Author Lisa Ko has a great piece this week in the NY Times (Modern Love) titled, Seeking the Comfort of an Old Flame: Solitude. It’s her story of breaking up with an angry and potentially abusive boyfriend when living on the West Coast, and deciding to return to her home state of NY and her happy former state of solitude.
Ms. Ko is an only child, one who apparently grew up with a lot of solitude and who found that aloneness a happy state in which to exist. But when she reached adulthood she decided to try a big change and relocated to San Francisco, moving into a shared house with several peers and finding a relationship. She developed good friendships and her relationship was progressing to the point of making a decision to move in together when the group house was breaking-up due to her roommates all moving into more serious relationships themselves. However she came to the conclusion that she was moving forward with a relationship that wasn’t right—she was afraid of him and had been avoiding breaking-up because of it. When she finally did, he wrote her a scary email and she knew she had made the right decision. What she continued to question was her desire for solitude. Her question to herself was, “Is something wrong with me?” After all she had learned about San Francisco from a much older woman and pen pal she had corresponded with as a child. Her pen pal Marie lived in San Francisco and was a never married woman who her mother had always described as alone and lonely. Would Lisa become her?
Everyone else was moving in with their significant other and/or getting engaged. How could she be looking forward to and even happy with the idea of being alone? But she was. Apparently Ms. Ko saw (and still sees?) solitude as an independently happy and serene state, not a lonely one.
When she told her Mom she was moving back to NY and breaking up with her boyfriend, her Mom encouraged her to apologize to him because he would marry someone else and she would be “alone.” Apparently Ms. Ko had not shared the things her boyfriend had said in his last email, like “I hope you get raped to death.” Now that is a guy who will move to hitting and more when in a committed relationship.
As I read her story, I thought about all the women who ignore that inner warning voice—those who fear being alone more than a potentially abusive partner. I have worked with these women and when the relationship is new, they not only can’t hear my input, they run from it. They conclude I just don’t get it, have misunderstood, and don’t see what a great and loving guy he really is. These are the women I worry about and wonder how I could have kept them coming in and still helped them to see where their relationship was heading and how dangerous it was for them.
Thanks Ms. Ko for sharing your story and maybe reaching even one woman before her life descends into a horror of dependence and abuse she may feel she cannot escape from. You are right you know—solitude can be wonderful