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Interesting story and insights! My trajectory was perhaps similar, though the men I dated weren't necessarily not right for me. I just wasn't ready to commit to them, having watched my parent's train wreck of a marriage for so many years. I always expected to get married and have babies, but didn't let go of a "nice guy, easy to be with" relationship to find Mr Right until I was nearly 40. I loved being married, though it wasn't easy. And I sometimes wonder if we were headed for divorce; often enough I felt invalidated and unsupported. But after 5 1/2 years of marriage, my husband died. Being thrust back in the single world unexpectedly and unwillingly was HORRIBLE, no matter how challenging the marriage was. I want to be married again. I crave the closeness, the partnership, the belonging. I just vow to do it better the next time. At any age, in any situation, if you want it, there is a Mr Right out there, I firmly believe. The timing may just not be to our liking!

Thank you. It's hard to be happily single in a world that tells you that you are defective. Or maybe I am telling myself that I am defective, but I continue to hold my head up and remember that all my married friends are terribly jealous of my autonomy.

I guess I still believe Mr. I Just Might Settle For is still out there, but I'm no longer in a hurry to find him.

I'm a bit jealous of you and your bravery in having a child. I know I don't have the resources to do that so I don't really contemplate it. I'll live vicariously through you and root for your success.

I think you're right. We married people are definitely defective and crazy ourselves. Different pros and cons and sets of problems/issues after marriage, but getting married doesn't fix anything that was off to begin with...

The most difficult thing for me is knowing if my desire, to find that right person to be in a relationship with, is really what I want or what I THINK I should want.
Marriage at this point is not that important to me. Many of my friends have been with the same person for years, that one extra piece of paper doesn’t make a difference.
As a young girl I never fantasized much about the whole wedding thing.

At this point I’m not ready to face the fact that maybe I don’t want to be in a relationship and thus have, unconsciously, sabotaged every possibility that came along.

You have absolutely NOT said more than you should.

Like I said, I’m thinking about this a lot, and part of what I’ve figured out is that there are many aspects to our thoughts on love, partnership, etc. and that these, “many aspects,” are constantly evolving; for different reasons, I’ve had different takes on marriage (among other things) as a teenager, at multiple points in my twenties, and now, at multiple points in my thirties. I think it’s significant first, to realize this, and then, to explore it all from many angles. Here are some of mine:

I’m an introverted, solitary person who has easily felt crowded by the men I’ve dated. I think understanding this is one of the things that has made me unwilling to settle and happy to be alone.

I have no problem being alone, but one of the reasons I hope to end up with someone is that that kind of intimate relationship, I’m convinced, will challenge me and allow me to grow in ways that I otherwise could not. I want that.

I am difficult to get to know and I prefer to get to know people very slowly, over time. Dating is not for me. I’ve had to learn this and also, to find ways to explain it to the people in my life who don’t get it.

For the record, I’m 34, never married, no kids, last relationship was six years ago.

Thanks for the post, Sarah. I hope it’s one of many.

Stephanie, I could be you! I'm also 34, never married, no kids and last serious relationship was six years ago. I've found dating in NYC to be challenging (to say tge least). I'm independent and frightened of failure. I always thought Id marry though and it's been hard for me to relinquish control and recognize that I can't plan when my partner will arrive. And if he doesn't arrive I will still be ok. Better than ok. Happy. Happier because I stumbled across this blog which I look forward to reading every morning. Knowing there are others who can relate makes tge journey of life much more fun.

Wow, this made me think about so much. I hate that society tells us we have to do certain things -- marriage being only one of them -- and that we all believe it! Well, not all of us obviously. But just because everyone else does something does not mean it's the right thing to do.

Traveling alone, for example, does not mean you're a loser. I *prefer* to travel alone, but it's so hard to explain to people; they just don't get it.

It's so great that you came to terms with how your life is unique and that that's okay. Because you don't have to have a big fancy wedding to become a woman. You don't have to compromise with someone else to make traveling awesome. And you can have a baby on your own! Yay! When we realize we don't have to do things the way everyone else does, so many life doors open.

Thanks so much for this post.

It's definitely a challenge being single in a married world (and the older you get, the more married the world seems to become...). Through my late 20's and 30's, I almost reveled in my aloneness -- I wasn't settling and I wasn't going to be with someone that didn't make me 100% happy.

