Fear Not!


You Will Still Have a Happy Ending!

By Mary R. Dittman, M.B.A.

What if it never works out for me and I end up alone?

This is the question I began struggling with when I was 29.  

“What if I’m 35 and still single?”

Then, “What if I’m 40 and still single?”

Then, “What if I’m 45 and still single?”

Well, in the words of Job, “That which I feared has come upon me.”

I’ve never been married, but many women who are divorced have found themselves in this same situation. 

And, while there are women who do not want marriage - or don’t want to be married again, there are many of us who do want marriage, but have not found it.

I know many women who have never been married, but always wanted to be.

Ideally, we wouldn’t be stuck in this fear from 25 onward. 

We can make the argument that the fear itself repels the love we want, keeping us stuck in our singleness.

But, if you’re like me, and you’re already past 40 and still single, you really do have to consider the possibility that you may remain single. 

Based on demographic information, there may not be a “lid for every pot,” especially if you don’t want to settle for a man who earns less than you do, or who is not where you are in your career. 

Or, increasingly more common: a man who doesn’t work, works part-time, and / or is looking to move from his mother’s house into yours.

Now, if you’re fine with being the primary breadwinner and supporting a man financially, that’s good!  You have many more options and a higher likelihood of finding a mate.

For me, I have tried dating men who don’t work, or who earn a barely livable wage, or are not my equal professionally.  Those experiences left me feeling scared, resentful, and not secure.

The fact is, there are fewer high-value men available than there are high-value women.  That means some of us are going to be left standing when the music stops in the game of musical dating chairs.

So, back to the question: what if I remain single?

This used to fill me with absolute terror.  I don’t like being single.  I prefer relationship, and I have always wanted to be married and have a family.

But I’ve also had to learn to make peace with my singleness, as the choice seems to be “single and happy” or “single and miserable.”  I lived “single and miserable” for a lot of years, and (as the phrase suggests), it’s not a lot of fun.

That’s what I call the One-Derful Life: being happy and peaceful - not necessarily BECAUSE you’re single - WHILE you’re single.

Here’s how to be happy in the face of the possibility that you may remain single.

1. Remember that having a man doesn’t guarantee you won’t end up single again.

For several years, I volunteered at a local assisted living facility - calling Bingo one night a week.  If you’ve ever been in an assisted living facility or nursing home for seniors, you will notice the women outnumber the men by, like, 10 to 1. 

On average, women outlive men by 7 years, and most women marry men who are older than they are, so the data tells us that even if we’re married, we have a high likelihood of ending up outliving him. 

And that doesn’t include being single because of divorce.  In other words, by the time we’re in our 70’s and 80’s, girlfriends, we’re all gonna be hanging out together without the men!

One of my friends has been married for 14 years to the love of her life.  It’s a second marriage for both of them - he is a bit older than she is.  But they are deeply in love.  Right now, he’s battling stage 4 lung cancer, and while he hasn’t received a terminal prognosis, it’s very scary to face the incredibly real possibility that he is not going to be around.  It’s heartbreaking.

2. Your quality of life is your decision - single or coupled.

We’ve all been miserable in relationships.  Or, you’ve been happy and you centered your life around your man, kids, or family. 

Then it ended. 

Or the kids grew up and moved away. 

And you don’t feel like you know yourself anymore.

Amal Clooney was the subject of the May 2018 issue of Vogue.  In it, one of her relatives was quoted as saying Amal, before meeting George, “Had a fully formed adult life.” 

No doubt, that is what George was so deeply attracted to.  Amal was confident, successful, busy, and happy in her life.  While she wanted marriage and family, she had made peace with “the possibility of being a spinster at 35.”

Your best shot at being attractive to a man is to be happy, confident, and fulfilled.  The upside: if he never shows up, you’ll be happy, confident, and fulfilled because you weren’t waiting on a man to give you a life.

Look, I spent years telling myself I just could not be happy alone.  I was right.  Until I decided that I want a life - even if that means one alone.  So I had to actively find ways to create an awesome life that I love that completely fulfills me.

3. You have to define your success by something other than marriage and children.

I’m a personal development junkie.  I love those 360-degree life evaluations where you rank every area of your life: finances, health, relationships, career, etc.  Put everything on a scale of 1 to 10.  One is, “You are unhappy, not making forward progress, and feel like a loser.”  Ten is, “You are a rock star.”  In one program, you are told to focus on the lowest-ranking area and work to improve it.

For me, “love and marriage” was always a one.  (Only because negative numbers are not allowed.)  But, being told to focus on something I have no control over was very frustrating to me. 

Love is the one area where trying to make something happen usually backfires and keeps at bay the very thing you want.  Add to that, I cannot make a great man appear (I’ve tried), nor can I make him want me (tried that, too).

Then I wondered, who makes up these categories, anyway?  I changed mine to EXCLUDE love and marriage. 

Now, I look at my life categories and see a very full picture of a life that is pretty awesome.  Would I prefer that love and marriage were in there?  Absolutely!  But they’re not.  And until they are, I can’t base my happiness and success on something that is nonexistent.

This is VERY DIFFICULT for women because we are hard-wired in our biology to define ourselves by our relationships.  And frankly - friends and biological family CANNOT meet the needs we have for intimate love and relationship.  I love my niece and nephew and my students, but they cannot take the place of having my own children (or stepchildren).

But, ladies, our biology hasn’t caught up to our current cultural condition.  That’s why it feels so wrong for some of us to remain single and why many of us settle for low-value men just to have one.

Ultimately, you have to stop asking “What if I end up alone,” and start asking, “How can I create an awesome life that I love that completely fulfills me?”  That’s the path to the One-Derful Life.

Before I forget - if you need some help getting over a broken heart, check out my ABC's of healing.  You'll be on your way to a One-Derful Life!

Question:  Do you ever fear “ending up alone?”

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