Are You Happily or Unhappily Single?

860318192

Are you single and happy?  This post is for you. Are you single and unhappy? This post is also for you.

More and more people are living a single life – but for different reasons. Three main “camps,” if you will, exist: One: you were in a relationship and it ended (for whatever reason); Two: you made a conscious decision to live a single life; Three: you’re in that middle ground, exploring “singlehood” as a temporary way station while you let fate take its course or you are coaxing things along by putting yourself “out there.”

Where are you? Wherever that might be, it seems like things are not so clear cut. You may be moving back and forth, changing your opinions about “coupling up”. You may be ambivalent or even have conflicting thoughts. Let’s ponder those.

 

Home Alone

Let’s say you’ve fallen out of a relationship or your lover or spouse ended it. You’ve lost something you had that, at least at some point, you enjoyed. Maybe you treasured it. Maybe you thought it was meant to be, forever and ever. Maybe you took it for granted. Maybe you’re relieved.

Lots of thoughts and questions run through your mind when you first experience the loss of a relationship. “I miss my partner.” “Why am I alone?” “It’s not fair this happened.” “Did I do something to create or encourage this situation?” “What should I do now?” My family and friends pity me.” “Who will support me emotionally?” “How do I do certain things by myself?” “Good riddance.”

Strong emotions may rise to the surface at times. You’re scared. You’re anxious. You’re sad. You’re depressed. You’re angry. You’re confused. You’re traumatized. You got used to having your partner around, to sharing your thoughts with them, to having intimate moments, to having fun, to having them there for emotional support and vice versa. How will you replace your mate? You feel lonely.

 

Choice vs. Lack

For some people, being single is a choice, rather than the result of lacking or losing someone. Think about that for a minute. It’s a completely different mindset. You can actually make a conscious choice to be single and enjoy it. People do it all the time. They’re not “in waiting” for the next relationship to come along. They’re not sad or depressed. They’re not putting their life “on hold.”

By being “in waiting,” you might be thinking, “Something is lacking in my life and I’m going to work on filling that void.” Alternatively, being “consciously single,” you might be thinking, “I have so many experiences to look forward to.” Nothing is lacking because you are experiencing the sheer joy of potentiality, of waiting to see what’s going to happen next.

Being consciously single, you have accepted the situation and detach from assigning it as either positive or negative; it just “is.” You are open to possibilities, not out of need, but out of a desire for discovery. All you need do is reach out and grab whatever strikes your fancy, like a bright red apple on a tree.

I can hear some of you saying, “But, everyone is supposed to have a mate. There’s someone out there that’s meant for me, my soul mate.” Or maybe you have friends who are partnered that seem happy and so you conclude that without a partner, you can’t fully be happy. Or maybe you were raised to believe that being in a relationship and marriage is meant for everyone.

Another argument goes the statistical route. You point to research studies that conclude people are happier when they’re in a relationship than when they’re not. Granted, there are a lot of studies that draw this conclusion.

But does being single really condemn you to a less satisfying life? Will the quality of your life suffer being single? Could the dissatisfaction be something you’re creating in your mind that manifests as a reality, making that dissatisfaction actually come true?

 

Fear-Based Singlehood

Some people have a fear-based approach to being single. They fear being alone for the rest of their life. They fear being an “old maid” or a “confirmed old bachelor” who has trouble forming committed relationship bonds. Or they fear the best years of their life are being wasted away single, or that they won’t be as attractive to a mate the older they get, or that the “best ones are taken”.

Dating does get harder as you get older – especially for women – as the ratio of available men to women diminishes and the odds of finding the right person seems to be less for all sorts of reasons. What was a meme circulating back in the 1980s …? According to some magazine article, you are less likely after the age of 40 to meet someone and get married than being killed by a terrorist. Come on. Do you really believe that stuff?

 

Society’s Expectations

Some people think that if they are single over a long period of time that they’re doing something wrong. Some people are impressionable, easily swayed by others’ opinions rather than having their own opinions. “It’s a shame that someone as smart and attractive as you is alone,” a well-meaning friend might say.

Some people think that if you’re single:

·         You can’t attract a mate

·         There’s something wrong with you

·         That you can’t hold on to a relationship

·         That you are desperately looking for a mate

·         That you’re lonely

·         That you are to be pitied

Those are some of society’s assumptions and attitudes that single people are sometimes up against. You don’t have to agree with them. You don’t have to be persuaded by them. You don’t have to feel like an outcast because you don’t buy into them. You are in control of your own feelings.

 

Being Single Has Its Perks

·         The opportunity to connect with yourself, talk to yourself, focus on yourself

·         The satisfaction of finding your own answers, coming to your own conclusions, solving problems on your own.

