How to Get Through The Wedding Season Without Blaming Yourself For Being Unmarried
“Another June. Another season of weddings,” says Pauline.
“Actually, I suffered the most when I was in my 30’s while my girlfriends were all getting married. During my 40’s, it wasn’t so hard because I wasn’t having my nose rubbed into my being single since I was rarely invited to weddings. Maybe because my friends had all done it and remain married or done it and divorced.
“Anyway, that allowed me, during my 40’s, to have June back as just a lovely summer month.
“But, now I’m in my early 50’s and – believe it or not – I’m being beset with more June wedding invitations. Now, they are mostly second marriages. And, that makes me feel even sadder. Glenda is on her second and I’m still waiting for my first. The world’s just not fair.”
The above is a comment from a woman who attended a weekend retreat I run for single women. She was trying to find a way to be comfortable in the world as a woman who was not married. She went on to say what so many of the other women in the group said, “With the exception of this issue about men, I really am fine. I have a good life. I just hate feeling bad about not having a man.”
It isn’t fair that women have to feel bad about something they have no control over. The bad feelings are not just about the absence of partner. If that were all, women would feel sad, but they wouldn’t feel as if they have done something wrong.
If a woman doesn’t get into the college of her choice, or doesn’t get the promotion she has been working hard for, or loses a business contract – she feels sad or angry, but she doesn’t beat up on herself. She doesn’t bemoan, “What’s wrong with me?”
The self-blame women feel about being single is not just about the absence of a man. It’s about how society – often very subtly – makes you feel badly about yourself. Society, your mother, your friends – all contribute to your blaming yourself – as if you had some control over whether you would meet an appropriate man.
Think about it this way: If being single were your fault, why are there so many web sites for singles? Are there that many screwed up women? No, there is a societal shift happening, and you just happen to be living in it now. More women are single now, not because there are more emotionally unhealthy women, but because there are not more emotionally healthy men. As women make themselves healthier, they are looking for men who know they need to contribute to making a relationship go well. So, more men get ruled out.
Yes, I know that is not socially correct to say that. That sounds like blaming men. Well, does that mean you can’t blame men, but it’s OK to blame yourself?
This June, like every month of the year, it’s important to remember the difference between feeling sad and blaming yourself. One you have control over, the other you don’t.
By the end of the weekend retreat, 45 year old Annette, widowed for more than a decade, described her shifted thinking.
“I am leaving here feeling better about being me, not necessarily better about being single. I have learned how to deal with unintentionally rude people asking why I’m haven’t remarried. I have learned how I feed into the myth that I must have a man. I no longer feel responsible for my being single.
“I am sad, in the same way I’m sad my husband died. I couldn’t remove his cancer, and I can’t make the men I’ve been dating become more sensitive, caring, or insightful. I have learned what I can do, and how I can more quickly weed out guys that are not good for me. Perhaps the most important thing is I have learned how to protect myself from bad or dead-end relationships.
“I wish I could say I’m leaving here loving being single. But that’d be a lie. I do want to find a man. But, it does feel entirely different now. I’m feeling a little taller. Odd, isn’t it?”
No, actually, it isn’t odd. The sense of responsibility for failing to meet society’s expectations does lay heavy on women’s shoulders, weighing you down.
This wedding season, instead of berating yourself — or going numb — give yourself permission to be sad. It is sad and it is unfair. You should be with a loving man. Say it, then stop. Sadness carries no blame, just a statement of what you wish you had.
And, if you want more support, enjoy the 15 Golden Rules for Being An Emotionally Healthy Single Woman.
If you have questions or comments or want more information, contact me at:
Dr. Karen Gail Lewis
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