The dilemma I am a 48 year old single woman with a full and independent life. I am close to my family and I have a 15 year old daughter. I have a good group of friends and various hobbies. I have had mental health issues in the past, but now I am doing better than ever.
I’d love to be in a relationship too, but it’s something I can’t be successful at. I have had relationships, but have spent most of my time single. I have been dating online for many years, but it seems to bring out the worst in men. It’s cliché, but it seems like everyone is married and there are no natural parties or social occasions (even before Covid) that allow you to meet someone naturally.
I’ve reached a point where everything feels hopeless and I want to explore ways to feel happier single, to quell this desire to find a partner. My daughter is the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me, but growing up, it was a relationship that I thought about and wanted more than motherhood. I’d like to want that less, spend less time thinking about it, be happier with my luck, and accept that I can live my days single.
Is it possible to achieve something like this? Reduce my desire to find a partner and, as a result, find a better life?
Mariella responds Definitely. In fact, your letter pushed me into a meander down memory lane. Sometimes I find myself describing my 20s and 30s as my “single” years, and yet there were many romances and even cohabitation throughout those decades of adventures. To say that I was single for years that were filled with relationship opportunities, some short-lived, others elongated far beyond their ability to withstand my expectations, now seems like a programmed response to the myth that they sell us from the birth of stars colliding and violins serenading, followed by a life of perfect partnership. In our unreconstructed romantic narratives, a few false starts in youth can be tolerated, but after that, the thought of a long straight road through long-term commitment, parenting, retirement, and perhaps gardening together until death do us part is the convention that remains. . However, does that really reflect the relationship experience of someone under the age of 60 today?
Many of us may have at least one long-term marriage or cohabitation under our belt, many more will embark on a second “committed future” in midlife, and some will have chosen a path free from the constraints of monogamy. My point is that there is no blueprint and there is certainly nothing normal when it comes to 21st century coupling.
I started to think differently about my “lost decades.” Far from being a period of failed relationships, those years were filled with romantic richness, when I dated people who had become part of my extended family. Rather than being unfortunate, those years were a period of experimentation and learning. I’m telling you this because I see you doing the same thing, in a different stage of life, treating this period of self-sufficiency as if you were in a waiting pattern where “escaping” means finding a mate. Yet look at the life you have. Yours is a rich existence: good friends, close family, hobbies, a career, and a teenage daughter. So how about you delete the dating apps, stop considering a new partner as a rare wish-list ambition, and revel in the life you have now?
There is no doubt that you will meet your next partner at a bus stop, in a bar, at a dinner or on a weekend of hiking. That another partner will come is a fact, but how you spend the time in between, be it weeks, months or even years, is much more important. Finding satisfaction in our own company and satisfaction in our own lives is the biggest investment we can make in our romantic relationships. Lowering expectations for any union makes it easier to forge something worthwhile and enriching when the time comes.
We were raised as would-be monogamists; mating is what our species is programmed to do. That doesn’t mean we have to live like swans, mating for life. It can be difficult to step back from harsh judgment and look at our lives with some degree of perspective. You are in that place now, buried under the burden of your expectations.
At 39, having not been able to find a father for my expected children, I decided to take advantage of what I did have, which was independence and solvency. For 12 months I completely forgot about dating and instead sought stimulation elsewhere, a sabbatical in Brazil, a season of acting in The Vagina monologues and a hike in Nepal. It was in those hills that I met the man with whom I now have two children. I am grateful to this day for my decision to stop looking for more and enjoy what I had. By default, it brought me everything I had secretly expected. Thanks for reminding me! And I hope you find similar satisfaction.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism