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The difference between living by yourself and living for yourself

(21 Posts)
Luckygirl Sat 30-Oct-21 11:45:44

I was thinking about this the other day and wondered what others thought.

Since my OH died last year I have no real problem about living by myself in the sense that I can cope on my own and ask for help with heavy things.

What I find hard is living FOR myself - in other words having no-one else to please, to help, to cook for, to chat to. Everything I do now is for me, and me alone, but it was completely different throughout the rest of my life. I was in a caring profession, I cared for my children, I cared for my sick OH for many years.

Does anyone else find it hard to see the point of living entirely for oneself - or is this a self-esteem problem. I am not aware of lacking self-esteem.

I do do things for others: secretary of choral society, school governor, run a choir etc. etc. But the rest of the time I onoy have myself to please; and indeed doing these things is entirely my choice.

Anyone else thought about this?

Aveline Sat 30-Oct-21 11:50:13

I do find myself wondering what I'm for these days. I have had a very busy past life but now its distilled down to very little. Three consecutive joint replacements and Covid lockdown virtually closed my life as I knew it down. My DH keeps busy which is fine but it highlights how little I actually do.
All I can see ahead of me is occupying myself with leisure type activities which is OK but strikes at my Scottish Presbyterian heart!

Smileless2012 Sat 30-Oct-21 11:52:47

Luckygirlflowers I can understand it must be hard having "no-one else to, to cook for, to chat to" but isn't there something good about not always having someone to please, or at least feeling that you always need to please someone else?

Are you not pleasing yourself by doing the things now that you've chosen to do? I hope so. Maybe you have to get used to not being answerable too or responsible for someone else.

Having spent so long caring for your OH it will take time to adjust to your life without him.

ExDancer Sat 30-Oct-21 11:57:52

Mmmm, you've set me off thinking now.
I often feel unreasonably resentful about my everyday responsibilities - cooking, cleaning, washing, bed-making, ironing and the never-ending 'tidying-up' - all for someone else. Anything I do for myself being fitted in around all that.
I think its time I appreciated having someone else around to do things for even if they go unacknowledged and unappreciated (most of the time).
Thank you Luckygirl for making me think.

glammanana Sat 30-Oct-21 12:02:25

I can understand where you are coming from Lucky I am just about getting my self together again after loosing my lovely man 20 mths ago.
It has been strange not being a couple and adjusting to being on my own,like yourself I have help for everything around the house and make sure I still see my friends on a regular basis.

Some days I don't bother with anyone and can enjoy my own company,pick & choose if I want to go out and shop or browse on my lap-top.

I do think that its just a short time since I lost him and that there is a long way to go yet.sending best wishes x

biglouis Sat 30-Oct-21 12:54:30

I chose to divorce and be childfree because I wanted to live BY myself and FOR myself rather than for others. Some posters have said that they wonder what their purpose is because they no longer have an OH or children who need them. So I do thank thats a self esteem problem. You can become so invested in others that you cease to care for yourself. Or rather, you dont believe that you deserve to be cared for.

When I was younger I had two busy careers. I always thought that when I retired I would simply kick back and engage in hobbies. Instead I run an antiques business. Being alone and living FOR yourself does not mean you are no longer a contributing member of society.

Nannarose Sat 30-Oct-21 13:02:15

Yes, Luckygirl, I have sometimes wondered.

A friend of mine, once bereaved, found it helpful to do things and go places that her DH wouldn't have wanted. Not exactly that he stopped her, but just the kind of compromises we all make in relationships.

She felt that he was cheering her on, saying 'yes, you have a good time at that show / exhibition'.

I share this in a spirit of helpfulness, not sure how others would find it (and unsure myself).

I do feel strongly about the rhythms and seasons of life, and I think that there are times when looking after yourself is just the right thing to do

Luckygirl Sat 30-Oct-21 13:16:07

Thank you for all these interesting thoughts.

Whiff Sun 31-Oct-21 08:19:58

Luckygirl I was widowed in 2004 when I was 45 my husband was 47. Our children where 20 and 16. So I had a few years of not living on my own. But once my youngest went to uni and my oldest left for good after coming home once graduating from uni to help her sibling get through A levels. Then I started to live on my own.

But after my husband died I not only had my children but both my parents and mother in law dependent on me.

I helped my mom nurse my dad he died in 2007. My mother in law died in 2015 and finally my mom in 2017.

Even when the children where home it was a struggle everyday to do normal things.

I have written a lot on the pain of loss thread . It's quiet low down on this forums list but what has been written there by others as well as me might help you and others.

I have been ill with a neurological condition since I was 29. Which has made things difficult especially the early years. But my husband was brilliant and my rock . I always thought I would die first. But in 2001 we found out he had a grade 4 malignant melanoma and wouldn't live 5 years.

