My story as a Single

Here is part of my story – the part that is relevant to choosing to remain single (you can read more about me on my About page, if you’re really that interested…). I hope that it will stimulate some discussion, especially around the notion of internalized singlism – the belief that there is something wrong with me because I am not coupled.

Recovering from yet another relationship breakup, I am slowly getting my bearings back. This one was so promising! I thought I really had found The One this time! And then, poof, it all blew up – no magic here. Again. Maybe I am just not made for a relationship. Or maybe I just keep picking the wrong guys. Or maybe it just is time to build my life, of which I have done little. Although I am almost 40, my life so far has centered around two things: my divorce and my son. The divorce started shortly after my son was born. He is now 16. Yes, I know, it’s a darn long divorce. Tell me about it. And it’s still not over – but that’s another story…

So, maybe it’s time to build my life now, to really look at what I want to do, to embrace being single, to give up on the dream of riding into the sunset with my savior. I’ve found some joy in singlehood before. Funny thing is, whenever I start enjoying myself, I end up in a relationship. As if I am trying to distract myself. It’s scary to walk life by yourself when everybody around you seems coupled. My parents have been married forever. Their friends are married. Their brothers and sisters are married, except an aunt who is somewhat eccentric and an uncle who committed suicide. No wonder I have the notion in my head that I should be coupled, that being single is just an interim state. It is slowly but surely dawning on me that maybe it’s time to come out as single. Yes, just like gays and lesbians had to consciously proclaim their otherness, their homosexuality, it’s time for me to embrace being single, to consciously proclaim that I am single and that I want to build my life as a single woman. I am not waiting for a guy to carry me off. I am not waiting for a soulmate anymore. It’s scary, yes, but it’s also liberating. And, yes, the conventional house of cards is collapsing onto me, driving home self-doubt: Can I really be happy and single? Well, I’ve proven several times now that I can be really unhappy coupled, so why not try being single for a change? Maybe that’ll work better. Maybe I’ll actually be happy when I am very obviously in control of my happiness instead of pretending someone else is. Yes, there’s the little voice in my head that whispers that this might make me a better partner. Maybe. I guess there’s still some social learning to unlearn. And there is the expectation to let go off that I will find true fulfillment only through a partner: the internalized matrimania. I have spent 40 years building a life that I didn’t really choose. It’s time to start making my own bricks and start living!

And, yet, when I didn’t receive the I-still-love-you email from my former boyfriend, I notice disappointment. Somewhere in there, I still define my self-worth through the attention I get from men, boyfriends in particular. If they write short emails it must be because I am not worthy of a longer email. And I feel I have to prove to them that I am! With chagrin, I realize that I haven’t moved on from these internalized beliefs that I am somehow less of a human being when I am single; that I can only find true happiness through a relationship. As if building a relationship is a cakewalk. What myths surface when one pays attention! So, what is stopping me from truly embracing being single? Well, there is some positive stuff there: I have experienced the wonderful side of relationships, the sharing that goes on, the automatic companionship. All that comes at a price, again and again, and that price seems rather steep for the benefits. The longing remains, the longing for this sharing that I haven’t been able to duplicate anywhere else. Or maybe it’s just that I didn’t notice it with friends because somehow it’s expected there. It’s just what friends do. Finding a friend you can also have sex with seems to be the cherry on the cake; somehow that sex thing changes everything. As if it magically transforms everything and I’d live happily ever after. Only it is not true. And I know that. Yet, somewhere, the beliefs surrounding relationships have dug themselves deep into my psyche: internalized matrimania.

Then there are the negative things that keep me from happily single ever after. The fear that, deep down, there just must be something wrong with me because I cannot find a partner. It’s not normal. If only I could fix that one thing, miraculously the perfect partner would emerge and we’d live happily ever after. As if. The voice is there that nags that I am just trying to hide the fact that I am incapable of building a lasting relationship by becoming the posterchild single woman. The voice is whispering that it’s not really a choice, I didn’t reject anyone but I was rejected, so it is not for the right reasons and therefore there must be something wrong with me. That’s called twisted thinking in psychology. I’ll call it internalized singlism. It all boils down to one thing, though: There is something wrong with me. What that might be remains a mystery, a secret even to myself. And reality shows that I am not that horrible to be around because there are people who do enjoy my company. Imagine that. Repeatedly even. Maybe even my former boyfriend, less the sex part. And if not, I’ll enjoy life by myself, surrounded by friends.


