Olivia Laing, the acclaimed author of The Lonely City, on loneliness, marrying the poet Ian Patterson and the challenge of intimacy

Olivia Laing in The Times:

At the age of 39 I was fairly sure I would spend the rest of my life alone. I lived alone, I worked alone. No matter what I did, or who I dated, I didn’t seem to be able to find the relationship I longed for.

I’d first joined the vast ranks of the lonely five years earlier. In 2011, I moved to New York in the wake of a break-up. A new relationship had come to an abrupt end. I’d pinned far too much hope on it, and though lovers had come and gone before, this particular departure left me desolate, my self-esteem on the floor. In a strange city, 3,000 miles from my family and friends, I was rapidly overwhelmed by loneliness.

Being so lonely was agonising. Worse, it felt actively repellent. It didn’t take long to realise that one of the worst elements was the omnipresent shame — the gnawing belief that being lonely was bad and wrong, a humiliating failure that could never be confessed. But the more I thought about it, the more illogical this seemed. After all, millions of people are lonely. Why was it so unspeakable?

More here.