Living on your own - is it a blessing or a curse?
Recent studies reveal that more and more people are now living on their own. It is estimated that some 2.5 million men and women in the UK aged between 45 and 64 have their own homes but no spouse, partner or children to share it with.
The number of those living alone has risen by 800,000 since the Nineties, a rise of more than 50%. And there are now more men living the single life than women as they apparently find it more difficult to attract a new partner in middle age. An increasing number of people are therefore choosing the single life ahead of cohabitation.
But is being on your own living the dream or a nightmare?
Denise Robinson (47) runs her own business and lives in Holywood with her dog Zara. She says:
I have lived on my own for the past three years. Before that I was in a long-term relationship and lived with someone for two years after being with them for four years.
Before that I lived on my own for eight years after the break-up of my marriage.
When that came to an end I bought a new house in Holywood and started a new life for myself.
I quite like living on my own and have got used to it now.
It's like everything it has its ups and its downs.
On the plus side I can come home at night and not worry about what's for dinner. I can eat what I like, when I like.
The house is my own and I can just chill out and do what I feel like doing.
I can go to the gym when I feel like it and just change my plans at the last minute and not worry that anyone is at home waiting for me.
On the downside, it does get lonely at times.
I joke with friends that the ideal scenario for me would be someone living with me two nights a week and I would have the company and then do my own thing the rest of the week.
I have a lot of friends and I socialise a lot, but sometimes on a Saturday or Sunday morning I miss the companionship of someone being there.
I think the older you get you don't want to live on your own for the rest of your life but I guess I am selfish and would like the best of both worlds.
At the minute I am single by choice and I like that I don't have to worry about anyone else.
When I am not out with my friends or doing stuff I do get lonely at times, but I do have Zara.
I couldn't live on my own without the companionship of a dog.
She is great company. Another good thing is that there is no mess in the house and I don't have to pick up after anyone else.
I can decorate the house and have it the way I want it to be."
Emily Lea (64) is retired. She is a widow and lives in Ballyclare. She says:
I never lived on my own until two years ago this week. I went from my mum and dad’s house to living with my husband Victor.
We were married for 33 years before he died of cancer two years ago. When we were married and he went away for the weekend I used to love having the remote control to myself and the bed to myself for a couple of days, but now it is like that all the time I hate it. It’s awful.
I can’t get used to the silence in the house. There is nothing worse than coming home to a silent house.
I am very lucky, in that I have a good bunch of neighbours who keep a close eye on me.
After Victor died I decided to move into a smaller house in Belfast to be closer to my mum and some of my friends, but my house didn’t sell and now I am glad, as I realise it doesn’t matter where you live as long as you have good people around you.
The house is big and there is a big garden and it is all a lot for me to take care of on my own.
Living on your own, you have to deal with everything by yourself. I wasn’t used to looking after practical things like replacing a fuse or having to climb up a ladder to lift something down.
Victor was a very practical man and he took care of everything, from putting carpets down to putting up shelves.
We never had to get anyone in to do any work. Now I have to get handymen in all the time.
The one positive that has come out of it is that I have learned how to look after the garden.
The first year I was useless — I would go out and just think about Victor and his love of the garden and I would come back in, in tears.
Now I am getting better and have done more with it this year.
I have also found it hard choosing things for the house on my own, as we always made decisions together as a couple.
There is a sense of pride that comes when you make decisions or tackle small tasks and you think — I did that all by myself, but I’d still prefer to have Victor here and be sharing everything with him.
I don’t think I’ll ever get used to living on my own. I am out and about as much as possible and go to different events and things with my friends, who have all been fantastic. I always have a project on the go and one lined up to move on to next. I’ll never get used to the loneliness. After Esther Rantzen’s husband, Desmond Wilcox died she said, ‘Some people define loneliness as having plenty of people to do something with, but nobody to do nothing with’.
I can relate to that.”
Sonya Cassidy (44) is MD of Sonya Cassidy PR. She lives on her own in Limavady. She says:
I gave up a top job as director in a busy PR office in Belfast four years ago to go out on my own. At that time I was living in a shared house in Belfast with a room-mate after my marriage broke down.
I had built a house out in the countryside in Limavady so this seemed like a perfect time to move into it.
I didn’t need to be in the office at 8.30am so I had the freedom to set up my office at my home and work from there.
I designed the house myself which was a major achievement and I couldn’t wait to move in.
I don’t mind living on my own as my dad is five minutes away and I have plenty of family and friends close by. My sister and niece and nephew are close by and I am often needed for babysitting duties.
There is always someone dropping in so I am never lonely. When I am on my own I love the peace and quiet of the countryside.
With the job I do I often have days when I am just writing so I value the peace and quiet and tranquillity which is a chance to work. I often have meetings in Belfast so I am still in and out of the city and have the best of both worlds and a good work/life balance.
I didn’t mind moving to the country on my own because I grew up there and it was like going home it was so familiar. Sometimes I come home at the end of a long day but the house doesn’t feel empty as perhaps my dad has been over and left my dinner. He is a great cook and he keeps a close eye on me.
There are many benefits to living on your own. You can do what you want when you want. There is no one you have to consult about your movements or what to eat or when to eat.
There’s lots of freedom that comes with living on your own and I must admit I love it.
On the downside, living in a newly-built home there were lots of jobs which needed done.
The house needed painted and decorated and was a blank canvas.
I had to get contractors in to do specific jobs. Apart from DIY, I am pretty self-sufficient and can take care of myself.”
Paul Gallagher (26) is a personal trainer and pro wrestler who lives in Belfast. He says:
I live alone in my own house. It actually belonged to my grandmother — I inherited it from her when I was 19. From the ages of 19 to 23 I sort of lived in between my granny’s house and my mum’s house. It was great to get my laundry done and my meals cooked, but sadly that doesn’t happen anymore — those days are gone.
I had a housemate for a little while — a mate moved in for 10 months, but then he moved out to live with his girlfriend.To be honest I do like living by myself. I like that I know where everything is and I don’t have to put up with anyone else’s mess. I can have the house just the way I want it.
On the other hand I do have to do everything myself because there’s no one around to share the housework. I’m quite house proud and I like things done a certain way. I’m doing the house up a bit at the minute with the help of a friend, so I’m sure once that’s finished I’ll get even worse. My pet hate is doing the ironing, I’m sure most men feel the same way.
I could easily get a housemate and get a little money coming in, but to be honest. I prefer living alone and I don’t want to share my space with someone else.”