Comments

My story as a Single — 55 Comments

  1. I am 48 and have been married for 7 years and another time for 18 months. I have been alone for 19 years. The 1st marriage; I was too young. The 2nd one was for sex. I have been single for 8 years since the 2nd marriage. I admit I was too desperate the 1st time. But, now the holidays, weekends, and nights seem like forever. I don’t ask God “Why” anymore. I just accept my solitude for what it is. I don’t have any close friends either. My best girl friend stopped talking to me because I stopped keeping her kids. She pretends she is extremely busy. She was busy before when I was keeping them. Oh, now I have to depend on my love for me and learn to be alone. I have to remember God has a plan. Be encouraged; 48 is a lot older than 30 something. Time is extended for a reason. God knows.

  2. Hi I just had a frustrated conversation with my mom in regards to me being single and I came across your blog. I really enjoyed your writing and the comments other contributed. I am turning 32 this Nov and I have never been in a relationship. I’ve dated a couple times, but that’s about it. I am perfectly happy as a single woman. I am financially and emotionally independent. I don’t understand why not being in a relationship/marriage at a certain age defines me as abnormal, lonely and unhappy. I told my mom if she really loves me, she should only cares about if I am happy not if I am married. She couldn’t argue with that, but I think it’s hard for her to adjust her opinion because of our Asian background. My cousins are getting married one by one over the last few years, some are younger than me and some are older. I am singled out now. I live overseas. Whenever I go back to my hometown, the only topic around me would be my marriage issue. It is an ISSUE in my family. They made me feel I did something wrong and I am not being a really good daughter or grand daughter just because I am still single. I feel they would be happier even if I just got married for the sake of getting married, even I would get divorced the next day. Why can’t people just let other people live their own life? I love and enjoy travelling. My life goal is always travelling around the world. Relationship/marriage has never been my priority and never will. I will stand my ground and live my life to the fullest (with or without marriage one day) and I sure hope every single person out there could just be themselves and be happy. We only live once and we should live it for ourselves. Sounds selfish? Well then, I am selfish and I am not sorry.

    Love & Hug
    Luna

    • Thanks for sharing, Luna! It sounds like it’s pretty frustrating to you to be confronted with such a limited (and limiting) view of how your life could (should!) be by your family. I am guessing that you’d really enjoy it if they were to accept your life choices, especially seeing how happy they make you!

      Your life goal sounds wonderful! Have you considered sharing it with others through a blog? I am partly asking this because I love to read those blogs and also because this might be a way to build other kinds of relationships. Relationships are not limited to those romantic coupled kinds! :)

      Please let me know if you would enjoy some support beyond a reply comment… You aren’t alone in your choice (nor in how difficult our families make that choice)!

      • Family will eventually ‘give up’ on the push to get married. I think they figure that it is too late so no point in putting out the energy. Hang on for that! :)

  3. Hi, I am a single woman who will turn 40 this year, never married and no kids.I have been in relationships but have never found anyone I felt I could settle down with. I want to marry and have children but I feel that I would have to compromise too much of me to be happy. Most of my friends are married with kids and have very little time for socialising with me anymore. It is lonely, and scary to think that I only have myself to rely on until the day I die. I have noticed in the couples I know, who have now been married for 10-15 years, that they are no longer affectionate and have to compromise a lot of themselves. This is quite often because they married young and now have kids. And I don’t want to end up like that. Except I want that family unit, but I don’t want to end up as someone’s housemaid and babysitter. I will have to compromise on my career etc. I will have very high expectations in return if I end up in a situation like this, and that in turn will end up an unhappy marriage. I don’t feel I can be happy until I resolve this need for a family. But I don’t know how to do that. I am trying to date but have noticed that guys my age want 20-30 something’s.

    • Hmm. Sounds like you might want to start brainstorming other strategies to meet your need for family… Maybe even ask yourself what needs “family” would meet (I read that you’re concerned about having to rely only on yourself until you die, so maybe family would give you companionship and security?).

      One strategy could be to make your own family in a nontraditional way that leaves out some of the negatives you’re observing. As a single mom, I would have loved it if I could’ve had help with my child (he’s now an adult, so he pretty much helps himself…). You could be a big sister to a child.

      There’s also Plan B Connections, an organization that helps people create support networks so that we don’t die alone.

      There’s a lot more in your comment that I am not addressing here, so feel free to comment again and we can have a little dialog…

  4. Hi Rachel!

    Thanks for your insight. I’ve been debating about another stigma or choice that people seem to have trouble comprehending, and that is whether or not to have children. I’ve decided not, but I’m incredibly nervous about being surrounded by everyone who seems to believe that I’m making a mistake. I’m 24 so people always tell me that I’m making some mistake and that who will take care of me when I’m older? Its so difficult to live against the grain although I know this choice feels right for me. I’m allowing for some change (10%) but I doubt it.

    Anyway I was never one for dating in high school or college, and it seemed everyone around me was coupled so there must have been something that I was doing wrong. In the African-American community you are looked upon with suspicion if you “aren’t made a honest woman” and especially if you don’t want children. If I meet a lovely guy/girl while on vacation or a new move, I’d love to see where it goes, but I’m not consciously dating or looking for marriage. Also when people speak to about relationships I get this sinking feeling of entrapment. It’s just not a priory.

