Single Women – Know Yourself and Use a Crystal Ball
“I love being single.”
“I hate being single.”
We talk about being single as if it were black and white; you either love it or hate it. There are many great things about being single; you can do what you want when you want; you don’t have to worry about taking the other person’s feelings, opinions, tastes into consideration; you can buy the sofa or car you want without compromising on color or style.
On the other hand, there are many not so great things about being single. You long to be loved and to love; you miss the closeness that comes from cuddling and making love; you don’t have ready companionship.
Feelings about being single are far more complex than just loving or hating it. For instance, you love not having to take someone’s taste into consideration when buying that car, yet you hate having the full responsibility of making such a major decision by yourself, or of paying for it all by yourself.
Wouldn’t it be a relief if rather than focus on whether you love or hate being single, you just focused on making your life as enjoyable as possible – given what you have at the moment? As a single woman or man, that’s difficult, though, because we live in a society that values marriage and subtly emanates a bias against being single (especially after the age of 30).
So if you aren’t married or partnered, you may feel that you have failed or done something wrong, or that your life is not complete.
That’s what makes it difficult to be single. Women and men, though, experience this differently. Joyce, 35 years old, is typical of many women.
She has had some important relationships but she has never been married.
She is an accomplished graphic designer, running her own business. She has seen it grow from a one-room operation out of her basement to a large office downtown. She has her own home, good friends, and by her own admission, a good life.
“Yet, I feel something is missing. I know I should be saying I love being single, but I don’t. I want to be married; I want a child, and I know I would never have one on my own. What’s wrong with me that I’m not married? I’ve gone to therapy; I’ve read every self-help book published, well not quite, but I’ve read a lot of them. Am I too intimidating to men? Should I try to hold myself back with men? No, I won’t do that.”
Tony is typical of many men. He also is 35 years old; he has longevity with a large corporation and has worked his way up to a middle management position. He was married young but divorced after two years.
“I’ve been single for a long time. You’d think I could find a woman. It’s not like I’m shy or anything. I meet a lot of women; I date a lot, but I’ve never met one I want to stay with. What’s wrong with women? My life feels so boring. Why can’t find the right woman?”
Men and women often have different questions about why they are single. Women, like Joyce, tend to look inward, to personalize, “What’s wrong with me,” or “What am I doing wrong.” Men, like Tony, tend to externalize, “What’s wrong with women.” This is consistent with findings from gender research: in personal situations, women blame themselves while men look outside themselves for explanations.
It’s important, however, to look within yourself to make sure you understand your part in relationship problems as well as looking outside yourself to see what may not be your responsibility. Women, only after you stop blaming yourself can you consider the problem may lie with the men.
Men, only when you start looking within, considering your part in why a relationship isn’t working, can you question if the problem lies with the women. Women need to do more externalizing; men need to do more self-reflection (in order to see what they should blame themselves for). Men and women need to consider both the inner and outer factors – their responsibility and the other’s as to why they may not be meeting someone for a good relationship.
Even when you do that, you still may not meet an appropriate partner.
The issue isn’t whether to keep looking or stop, though. The issue is you don’t need to make looking for a partner your whole life. Too many people put so much emphasis on finding a partner they neglect other important aspects of their lives. If they don’t meet someone, they feel life has lost its meaning. They feel depressed. But, in reality, instead of being depressed, they may just be bored with their life.
Your life needs to be meaningful, whether or not you ever have a partner. Here’s an exercise that might help you explore what is missing in your life, while you are waiting to find a partner.
Imagine looking into a crystal ball that shows your future. The ball indicates you will meet the right person, but not for eight years. You can now rest because you know there’s no point in spending time looking for someone.
Make a list of things you want to do with your time and energy during
these next eight years. Since you know your partner will be coming, you can focus on other aspects of your life. What would give you satisfaction and pleasure? Going back to college to change careers? Studying a foreign language or another culture? Getting active in your church or synagogue?
Maybe you’d devote your energy to adopting a child?
Whatever you come up with, make sure it will enrich your life, feel satisfying, be meaningful. Then, whether you meet your partner in eight years, eight weeks, or never, you will enjoy your life. Sure you may be sad if you don’t meet someone; everyone feels sadness over things they wanted in life and can’t have. But, if you remain single, at least you won’t blame yourself; you will know yourself better, and you won’t be bored.
If you have questions or comments or want more information, contact me at:
Dr. Karen Gail Lewis
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