I have trouble being alone

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Hi Meredith,

I really struggle with being alone. That's not to say I can’t handle doing things by myself – I have hobbies, work multiple jobs, and am a full-time student (I'm 21 and graduate in May, although I'm considering grad school). I can entertain myself in the short term.

However, in the long term I struggle with being single. In the past, this has led me to rekindle relationships. I dated the same girl four separate times. Now it just leads me to get way too invested in people I meet, either in real life or on apps. When things don't work out (college relationships tend not to), it leaves me miserable.

I'm fully aware of how unhealthy this is for me, but I can't break the cycle. I've been a part of different clubs, and I would consider myself active on campus, so it's not a matter of not doing enough. I have close friends, and I spend time with them frequently, but at the end of the day everyone goes home to significant others, and I go home by myself. Not surprisingly, this eats at me. My question isn't necessarily how do I find another relationship (although that's important too), but rather how do I stop myself from falling into these cycles? Do I have to install parental locks to get myself off Tinder? Help.

– By Myself


If you're not seeing a therapist or counselor at school, consider trying. Therapy can help you figure out why your mind goes to specific places when you're alone.

If you worry that the Tinder activity has become compulsive behavior, talk about that out too. Better to start the process before you graduate, when assistance is right there on campus. Why not use every college service while it's still available?

It's great you're single right now because you need some space for self-discovery, and also because you're graduating in May. For now, shelve the worry about how you'll find another relationship. That will happen eventually; many people will be looking for company after graduation. But first it's about learning how to be alone.

Part of this is figuring out how to sit still – and I think that’s a huge challenge for someone like you. You’re moving so fast right now with jobs, hobbies, and plans for grad school. Some of your unrest might be a fear of, well, rest.

Instead of moving to the next item on the to-do list (finding a partner), try to break the cycle and shift your attention to something new. Listen to a podcast (it does not have to be Love Letters). Watch a show. Read. See if you can just be for a half hour at a time. Then an hour.

And yeah, if you can't stop using an app, setting a timer on it – or hiding it – is actually a good thing, even for adults.

Know that the friends going home to significant others might be wondering what their commitment means at 21. Everyone is tying to figure out whether they're doing things right. You're not alone in that.

– Meredith

Readers? Thoughts on how to be comfortable while single? How do you set limits when using apps?