    Thanks for the prospective from someone who’s passed those years when everyone you know seems to be married with children and helping me know that as long as you’re making the right choice (for you) life goes on! Also I read DePaulo’s book and loved it. I learned a lot.

    • Thanks for sharing, Lecretia! Yes, anything that’s not fitting into the cultural mold is challenging, especially when it’s as obvious as not being coupled or not having children. It boggles my mind why people end up being so stuck in the idea of certain boxes. For example, why would a child be the only possibility of taking care of you in old age? (Or the flip side: Why would a child guarantee that you’d have someone to take care of you?!?). To me, it’s much more interesting and fun to create structures in my life that can help me in ways I find fulfilling (aside from the fact that I don’t want my son to feel obligated to take care of me! I don’t want to do that to any one person!)

      That typed, I would also love to see society at large to take more responsibility for things like this. Instead of pulling the family card, let’s create a world where nobody has to worry about how they’ll survive in old age because we take care of each other.

      So, I’d say: Stick to your choice and live the life you love – not the one others tell you you’re supposed to live!

  5. Dear Rachel, I always believe it’s ok to be single as long as we are happy. There are times when we feel down and left behind, but most of the times, we are much more happier compared to complicated marriage life.

  6. I wish I could be like all of you who say you are happy being single or who never wanted to marry. Throughout my life, I have always wanted to feel loved and I am now 45 and unmarried, and with every passing day I can’t believe I’m this old and still single, and I’ve felt this way since my 20′s. I’ve had boyfriends that I didn’t love enough to marry. A few years ago I almost got married but my boyfriend couldn’t go through with it, and even though he was selfish and mean he I was crazy about him.
    I know that before I can love others or be happy that I have to love myself first, but after 20 years trying different therapies (the last 9 with a psychiatrist) I’m giving up. I can’t stand being single and I definitely don’t plan to keep living like this. Today I heard that a friend’s sister in law is pregnant and I cried. My chance for marriage and my own children is over and I am completely hopeless. I definitely don’t plan to be alive and single at 50 or even by the end of the year. I can’t stand being so alone and unloved.

    • Jeanette: I hear your sadness, frustration, actually despair in your comment. You are so longing to be loved – and you have no clue on how to get it. Ay! This must be an excruciatingly painful place to live in, especially since i am guessing, you’ve been there for a while! Please know that you are not alone in these feelings. I’ve been there – and sometimes still return to that place. It’s not easy to be single, especially when it’s not by choice, in a couple-centric world! I applaud & appreciate your courage in posting here so vulnerably!

      If you’re open to some ideas that might help, please keep reading this comment (otherwise stop here…).

      It is very difficult for us to learn to love ourselves when we are fed by the culture around us that we are only lovable when we follow a certain lifepath. I wonder if you have looked at the impact a belief like “I am not worthy of love because I am single” has on your life? This message is a shaming message and is very prevalent in a couple-centric culture! As if it is your fault that you are single… (There is a considerable amount of luck involved in finding a mate!) Also, because we are social beings, experiencing love from outside of us is very helpful to hold onto our sense of self-love. It’s very exhausting when we don’t have those outside sources!

      The other idea I had is around where you are looking to experience being loved. It sounds like you believe that the only way for you to be loved is to be in a coupled relationship. There are other ways, though, too! We can have friends who love us, family members or even pets. I wonder if that might be a way for you to feel less unloved? This might not be your preferred route and it doesn’t require you to give up on finding a partner! It will help, though, to ease the pain you are feeling. And it also counteracts that message “I am unlovable,” which might make it easier for you to feel self-love.

      I hope this helps at least a little!

    • Jeanette – I know you wrote your comment many months ago, but in case you wish to get in touch with me, please visit my blog and send me an e-mail via there. I’m a single woman too, same age as you, never married & no children. Sometimes I’m fine with it and get angry by the pressure to be coupled, other times I feel crushed and like yourself, plan an “early exit” by 50 if things don’t change. I don’t have any family or relatives that I’m in touch with, and just a couple of friends who connect with me mainly via social media – so it would be perhaps nice to exchange e-mails sometime ? Feel free to get in touch if you wish. Take care and hang in there. x

      • Zella, It was a nice surpise to see your response. Sounds like we have some things in common. I checked your blog and based on what you’d written I felt like I already knew you. I’ll try to contact you through that site. Hope your move is going well.
        Jeanette