Now I'm finding that compromise is at the heart of all relationships, and there's a part of me that really longs for that special someone, someone to share life with. Of course, at this stage of the game, it's now that much harder to meet that someone. Being 40, almost all of my friends are married with kids. I while love my friends to death, I realize it's probably time to expand my circle to include people who are in the same place I am. If for no other reason than to give myself someone to complain to about all of my married friends. :)

It's been difficult, but I'm finding my trajectory parallels yours a bit: while I'm still half-hoping to find a partner, I'm trying to not let that stop me from doing the things I want to do. I can't wait for someone to help me chase my dreams - I need to do that on my own. As much as I will try to plan for the future, I will not allow it to hold the present-day hostage while I wait for it to happen.

Thanks for the post - and thanks to the comment that sparked the post!

You are absolutely right in your realization that everybody is screwed up in 50 ways. The fairy tale we were sold and bought whole heartedly as children is a hard one to give up. Married people are just one screwed up person married to another screwed up person battling it out through life to try and make it. Some of us long term marrieds can be jealous of you independent singles. What we need to realize is we are not defective or broken, married or single. It is what it is, we are what we are - there isn't a perfect person, place or relationship. To realize this is the key to the freedom to become whole and happy

I couldn't agree more with your dismissal of the notion that married = sane, whole, happy. We're just so pounded with this idea that getting married is the "right" thing to do that we assume that we're wrong if we haven't. But being married hasn't made me more sane or more whole, and if it has made me happier, it has also involved a ton of tradeoffs that I have trouble not resenting.

One of my favorite books is called _The Missing Piece Meets the Big O_ by Shel Silverstein. It seems like a children's book, but the symbolism is more easily appreciated by adults. The missing piece is trying to figure out who its match is so that it can be part of a whole. It keeps meeting almost-circles who are missing pieces, but each of them has a problem. Then it meets the Big O, who is complete all by itself. It teaches the missing piece that if it just rolls by itself, it will wear away its sharp edges and become an o as well, and then they can roll together, but be whole in and of themselves.

This taught me early on that being whole within myself was the answer to my own happiness, and finding someone else with whom to roll doesn't have to mean a married partner, nor does it have to mean someone you roll with forever.

You should check out that book. The images of the potential matches the missing piece encounters and why it doesn't work are absolutely hilarious.

What a great post. Thanks for opening up to us.

I noticed a pattern in my 20s of dating wildly inappropriate men (much older guys who saw me as a "plaything", or guys my age who had absolutely no desire to commit to me.) During these relationships I became clingy, tearful, and desperate to convince them that I was "The One". It hasn't been until very recently that a part of me woke up and realized that I may not have been interested in, or ready for marriage either. Dating unavailable men was a safe way for me to have "relationships" without worrying about truly merging my life with someone else's, and losing my ability to be alone (there are days when I revel in being alone, able to just shut the door to my place and let my hair down.)

Seven years ago I met a guy who I became very close friends with, but completely rejected as husband material (not stylish enough, flashy enough, edgy enough). He eventually gave up trying to convince me we should date, and disappeared from my life up until about 8 months ago, when he randomly got back in touch for one last ditch attempt to ask me on a date. Something inside of me said, "Gee. Maybe you should give him a shot." We're in love, and getting married now. Funny how life works, huh? It was a combination of me being truly ready to find a partner, and also took a huge amount of effort in the beginning to date against my perceived type. I still have moments of intense worry that I'm never going to get to shut the door to my own place and get to be alone again. I wonder if other married people feel the same way.

I couldn't have said it better myself! In fact, you articulated all I have felt and all I have recently realized about being single. Several years ago I realized I was happy with my life, I was fulfilled, I was in a job I liked (although not paying me much) and I had wonderful friends, amazing family and a great life in the community. Last year I realized there was no reason why I couldn't have a baby if I wanted to take that leap alone. So I'm about to start the adventure of trying. I feel happy and lucky in all have in my life and all my crazy ways, so I'm creating the life I want. This is my life. Even if I thought it would be different, this is it--no second act, no second chances, no "next time" it will be different. I'm going to live it my way--no regrets

Amen, sister! On all of it, but especially this: "In other words, I stopped idealizing marriage and idealizing married people. (Now if only they would do the same.)" Thanks for writing/sharing.

