Notes on being a hermit

The older I get the more I like being on my own. This is not a bad thing as I spend the vast majority of my time actually alone. I work from home and I live alone. I am single. I’m an introvert and find large groups of people exhausting (one-on-one I love). I’m not particularly shy, and can be downright gregarious in the right situation, but on the whole, I prefer my own company.

For many years, this was a problem. The three big relationships of my life were with extroverted men who had lots of friends and like to hit the town at every opportunity. New Year’s Eve was always a battle as they (and yes, all three of them felt the same) wanted to go out and have THE BIGGEST NIGHT EVAH!!! and I wanted to stay at home, light candles and ease into the new year thoughtfully and calmly. I’m sure you can guess who won those battles. One of the greatest joys of these last eight years on my own has been getting to welcome each new year in exactly the way I want.

It’s only in the last few years I’ve truly accepted that this really is how I am. For the longest time I thought my lack of sociability meant there must be something fundamentally wrong with me. My twenties were a blur of college, first jobs, relationships and trying my best to be the extrovert I thought I was supposed to be. I tried, I really did, but it was exhausting. And then another party invite would arrive and we’d go but I’d spend the whole time wishing I was at home. Now I understand how introverts and extroverts work my twenties and early 30s make so much more sense to me. Honestly, this stuff ought to be taught in school — how much easier would life be if we understood how we processed the world right out the gate? Rather than being made to feel we’re boring or strange for liking — sometimes preferring — our alone time.

I’m pondering all of this because this introvert is preparing to put herself back out into the land of dating. I’m remembering my previous attempts at on-line dating and wondering if there are any guys out there who don’t need to have the Biggest Night Evah on New Year’s Eve. Eighty percent of me would rather stay at home than go on what is basically a blind date. I like it here! It’s calm and soothing and all my favourite things are around me. After the rocky start to the new year I’m in a good place, emotionally, so why would I want to risk that? But then there’s this pesky twenty percent….. the part of me that misses the kind of companionship where you can be alone together, quite happily, on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The kisses, the love, the building-a-future-together. The delicious stuff that requires another person be in the same room as you…

It’s time to leave the hermitage.

63 responses
  1. Sherry Smyth

    I agree…this stuff needs to be taught in school…alas, we learn it, if we’re lucky, in the hard knocks school of life. And here is to you meeting someone who prefers NYE in a quiet spot — at home with candles and cuddles and just the right amount of bubbly!

  2. Barbara Sinclair

    Oh, Susannah! I could have written this post! I LOVE my solitude and I have come to embrace it wholeheartedly. Have you seen Susan Cain talk about the power of introverts?

    Good luck with your dating. Be true to yourself. :) Barbara

  3. christine banham

    you could of been describing me………..

  4. Alessa

    Did I just write this post or did you?

    Well.. this is the beauty of blogging to the universe.. we know that on this journey, and especially one of living as a hermit, WE ARE NOT ALONE.

    I’ve been pondering this very thing lately…I like being alone and yes, there’s a part of me that misses being hugged and held and kissed… and then I wonder if there’s something wrong with me…my social anxiety seems to be getting more pronounced the older I get.. I’m half way through my 30s.

    I also believe that relationships are challenging… finding a companion is challenging… all of the expectations society and culture has developed for us humans are hardly attainable… and now that women have a new space… a new state in the world… where we don’t have to marry to put food on the table or buy a new dress… dating and putting yourself out there in the hopes of aligning yourself with a partner…. ?? Overwhelming to say the least :)

    BUT… what is living if we don’t jump out of our bedroom windows and give it a go?

    I haven’t dated in 2 years myself… scares the living daylights out of me right now… I’m not ready yet…but when I am ready to leave the house and put on some lipstick… I want to be able to laugh about it… enjoy it… breathe the experience whether I like my dates or not…

  5. FayLynn

    I know just how you feel. I am married to an extrovert and we always had these same struggles until we found out about the introvert/extrovert thing. It is much better now. I think it would be really boring for me to be with another introvert. He does get me out of the house and doing things I wouldn’t do on my own. We have just learned that I am all for those things as long as I get enough alone time.

