Living With/Living Alone

By Thea Iberall

In my quest for understanding myself, I came across a workshop on relationships. It was put on by an organization that was using spirituality and psychology to teach people about themselves. I had just had a bitter breakup and I thought the workshop would help me to understand myself instead of me turning myself into a pretzel to be with someone and have my heart broken again. And I learned something about myself.

In the workshop, they said that personality consists of various traits which are neither positive nor negative; they are just the reality of one’s personality. There are 16 of these.

For example, there are two types of people, live alones and live withs. People who are “live alones” prefer not having anyone in their personal space. They get peopled out and must go away to be alone to connect with themselves. If they live with other people and don’t get time alone, they can start arguments with their partners and family members. It’s a way to drive the other people away so that they can get their needed space.

People who are “live withs” are the opposite. They gather their energy by being with other people. They feel happier and more satisfied having others around. They need the external stimulation. If they live alone for an extended period of time, they become lonely and maybe even depressed.

Healing won’t change a live alone into a live with or vice versa. Healing will make your nature more obvious to you and this can give great relief.

I am a live with. I have lived with other people most of my life and I prefer it. I don’t need a big house because I am 99% of the time in the same room as my partner. My sister, on the other hand, is a live alone. So is her spouse, and they have organized their living situation where they have separate working spaces. They are together in the same room for some activities, like meals and sleeping, but in general, they avoid the external stimulation. They get sustenance from this arrangement.

By not understanding this about myself, I didn’t know who I was and I blamed myself for things that don’t work out. I need to honor this part of myself. This knowledge helps me to accept myself without judgment. It arms me to do the self-care I need. Awareness of the trait lets us begin to understand how our traits interact with someone else’s traits. I don’t berate myself for not being able to live alone peacefully. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to be alone at times, which I do. It just means in the grand view of my personality, I find peace living with another human being.

So when I got into a new relationship, I was glad that person was also a live with. That’s not a requirement for a relationship. If the two people are on opposite sides of this trait, peace can be achieved through awareness and through finding ways to build balance into their relationship.

I ‘ve listened to all sorts of theories over the years about self. Not all fit so I take what makes sense and leave the rest. This theory has helped me be more present with myself in a relationship and understand the other person.


Balance is everything, is the only

way to hold on.

I've weighed the alternatives, the hold

as harbor: It isn't safe

to let go. But consider the hover,

choices made, the moment

between later and too late.

Hesitation is later, regret

too late. You can't keep turning

and turning, or expecting

to return. This earth

is not a wheel, it is a rock

that erodes, mountain by mountain.

And I have been too soft,

like sandstone, but there is a point

where I stand without a story,

immutable and moved, solid

as a breath in winter air.

I have seen my death and I know

it is my neighbor, my brother,

my keeper. In my life

I am going to keep trying

for the balance,

remembering the risks and the value

of extremes, and that experience

teaches the length of allowable lean;

that it is easier — and wiser —

to balance a stone as if on one toe

though it weigh a hundred pounds

than to push it back against the curve

of its own world.

Participants’ Reflections:

  • Thank you. As soon as you described those two personality types, I knew I belonged in the first type of needing space and time around me. I am more myself when I am alone. But things get out of balance. It doesn’t mean I want to be alone all the time. I can go months without touching someone now. I want to share what I’ve learned to self-soothe. I’ve learned it from all of your sharings. Sometimes I wake up thinking about the times people weren’t loving towards me or understanding toward me and how painful that was. I finally understood this last year what Thich Nhat Hanh has said about the breath as refuge. One of the skills I use is to come back to the present with my breath, don’t dwell in the past experiences, they don’t exist anymore. Another skill I’ve developed I learned from my Korean movies. One of the characters was taught to self-soothe by hugging herself with her arms crossed in front of her chest and her hands on her opposite shoulders and patting herself on the