As someone who is now coming out of what was a truly messed up marriage, I can honestly say that the feeling of being "with" someone, when that match is not a good one, is *far* outweighed by the damage it can do to your sense of self and personal autonomy.

I--like many of us--wanted so desperately to be married, have a family, live the dream--that I ignored the warning signs from the very beginning, convincing myself that the ring on my finger somehow validated my femininity, my intrinsic worth, my societal value...Even when the worthless loser finally walked out, I balked at removing that ring, worried that people would look at me differently, think "oh, she's too old to be single," or worse: pity me.

I now look back on those 9 years with a sense of disbelief and (almost) shame for allowing myself to be so blinded by my own insecurities. NO ONE has blamed me, doubted me, pitied me, or otherwise made me feel like I'm a lesser being, now that I'm alone again. Quite the opposite.

It turns out, I'm *so* not defined by a man (or the lack of one)--not now, and never again. In fact, I'm stronger and better and "me-er" without him. If another one happens to wander into my life, fine. If not, I can handle that, too.

And the ring? Totally gone.

Thanks so much for the post--I have been thinking about it all morning. I followed a similar path spent way to many years beating myself up for being single and therefore a loser. Only in the past 5 years have I learned that marriage is just a different form of existing in the world not the be all end all. I agree with Terry that we are all screwed up people trying to do our best. Most of my adult life I thought once I found someone life would be so much better. But now that I have a partner life is just different---I am still me, I am still trying to figure it out and nothing has magically shifted since being in a relationship (bummer-ha!). The gift, I have found comes when we finally learn how to shut out the outside voices and where or what we 'should' be doing and just follow our own path.

Thanks for sharing Sarah and thanks for asking Stephanie!

Wow! This is incredibly well put-thank you for taking the time to write it down. I sincerely appreciate it - as it captures my own sentiments exactly.

Thank you.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Sarah, what you wrote resonates with me. although we have different stories of course.

I started writing out a bunch of stuff but it just made me cry.

okay, attempt number 2:

I'm 32, divorced, single, childless, independent, and mostly happy except when I get lonely. I do really well for myself, but I just haven't figured out how to just be okay with being single. also, I hate travelling alone.

I used to think that I didn't buy into that whole marriage crap. I never fantasized about white dresses, and when I got married it was at the registrar's office at 9am on a Monday morning. but, I changed my name. I never admitted it to anyone until now, but I really wanted people to know I'd now found a partner. because you see, I didn't date in high school. or university. nobody was ever interested, not that I knew of at any rate. oh well except super extreme nerdy boys and super extreme butch lesbians. even then, not very many of them liked me either :)

I used to tell people that if I can find love and get married, anyone can. I didn't realize at the time how much saying that discredited myself.

I see that now.

I've been pretty much single since the breakup. almost 4 years of singlehood, except for a 4 month complicated disaster, and several 3 to 5 week "relationships". I'm more confident and way cuter than I was pre-marriage, yet the dating results aren't really all that much different. it's kind of wearing me down.

these days I'm trying to dig really deep to figure it all out. I either need to be okay with being single, or figure out how to be open enough to let someone in. I feel like I'm a pretty fricking open person, but when I suspect someone likes me I tend to get so nervous and run away. I am so scared of failure that I can't bring myself to face it. I also tend to not realize that someone might be interested in me until the moment passes.

I feel like I have figured out what I did wrong in my relationship. the guy was clearly a crazy jerkface (oh I could tell you stories!) but I also was so blind. I just wanted what I wanted, and didn't really stop until I got what I wanted, and then he dumped me because I'd pushed him too far. same goes for the 4 month complicated relationship; I pushed and pushed to make things official even though he said he didn't want a relationship, so he went off and got with some other girl. and they were in a relationship for a year and a half.... ouch.

so, I feel like wearing a tshirt that says "I was a shitty wife and I sucked at dating before, but I've learned my lesson. I swear!" I'm not sure that will help much though.

I'm trying to now not blindly pursue what I think I want. I meditate regularly. I am mindful. I'm less blind, but instead of being confident and pursuing what I want, I'm now terrified of being too pushy. of becoming blind again.