  7. Hey! it’s a beautiful thing to be single, and happy! I turned 40 this year, but I feel sexier and prettier than I did at 20 or 28 or 35-and i really think it’s true, because I have new men every week asking me out, a week ago on a vacation in a european town (I live in Europe, and we are a little more free spirited about sex I think than in america?) I met a handsome 28 year old , built like an Adonis, who was very hot for me, I brought him back to my hotel and we made love for four hours straight. Two years ago I had two younger guys as lovers , together. Fantastic!
    I spent a month over christmas time and early dec on a caribbean island, found two (separate ) lovers there , both fantastic , one older, one younger. Came home with no guilt and happy memories.
    Could I do that if I were married? any of it? I go to sleep when I want, I control the remote, I eat what I want when I want, I can burp in bed (I am being polite here) , and the world is an open page. Marriage can be a super beautiful choice but how often is it really? a very small percentage of the smug marrieds I know are actually genuinely happy, and even some of those who think they are, well the husband is still making eyes at other women, etc. It’s beautiful to be free and single and to have escaped the Social Construct , you are not hurting anyone, and in fact you can be kinder to yourself that way. Spend every day deciding what makes you happy! Hey , it sounds “selfish” but what are we supposed to do if not, beat ourselves with barbed whips ? I think not..enjoy!

  8. Hi everyone,
    It is so great to see everyone’s contentment with their lives. Being single is really just an aspect of that. Being a woman just out of her turbulent twenties, I can testify to the fact that it can be difficult for a young woman to come to terms with life as a single woman. However, I think the key to living your best life is finding within yourself the passion and intensity which you would normally look to a lover for. Following your dreams, and indulging your desires, whether they be to start a mentoring program for inner-city youth or to eat a freshly-baked almond croissant from Balthazar bakery every morning for a month, can satisfy your lust for passion, even without a partner.
    The Satisfied Single: thesatisfiedsingle.blogspot.com

  9. Rachel, I thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.
    I may be the rare one here as I am a guy but my first stumbling across your site touched a nerve.

    I’ve been a bookish introvert most of my life. I can easily socialize but just feel more comfortable alone. Growing up in a strongly religious family who felt that church and marriage were something you had to do, I had to eventually get over those things that I was taught but did not mesh with how I felt.

    I dated as a teen because I did not want to disappoint them. I got married to a woman who was only a friend because I was too weak and robotic to think for myself. And it just did not work. And like quite a few of you ladies, I struggled with the whole idea of something being wrong with me because ‘normal’ relationships just did
    not work.

    And friends and family did not help because that was pretty much their opinion. Finally I had enough. I realized that having a deep friendship with a woman was way more comfortable and fitting for me than having a relationship. And so I let people know and it made my life so much less stressful. And sex, although pleasurable, is not something that I have to have.

    And of course I still have to hear constantly from family and friends about how I should date and get married. Despite my explaining my position. Now I’m strong enough to stand my ground. I know I’m just happier having friends.

    I have a good friend who lost her husband 2 years ago. And in her grief she has dated some really disrespectful and disreputable fellows. So I referred her to your website. I just want her to be okay with herself and to wait because I’m sort of an uncle to the children and I’d rather them not have to deal with some bad guy in their lives.

    Sorry for rambling.

    • Welcome to my website, Marc, and thank you for your courage to share your story! It is wonderful to read this from a man because for some reason men less frequently talk about the challenges of being single. My guess is that’s partly because it’s easier to be single as a man (because you’re socially more defined by your career) and partly because it’s harder for men to talk about struggling. “You should be strong!” is the message – and any potential sign of weakness is shamed. So hats off to you and the few other men who openly comment about their choices and their preferences!

  10. I am single and I will be turning 40 in February and it’s just a number.You only feel as old as you feel as they say.Well,I haven’t met anyone special in my entire life and honestly,I’m quite disappointed because,I get tired of being single.I do want to share my life with someone and be just be happy.I’m not that happy right now and talking about this bugs me.It makes me realize,how life is so degrading and unfair.I cannot understand why I have not found Mr.Right! Maybe,someday I will. I’m not alone on this and other people are in the same situation as me.I hope,luck will find me and it changes my life.

  11. I’m turning 43 this November. When you see me you may know why I am still single. Men find me like I’m still in my teens. I’m a petite woman. Some say I don’t look my age. So in most cases, I meet men in extreme set of age – 5 to 10 yrs younger or 5-10 yrs older. But one thing to know about me is that during my school days, I have more guy friends than girl friends. My best friend was a guy and I am having a hard time understanding girls ways than men. I wanted to think it is because I was raised where there was more man than woman, like uncldes, cousins that are guys. Though currently, I go out most of time with a guy weekly having dinner anywhere we wanted. Best of friends thats how we see each other. No string attach. Having fun together. Guess that’s fun!

