By Mary R. Dittman, M.B.A.
I am in several Facebook groups for single women. This morning, I read a post from a young woman who is struggling with singleness. She’s tired of going everywhere alone. It seems like all of her friends and family members are coupled. She dreads the questions from her mother about when she’s going to find someone and settle down.
I think most of us can relate to how she’s feeling.
Even those of us who have been single for a long time and who have made peace with it still struggle with feelings of sadness.
I spent a lot of years feeling sad, left out, and left behind. Even though 95% of the time NOW I am at peace with singleness, I still have hours (and days) where I feel sad because I would prefer to be married and have a family. I feel lonely, and I grow weary of so much time by myself.
People who don’t know me sometimes have the impression that I prefer singleness. And, in fairness - I had to get to a place of peace before I could help others. But, I would prefer to be in a relationship and to have a family of my own. Speaking of family, I live on the opposite coast from my family, and that compounds my feelings of loneliness. Also, I live in a very small, Southern town, where marriage and family are the cornerstones of daily life. If you are single and don’t have children, you are legit left out of things. (And, if you are married and don’t have children, you are made to feel like you have some explaining to do.)
I recently had a day where I spent several hours feeling sad and lonely. I’d like to share the things I’ve learned to think and do that help me to NOT linger there. I’m a believer in feeling what you feel, being honest about it, and naming the feelings. But, I prefer feeling peaceful and happy, so I don’t like to allow myself to get stuck in those sad feelings.
The struggle is real. in 2015, Jon Birger wrote in The Washington Post (“Hookup Culture Isn’t the Real Problem Facing Singles Today. It’s Math.” August 26, 2015. washingtonpost.com) that women aren’t just imagining that it’s tough to find a quality man: the demographics bear that out.
If you poke around Census data (like I do, because I’m a nerd), you see that there are millions of singles in the United States, and that the older you get, the harder it is to find a professional, high-quality man.
If you are over 40 and want a white-collar, commitment-oriented man, you need to know you are in a time where those men number significantly fewer than white-collar, commitment-oriented women, and when there are more women than men, men have less incentive to commit. Period.
This is why I caution women about believing “there’s a lid for every pot,” or “There’s someone for everyone.” The numbers do not bear that out anymore.
At some point, you have to start wrapping your mind around the possibility that you may not find the relationship you want.
Now, if you’re willing to be in a “mixed-collar” relationship (as Birger terms it), you have more options. So, if you’re okay with a man who has less education than you do or who makes less money, you will have more men to choose from.
The reason I start with this less-than-encouraging news is that you need to see that your singleness isn’t necessarily because there’s something wrong with you. It’s not bad luck or a cosmic curse. But there is a demographic trend that is working against you (again, depending on what you want).
If marriage is the key to happiness, why is the divorce rate (even though it has declined in the past 10 years) still 40-50% (and higher for those who remarry)? Even the best marriages are tough and take a lot of work. And there are no guarantees: your spouse could die, leave you, cheat on you, or you could grow apart during the course of the relationship.
One friend of mine posted pics of her smiling, happy family on social media, but told me how literally 5 minutes before the pictures were snapped, she and her hubby were in a huge fight. Those big smiles? Put on for the camera.
You must focus on what you have, not what you lack. If you want to be healthy, you have to choose to exercise instead of sit on the couch. You have to choose to eat vegetables instead of cheesecake. You have to intentionally save money if you want financial freedom.
In the same way, you have to discipline your mind to get you out of that sad space. You have to be able to remind yourself about what is going right in your life. You have a job. You have a place to live. You have friends. You have your health.
If you don’t have those things to be grateful for, then focus on those parts of your life. Why? First, men usually don’t want women who are a wreck - they don’t want to come in and rescue you from your mom’s couch or your bills. You must get your life together in order to be an attractive partner. Second, you can’t control whether you will meet a man, and you absolutely cannot control if that man will want to be with you. But you can control your work life, your living situation, your health.
If you hate your job, focus on finding one you will enjoy. No man is going to want to listen to you complain about your work day in and day out. Besides, you spend more time at work than you do anywhere else, so being miserable at work is NOT offset by being in a happy relationship. And how will you have a happy relationship when you’re unhappy?
Listen, I get it. It’s good and normal and natural to want marriage and family. We’re in a culture that tells us we “don’t need a man,” and that we shouldn’t even want one. That’s not how I feel! I want a man in my life, and I do need one. But I don’t have one, and I’m unwilling to settle for a man I don’t want just to have a Y chromosome in my life. Realizing this helps me feel like I’m not a victim of my singleness.
I’ve never been one to rejoice in my singleness. But today I can say I have a One-Derful Life: I feel peaceful and happy - not BECAUSE I’m single, but WHILE I’m single. I’ve made peace with the possibility that my singleness may not change; and, while I don’t prefer that, I’ve decided that I am going to be happy and enjoy my life, even if I never have the relationship I desire.
If you're struggling with a broken heart, it can be tough to be at peace. Check out the ABC's of Healing - it will help you move past your heartache so you can build your own One-Derful Life!
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