Because we knew we where on borrowed time it was very important to my husband we lived a normal life and only the 4 of us knew he wouldn't live . After his operation we let family etc think he would be ok. Because it was what he wanted. We lived with the sword of Damocles hanging over us. It was only when he was terminal we told everyone he was dieing.

Because we had been together since I was 16 and he was 18. 29 years as a couple married 22 years. He knew what I needed to live after his death. So he made me promise a lot of things and I have kept everyone.

But even when the children where living at home it was a struggle to bother to shower or brush my teeth. I would think what's the point but I did it otherwise I would be letting my husband down and my children where worried enough about me while still grieving for their dad.

From the time my husband died until my mother's death I had other health problems. But had to put others first as they needed me. So as much I wanted to curl up into a ball and not do anything I had to.

My children both went to uni over a 100 miles from were we lived and I told my son to stay and told my daughter to go back. She was working temp jobs and not using her degree also had met her future husband at uni.

I could have been one of those mother's who guilted my children into staying but that's not me. I told them me and their dad had our time now it was theirs.

It was always the plan to move closer to them once no one was dependent on me anymore. Over the years I saw them every few months .

Finally after selling my house which is well documented on house and home forum under help calm me house buying and selling stress thread. I moved closer to them in 2019.

It wasn't until I moved I finally got my identity back. I hadn't realised I had lost me. Everyone here knows me not wife then widow, mother and all the others labels we have. But me . My postman and delivery men call me by my Christian name.

I moved from the West Midlands to the north west. No one is dependant on me anymore. It is very freeing. I have found me again and have done things I never thought I could. Made new friends here and love my new life.

I am 63 now I have other health problems but don't let that stop me doing what I want.

Don't get me wrong it's still a struggle everyday to live without my husband. And the grief I feel has only gotten worse as the years have gone by. The one person I want and need I can never have . He was my one and only . I love him as much as ever that will never change . But you learn to cope better. At times a tidal wave of grief washes over me and find tears running down my face. It would have been over 40th wedding anniversary in May . But I wasn't sad just remembered all the things that when wrong that day and made me laugh.

I live everyday with half of me missing and that will never change. My heart broke when my husband died and it has never healed and never will. I talk out loud to him everyday . I have shouted and swore at him for leaving me. I talk about all my problems with him.

Since he died a lot of things have happened in my life. He has missed such a lot. Both our children's weddings and he always wanted to be a grandad we have 5 grandson's. Unfortunately my son decided last year he no longer needs a mom. His choice I haven't done anything wrong. So I have lost him and 3 grandson's. My heart bent but you can't break something that is already broken . But what really hurts is my son wouldn't have done it if his father was alive he wouldn't have stood for it.

I have my daughter and family so I am lucky. I have other family and friends who love and care for me and who I love and care for. So I am lucky.

Yes it still is a struggle everyday to live without the love of my life. But those of us who found the other half of ourselves are the lucky ones. Some people live their whole lives and never know love like that.

Grief never dies and in my experience gets worse as I get older. My husband will always be 47 and I do wonder what he would look like now. Hope he would be proud of me but I have still kept those promises and it is so hard to face each day. But I have to. We all do we owe it to our dead loved ones.

I hope you have managed to stay awake reading this as I do ramble on.

But the main thing is as much as we don't want to bother doing things because we are on our own we have to. We have to live for the sake of the halves of ourselves we have lost.

Food wish I batch cook enough stew or pasta dish to last 6 dinners . Once cooked portion it into oven proof dishes and keep in the fridge. I cook large batch of whatever soup. Lentils plus whatever veg either fresh or frozen I have in . Enough for 6-7 lunches. Porridge for breakfast every morning. By batch cooking I always have meals especially on the days I am not well.

I am a member of an exercise class,craft group and U3A. I read and cross stitch everyday. And found I am a gardener.

Life is worth living. It will never be the life you want but it's exciting all the same. I am an atheist and don't believe I will be with my husband again. But what gives me comfort is his DNA lives on in our children and grandsons. Weird I know but we all have to find comfort where we can.

I will finish now as you may have glazed over by now. It's not the life we have chosen but it's still a life that is worth living.

Kim19 Sun 31-Oct-21 08:42:40

I don't have any difficulty in living alone and enjoying the life I have ended up with. Not at all my choice but destiny I guess. Goes without saying that I'd much rather H was here but he would be SO sad if I was feeling miserable. Furthermore he did leave me with such wonderful and lasting memories and two loving and caring sons. I'll settle for that and honour them all by being neither gloomy not a burden as best I can.

Luckygirl Sun 31-Oct-21 10:01:28

Thank you for your thoughts. I guess we all find different ways of coping with a situation that we never wanted to be in.