  12. I just stumbled across this blog just looking for some insight as to why I feel the way I do. I think I need to accept the fact that its ok to be single.But how do you deal with the lonelyness? I’m 54 my kids are all grown and gone and I hate this. Please help!

    • Christine: Thanks for reaching out! Sorry for taking a few days before replying as i can sense your pain in your comment! How do you deal with the loneliness? Well, some of the things that have helped me: Learn to reach out to others (including via email); volunteer; join clubs (meetup.com helps); discovering a new passion (in my case, folk dancing); try to convert my loneliness into solitude. Sometimes this is easier than other times and i have gotten stuck, too, where i just felt abandoned by everybody! Then i find it important to hold myself with compassion and remember that this, too, will pass and that my sense of loneliness doesn’t stem from being single. At least in my case, it’s a mental attitude.

      I hope this helps a little!

  13. Rachel you are perfectly fine.
    Many cultures press marriage and relationships so strongly that quite a few people know nothing else.
    Even some psychologists are on the bandwagon saying that one is emotionally immature if one does not want to be in a committed relationship.

    I am a 40 year old man. I have been single for about 15 years no ever since my divorce. Funny thing is growing up I did not like girls. I was not attracted to any human. I just liked books, games, scientific experiments, tinkering with mechanical devices, etc.

    My family pushed me into dating because my uncle was gay. They though that if I did not jump on the dating bandwagon I would also be gay. Being in my mid teens I did not know how to logically combat what they were saying.

    So all my relationships after that felt contrived and forced. I met some wonderful women but I preferred them as non sexual friends rather than dating them.
    And being a guy who is not chasing women in the USA pretty much makes you a weirdo in a lot of people’s eyes.

    It is sad that in this modern world, one still cannot make a harmless choice without others trying to convince and convert you to their way of life.

  14. I am 37 and have 3 kids. After a decade of marriage I spent 3 yrs trying to date. I finally realized I am happy single. I don’t want anyone living in my home nor would I give up my home. I like doing things my way and when I want. It’s just not appealing to share my life with a man. I have 3 kids who keep me entertained and I’m happy in my role in life now.
    I feel a bit selfish with my time. I can be with friends if i need to talk or go to a movie or dinner but when I dint want to talk I can just relax and be.
    I’m finally at peace. No trying to make a relationship workn or wondering of it is right.

  15. Hi Rachel,

    I wanted to say that I found your insights really stripped-down honest, and I really saw myself in much of what you write about. I am in a slightly different position to yourself – I find myself in those mid-to-late twenties where all of a sudden all of my friends are coupling off and I find myself unable to procure any social connections when I feel the pinch of lonliness…which I find incredibly frustrating! I want to say ‘You see your partner all the time…come hang out with me!’ But the truth is – as you refer to in another post – its not about quantity of connection, its about quality…and people only are conditioned to only give/recieve that level of intimacy from romantic/sexual partners, so they naturally want to spend most of their time with them.

    Anyway I just wanted to say I admire your work here, your honesty, and on this saturday night, with my family in another country and all my friends celebrating Easter with significant others and I sit on my couch watching MTV in my PJ’s…I can awknowledge I can be both happy and lonely at the same time. Life is a mixed bag like that. But you’re website tempers the irrational thoughts of ‘Im not good enough’ anyway. Cheers!

    • Thank you, Mercy, for taking the time to share! It is wonderful to receive your feedback – partly because sometimes i wonder if i am making a contribution to anyone’s life (well, other than my own! Writing here certainly helps me process things…).

      I am also grateful that you wrote that one can be both happy and lonely! I’ve started to observe when i shift from one to the other – and right now, i seem to be most content in nature…

      Wishing you a nourishing day!

  16. Well done on deciding to be single. I remember when single being able to go on holiday to places I wouldn’t have been able to go to with a partner,and making new friends. I also joined a singles club and went on their events, which meant I didn’t feel as if I was going to everything on my own. You have much more freedom if you are single,e.g. can decorate your house how you like – no having to put it through the committee stage first. The only drawback i found was a tendency to overspend, especially with living in a city, as there’s no one to hold you back. I was able to get round the feeling of being too solitary by getting a lodger for a time. You can also be more successful at things when you are on your own because you haven’t got other people wanting you for something. Also deciding to be celibate can make life simpler too. Good luck with your choices..