    And what is it about New Years Eve?? We have not solved that one yet.

  6. Kirsty

    I too have just reached that aha moment after reading one of your earlier posts and following a few links. I just like to have my alone time to process everything. It’s not that I don’t like people, I love them, I just need to balance that with some quiet time. I wish I’d realised it’s just naturally who I am earlier than 29 years old! Good on you for taking those steps (and they can be baby steps). It’ll be worth it! And there are others out there that respect the quietness needed sometimes, you just need to look a little harder to find us!

  7. Alexis Zinkerman

    I am very much an introvert but my relationship with my husband and his friend’s bring me out of myself. I prefer one to one too. I dont have a lot of friends who arent online.

  8. rel

    Golly Suzannah, with only a few exceptions, you’ve described me to a tee. No, I’ve not had any relationships with men, I am married, but oterwise, like you, I favor staying in on New Year’s Eve. And I enjoy my alone time; more and more as I get older. Oh yes, that one more difference between us; I’m am a little older than you and to be sure I am a male. I love one on one and in larger groups I must don the social gregarian mask. I do believe we share the qualities of introverts.

  9. kathryn

    i’m a hermit too and i loved on-line dating! i met so many awesome guys…been with my boyfriend for almost 3 years now (we met on e-harmony)!

    if you want a good laugh tho, read anne lamotts “a year on”…it’s funny cuz it’s soooo true!!

  10. Victoria Smith

    Bravo, Susannah! I’m the same – a non-shy introvert. I have a very similar history from my 20s, 30s, and even through most of my 40s until I finally got it! Here’s one that will hearten you…I started dating an old friend about 4 yrs ago – a quiet, somewhat shy introvert. We married in the summer of 2011 and our life together is quietly blissful with just the right amount of socializing with others and the occasional party. It’s heaven to be with someone where there isn’t a constant introvert vs extrovert tension going on. BTW – I just read a delightful little book called The Introvert’s Way. I think you’d love it too! Cheers and good luck with the brave steps back in to dating. I was on hiatus for several years and know how scary-liscious it can be to leap back in.

  11. Alicia

    I thought something was wrong with me too, until I read more about extroverts and introverts. Like you, I can be very social in the right situation; however, big crowds are way too much for me. Good luck in the world of online dating!

  12. Heather

    I can totally relate to this!

    Us introverts rock!

  13. Dana Barbieri

    I have to laugh as I could of written big chunks of that myself. Yes, there are guys who feel the same as you. You will find one I know it.

  14. Justine

    Susannah – thank you so much for sharing! Your words always make it OK for the rest of us to feel how we feel.

    Totally avoid holidays like NYE, St Paddy’s and Cinco De Mayo here in the states b/c it’s sooooo many people. I am also an introvert and it made high school difficult. The actual 7am – 3pm of classes and people made it hard for me to have energy to socialize on weekend. Anyways – I relate! Luckily I married a quiet extrovert (yes they exist) while I’m an outgoing introvert. He is very happy to leave me to my own devices and I love it. Sending you great vibes as I imagine there are men out there who understand and are looking for what you want as well! xo

  15. phoebe

    I agree 100%! I’m an introvert too and have learned to love myself the way that I am – and not try to be anyone else but me. I haven’t ventured back into the dating pool yet though. I wish you the best of luck on that!

  16. Roxanne

    Leaving the hermitage can seem like a scary thing, can’t it?

  17. Christine

    Girl, get yourself out there! I am an introvert, too. When my husband died a few years ago, I could not imagine “putting myself back out there.” However, as comfortable as being alone felt, as a woman in my 40s, the feeling lonely part did not feel good at all (two very different things!).

    I had a couple of dud dates, but then I met a wonderful and amazing man on e-harmony. We’ve been married 2 years :) He changed my life. I am a vibrant and happy person again because he introduced me to so many amazing gifts (music, dance, travel, mind-stretching conversations, you name it).

    So, go you!

  18. Stacy

    Good luck!! There is a great man just waiting for you to find him.

