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Single Struggles: Affection and Intimacy Withdrawals

Most of the time, I embrace being single. I am perfectly fine without a partner and know that my happiness and self-worth does not depend on another person. I’m taking a break from dating apps, and I’m not actively seeking out a relationship in any other way. Why, then, do I sometimes feel sad when I’m alone?

Though I see relationships as a luxury, not a necessity, I’m also human. I desire connection and closeness, and I feel withdrawals when I am completely alone. I have friends, but I also spend a good amount of time in my room by myself, and that can be very difficult. I crave intimacy and romantic affection; my body yearns for it and I tell it to knock it off. But the feeling often wins.

In high school, aside from two summer flings, I was completely and totally single. Though I would daydream about romance and occasionally wondered why I wasn’t dating like some of my classmates, I was mostly very happy. However, even those fleeting experiences with boys over the summer provoked a physical craving that I felt at home when I was by myself. I would sometimes even ask some of my close friends if we could cuddle, and I was lucky enough that they always said yes. Whenever I was alone, though, the feeling would come back.

From the beginning of last year as a college freshman up until the end of the first semester of this year as a sophomore, I went on several dates and was involved in two short-term relationships. I almost completely forgot the feeling of affection and intimacy withdrawals. Then, one month after my worst and most recent breakup, I felt it while sitting in my room and watching Netflix by myself. Oh, right, I thought, remembering. This is what it feels like. It strangely kind of felt nice, a sort of bittersweet feeling I hadn’t experienced for a while. But over time, it becomes more and more painful, bringing out a painful yearning and a craving I know won’t be fulfilled.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know what it was like to be in a relationship with someone, or what it felt like knowing I had someone there for me who would listen to what I had to say and with whom I could be physically close. Then I wouldn’t feel wistful when I lay in bed alone, or when I sit in my chair wishing I was sitting on someone’s lap, or when I feel like hugging someone but I know I can’t.

I know this can’t be a unique thing––we all desire physical closeness at one time or another, and I’m sure there is scientific evidence and statistics out there that prove it. I encourage all my fellow single ladies to embrace their freedom and to know they are complete without a relationship––but I also understand feeling lonely, and I hope that at least some of you who are reading this can relate. As for advice on how to alleviate this feeling, I would suggest either taking a walk, exercising, or doing whatever sort of physical activity you like best. Although reading books and watching movies are also very enjoyable, no matter how engaging the story is you may eventually feel the withdrawal if you sit alone for long enough––so being active is your best bet. When you can’t be active, or right before you go to bed, and you wish someone was right there by your side––don’t ignore the feeling. Acknowledge that you have it, allow yourself to feel it, and then try to move on and think about something else. Denying it will only make you feel worse.

So yes, once again, it is possible to be happy without a relationship––and no one needs a partner to survive. There are many wonderful parts of being single and I encourage all of my fellow singles to see the positive side. But if you feel lonely sometimes and crave affection and intimacy, just remember it’s only human––and there’s nothing wrong with it.


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Charlotty Herman is a freshman journalism student at Emerson College. She was an editor on her high school's yearbook staff and over the summer, she had an internship with the Reboot Fellows. As well as journalism, she is passionate about the Spanish language, which she has been taking for seven years now. She loves Boston, and when not in class, she enjoys creative writing, fashion, and drinking coffee.
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