  17. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you! I have been in and out of many relationships (once married and two children) and I have found, (especially for women) that the “success” of your or any other woman’s relationship, is most often related to the level of compromise that you are willing to endure. I’m not talking about addicts or severely compromised emotional women, that’s a whole other beast. What I am talking about is this, women are under very many conditions that put them in a situation that, if they love a man and expect to have a future with that man, they are on consciously or sub-consciously expected to bend to that man’s will. I think if you have a very independent mind and spirit, women like us do not “succeed” in a life partner situation because of these very subtle underlying messages that we are still subjected to today. In the end, find what makes you happy, find whatever it is you need to make you happy right now because, in this life the things that make us happy change as we change. Embrace that and, be okay with that, THAT all on it’s own is an amazing accomplishment, to recognize who you are and the things you need to make you happy here in this moment , is a miracle. It is also a miracle, we can reproduce every day, as long as we can keep our minds clear and know that we alone have the key to our own happiness in every day that we are granted, you don’t NEED another person to find that every day, in some cases I believe that another person hinders that accomplishment.

    • Thanks, Paula! I think it might have been Karen Gail Lewis in “With or Without a Man” who pointed out that women, in general, have changed through the women’s movement and men haven’t caught up yet. Rather similar reasoning to yours – and i remember how validating it felt when i read it!

      I still agree with this point and i wonder how much sexism plays into that as well. Because as women we are taught that our measure of success in life is the coupled relationship we have, we’re more likely to compromise. Some of us (i raise my hand wildly) aren’t that good at compromising ;-). The cool thing that i am experiencing: The less interested i become in a coupled relationship, the more i enjoy all of my relationships! And i think that ability flows directly out of what you beautifully called a miracle: our ability to embrace our life as it is!

  18. Just stumbled across your blog and already have learned some new terminology and found some great resources including Bella DePaulo. I’m looking forward to reading her book. I’ve been single by choice for almost 4 years now since my divorce and the stigma is very much alive even in a city as laid back as Seattle. It was a hard road shedding the societal imprints of couplehood and it’s relation to self-worth, but I am much happier for having traversed it!

    • Thanks for your note, Rich! If you haven’t done so already, you might also want to check out Bella’s website at http://www.belladepaulo.com/. Lots more info to support us singles by choice in a couplemanic world!

      Thank you, too, for acknowledging that even so-called progressive cities, like Seattle or San Francisco, are not beyond singlism. It is strange how revolutionary remaining single is…

  19. Marriage isn’t for everyone. I never wanted to be married, but I certainly enjoy having someone to share my life with. Being single allows me to move on, easily, when it stops working. I blog about the joys and curiosities of being a never married, childfree woman and I am buoyed by the responses I get from friends and strangers (www.TheSpinsterliciousLife.com). Being single shouldn’t feel like a “sentence”; it can be really good.

  20. Thank you, ladies! It is so great to hear what I suspected all my life, and finally experienced only last year (I am not being sarcastic).

  21. I like the word quirkyalone, but it seems it implies the belief in eternal love somewhere down the line, something which I have decided I’m definitely against! so maybe I should come up with a third definition? ;)

  22. Interesting comment Christina! I think in my case however I was simply asking Rachel why more as a source of introspection than anything else, I don’t actually find it odd at all that she doesn’t want to date, sometimes being single provides so many opportunities and allows us to discover ourselves both in life and at work.
    But personally I find that I love dating, given the right person and the right circumstance of course. That also is a personal choice, and you are right no one should be accountable for either lifestyle choices as it is that person’s own prerogative. So my apologies if I seemed judgmental in any way.

    • Thanks, Tamara, for the (indirect) reminder that there are many ways of being single! Bella DePaulo calls one way “single at heart.” This is where i am at right now: I don’t want to date because there are all these other things i’d rather be doing with my life. And then, there are singles who enjoy being single but don’t mind to date (or more). The term “quirkyalone” might capture their singleness (here’s a comparison of the two). And, of course, there are singles who just absolutely hate being single and do whatever they can to become unsingle.

      I suspect that many of us fall somewhere in between these categories – and there might even be more. To me what’s important is that we can choose what we prefer rather than being forced to conform with a cultural stereotype. Part of breaking down the stereotype, i think, requires us to be open about our choices. So, i am glad you asked, Tamara, for my reasons!

  23. Dear Rachel,
    thanks for your reply, I will definitely review the book you have recommended as I am constantly in the quest for answers myself.
    The thing is I felt in your words and I quote “The fear that, deep down, there just must be something wrong with me because I cannot find a partner. It’s not normal. If only I could fix that one thing, miraculously the perfect partner would emerge and we’d live happily ever after.” that while you are intellectually resisting the premise of “the one” and you know that logically to be true, deep down perhaps we are all conditioned to believe that he or she exists and we haven’t found them. That is at least true for me, but at this point I am closer to the belief that the one is a big hoax and we can be in love at different stages of our lives with a person, who completes that part of ourselves, and when inevitably we change, because we are mutable, fluid beings, that person no longer fits the bill.

    That is the formula I have so far come up with to be happy, to be free to complete our goals, with no ties to marriage as an institution, and yet date, find unbinding love and be complete being a parent. The theory is f course a work in progress and I can’t apply it because I am married. But can I ask why you don’t date? Is it because you haven’t found the person you wish to date or some other belief?

