Since writing this, lots of people have been isolated for a long time. The ideas below are useful for more than just single people. See also the article on loneliness.
A client recently lost her partner rather suddenly. She was fairly dependent on him for most things.
She (let’s call her Silkie) had begun to be less dependent over the previous few weeks, knowing something wasn’t right, however once she lost him, she not only had grief to cope with but much more. She would like to share this bit of her journey, in case it helps others.
I had already explained to her that in the framework of NVC, a solution, activity, object or person in your life can be a “super satisfyer”. It or they can meet many needs relatively easily – this is what draws us to them or it. She had already started to be less dependent and more interdependent (getting our needs met by many people, with flexibility as to who it might be, as long as the need(s) is/are met). She wanted to find new ways to meet those needs, so she could begin to function again.
Breaking it down into Needs and Previous Solutions
We had a list of Needs: companionship, closeness, care, knowing she matters and is important, being understood, being seen and heard, being valued. You, too, may struggle getting some of these met.
They are certainly needs I know well, and have always found hard to meet when I am single. It is a real pull for me to be in a relationship to have these needs significantly contributed to almost automatically. And, of course, I am more free if I rely on more than one or two people.
Silkie had a list of things that had been taken care of by her partner: banking, cooking/meal planning, driving/transport, companion, emotional support, hand-holder, someone with similar approach to life to bounce ideas off etc. We used these things to add to the needs she had already identified.
I was struck by her resourcefulness, how easily Silkie knew exactly what it would take to meet the need she identified. The fact that she had had the needs met in the past really helped signpost her.
What makes things harder for Silkie, is she cannot currently bare to be alone: being alone is very frightening for her. So she has 7 days a week to fill. She currently employs people for 2 days a week in her business, that leaves 5 days and all the evenings.
I have been lonely and alone many times in my life, and really struggled with being single. On top of that I have a huge amount of shame around being single – I am convinced I “have to” appear to be coping. Any time I feel shame, it is almost impossible to ask for help unless I have set it up ahead of time. Brene Brown a researcher and speaker says that shame lives in the dark, I.e. it has to stay hidden to stay as shame.
I had never thought of the solutions I am going to share with you – and getting them set up ahead of time. My thanks goes to Silkie for allowing me to share her ideas and story.
Moving from Dependency to Interdependency rather Than Independence
I think the inginuity for me is how she has split up the things that her partner gave her, into bite size pieces. My approach in the past has been:
- Resign myself to not having anyone to watch a film at home with, no-one to sooth me to sleep when I have things whirling around… (stuck/dependent).
- Or I find ways to do these for myself, on my own, which doesn’t give me the more intimate companionship I crave (independent).
- What I have never done is ask myself what are all the separate components of support I want, and then imagined I can find a way to ask lots of people for them! (interdependent)
Before Silkie lost her partner, she had put out a message on facebook, saying she was struggling and she wanted more support: physical and emotional. This had been very frightening – what if no-one had responded?!
She landed up with a list (a longer list than she expected – a very long list in my mind) of people willing. She is working on matching that list of people with her list of activities and needs, as different people have strengths in different areas and she doesn’t want to stretch anyone too much, no matter how caring they are.
Some of the things Silkie’s partner did for her, that she is asking lots of supporters to choose from:
Make a phone call for me or sit with me while I make the phone call
Roleplay a difficult conversation ahead of time with me
Teach me how to cook by coming round and eating with me, I’ll buy the ingredients. Then I can cook it for you another time. Aim is to have every significant meal with someone.
Help me plan – meals, outings, buses and train times, chores, support etc
Come to stay for 3 days
Invite me to stay with you
Accompany me on a journey
Invite me on holiday/ plan an adventure with a group of us.
Help me to have fun
Teach me how to do my banking & other financial things
Support me when I want help working out what support I want!
A list of people willing to be rung up when I have a crises/emergency, emotional or physical.
Drive over to pick me up if I get stuck/miss the bus etc
People I can wake up in the night for comfort
Read me a story over the phone, as I drift off to sleep (she explained that audio stories or books negate that personal interaction, connection and shared experience)
And the all important one: someone who can help identify what Silkie needs when she isn’t sure.
Can You share below to help us all build up our Interdependency?
If you can relate to this, we would love to here your ideas for getting needs met interdependently or your story.
What other ways of asking for lots of help do you know of: tweeting, email, texts, phonecalls…. Which is least scary for you?
Do you know someone who would be delighted to hear about these ideas and being interdependent, rather than dependent or independent?
Lastly, what if you are too scared to ask? Or like I have been, too ashamed – does this article help you?