Being Single: A Blessing In Disguise?

In my teens I dated sporadically. In my early twenties I dated aggressively. In my mid- to late-twenties, things started to, uhhh… change. I found myself wanting to date like I did in my early twenties, but it became sporadic at best. I was so used to being with a guy, especially after leaving a four-year relationship, that I found myself becoming a bit desperate for male attention. Needy even.

Fast forward to the present. I'm single, but I actually enjoy it now. I look back on the choices I could have made, such as getting married (I was engaged at one point) and having kids, then I look at the freedom I now have.

I can choose to be with someone… or not. I can travel when I want. I can write for a 24-hour day and the only potential disruption I’ll have is being lured to read the words flashing across the bottom of a French Netflix movie. And I’m finally content with my life decisions.

Which begs the obvious question: How did this happen? I wasn't so sure myself at first. I thought long and hard about what makes today different from a while back, when I felt like a failure if I didn't have a man in my life. I’ve narrowed the formula I used to finally get to this place down to seven simple steps:

1. I accepted that the childhood fantasy of getting married and living happily ever after was just that -- a fantasy.

I think that most of my peers and I were taught as little girls to dream of our wedding days. Of course we were also encouraged to seek personal success, such as going to college, but that one day in particular marks an achievement above all others. If we admit this truism, it's much easier to understand why Brittany Murphy suddenly started crying hysterically on her wedding night in the movie Just Married. So after that day is over, what do you look forward to?

I have friends who are single, those who have boyfriends and those who are married. Nobody is living the life they dreamed of as a little girl -- and that might actually be a good thing.

2. I no longer consume negative articles, music and television shows that reinforce the idea that single women are hopeless and desperate.

Many of the songs played on the radio these days try to make women feel unworthy. They mess with a woman’s self-esteem. I once sat shocked, in my car, as a slow song came on that said something to the tune of “you’re beautiful girl… but only when the lights are out.” Not to mention, articles and television shows, like VHI’s Tough Love, seem obsessed with dissecting the single girl as if she is some type of deformed science experiment. This type of stuff gets into your brain, and soon you find yourself believing it -- or I can at least admit that to some extent I did. So I tune it out.

3. I enjoy my female (and male) friends.

Who said you always have to be partnered up romantically to be satisfied? I’ve spent some of my most contented moments just hanging out at a girlfriend’s house, exploring the streets of New York with her and having a drink at the nearby dive bar. We’ve chatted with friendly construction workers, fallen down in the middle of the street together and enjoyed every moment of it. The same is true of my platonic guy friends -- we just enjoy each other’s company.

4. I’ve learned to be careful what you ask for and be thankful for what you’ve got.

If you check out the statistics, a lot of women are in emotionally or physically abusive relationships that they desperately want to escape. And those extreme situations aside, many women are simply unhappy in their relationships. A study by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers entitled “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness” found that over the past 35 years women have become less happy both relative to men and overall. And according to the American Psychological Association married women are more stressed than single women. (http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/national-report.pdf see page 19)

Who wants to deal with ongoing stress just for the sake of having a warm body in bed? As a single woman I can come home after a long stressful day and have peace and quiet. I can do whatever I want to do. I’m free. Count your blessings.

5. I took the batteries out of my biological clock and asked myself, what was it ticking for anyway?

I’m not obsessed with having children. I thought deeply about why I would want to get pregnant. Is it because the people around me are pressuring me to have kids? Because I want to bring someone into this world with my DNA? Or is it because I’m looking for someone to love me unconditionally? I didn't want to have a child for any of those reasons. If I decide to have kids, I want it to be for the child, and if I'm single when I make that decision, I'd rather  adopt and give an existing child out there the support system she needs.

6. I found a distraction that became a passion.

For someone else it might be painting. Or starting a new business. Or running on a track. Or learning Kung Fu. For me, the distraction was writing. It took my mind off of how I felt about not being in a relationship. And then, somehow, it became a calling, something I pursue because it brings me joy -- not because it helps me forget what's not present in my life.

7. I learned more about myself and learned to love that person.

Yes this might seem a bit trite, but it’s important: I finally started looking for the real me. I don't mean the me that I present to the world to gain acceptance, attention or love; that was the me of my dating life, the person always turned outward, who never bothered -- or wanted -- to look within.

Finally I started actively searching for the person I am in my quiet moments alone or with close family and friends. And instead of focusing on what others might like about me I started focusing on what I liked about me.

And you know what? There's some really good stuff there. 

 

Jayelle Hughes is the author of Men Don't Matter, a novel that presents a hypothetical world where the roles are reversed between men and women.

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