Leah50 Wed 22-Dec-21 14:58:08

I'm just starting to think about this Luckygirl. It's only 5 weeks since my darling husband died suddenly, but peacefully at home with me & our two daughters holding his hands. He'd been gradually needing more & more care since becoming so frail I didn't leave him alone for more than an hour or two while shopping or seeing our grandchildren. I live in a village with little public transport, nothing much going on, & we never owned a car, & apart from family & good neighbours had no social life. Our cold, old house has gotten too much for me with its large garden. I'm pretty sure I want to more nearer to town, buy a modern flat with less to worry about, but when should I do it? Our daughters would like me nearer to them & think I should look straightaway, I've said one last winter here, - we lived in this house 50 years. It's not a decision to be taken lightly. Thoughts please!

Luckygirl3 Wed 22-Dec-21 16:15:15

Leah50 - I am sorry to hear about the death of your husband - it is I know a huge adjustment.

I had started the process of selling my property to move house before my OH died - I needed to downsize to pay his nursing home fees. At the time we were living in a bungalow in a village near to the one we had happily lived in for about 30 years. We moved to the bungalow for practical reasons r4lating to health problems. But my heart was in the village we left and when it became necessary to sell the bungalow to raise cash, I looked for a property in the original village where all my friends are.

IN fact, because of a fair bit of chaos in buying/selling during covid I did not move back till after my OH had died.

The difference between you and I is that my move took me nearer friends and to a place I knew well; and it has proved to be the right decision - I am surrounded by kind friends who prop me up when the going gets tough.

It sounds as though you have friends where you are now, which is a bonus, but, if I read you right, you would be nearer family in town. My feeling is that you need to be somewhere where you an lead your own life without feeling dependent on your family, but just enjoy having them nearby.

Do you think you could build an independent life in the town? Are there things you could join and enjoy?

It does sound as if your present old house is a bit of a burden. I moved to a new-build - I have never had one before - and it is a real blessing: easy to heat, has all mod cons, well sound-insulated etc. Having lived in old cottages during my lifetime, at this stage the new-build is a real blessing.

One thing to take into account is the stress of buying/selling and the terrible inefficiency of solicitors. To be hnest it was a bit of a nightmare! But I can now look back on it, having settled happily in my new home.

I wish you luck with your decision; and I hope that you will be able to spend a peaceful Christmas with your family around you.

AGAA4 Wed 22-Dec-21 17:14:30

I have been widowed for 23 years. I do understand how you feel as I have felt that way too.
Now I am happy to live my life just for me but it took time to get to where I am now.

Sophie3 Sun 23-Jan-22 12:02:33

Please can someone help me? My marriage of 35 years ended almost three years ago. I had one son before I met my husband at the age of 19, he brought him up as his own along with two daughters we had together. My son is now 39 and has just been diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer. I’m just so distraught I don’t know what to do anymore. I just feel so lost

Blossoming Sun 23-Jan-22 13:03:29

So sorry to hear about your son Sophie3, rotten news when you’re still grieving your husband. I’m a bowel cancer patient, but luckily treatment has been successful so far. I found the MacMillan nurses very helpful. It may help you to talk to someone. Their number is 0800 808 0000.

Sophie3 Mon 24-Jan-22 20:26:54

Thank you so much Blossoming, I appreciate you taking the time to reply, I’m finding it really hard to take in the news. I’ll try the number and see if I can get help! I’m glad treatment is working for you and hope it continues to do so, it also gives me hope. Thank you so much again 🙂

Whiff Tue 25-Jan-22 07:07:22

Sophie3 I am sorry about your son. We found our McMillan nurse a great support and nothing was ever to much trouble for her . Treatment for all cancers especially bowel has come on such a lot in the last few years . You son will be getting the best treatment and hopefully has plenty of life to live.

But as a parent the last thing you want is to see your child suffer. I know you must feel helpless and would rather it be happening to you. Macmillan can help you cope and make sure your son has all the financial support he can get . As he must be worried about money.

If there is a bowel cancer support group they will be able to give you advice,support , understanding and friendship. It might do you could to talk to other parents and patients. McMillan will be able to give you all the information about any groups. 💐

Sophie3 Tue 25-Jan-22 10:20:00

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to me… I’ve never posted anything before but just felt so desperate. It’s so lovely I heard back from you and the other lady, it means everything…
It’s good to hear about the advances in treatment, especially bowel cancer.
And yes, I would do anything to change places with him, I would do it in a heartbeat! I just feel so broken, but I have to stay strong for him and my two daughters too. My son is going for a colonoscopy today, and meeting with the consultant tomorrow, so we should know more soon, it’s still early days as we only found out last week. Fortunately he and his wife are covered by private healthcare through their work, so at least that’s something. I will do some research and see what I can find in the way of support in my area. Thank you again for taking the time, I truly appreciate it 😌

Luckygirl3 Tue 25-Jan-22 10:37:17

I am sorry to hear about your son. I hope that the treatment will go well. My 80 year old friend had surgery for bowel cancer last year and has recovered very well and her prognosis is good. I hope that things work out well for your son.

Sophie3 Tue 25-Jan-22 11:22:35

That’s amazing news about your friend and that she’s doing well… Thank you for your kind words. It gives me hope 😌