  19. jane

    I am an introvert who grew up in an extrovert family… I add my energy to the tractor beam of love drawing Mr Wonderful your way <3

  20. Bruisemouse

    I think one of the benefits of age is that we know ourselves so much better, and we have the confidence/courage to tell others. If they don’t like it, too bad.
    I am definitely a home-body and luckily so is my partner. We have grand plans of going out to a movie and going to a restaurant, but the whole thing usually changes to a DVD on the lounge and some takeaway, generally in pyjamas. Bliss.
    Good luck with it all. Take care.

  21. MICHEle

    Hi Susannah,
    Your words ring true for me and many others, I’m sure…. Read and enjoy all your posts and love your honesty and openness. The catch-22 of introverts, we still crave connection and the blog world helps satisfy that in many ways.
    Good luck on the dating scene (I am in my 40’s (building a photography biz..) and would love to share my life with someone too but just cringe at the thought of dating ;)
    All the best,
    Montreal, Canada

  22. Lucia

    you know how you like to live your life and you know you will only share your life with another person if suddendly it became better … nothing to loose! just go girl!!! :)

  23. Nina

    Well, there are definitely men out there who don’t want a massive rave on 31 Dec – my boyfriend likes to stay at home on NYE and so do I, the problem we have is that he doesn’t want to take any notice at all of the New Year and just acts like it’s any other night! But it’s a huge relief when you finally realise it’s OK not to be an extrovert party animal, isn’t it? I’ve even given up trying to have birthday parties now, thank goodness. All the best for your adventures out there in the dating world!

  24. Kat

    So here’s the thing I’ve found, being an introvert who’s also recently re-entered the dating pool – like you, I love one-on-one interactions and that’s what first dates are! Essentially it’s a whole bunch of what we do best. So good luck! I wish you great connections and funny stories!

  25. Annette Gendler

    There are plenty of guys out there, I am sure, who are just as introverted! So the challenge will be to get both of you out of the house to meet!
    Incidentally, my husband and I both sleep through New Year’s Eve. I always hated that forced merriness of that day that has no spiritual meaning for me, and he doesn’t particularly care either. Thankfully, also, New Year’s Eve isn’t such a big deal in the U.S. as it is in Europe. We have our fireworks on July 4th.
    Oh, and regarding personality types: I recently had the greatest time doing impromptu Myers-Briggs tests with four other women I was hanging out with after a writing conference. Turns out we were all introverts, and two of them were the same rare type, and we were laughing our heads off about how similarly we go about life.

  26. gina

    Oh my, this post was like looking in a mirror. I am going through the same thing right now and have just purchased a membership to an online dating site. Good luck and thanks for this post!

  27. Sheila Bergquist

    Being a hermit myself, I think you’re being very brave to venture into the dating world again. Of course, I’m older than you, so that does make a difference. I sometimes wish I had someone to love and be loved by, but I don’t have the energy to try again. Good luck!

  28. Hayley

    i really resonate with this.

    i live alone and work from home too.
    and i keep thinking ‘okay i have now come to terms with being an introvert’, and then i hear another introvert’s honest experience and it’s a revelation to me every time, and i feel less alone. and realise that it’s always going to be a revelation. i’m going to keep needing reminders that it’s okay to say no, and to be honest when i’m asked what i want to do.

    thank you for this one.


  29. Miss B

    This is such a lovely post, this is exactly how I feel and not many people around me understand how much I enjoy being alone so it’s nice to know others are happy that way too, but you are right for me it is also time to leave the hermitage!

  30. barbara

    you write from my heart, this is me you´re writing about!! I hope you´ll find the right man for you this time, good luck!!

  31. Sherri B.

    As the poster child for introverts, I completely relate to your post. Just wait till you’re in your 50s! You’ll really have to fight off your hermit tendencies then. :)

    I wish you much luck with your dating endeavors!

  32. Fiona

    good luck with the search :) I think that’s what a lot of us are looking for, a fellow hermit.

  33. Victoria

    Susannah, I so relate to what you’ve written. I agree that schools should teach these stuff – or rather recognize that not all kids enjoy team sports or group activities. I was the little girl that would rather read books in the library instead of participating in sports day. I agree that we introverts need to put ourselves out there in a way that makes sense to us. For me, going out means having a conversation with friends at a coffee shop instead of going to a loud club. Thank you so much for your bravery in sharing your story.

