Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Benefits (are there?) of Being Single

“I never thought I would be single at my age”

Most of us 40 to 50 something singles probably feel this way. If you never married you wonder how time got away. If you are divorced, you really did believe the “until death do us part” line when you said it. And if you are widowed, you didn’t expect death to “part you” this young. No one thinks it will be their family affected by cancer, divorce, loss or single- parenthood and that they would be single or alone at their age. That happens to other people.

As the youngest of 7, I’ve always had people around me. When I left for college I had roommates in a dorm, then roommates in an apartment, and then even though I had a couple years of living in an apartment by myself after starting my career—I always had people around. Mine was the crash place if someone couldn’t drive home or a temporary home for people needing a place to stay. My boyfriend and soon-to- be husband was around quite a bit, too. Then came marriage and kids. Not a lot of alone-time.

But I have it now. And I’m learning to appreciate it. I mean I do get lonely sometimes, but after 8 years being single and now with the kids out of the house I’m doing a lot of eat Pray Love type of contemplation without traveling to 3 countries that begin with "I".

I’ve done a lot of dating over these several years and I’ve found that life and relationships look different now than they did in my 20’s. I know what I want. And most importantly, I know what I don’t. I’m now feeling pretty comfortable in my own skin. I’ve also learned it really takes a long time to feel comfortable in your own skin.

Being single gets a bad rap. I’ve read article after article quoting study after study indicating that married people live longer, and that single people who live alone are prone to depression and other health ailments. But I don’t know if I buy all that. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against marriage. I had a good marriage. And I have people in my life that I look at with admiration and a little bit of envy because they have loving, long-lasting, seemingly happy marriages. On the flip side, however, I watch some of my friends negotiate through some not-so- happy relationships and I relish in the fact that there are some benefits of being alone. Or at least, being alone until you fit the right fit. Right...not perfect.

I don’t believe in the perfect fit.

No one fits like a glove. There will be something about everyone that will drive you crazy. So short of infidelity or abuse…I believe that acceptance of the fact that annoying habits, thoughtless moments, and ill-tempered behavior happens with everyone is crucial in any relationship. We accept it with our kids, and many of our friends, so why not our significant other? To leave someone with the goal of a finding “the perfect match” somewhere else is crazy. They may not do one the thing that your spouse does that you just can't stand, but you can bet they’ll do something else that might drive you just as crazy…or worse. “The beast you know is better than the one you don’t” as my Dad use to always say.

I heard a great song the other day by a country artist Joanna Smith. She is lamenting that all her girlfriends are getting married. She says she doesn’t want to be "nobody's ball and chain", or nobody's "reason for poker game" or nobody's "baby get me a bud light!"

And I don’t either. I'm not going to be that woman whose husband can’t have their own hobbies, nights out, or friends without getting nagged. And I'm not going to be that woman who can't do the same without having it start a fight. I have friends (men and women) who are in relationships where they are always walking on eggshells. They can’t do anything, go anywhere or have a life without fear of starting a fight. Life’s too short for jealously and mistrust, so if I see even an inkling of that or any other controlling behavior in a man—I run.

Right now I like that I make and spend my own money. I can spend it on myself, my daughters, my grandson or my friends and don’t have to ask permission or beg forgiveness. I can go away for a weekend, stay out late or sleep in and not worry that or some other some small thing is going to set off a fight. I can have a beer, a martini, or a cigar...and not have anyone be mad at me. Is there a danger in no accountability? Perhaps. But I do have 2 daughters that regularly remind me of my faults :-).

I am not jaded. Nor an I a pessimist…in fact, I am cautiously optimistic that someday I just might find someone to hang with who has a pretty similar perspective on life and relationships. But in the meantime-I believe the burdens we experience happen so that we can learn life lessons.

I have been blessed with a burden…and I’m learning to accept and do my best to enjoy exactly where I am in life. And acceptance of our current situation is really the only way to feel content.