Last August, my husband and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary. Before him, there were many, many…MANY dates. They ran the gamut – really great guys, really terrible guys, just okay guys, funny (pretty much always at least a little funny), and varying degrees of commitment. Some of those guys I was on again, off again with…then on again…then off again… Most of my Official Relationships (TM) didn’t go longer than four months. This wasn’t because I tried to actively play the field. I wanted very much to be part of a committed pair.
Now that I’ve been married for several years and in a secure relationship that, though I’m sure will undergo changes, is still solid, I actually wish I’d enjoyed my single time more. I feel like women especially are taught to nail down a man so quickly. They’re often discouraged from dating around and just experiencing life. I’m not saying you have to go out and get physical with every man in sight. But dating can be a journey, a way to learn more about yourself. To find out what you want from a lifetime commitment – or maybe that you don’t want one at all. I am mostly going to focus on the experience of heterosexual women, since that is what I am. If you are not, this advice is probably still adaptable. So here is a list of what I wish I’d known when I was single.
It is really okay if you never get married
Don’t listen to your crazy Aunt Eunice, no one is less of a person just because they don’t get married. You are only less of a person if you let yourself be. Single or coupled up, you are worthy of love and all the amazing gifts life has to offer. Not getting hitched certainly hasn’t hurt Oprah Winfrey, Al Pacino, or Condoleezza Rice. Besides, statistically speaking, you’re much more likely to get married than not. By age 75, 96 percent of people will have been married at least once.
Women have more options than they think
Both from a biological and sociological standpoint, there is SO much pressure on women to couple off and have children. This prevents women from recognizing how many options they have. I know, in my own past, there were multiple times when I thought I’d never find a better guy than the one I was with/obsessed with. Guess what? I always found someone else. The best one I found, I married.
When it’s right, it’s right
I read a saying once: Never make somebody a priority who considers you an option. Tape that to your mirror, my loves. Live it, believe it. I went through so many (so many) relationships where I constantly questioned how the guy felt about me. It felt like I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. There were times when that was the guy’s fault, and times when I was to blame. I knew my husband was the one when I never, not even for a second, questioned how he felt about me. There was no fear that he was going to just leave me (except maybe that one time I spilled coffee all over his expensive iMac keyboard). I stopped worrying about whether we’d get married. It didn’t even matter to me, because I knew he wasn’t going anywhere.
Sometimes it’s just timing
There’s an episode of “Sex and the City” where the ladies discuss a dating and marriage theory that compares men to taxi cabs. The idea is that men don’t wait for a soul mate; when they’re ready to settle down, their “taxi light” goes on, and they marry the next woman they’re with. I’m a romantic at heart, but I actually think there is a sliver of truth to this. I have had several men I dated blame timing when we broke up. They would say that they thought I was a great person, they just weren’t looking for a serious girlfriend at the moment. Maybe they said it to spare my feelings. I’m sure compatibility played into it as well. Still, men are socialized to prioritize being a provider. If they feel they can’t or don’t want to provide, they won’t settle down, and no one can make them.
All of this is to say that I know how hard it can be to be single. It feels like everyone around you is either in love, or has so many romantic options that they don’t have a care in the world. No matter whether you find someone to share your life with or not, you are still an amazing and worthwhile person. You are more than a relationship that you might have. Never let anyone treat you in a way that makes you doubt that.