  34. La plume et la page

    I prefer to be on my own company much of the time. It’s a problem ’cause I’m still alone and home is not the right place to meet “love”… So, today I went to the swimming pool and after that, I went to the movie theatre (and had a coffee in a fastfood just before the movie). I left my hermitage!

  35. mel

    I am exactly the same way always being made to feel like I didn`t fit in and what is wrong with me.I finally came to the realization(wished it would of happened alot sooner)that this is who I am and make peace with it even though its hard with societal pressures that make you feel that being the life of the party is the only way to be.But I made myself join an online dating site and did meet someone very nice that understands my need for space and gives it to me when needed.Hope you find the same and thanks for this.

  36. Joanna

    Like you I prefer being on my own more and more as I get older -even as our life becomes more and more social due to changes at work. Revelation came on the day when new love and I admitted to each other that neither of us liked going to parties very much- it makes for easy New Years now!

  37. Suzanne

    Just another non-shy introvert chiming in to say that I feel exactly the same way!
    I met my husband online (through random chat on ICQ over a decade ago!) and he is a fellow introvert, but with extrovert tendencies (which is great because he helps me actually get out of the apartment once in a while :)
    I think online dating is perfect for introverts… how great is it to get to know someone’s likes, dislikes, hobbies, interests, goals, career, etc, before even meeting them?! I think that’s pretty awesome. You don’t have to worry about wasting your time (and his) if you have nothing in common. (And, honestly, I cannot imagine how hard it would be to meet someone in person these days.)
    But you’ve got to put yourself out there to get started! Best wishes to you :)

  38. Julia

    Hi Susannah,
    Thank you so much for writing this post :) it resonated with me very much. I struggle with feeling fundamentally flawed as well with my introversion. I struggle to find a balance between what is isolating behavior and what is peaceful solitude. I am in a period where some of my female friendships have shifted and drifted and I need to make new connections – it is hard and scary, much like dating. My partner’s temperament is similar to me and sometimes we push each other to branch out and be more social; and sometimes we thoroughly just enjoy our little sanctuary together. I suppose it’s all about To Thine Own Self Be True, but also not fearfully shying away from the potential awkardness of making new connections.

  39. Busymomma66

    I met a fantastic guy through online dating. Who likes just hanging out at home, going for long drives, and just a lot of one-on-one (plus both our kids) time. It took a lot of frogs before I found my prince though, so don’t get discouraged!!

  40. Sherold

    Susannah – I hope you will write about your dating adventures as you try it. I loved Anne Lamont’s article you posted in Slate. Thank you for writing this. I think as I get older, I am happy being alone with my thoughts, my reading, being in the garden or with my dogs and husband and less at big social events. I am an extravert but my age is showing me this is what I most want now. Thank you for writing this lovely post.

  41. Allie

    Cain’s talk is marvelous and made me feel okay about who I am as well. My partner is not necessarily an extrovert, but he doesn’t find crowds as depleting as I do. I enjoy going out and being in others’ company, but I’ve realized I need time to recharge my own energies afterward.

  42. Tracy

    Your honest and real perspective is always a delight to read. I, too, am: an introvert, single (at 42, 5 years post-divorce) and pretty wary of the dating world. Could it be time for me to jump in? (Maybe)
    Thanks. :-)

  43. Julie-Ann

    A friend of mine had a similar situation a few years back. Then he decided to try what he called An Anti-Hermit Initiative.

    He now enjoys lazy Sunday afternoons with the girl he met during The Initiative. :)

  44. amy lopez

    I used to be an extrovert, party and go out all the time, but since I maried a lovely Introvert, I start enjoying the time at home, just snugging, reading and drinking coffee at home, we used to go out for dinner to restaurants, but this year, we started cooking at home good barbicue and now we enjoy more the food we do ourselfs, even our dog gets good bones ;) and we enjoy more our talks and not just getting distracted buy the noice or other things that distract you from a restaurant… (not to mention the quality of the food and the saving of the big price on a nice restaurant)…. but my transformation to Introvert was a little dificult but at the end my man won… :) thanks for this post!

