My Monday morning routine is well established. I drive into town, drop my wife at the charity shop where she volunteers, and then it’s off to walk the dog. Routines become second nature and we probably don’t think much about them until they’re pulled from under us. It made me think of those situations where people of a certain age lose their partner, either through death or divorce, and then find themselves isolated and unhappy.
In general we’re living much longer but this isn’t much comfort to people who lose a partner later in life. A person of 60 could be looking at a further 20 or 30 years of life. Many simply resign themselves to a life alone. Of course there’s nothing wrong with this if you prefer solitude. It’s probably is easier to live alone if you’re surrounded by friends and family and you have a relatively full life in other respects. Many don’t. Many couples are joined at the hip and rely almost exclusively on that bond. It’s when the bond is broken and the old routines collapse that the true sense of isolation begins.
I’ve read various blog posts directed towards people in exactly this kind of predicament. Not uncommonly the person is advised to get out and join a club of some sort, where they will meet people and things will get better. It may work for some but I have an idea that joiners, for want of a better term, would already have done this. It doesn’t suit everyone and not every group is as welcoming as we might like to think.
Which brings me to the nub of the issue. The opposite of isolation is inclusion but the way we go about this can vary hugely. If, for example, the principle goal is to meet another person then you neglect all other aspects of inclusion. Perhaps a different perspective is to consider what you as an individual want to do, to see, to achieve, and to set your sights more broadly. Once involved in an activity you truly enjoy it’s just possible you’ll meet someone who has broadly similar interests.
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Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.