I think I am broken. your post says we all are. I agree! I wish I could just be okay with it. like, really deep down. intellectually I get it, but deep down I feel really broken and unwanted and unloved. and the more that I tell people to love me, the less they do. I get it, I just don't know how to stop it.

I just might have gotten really off topic. but, thanks for making me think about all of this.

Hi Sarah. This is a terrific post. I'm so glad that you have come to the realization that marriage is not the "final frontier." That is sort of what I was aiming at with my recent post on marriage/affairs/divorce. If you think it's everything, you're bound to be disappointed.

thanks for this

delia lloyd

A day late, but I'll give my 2 cents:

"Being married just means that, screwed up as you are, you were still lucky enough to find some other screwed up person to be married to. Somehow those ways of being screwed up work together." Yep. That about sums it up. That's why you have to have at least two bedrooms, so if said joint screwed-upedness doesn't work together, you're not stuck in the same room.

I love being married, and I loved being single. (Between you and me, I think some of the vacations that I took when I was single were WAY more fun than the married ones...)

Your life is yours. How you live it, and more so with WHOM you live it is your decision only. As long as you're content and happy with it, who the f*** cares what you're "supposed" to do!? You're only allowed one ride in this lifetime, so make it the best ride ever. Whether it's with a partner, or just you and your ankle-biter!


I think marriage brought with it a sense of security, and also external validation: "See? Someone thinks I'm not too crazy to live with!" I realize that with my crazy married name that's way longer than my single name. I was so eager to add his on to show the world that I Am Desirable, and now it's a pain in the ass to always spell it. Only reason I keep it is for the kids.

We've had our rough spots, and while things are good now, that's no guarantee that they always will be. I see all the people around me in their 40s and 50s getting divorced (if they go that long), and I think, "None of these people set out for a twenty-year relationship." Think of all those friendships we had in our 20s that we grew out of, and how challenging it is to continue to "fit" with the friends we've kept.

I never appreciated how much continual work marriage would be, even when it's good. You can "be yourself" but you still have to be on good behavior with another human most of the time. I do like the security it provides... merging bank accounts means we can afford more, someone else can help parent, someone else is go-between during family holidays, someone else will listen to my stories and get me drugs when I'm sick. I tend to take it for granted until I think (practically, not fantastically) about losing my husband. Strictly on a practical, financial level, life would turn on a dime... and still could. We can't count on "Happily Ever..." until the very end.

Alone does not equal Lonely.
The greatest lesson in love & partnership I've learned:
I'd rather be alone than be lonely with someone.

So much of what you all have shared resonates with me, and I am grateful to have found others who are figuring out what being "single" means. I thought of this song from Leonard Cohen as I was reading....

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

My Husband of 30 years just packed up and left for another woman. It was incredibly painful as I had loved him for 45 years. But I deserved more than his neglect and excuses. It will still be painful for awhile, or forever, but I can be single and still make a life for myself. I believe most women are much stronger than people want to believe. Dig deep, grit your teeth, and when you get to the end of your rope-tie a knot in it and hold on! Good luck to all of you, whether you are single or married. Life is way too short to give it away just because it's easier to stay in your rut.

My feelings on relationships are somewhat different than most. I never imagined I'd get married, never really imagined *anything* related to a romantic relationship until I hit my 20's. It would take a whole lot of explanation about growing up disabled, but it's too much to explain in a comment. But even in my 20's, I knew I needed to be happy with myself and, in many ways, self-sufficient before having a relationship.

I still have no desire to be married. That doesn't diminish my desire to be with someone I love, I'm just not big on marriage. That may change and I could end up married one day, it's just not a goal I've ever had.

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    What is Starfish Envy??

    • L.A. 2009. I’m stuck in traffic on the 101 freeway, listening to Isabella Rosselini on NPR. Isabella, for some reason, mentions that starfish are one of those rare species that can reproduce asexually, and I realize that if I could do that, I wouldn't have to worry about finding a boyfriend/husband. I wouldn’t have to internet date! I wouldn't have to figure out if I want to/can/should have a baby/adopt a baby/child on my own. I wouldn't have to stress about things like FSH levels, or weigh my feelings on in vitro versus adoption. I would just have a baby. Thus began my starfish envy.
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