  45. Emily Henson/Lifeunstyled

    Hi Susannah,

    My sister posted about your blog on her sweet blog called “guess how much this cost?” and I was reminded of you. I took your place at blogshop back in march, remember? Anyway, I love this article and like some of the other comments, I feel like I could have written this. It is only now that I’m, ahem…37, that I finally understand that it’s ok to be a bit of a hermit! When I see big groups of girls heading out on a Friday night and I’m excitedly heading home to some wine, maybe a book or movie, I no longer think “What is wrong with me?” Self acceptance is a great thing. I love your blog and I look forward to more posts.

  46. Jade Sheldon

    I relate to this post so, so much. My friends used to give me so much grief for being a homebody and I thought there was something wrong with me and that I had to force myself to go out or risk losing everyone who was important to me. I am an artist and I really enjoy my time alone: it allows me to think and create and just be myself. When I met my husband, he really made me realize that I could just be who I was and if others couldn’t accept it, then they weren’t really people I wanted supporting me anyway.

  47. Tamara Epps

    I think that I am almost exactly the opposite. I grew being ‘shy’ and introverted – I preferred books as company, rather than real people.

    Then I went to Uni and I changed. I found I loved socialising and partying, though I am not against having plenty of ‘me time’ too.

    Unfortunately due to my disability I have now found myself in a place where I don’t have a choice with my social life. The only social life I have is via the internet (thank the gods for the internet). I think my childhood made it possible for me to cope with this, as I am alone most of the time and don’t have an issue with it, but there is still that conflict inside of me. Personally I feel that most people need a balance of both, though it varies greatly between people to what balance will work for them. And in general, I’ve found true relationships can fill both sides of the scale at the same time, if it’s the right relationship.

  48. Amanda S.

    I completely get this. There’s no place like home and solitude. I’m getting to the point where I’m ready to start dating but so worried that I’ll have a hard time finding a fellow hermit. Or that I’ve been single for so long that I won’t be able to “share well with others.” LOL. Have a beautiful day, Susannah.

  49. Diana

    I so much needed this today. Thank you so much, Susannah! I always felt guilty feeling comfortable as a hermit myself. Only during the last years I more and more accepted it – and came to see it’s advantages rather than it’s disadvantages (or those that other people see who only want “my best”).

  50. Krista

    I love this so much. :-) I spent the first 35 years of my life trying to be this outgoing party person too. Now, at last, I am at peace with my cozy, hermity self, and – thank heavens!! – I have a many who likes me this way and is the best company. Wishing you a cozy man like that too.

  51. Kylie

    Sending a hermit-ey high-five across the pond. Like so many people here, I totally get you. Especially on the New Year’s Eve point. I’ll take small, meaningful and quiet any day of the week.

  52. Jessica mae

    Hello Susannah,

    I love your blog and this is a great post. I, too, am an introvert and I’m with the most lovely extroverted man. We had some drag out fights making our terms with each other. I’ve mostly dated introverted men in the past and I had to find a vocabulary for what exactly I wanted. Since you already know what you like, you’re going into the dating scene nice and informed and can probably avoid some of the issues he and I faced at the outset, (if you do date an extrovert, that is).

    I don’t do exactly what I want to do all the time anymore, and compromising has meant that sometimes I do hang out in big groups with him. I just find one person to talk to and go from there. Now that my boyfriend understands the WAY I socialize, he’s happy to help facilitate. Also, since he realizes that being out with a bunch of folks can be draining for me, he is genuinely thankful when I do go.

    And I still have hours and hours and hours to myself, like I like. :)

  53. Pauline

    Susannah, I am in the exact same position in fact tonight I have my first date via online dating and whilst it is the right thing to do I am inside secretly freaking out. But like you I miss having someone so since soulmates rudely don’t knock on my door this is the only to meet someone:-)

  54. Nancy

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on that, Susannah! It felt really reassuring and encouraging as I, too, sometimes get in the trap of “forcing” myself to go out and socialise just because I think that’s what I am supposed to do. I have never been a big-group person and prefer a small number of close relationships rather than having a huge number of “friends” that I barely I even know. So thank you for this little reminder and enjoy your dating time!