    Many thanks

    • What you are quoting, I call “internalized singlism” – the cultural notions that we are incomplete when we don’t have a partner/aren’t coupled/married or aren’t dating.

      I am not dating because I don’t have a need for it. I am perfectly happy the way I am and love being able to put my energy in things other than an intimate relationship that involves sex. I have lots of friends with whom I have intimate conversations. I get hugs from them. And support when I need it. I feel complete because all my needs are being met. So, there is no belief stopping me from dating. In fact, there was a belief driving me to date: The idea that I am incomplete and unlovable unless I date. That belief still creeps up sometimes but I now see it as the false messenger that it is.

      • Tamara seems to be tracking thoughtfully with Rachel’s ideas, but I just wanted to add that an additional point: I guess what we’re striving for is a world where whether you date or not is irrelevant, and where it’s not necessarily a choice that invites or requires explanation, sort of how no one would ever ask Rachel why she doesn’t do flower arranging.

        I don’t happen to be dating right now because I can’t be bothered, but I might if the opportunity presented itself (and I weren’t busy with flower arranging). I don’t think it’s necessarily a particular choice I made or didn’t make. So I wouldn’t necessarily want to be asked why I don’t date.

        But some people (Rachel maybe more so than I) do actually make a concerted choice not to date or to be single. If they state their choice proudly and upfront, then maybe that invites people to ask why–and opens up a conversation. So that’s great.

        Tangent: Is it like asking someone why they’re a vegetarian? Is that actually a decent question or is it kind of invasive? I guess it depends on the context.
        = )
        Christina

  24. Dear Rachel,
    I stumbled across your blog while searching for an answer to “is marriage natural?” oddly enough it seems not many people ask themselves that question. I have been married for 4 years, and have resisted the idea thoroughly since the beginning of my marriage, part consciously, part unconsciously. the conscious part was in constantly finding flaws in my husband, and feeling that he is not “the one”, when I realized that he was not as I suspected everything I wanted or needed him to be. I think marriage for me was a socially accepted means of having children, and perhaps I chose the best possible person for that role. But it seems to me that there is no “the one” and once I realized that I sought different friendships (nothing else mind you!) with men and I have been happier from it.

    I love how you say ‘”coupled” as though you were talking about animals on national geographic! yes marriage is an institution, and very unnatural indeed. But in my opinion you have confused not being married, with being alone. You can be unmarried, single and free, and date freely seeking at different times in your life the man who is suitable for that particular “you” in that place in time, and so on.There is no “the one” that fits the bill, because a human being is a complex individual, I don’t believe they are mutually exclusive, and once I have the courage to leave, I hope to do so myself.
    Best Regards

    • Hi Tamara,

      You might find a book interesting that came out this summer: Sex at Dawn. The co-authors tackle the question of whether monogamy is “natural” (it isn’t).

      Regarding your comment that I “have confused not being married, with being alone:” There are lots of ways of being single. Unless you choose to be a hermit or seek out solitude none of them mean you’re alone. You can be single and date, too, of course, but that is not the path I have chosen for myself. Yet even though I don’t date, I am not alone. Single=alone is a stereotype I am fighting because it implies that we are alone if we’re not dating (in the context you raised it) or not married (in the cultural context). I will take a look at what I wrote above (a couple years ago) to see if there’s anything that I might’ve typed that might perpetuate that stereotype…

  25. Rachel, Rachel, I’ve been thinking….what a good world this would be…
    Hi there, Rachel. That song must be about 50 years old! I don’t know why they taught it to us as kids, but it just popped into my head.
    I’ve been single my whole life, and have NEVER felt lonely,…..well, except for that six months or so that I spent living with someone. That was the loneliest time of my life. I had five or six completely different sets of friends and he told me he didn’t like ANY of them, but he had none of his own. He really wanted us to get married and for me to want to be with only him, and to only want to go out alone, with him, or not at all, so he could feel secure and then go and do all the things HE wanted to do.

    Married People become really upset seeing how happy I am being single. I travel all over the world, going rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and bicycle touring or spending months helping out children orphaned after natural disasters, animals orphaned after their mothers are killed for just one small body part. I couldn’t do all of those things if I were married with kids.
    I make an effort to speak the language of every country I visit, and people take me in, fix food for me, take me sightseeing…it’s SO great!

    People back home who don’t know about all that, will meet and feign sympathy for my “situation”, saying, “awww….you don’t have a man of your own?” as if that person of their own is a pill that cured all their ills. If that were true, the internet dating sites wouldn’t be filled with anonymous married people. Women wouldn’t immerse themselves in shoe purchases and food obsessions, and men wouldn’t be keeping escorts in business.
    In any case, there is a group on Facebook called “marriage sucks”. I joined it, then realized that too many of it’s members are bitter after divorces. I’m not bitter at all, so I started my own group that is intended to be less about hateful profanity and more about intelligent discussion. It’s called “Marriage is a Fairy Tale” (though I may change the name….still thinking on it ) COme join us!!

