As I see it, there is an epidemic occurring in our society; it is an epidemic of people being terrified to be alone and as a result remaining stuck in the wrong relationships. Sadly, I see examples of this around me on a daily basis. And unfortunately I see far more examples of that than of the opposite. Should it be any surprise, then, that 50% of marriages end in divorce? It isn’t to me.
One of the benefits to growing older is that as you experience [and learn] more, and as you observe more, you are [hopefully] much more clearly able to see when a relationship is right…and when it is wrong.
If the 20s were the decade of friends getting married, the 30s have proven to be the decade of friends getting divorced. I think it was around the age of 35 when I noticed that what had once been the “summer wedding season” had instead turned into the “summer divorce season.” And all of the couples that I saw in my 20s and thought to myself “those two are so wrong for each other!”, those couples have in my 30s ended up divorced: almost without fail.
Conversely, I’m sure we’ve all seen the couples that when you look at them, you think to yourself “Yes, that is how love is supposed to look!” and it is just so obvious that the pair are so in love; they show mutual respect, admiration, and affection; and they show it over years, regardless of the passage of time. Such couples reveal such a beautiful, powerful energetic connection, and they complement each other so well, truly embodying the spirit of yin and yang. They are simply a joy and an inspiration to be around. I am grateful that growing up I had a friend whose parents exemplified this for me, even after 25 years of marriage. So even from a young age, I knew what love could look like. And today I am so grateful to have even a small handful of such couples in my life, for they remind me over and over again of the kind of love that I want in my life and why I choose to not settle for any less than that.
And I am by no means under the illusion that a relationship should be easy all the time, nor am I espousing that. I am the first to know that love can be messy and that it takes real work to keep a relationship intact. But what I can say, from experience and from keen observation, is that the right relationship should be much easier than the wrong one. And if the relationship is a constant uphill battle, a constant struggle, then it’s not the right one. We can choose to have something better, more easeful.
Unfortunately, for every one of the couples that exemplify what love can be, I have known twice as many couples who exemplify the opposite of that. I have known the couples who fight all the time and who you just dread to be around. I have known the couples where it’s just so obvious to an outside observer that one of the people is in love, but not the other. I have known the couples where the woman is so desperate to get married and make babies, that she ignores all of the signs that scream that he is not the proverbial “one.” I have known the couples that break up and get back together, over and over again (Oh wait, that was me!). I have known the couples where one partner wants to have kids and the other does not, and they stay together for years, one partner clinging onto hope that the other will change their mind.
I have known the couples that are simply tolerating each other, out of some sort of misguided sense of obligation, rather than showing or feeling anything resembling love. I have known couples where the man only got married because of pressure (or even an ultimatum!) from the woman. I have been in the weddings where you are biting your tongue as the bride walks down the aisle, because you just know with every fiber of your being that they are making a mistake (incidentally I’ve been in three such weddings, and ALL have ended (happily) in divorce). Heck, I have even known multiple couples who themselves admit that they knew it was a mistake, but they walked down the aisle anyway. I have seen people engaged in extramarital affairs and in circumstances that are far too “complicated” to be “right,” people who are clinging to the unhealthiest of situations in a desperate attempt to find happiness.
And when I speak of such couples, I do so with deep empathy and understanding, for I too have lived through my own version of the “wrong” relationship. And I know that these souls are on the same powerful journey of growth and learning on which I reluctantly found myself (that is if they are open to such growth and learning). I spent years with the wrong person, trying to convince myself that it was right. I have always said that one of the cruelest aspects of life is that we have the ability to fall in love with the wrong person. Frankly, it’s brutal and there are few things more painful than star-crossed lovers. And I know how difficult, how painful, and how seemingly “impossible” it can be to extricate ourselves from the wrong relationships; I know all too well how paralyzed we can become, how stuck we can get. I know the feeling of having the constant pit in your stomach and of your head trying to rationalize that it’s caused by something else, when deep down in your heart, you know the real reason but don’t want to admit it.
I have also learned that love is not enough, and that of equal importance are timing and compatibility. You can love someone with every fiber of your being, with every breath of air in your body, but if it’s not right, if they are not the right match for you, it won’t matter. Of this I personally know all too well.
So why is it that so many people stay together for all the wrong reasons? Why are people so afraid to be alone? Fear. Society. Expectations. As I’ve observed people and relationships over the years, it has become clear that so many people are terrified of being alone; terrified of ending up alone, and of dying alone. I once shared this fear, so it is one I relate to and understand well. And as I already said, I understand how it feels to be stuck with the wrong person, and in the wrong relationship, for all of the wrong reasons. I have been there and I am fortunate that my partner had the guts to release me from it, as I’m not sure I ever would have had the courage on my own; for I too was living in fear.
Society tells us that we are meant to follow a very specific formula for life: college, career, love, marriage, and babies… only in that order! We do not even realize how brainwashed we have been as a society. And what society teaches us, our friends and families only reinforce. Everyone has an opinion about what we should be doing. When we see our friends getting married and having kids, we feel even more pressure to be doing the same. If we do not follow that formula, our parents disapprove, people think there is something wrong with us. We all have the aunt who asks, “So when are you going to get married?” There is so much pressure to conform, to fulfill the expectations of society.
I spent the first half of my 30s gripped in sadness and despair, because I too felt that I had to fulfill that formula, and it just wasn’t working out for me. I found myself 32 (and then 33, 34, 35…), single, and childless and that had never been the plan. I should have had three kids by that age. For all of my life I had planned to get married and raise a family. And I am such a passionate, open-hearted woman with so much love to give; how could I not be finding a beautiful soul to complement my heart?
Well, if life has taught me one thing, it’s that the most difficult times are the most valuable and that by walking through each one of them, there are invaluable lessons to learn. I had to walk through an extremely dark time of loneliness, of being completely on my own, for years, before I could come to understand the importance and value of being happy on our own. It was only by walking through my own darkness that I was able to find the light, and in doing so I realized that the light comes from within. The true joy, the absolute bliss is only to be found within us, never outside of us.
And if there’s one universal truth, it’s this: Before you can ever be happy with someone else, you must first be happy with yourself.
And I have not only made full peace with the fact that I am now 38, single, and childless, but I have fully embraced it and the truth is that I have never lived more happily, more vibrantly, more fulfilled. I love my life and there is nothing missing. I now could care less about having children (If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be saying that now, I’d have thought you were c-c-c-crazy!) Does this mean I am cynical and do not believe that true love exists? Not at all. I have the gift of having experienced it with my own heart, so I know it’s out there. And if I happen to find it, well great, because that would just be the cherry on top of an already wonderful life. But I know it’s not necessary for my happiness. I know I already am, and will continue to be, happy and fulfilled no matter what comes into my life.
The moment we release the expectation that we can only complete ourselves with another, the moment we can release the idea that we have to adhere to society’s mold, is the moment we find freedom. And in freedom, we can find true happiness.
It’s funny, I suspect that many of my friends might pity me for being alone, for not yet having had the “fortune” of getting married and having children. But what they may not realize is that I choose to be single. I could easily have been in relationships over the years, but I knew they would be with the wrong person, and I have no interest in getting myself embroiled in something wrong, when instead I can be keeping myself open for something right.
And I’m happy to say that I have absolutely learned the valuable lesson that it is far better to be single than to be with the wrong person.
So, yes, some people may feel sorry for me that I am alone. But the irony of that is that when I look around me and observe so many unhappy, dissatisfied relationships and I see so many people who are stuck, all I can think to myself is, “Thank God I’m single!”