined up like this:

Weekdays- with people two-four nights a week, after work. Usually for dinner, movie, chatting, coffee, etc. I do have a couple of pretty close friends who are typically available.

Weekends- maybe a fun morning activity (my hometown has a big Farmers' Market), maybe an evening movie or at a bar. Sundays are usually a free day that I reserve for myself or family.

That said, I think it depends on the type of person. Do you enjoy alone time? Do you feel awkward doing things by yourself? Do you have your own close friends? Family?

The above "schedule" is typical, but not all-inclusive. I still occasionally find myself with an empty Saturday or weeknight- I try to keep a book on hand, a hobby to work on, or a new interest to explore.

Good luck- I hope your new status will open all sorts of doors for you!
posted by gracious floor at 11:27 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

There are so many factors that can affect this, of course, but for me, my amount of social time is usually limited to the weekends. On occasion I'll go out on a weeknight, but I usually just don't feel like it after a full day of work or I have other work I need to get done at home. But I don't even spend my entire weekend with other people. Sometimes I'll take a morning or afternoon and go out by myself on some little project I've given myself. So "alone" time doesn't have to mean you're alone at home. Likewise, alone time at home doing nothing isn't necessarily uncool.

If you've just gotten out of a relationship where you never had any alone time, though, I would take alllllllllll the time you want. You need to get back in touch with yourself!
posted by katillathehun at 11:27 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm single, and I usually spend, on average, 5 out of 7 nights a week alone. On average I spend 50-75% of my weekend days alone as well.

I have to say, I really want an activity partner to bring these averages down!
posted by tristeza at 11:41 AM on August 4, 2008

I'm single, but haven't been in the city that long, so it's probably different for me. I typically spend 1 or 2 nights during the week with a friend to watch a tv show, or grab a drink after work. But I like to have a couple nights or more for myself during the week, I'll go to a coffee shop and read or take my computer.

Weekends I would love to be with people, but I just don't know enough yet, so I typically spend them wandering the city! It can be fun, there are a lot of great things to do alone, but its nice to have someone to share it with. Sundays are usually a day to myself. I love to go to the park on Sundays, or go see an obscure film.
posted by condorman at 11:50 AM on August 4, 2008

People are busy in NYC. If we go out during the week, it's usually after work with coworkers. If we go out with non-work friends on a weeknight, it's usually because we haven't seen that person in such a long time that we got fed up waiting for matching weekends. Sometimes people will go out on weeknights to a concert or something that won't be around when the weekend comes. But yeah...usually we're working for the weekend. This is a function of how tired everyone is after work, how early we're going to sleep during the week as we get older, how distributed our friends might be throughout the city's geography, and how Facebook lets us keep tabs on each other without actually spending time together.

There's no excuse to not see one's friends on the weekend, though. Except that's also when you have to get your errands done (e.g. laundry, shopping, etc.) and you're still pretty tired from the workweek. But really, make it a point to hang out with at least someone on the weekend, even if it's not for long and just during the day.

If you do find yourself with a weekend all to yourself, enjoy it. Get stuff done and recuperate. But if you get a bunch of them in a row you need to make it a point to get out and be with people.
posted by aswego at 11:53 AM on August 4, 2008

I'm single and am probably alone 90% of the time during the week. There may be an ocassional date, maybe a drink with the one or two friends I have in town but otherwise, it's just me, myself and I.
I enjoy this most of the time, though I'd would certainly not mind not being single but even when I was paired off, I absolutely required a good deal of time alone.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 11:59 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is really subjective. Some people are just way more introverted or extroverted than others, and they need more or less socialization and stimulation from others. Instead of aiming for "normal", why not aim for the amount of socialization that's right for you? Try going out/having someone over two nights a week, see how that works, and raise or lower that bar as you wish.
posted by orange swan at 12:00 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

People consider me to be on the busier end of the spectrum. My non-work life is generally like this:

- 1x per week: one-on-one outing with one of 5-6 close friends
- 1x per month: something with family (parents and one sibling are within one hour's travel)
- 2x per month: attend some group party type thing (birthday, BBQ, holiday party, wedding, going away party, old friends reunion)
- 2x per month: concert(s), movie(s), gallery... some kind of cultural entertainment

- 1x per year: take an evening or weekend class (sometimes 1 weekend, sometimes one night a week for 10-12 weeks)
- 2x per year: host visitors, host a party or gathering at my place
- 3x per year: travel, go out of town for at least an overnight (not counting family stuff)
posted by xo at 12:03 PM on August 4, 2008

I understand that you're (probably) just looking for a little reassurance, but there's no need to feel you have to meet some kind of average here. You may be happiest with more or less alone time than the mean for MeFites, so do what satisfies you rather than trying to be "normal" based on other people's schedules (one could probably make a joke about whether MeFites are actually normal, but I'll let it pass).

And your optimal alone time will vary over time as well, so just play it by ear. Give yourself a chance to adjust to your new circumstances and see how you feel with a different social schedule, then adjust as necessary.

