At 57, after being widowed nearly 18 years ago, I find myself in a demographic that I had never antcipated, one of 107 million. This is the number of umarried people 18 and older, (as of 2014). Apparently, I am in good company, since we comprise 45% of the population. When my husband died in 1998 of end stage liver disease as a result of Hepatitis C that ravaged his body and mind, I had no intention of diving into a new relationship any time soon thereafter. I had a great deal of healing to do myself, after six years of being his caregiver, running and then closing down our business; raising our then 11 year old son as a single parent, working several jobs over the years to keep the same roof over our heads, desiring a relationship and then fearing a relationship, since I had worries about someone dying again or repeating the dysfunctional dynamics in my marriage. I moved through a series of losses when my parents died 2 1/2 years apart in 2008 and 2010. I faced series health crises in 2013 and 2014.
I have loved being single and desire partnership. Clearly, I am not alone in that dichotomous dynamic.
I have dated. I did the internet thing. I went to singles events. I volunteered. I attended workshops about relationships. I teach them as well. I made and revised the lists of the qualities I desire in a partner. I created vision boards. I wrote affirmations. I cleared space in my home. I have consulted with relationship coaches. I have read many books written by experts on the topics. I have models for healthy and unhealthy relationships in my life. I did feng shui to make my home receptive to a partner. I became the kind of person I want to attract. The world knows I am available. I have had short term relationships, lovers, as well as friends with benefits who I refer to as ‘heart friends’. I have a great deal of affection in my life. I am not love deprived or touch deprived in the least. I have people with whom I enjoy spending time. I have a full social calendar and also take time to just veg and relax. And yet….
I admit that there are times when I feel like ‘damaged goods,’ asking “What’s wrong with this picture?” I imagine that there are some who are reading this article who ask themselves the same question.
While in the midst of pondering the path on which I have traveled from the paradoxical marriage to the present moment, I drew up a list that states the benefits of being single. Perhaps some will reflect your own journey.
- I make my own schedule and come and go as I please.
- I cook what I like and eat when I choose to.
- I don’t need to clean up after anyone else
- I travel light.
- I listen to the music I like.
- I am responsible only to myself.
- I go to bed when I want and get up when I choose; being both a night owl and morning glory.
- I get together with friends as I desire.
- I have lovers with whom there is no attachment and we get together for some ‘morning/afternoon/evening delight’ on occasion, knowing that we are in each other’s lives as ‘heart friends’.
- I am adept at providing all kinds of pleasure for myself; sexual and otherwise.
- I don’t have anyone to argue with.
- There is no temptation to indulge in co-dependent “savior behavior.”
- I need not worry about someone dying as did my husband.
- It feels emotionally safer to be solo.
- I don’t want to give up all the growth and change I have experienced over the years.
- I celebrate the woman I have become and don’t want to lose her.
- No need to worry about abuse.
- I can flirt without repercussion.
- I need not be concerned about letting someone down or being let down.
- I am pretty low maintenance and easy going and some of my previous partners have been polar opposite.
- I don’t have to face my shadow in the same way when there is no one else casting theirs next to mine.
- My life is simple when it is just me.
- I have dear friends who together meet many needs as would a partner.
- I am never bored and keep myself entertained.
- I can avoid the roller coaster ride I have watched couples experience.
- I have come to accept that with or without a partner, my life is pretty grand.
I read an article recently about relationships, that was written by a single woman who pondered one particular dynamic that has resonated with me for a long time. She says that her coupled friends tell her that when she feels better about herself, loves herself enough; in a sense, has it all together, let’s go of expectations, this desired other will magically and without attachment to outcome, simply show up one day. Yes, I have heard stories like that AND it makes no logical sense. There are attractive, self loving, other loving, successful, creative, responsible, healthy people who are single. There are folks who don’t meet cultural standards for beauty, who are not in mint condition, who are high maintenance, expecting others to clean up the messes they make, who are demanding and abusive who have loving partners. Go figure.
I place myself and many others I know in the first category. Approximately half of my friends are single and the balance are in fairly high functioning relationships/marriages. Some are monogamous, some polyamorous. All are open to talking about their relationship dynamics.
It has me wondering whether it is mostly about timing. I re-visit the story of how my parents met in 1955. My mother had been in a seven year on again/off again relationship with a man who had stood her up on New Years’ Eve. Shortly afterward, she attended a party of a friend who had just returned from her honeymoon. She and her husband couldn’t afford to invite all their friends to the reception, so they had a shindig later. ‘On again/off again Freddy,’ was there, as was my father, who also knew the bride. Freddy motioned my mother over to him. She glared at him and said, “If you want to talk to me, you come to me.” My father witnessed this encounter and thought, “This girl’s got chutzpah (Yiddish for guts).” He walked over to speak with her and he ended up driving her home from the party. When she arrived, she told my grandmother, “Tonight I met the man I’m going to marry.” Their first date was dinner at a Chinese restaurant and her fortune read, “You’d better prepare your Hope Chest.” The next year they were married.
Divine timing? Beshert, which is Yiddish for meant to be? Co-incidence? I never asked them how they lived as single people. Were they satisfied with their social lives? They were 32 when they married; 34 when I was born and 36 when my sister followed. Pretty late in life for their generation. Did they question whether they would ever meet The One? Had they wondered if there was something wrong with their own pictures that up until that point, they hadn’t yet met the love of their lives. Did they see themselves as damaged goods?
In my case, it has been so long, simply being in love with life and not a particular partner, that I imagine it will be like learning to walk all over again. Exciting to anticipate, since I need not follow the old rules; but rather, creating new ones with someone as we grow a relationship.
Last week, I did some major healing and releasing work with a soul friend who guided me through a process that had me facing demons that I had kept in a dark cave for 25 years. Tears and fears. So much love and gratitude. Feeling ready to accept my heart’s desires.