When You're Affectionate But Enjoy Time Alone

Some people find you confusing. They don’t understand how you can manage to be a tenderhearted snuggle-fiend and a loner at the same time. But, friend, I get you. Like me, you’re really affectionate — you like hugs and cuddles (giving and receiving), you like showing love, and you are proud to be a cheerleader for the people you care about — but then you want to go sit in a corner and have people back the hell off for a good, long while. Simple. Why is that so hard to understand?

People often think that those of us who need a lot of time to ourselves — some would call us “introverts” — are shy or antisocial. But although folks who like to be alone certainly are timid, awkward people-haters, those qualities aren’t at all a given — plenty of us love people, and we develop deep, loving friendships and romantic relationships. We can be affectionate while also being introverts.

The problem with being a people-loving loner is that its confusing, both to other people who can’t read what they regard as mixed messages, and to yourself — because sometimes it’s hard to juggle your innate desire to heap affection on your loved ones and you deep-seated need to hibernate far away from the rest of human civilization. What’s a friendly hermit to do?

If you, too, find yourself pulled between two worlds — between “Let me love you!” and “Go away!” — these struggles may be familiar:

You find yourself irritated and overwhelmed after spending lots of time with your whole family or a big group of friends, but five minutes after you’re alone again, you miss them terribly.

After much angst about feeling over-crowded, you finally — FINALLY — get to settle in for some much-needed introspection, only to start sending emoji-filled “I <3 U” texts to all your loved ones five minutes in.

Potential romantic partners find you… confusing.

You just had a great first date with someone, and, YES, you definitely want to see that person again so that you can gaze longingly upon their beautiful face and hopefully make out with them… but not right now. As great as your date was, you need a few days before you go out again. It takes a long time for you to get on board with seeing or talking to someone everyday, even when you really like that person.

And it’s not only the early dating stage that’s a mess…

Your S.O. doesn’t get how you can mean “I LOVE YOU” and “Please, go away” at the same time.

For a lot of people, being in love is closely related to “and I want to be with you all the time.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but you don’t operate that way. When you’re dating someone who equates love with being together as much as possible, it can be hard to really convince that person that your need to be alone isn’t a reflection of your feelings for him or her.

After a tumultuous week, you set aside a whole night to hang out on your own… and then an hour later, you’re sobbing along to Celine Dion.

You want to be alone, but you also don’t wanna be all by yourself anyMOOOOOORRE!! It might be a contradiction, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

People don't expect you to be affectionate.

I think I don’t come across as a “huggy” person. And in many ways, I’m not — I’ve never been the type of person who feels comfortable embracing someone I’ve just met. But with someone I’m close to? Lay ‘em on me.

When I moved to a new city a few years ago for school, far away from my family, I was surprised to realize that I could go a really long time without physical contact — because I was surrounded by new people who didn’t want to overstep my boundaries. One night, hanging out with wonderful, but still relatively new friends, after one too many beers, I found myself blurting out “Guys, I haven’t hugged anyone in THREE MONTHS!” There was much teasing, but a number of very satisfying bear hugs ensued.

You want to stay in touch with loved ones who live far away, but you HAAAAATE talking on the phone.

You love your far-away friends, and you want to know what’s going on in their lives and to support them and be there for them and all that jazz. But chatting on the phone makes you want to stab yourself in the eye with a spork. What to do?

You love living alone, but you hate that it's so goddamned lonely.

Before I got married, I lived alone for ten years, and I loved it. Sometimes affording a place on my own meant that I had to live in tiny studio apartments with very questionable shower facilities, but it was a price I was happy to pay in exchange for my very own refuge, where I never had to make small talk with a roommate I only sort-of knew or put up with someone else’s overloud phone conversations. But as wonderful as it was to have my own space, it could also get really lonely sometimes, and I found myself wishing, not for a roommate, but for people I could share my space with intermittently and then kick out. Thankfully, I had friends who I could invite over to drink wine and watch movies, but who knew when to send themselves home.

When I got married, I worried that I would have a hard time transitioning to communal living again, but, actually, it’s been pretty great. It helps that I have a husband who doesn’t mind if I go hide out by myself with a book; in fact, he takes it as time to get his own stuff done. And at the end of the day, after we’ve each gotten our solitude in, we can still be as sickeningly lovey-dovey as we please. It’s a pretty good system.

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