  55. Kelly

    Reading this post was like a lightbulb going on in my head. For years and years I felt that not being able to enjoy myself when I was out, my avoidance of parties and nights out was a sign of a mental health issue. Now I know that actually that isn’t the case. I am just me. I am someone who loves to socialise during the day, a long lunch with a group of people sounds great but once it is evening I like to be home, and cosy and feeling relaxed. Thank you.

  56. Kathleen

    I am super late in getting around to reading this post but just wanted to say – I’m with you. As a widow and introvert myself who works from home (and has a young child) it is so hard to put yourself out there. But I applaud you for pushing the limits and trying. Put good vibes out there and something wonderful is sure to come back – even if just in the vein of new good friends.

    Good luck and keep us posted! I’ll be sending good vibes your way!

  57. You can't hide the spark!

    Thank you for writing this post! You hit the nail on the head. I am an introvert but like you, can be quite gregarious in certain circumstances. For a long time I beat myself up for not being sociable/extrovert enough in everyday life. But recently I have come to accept that actually, this is who I am and that’s OK. It helps to know I’m not alone, so thank you for the post…Oh, and good luck with the dating!!

  58. Angela

    It is difficult to get out there but it’s also so rewarding. Even though I’m an introvert by nature, being with a more extroverted man has taught me to come out of my shell a bit. I will never be a complete extrovert but I feel I have grown in a way that I’m comfortable with. I will always choose spending NYE in a warm bath with candles, some good music and a bottle of champagne over a big party, some things will never change.

  59. ERIKA

    I think I may be an ambivert. In college, I was convinced I was an extrovert but now I am not so sure. I’m the most hermit-esque of my friends I know and I am pretty happy most days just being on my own (with internet access or some entertainment). I used to think in high school it was because I was depressed. But now as I am in my mid-twenties, I don’t feel like I am missing out. I feel like I am just following my heart and doing what I enjoy. I’ve always preferred one-on-one to groups. I also enjoy spending time with the people I love; others, I’d rather skip the small talk and do things that interest me. Is this a phase? I wonder. Was being extroverted a phase? Am I both? I don’t know. But I am accepting this instead of forcing myself to be social. And for the most part, I am quite content. For now anyway. ;)

  60. Vicky

    This post completely sums up how I feel about my own life. I am SO good at being in my own company taking photos, thinking and writing etc. In fact, at the age of 41, I’ve decided I LOVE being a ‘misfit’. But I also love people and am longing to find the Right One. It’s hard to get the right balance.

  61. Merc

    Quite an interesting look at life and how you are living it…as for me…Ive been an extrovert for years but it’s time for me to step back…isolate…and reinvent myself…it’s time. And as Ive gotten older I enjoy time by myself…Ive been thru the whole marriage thing (26years)…have 3 kids and 2 grand-kids…but alas my ex is a violent alcoholic…both physically and emotionally. Love is wonderful and beautiful…but it’s not enough.

  62. dajoco

    Well, from the opposite side…I am in love with a shy guy who became depressed and, in introverted fashion, totally withdrew from his friends and family, and then eventually from me. He is now a near-hermit. Like you guys say about yourselves, he was lovely in company – and very open with me. I didn’t even really realise he was so introverted, until he went into total silent mode after our break-up, and then I got an email from his mother asking me to tell her how he was doing; he hadn’t even told his family or friends about anything that happened. This shouldn’t have surprised me, because he rarely told them (or anyone besides me) anything. I guess I had thought that he was as open with others as he was with me. After talking to many people post-bust-up and silence, it struck me that I must have been very special to him, because I learned that I really was the one person he let into his life. He seemed to be totally content with little social interaction with anyone, just small talk, although he certainly missed me the times I went away. It is very hard to be extroverted and try to understand how someone can become so totally withdrawn. I didn’t even really realise that he was so introverted, although looking back it was evident. I miss him, and have not found a way to bring him back out of his shell yet. I hope I can some day. I agree with the many comments that it is something we should all learn about earlier in life – things could have happened differently or been said differently (or not said) if only I had realised what he needed – and he had realised that I didn’t already know! Ha!

  63. João Furaratas

    Marry me now! :D

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