by Zofia S, UK
The prospect of this article’s title, in my early 30’s, filled me, my single friends and probably most family members with dread – destined to have a life of misery and aloneness that was to be avoided!
Over the years, not once did I (nor any of my friends) really embrace ‘single status’, always in the hope of meeting someone at the next party or dinner etc. So why did I (and do so many others) struggle with this issue of being single? Why is it so important to us to have someone to call a boyfriend, partner or husband? What’s wrong with us being a single us? Is the only way to have fun, when one is with another? I asked myself such questions AND MORE – after all, I have good health, looks, own property, have a career, am financially, emotionally and mentally sound, am fun to be with and have no ‘baggage’ (kids or ex-husbands). Yet in spite of all this, I still felt a stigma (and could feel it from others too) of not being in a relationship; that there was something missing or that something was the matter, or wrong with me. “It will happen when you are not looking”, said friends who had successfully found ‘their key’. But I couldn’t help wonder to myself, had they really found the key, or just any key?
Finding the key is aka finding The One – and from my experience the key is so often replaced by a key; one that just happens to turn the lock – of convenience, safety, comfort, arrangement, guilt, circumstance or duty, or for someone else’s benefit, wish or agenda. Redefining or somehow reshaping our partners ‘to make them fit’ (whatever we want from a relationship) has us convinced that the key we have, is the key.
With experience, TIME and increasing AGE, our body clock creates tremendous pressure to make choices – which exacerbates the held perception that being on our own is not good or is a negative thing. So, as a mid-30s woman, taking time to be single (when there is the feeling of having no time, or that time is running out) is not embraced. Many of us anxiously end up compromising ourselves and make do with someone who’s not quite right. We settle. Take second best.
A click-change arose for me from wanting to truly understand my beliefs around what a partner is for. Why was it that I felt that to have fun, laughter, interesting moments, good times or outings etc. in my life, it had to be (or was found) with a partner? Was I saying I was dull and boring otherwise? Certainly not! However, there was the expectation that another had to provide, and in return there would be reciprocation from them – an exchange system of fulfilling each other’s needs.
As young girls, we learn that everything we say, do or wear has the potential to capture a man’s eye or fulfill his interest in us. We live our lives through films, books and advertising that give us hope of finding and ending up with the right mate. Being on our own is rarely cherished, but overrun by the race we have with time – not being the last one on the shelf. So for most women, ‘getting on with life’ means we consciously or otherwise, look for the guy to fulfill our aim in providing us with kids, and if this is not happening, then we must be ‘fishing in the wrong pond’, or gay. In not following the marriage and baby trail, the message is that we are only failing ourselves by neither completing our duty as women to bear the next generation, nor providing our parents with much wanted grandchildren. And we can feel a sense of incompleteness in relation to all this expectation. The need to find a partner is therefore HUGE – to fulfill us, our needs and those of others (or so we think and / or hope).
The usual base-point that establishes desirability and attainability for a partner has an outwards reaching focus (looking as pretty as possible) which relies on there being a return or a recognition coming back. The fear of potentially losing our mate to another woman creates insecurity, jealousy and competition around other (more attractive) women. In addition, with botox, breast implants and nip ‘n’ tuck procedures, our female worth or value (seen as a commodity) has become largely dependent on how (good) we look aesthetically.
As a woman, our lives are hinged on our body clocks, whether that’s freezing or donating our eggs (whilst leveraging our careers), or considering IVF or adoption. We’re made to only feel complete through having a partner who can fulfill our desire of achieving motherhood. If not, then we as women are at fault – we are not trying hard enough. We are doing something wrong. We are (probably) infertile, or shall end up being lonely, unattractive spinsters or aunts.
Only when a friend encouraged me to “start seeing my single years as a blessing” and not, as I had been viewing them, as “a curse”, did the tide begin to change towards freeness. I realised those words were actually asking me to use this time to start a relationship with myself (the key that I was seeking) first and foremost – instead of believing fixedly that ‘relationship’ was only really possible with another.
Note; this is not about remaining single forever! And / or against having a family and / or children (it’s perfectly possible and normal to still love kids without actually wanting to produce or give birth to one). It is about true choice as opposed to it being pre-determined or expected.
Learning to be alone without feeling the loneliness is what I am discovering is the real key that opens the real lock. And perhaps this is the root key to address when it comes to having any relationship – not just with self, but in partnership with another, others, and within a family also.