Wait, Am I ‘Single’ ?
Recently I was invited to join a panel of women at an event entitled, “How to be a Successful Single Woman in 2020”. Since getting out and speaking more is something I have been setting my intentions on in the past few months I was excited to have my name thrown into the ring for consideration, especially an event with such a powerful title.
I spoke with the woman organizing the event, Sophie, while sitting in traffic on I-95 on the way home from a novel-writing class I am taking. She and I clicked and I could feel both her enthusiasm for the event and her intelligence for business so I was very excited to have made the cut and be asked to participate.
Once I was off the phone and toggling between break and gas peddle while making my way past the congested exits of Fairfield, CT I began to feel that familiar creep of fraud come over me.
Forget about dealing with whether or not I am really successful (I’ll write about that mind fuck on a later date) but I began to wonder if I was really single. What did being single mean to me? What did it mean to other people? Was I going to get booed off stage if people knew I had a boyfriend? My stream of consciousness ran the gambit of the stereotypical single mom with kids (You know, sort of like the old woman who lived in a shoe, tired, broke, kids yelling and screaming all over the place) all the way to Oprah, who may actually be the least single single woman in history and for that I have a new found respect for her.
Only just a few years ago single women were still portrayed in the media as undesirable, lonely, yearning for the company of a man, just scraping by, lamenting over their missed opportunity to carry a child, and ironically, in many cases smart. The single woman was simply too intellectual to entice a man.
I was the unwitting victim of the media stereotype of a single woman all the way through to the early days after my divorce and then one day I looked around the REAL single women I know. Powerful, money-making, funny, well connected, in great shape, investing, buying property, traveling, with or without kids, with or without partners by design. I was emboldened by these real women and begin to look back through my childhood and even in my family tree and I found tremendously brave women who lived some or all of their lives as strong single women.
Growing up I ALWAYS had a boyfriend. In fact from the fall of 1992 until my divorce and the break up my first boyfriend after that divorce I was in back to back relationships for 22 years.
22 years. My entire life I had unknowingly been subjugate to the interests, schedules, financial constructs, and mindsets of a boy or man. That’s not to say these were awful people, in fact some were pretty great most honestly didn’t know the role they and our relationship was playing in the greater scheme of my life.
So now here I am on the cusp of 42 and in another long relationship. This one happens to be quite good. We’ve had 2 really earth shattering fights in nearly 4.5 years and for some reason we have chosen to work really hard to fix the issues that caused them. But the question remains: AM I SINGLE?
To me not being married means I am single. I am free to live as I wish. I am unfettered, I do not need to ask permission, I can explore and challenge myself and do wonderful crazy things and grow my businesses and manage my time, etc. You see marriage to me has a heavy feeling to it. I remember very clearly when I told that first post-divorce boyfriend my relationship “rules” for myself:
“I don’t want to have to ask permission, ask forgiveness, or check-in ever again for the rest of my life.”
There, that was it. If I could find a person who could understand the level of freedom and commitment implied by that simple mantra and still love me then I would be set.
But to get another perspective I asked my never-before-married boyfriend of 4.5 years, “what do you think, am I single?” Being used to me by now he didn’t even bat an eyelash at the question. “I think,” he said, “yes in some ways you are single and in others you aren’t. Like, I’d be really upset if you went out and started dating someone else but also you have your own life and you do your own things.”
And that was the first tip of the awareness I needed to really understand relationships as they related to singleness. For the first time ever I have not been absorbed by a boyfriend, nor have I been controlled albeit subtly or overtly. In fact my boyfriend wholly understands what my mantra means and he respects it. I choose to be monogamous because I want to be. I choose to do what I want because I am responsible for my life. I will not apologize for my freedoms and my choices and the truth is I don’t need to because, well, see my first choice. I choose him because he has allowed me to choose myself for years now. But how did I get to this magical place of the single relationship?
I met my boyfriend by chance after, what was for me, a long stint of casual dating and singleness. This had given me an opportunity to figure ME out. When we got together he didn’t ask me not to be myself. Ever. In fact I have not had to change one thing during this relationship even thought I have asked him to change quite a bit so that he can become part of my busy family with 3 little kids.
Our finances are separate. Our business decisions are made taking into account the opinion of one another but the final say belongs to each of us solely. We were living together when I decided to buy a house. I found the property and showed it to him, asking his opinion by saying something along the lines of, “I really like it and it’s in the right school district and I can afford it, so unless you find a body or something I am buying it. I hope you still want to live with us.” and the truth is I was ready to buy it and move with my kids even if he totally hated it decided to live on his own.
For the first time in my life ALL of my decisions are made with my best interest in mind. That’s it. Me, and my kids too, what is best for all of us? What will we enjoy? Will make us more secure, more happy, more relaxed?
I plan for my kids college and my retirement on my own, I pursue my own personal development courses, I continue to make and gather an eclectic group of friends of my own. He does all of the above on his own too.
I thought more about the divorced couples I have worked with as a Realtor specializing in divorce transactions and also about the women I have met through DivorceGlow. In hindsight each couple had a critical flaw, a stunning lack of equal singleness in their relationship. One partner was living their life, playing their sport, socializing with their friends and the other felt isolated, neglected, unsure of their role outside of the home and overall lonely.
So maybe the key to a healthy relationship is to live in it as if you are a healthy single person, to find another person and to be single together.
So whether you’re single by choice, single by circumstance, or single in a healthy relationship you really need to master the art of singleness first and then let everything flow from there.
If you’d like to attend the event How to be a Single Successful Woman in 2020 please register now. The event is free to attend and there will be many resources for you connect with and learn from to help you create your best version of your single life.