I'm married but Hubby lives in a different city so for the purpose of this question I might as well be single again. After he moved out almost a year ago my life felt abruptly quiet and empty but within a few weeks I realized I liked having lots of time to myself again. Outside of work, I'm alone most of the time. Hubby and I chat on the phone 2 - 3 times a week and that's about it for social contact apart from occasional MeFi meetups. Most of the time that's perfectly fine for me. Sometimes I get a little lonely but mostly I like my new peaceful solitude. We've been married for 15 years and are still on perfectly good terms (he moved out to take a new job, not because of marital strife), so it's quite possible to go from full-time "activity partnered" to nearly full-time loner, and be content at both extremes. You'll find a new balance too, and it might even surprise you.
posted by Quietgal at 12:08 PM on August 4, 2008

I'd guess I spend 1/3 to 1/2 of my evenings in the company of other people or generally out and about doing things.

But an important thing to recognize is that I have something every single day from last Friday through next Sunday, but before last Friday, it had been 5 days since I had really been out to do something.

Averages are just averages, and you're going to have weeks and even months that run hot and cold.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:25 PM on August 4, 2008

I'm not single anymore, but when I was, I usually went out 4 or 5 nights a week, and spent two nights on my own. NYC here, too.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:33 PM on August 4, 2008

There is no 'normal', theres just what makes you happiest.
I live with my partner but not including when we're in bed, we probably spend less than an hour a day with each other and we never go out (well, very rarely), we're both perfectly happy like this, 5 minutes here and there to say 'hi' and 'I love you' throughout the day is enough social interaction for both of us. On the other end of the spectrum, some people would just shrivel up and die if they lived like us (ie. no social interaction with friends and limited partner contact).

Go out when you want to go out, stay in if you want to be alone - don't get caught up on some idea of the 'average/normal' social schedule. Some people go out every night, some people never go out and some people are in-between, average isn't going to be at all meaningful.
posted by missmagenta at 2:02 PM on August 4, 2008

How many weeknights do you have plans?

I only go out during the week if there's a specific reason (someone in town, etc). I don't usually make dinner/coffee/drinks plans for weeknights just to get out. But I get up at 5 am to work out and I have two puppies that I like to spend time with when I get home, so I don't think of myself as having much socializing time during the wee. A lot of my friends go out during the week (and I did more often when I was younger).

How busy are you on an average weekend?

Pretty busy. Besides going out at night, I also spend time at the dog park, the library stocking up for the week, at the gym, at yoga, walking in the city. With people and without.

How often do you find yourself with an entire weekend with nothing to do?

Never with nothing to do, but once in a while with out Saturday night plans with friends. More often during the summer (people leave the city for the beach, etc). In the city, there's always something to do.

I definitely know what you're feeling. My guess is that before you know it, you would think it would be very strange and something to readjust to to not feel totally independent.
posted by Pax at 2:12 PM on August 4, 2008

Most nights for me are occupied with going out, having people over, etc. This coming week, for instance, I *think* I don't have anything on friday night - yet. Maybe. Probably.

I'm married, but on nights where I don't have anything on, my husband and I will have dinner together, but mostly go our separate ways. We both need 1-2hrs a day of peace and solitude, which occasionally makes scheduling interesting.
posted by ysabet at 2:51 PM on August 4, 2008

Well, I went from moving to NYC and knowing zero people, to going out 5 of the 7 days last week to various parties and social events. That actually took a couple years, because I'm basically introverted and enjoy being by myself. It seems that lots of people I know who are extremely social go out even more than I do, on most nights, to multiple social events or activities. But I don't think there's a norm, though.
posted by lsemel at 7:35 PM on August 4, 2008

First up, I can sympathise with your situation, having been through it myself.

Answering your question, I have an absolute base minimum of three nights of regular social activities. I like to spend at least one night at home to chill out, read, potter around the house, catch up on dvds or recordings from TV, etc. This leaves one weeknight to go out & do something different (see a movie or concert or theatre, maybe an art gallery opening or a group dinner, catch up with the family, otherwise perhaps a party or just hanging out at the pub - depends what's on, who's available, and what mood I'm in).

One day of the weekend is taken up with more sport & general household administrative things (laundry, shopping, cleaning, maintenance etc), saturday nights often involve some kind of dinner or party or concert or similar, which means in the end that I only ever have a maximum of about one night & one weekend day to either hang out on my own or do something random, which may or may not involve other people. Also, living with others means that even my private downtime often involves interacting with my housemates.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:37 PM on August 4, 2008

Weeknights are always alone. Weeknights it depends. Some weekends I'm out every night, some weekends I go out one night, some weekends I'm just by myself the entire time. Luckily, I've stopped caring about being a loser because I'm home on a weekend- it can be fun.

It's kind of weird thinking back on when I wasn't single and was out every weeknight. Very strange- when the heck did I get time to work on my own stuff or recuperate from work?
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:33 PM on August 4, 2008

At least twice a week, I find myself 'around people'. By 'around people' I define as being at a place where people congregate for the purpose of socializing (bars, coffeehouses, etc.) I may have some time with a friend, but other times I may spend chatting up complete strangers. YMMV, as it would for anyone in your unique situation. Relax. Enjoy being alone for awhile. There's always a coffeehouse or bar close by to get a drink and relax at.

Depending on the city you live in, there's usually something going on on the weekend. Find it, and make adventuring out part of your lifestyle. I guarantee you'll meet more people than you can shake a stick at.
posted by chrisinseoul at 5:14 AM on August 5, 2008

« Older Where to follow the booming...   |   Help me say thanks Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.