  26. The life well lived entails daily intentionality. That’s what this says to me. Why do we choose certain lifestyles? What values do we demonstrate in our daily spheres? Thank you for sharing so much of your journey

  27. Maybe being single means not being jerked around so much. You can make plans. You can stop “walking on eggs.” You can go out, stay home, listen to your children, and indulge your own interests instead of tagging along with those of your spouse. When you clean something, it stays clean–at least until the kids or pets get to it.

  28. Linda Waite is part of the pro-marriage movement… If you want to know more about her, check out Bella DePaulo’s book Singled Out. Here’s how Nancy Polikoff summarized Bella’s research: “Social psychologist Bella DePaulo critiqued the assertions in Waite and Gallagher’s The Case for Marriage. Her book, Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored and Still Live Happily Ever After, presents omitted data from studies Waite and Gallagher relied on and data from other research. She calls their claim that getting married and staying married is the means to health, happiness, and long life ‘ethically reckless.’” (75)

  29. Thank you for your clear view of relationships, including the relationship we have with our selves! I’m over 50, but feel young , and unwilling to bury my identity in this 10 year old marriage. I’m in the process of separating, after years of living with an unhappy guy. Until recently, I’ve coped by escaping into reading but have finally managed to disentangle my finances from my husband’s and will soon be separating. Only two friends know about the separation, but I feel considerable subliminal pressure to disinter the marriage and pretend it ‘s worth saving.
    I’m over 50 and this is my second marriage. Today I heard a radio discussiion of September Songs: The Good News About Marriage in the Later Years by Maggie Scarf.. The book cites a study, such as one you described , that claims married people are happier. The study, Does Divorce Make People Happier, by Linda Waite, argues for marriage but was not peer reviewed. It made me uneasy listening to the callers describe how important it was to stick with marriage or how they came to realize how critical it is to find a marriage partner.
    Your comment that happy people make happy marriages allowed me to define the circular logic of Waite’s argument and Scarf’s case studies. As a generally happy person, I expect to be happier when no longer married to an unhappy person despite simplistic psychological studies that warn otherwise.

  30. Very good blog. I have been divorced for 2 years now. I have 4 kids—the youngest is 3 and the oldest is 12. Younger than that when the hubby walked out on me. After 13 years of marriage, I thought I needed to get remarried immediately. Like someone please help me find a replacement hubby right now!! I had my whole life mapped out and I was for sure not going to raise 4 kids by myself. I was the wife from Leave it to Beaver. I cooked, cleaned, baked and even wore aprons according to themes and seasons. Isn’t that weird?? Well, my life took a crazy turn when my husband walked out the door. It was a total blindside for me, or maybe I was just not paying attention. I was too busy baking muffins, and coordinating his favorite foods at every meal. For the first year I was fairly desperate to find someone else. I immediately got into another relationship. I dated a LOT. I joined every single singles site you can imagine. It was my full time job to find a man. However, as time went on I began adjusting and getting used to being without a husband. I guess because I had an especially “strict” husband who really had a long list of expectations, it felt like being released from a prison. Although at first, I thought I would die without my husband in my life, I slowly began to enjoy my freedom and I was not so eager to give it up. I have actually had more than one man in the last 2 years ask me to marry him. I have even experienced love with a man who was more handsome than any man that I ever dated before in my whole life. He was probably the perfect man in every way, and yet for some reason I broke things off with him because I had reached a point where I knew deep down inside, I no longer want a husband. I guess I reached a point where I realized I just don’t need to be married. It doesn’t hold the same allure it once did. I choose to be single now, because, quite frankly I have found it far less stressful than being married.

  31. I want to thank you for creating this website. I can related to so much of what you have written – especially your struggles with what you call “internalized matrimania.”

    I too am a 40 year old single woman – never been married with no children. And while I love being single and have absolutely no interest in ever marrying, it can feel frightening going it alone – particlarly when everyone else is safely coupled-up. The key, I have found, is to surround yourself with enough single friends – your age, so that you don’t feel so abnormal and that you have a reliable source of social support. Don’t get me wrong, however, I love being in love and in relationships, but I determine the level of intimacy I’m comfortable with (no living together and no marriage). I currently am in a relationship but live with (as housemates) an ex who is my best friend. The arrangement is confusing and somewhat suspicous to most people, but I have long ago stopped caring what others think. I am different and will always live differently than others.

    Best of luck to you in your happy singlehood and congrats! on your new website.

    ~Terri

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