·         A clearer realization of what you want out of life, what is missing.

·         Discovering a new skill or talent, your life’s purpose, what you dreamed about but never gave it serious thought

·         More time and energy for the things YOU and YOU alone want to do

·         More freedom to pursue career goals and take risks

·         No obligations or compromises to satisfy the relationship

·         Opening yourself up to possibilities like meeting new people, going to new places, participating in new activities, having new experiences.

·         You may even discover that you are happier being single

 

Asking the Hard Questions

In getting to the bottom of whether you’re happy being single or not or how you can make peace with it, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

·         Are you happier in a relationship than not?

·         Are there certain characteristics about singlehood that makes it right and comfortable for you?

·         Are their ways you can arrange your life so that your social needs are being met without being in a relationship?

·         If you can’t enjoy being in your own company, can you really enjoy being with someone else?

 

So, are you happy being single?

Transitioning From Marriage to Single Parent

1126138288

Now what?! I’m no longer married. No husband, a couple of kids, and I’m accumulating a lot of “What do I do nows?” We used to be a team: my husband, the kids, and me. The transition to handling everything solo is overwhelming – physically and emotionally. I don’t know how to start picking up the pieces and putting them in the right places. I don’t know if I have the strength or am thinking clearly.

 

Your Emotions Are Being Tested

Your emotions are the first thing you need to deal with as a newly divorced parent.  You won’t think clearly without acknowledging and working through your emotional state; All else falls apart without it. First, the doubt and insecurity sets in. Will I be a good parent on my own? “How can I handle everything myself?” So much insecurity and fear rush in. Anger too. “I didn’t sign up to raise two kids on my own!” The anger and resentment may be one of the hardest emotions to get over.

Your first instinct may be to reach out to anyone and anything for emotional support, like a fish out of water, gasping for oxygen. Not having a partner in life means you don’t have an automatic hand to pull you up out of the muddy water, a shoulder to lean on, assistance with what you can’t at the moment handle on your own.

Financial Stress

Not only are you assuming the role of both parents, if the kids live with you, you’re also taking on a bigger load. This takes a toll on your finances, even if you have money stashed away for the unexpected. Plus, the stress adds to an already emotionally draining situation. You feel devastated and scared.

Going from a double income household (if you both worked) to a single one with bills, groceries, medical expenses, mortgage or rent, utility bills, childcare costs, clothing for your children, emergencies may cause you to spend more than you feel comfortable with. You’re assuming those expenses by yourself, for the most part, minus any help in the form of child support or from relatives or friends. If you were a stay-at-home-mom, that may not be an option anymore. You may have to get back into the workforce.

 

Relearning Self-Sufficiency

What if the car breaks down? You are responsible for getting it taken care of. You don’t have anyone around who will absorb half of the burden or help you make arrangements. Reliable transportation is critical when you have kids. They need to be kept safe and you need to be able to transport them to school, appointments, activities…

Whether you rent or own a home, keeping up with repairs, knowing what needs fixing, and hiring trustworthy people to do it or finding the time to tackle those things yourself adds to the feeling of helplessness and stress.

 

Strategies for Coping

Give yourself some time to heal. Don’t expect to be able to handle everything right away and don’t expect to be able to do everything you were once able to do – at least temporarily.

If you’re depressed, seek counseling from a mental health therapist. If your depression is so acute that it is affecting your ability to function and care properly for your kids, your therapist can recommend a health practitioner that may be able to prescribe meds. Sometimes medication is the kick-start that you need to take the edge off the emotional spikes, find your inner strength, and think more positively.  Know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s within your immediate reach.

Don't stay angry (at least not for long.) When you’re angry, you can’t see clearly. When you are blinded by anger, you may make bad choices that are not in your best interest or the kids’. And you may be scaring and upsetting the kids. Use a little anger in moderation – if at all – to your advantage by allowing it to motivate you. Channel it wisely and try to release it. Hold your anger when the kids are around.

Create a plan. Work out a budget and what you’re going to need to survive. Include costs for extra help from outside services or vendors. Decide if a new job is in order and how much income you require. Make a call to your parents and ask for their financial help, if available, to get you through the first few months. If you work and your company is understanding, reduce your hours temporarily or take a brief leave of absence. You need to concentrate on a solid plan.

Be honest – but not too honest – with the kids about the reason for the divorce. This should be done just before the separation process but further discussions are helpful to reassure them and to reinforce what you told them and to comfort them.

Make home life for the kids as natural, comfortable, and normal as possible. Try to keep them to their same routines, their same schedules. Don’t make large changes or moves – at least not all at once, if you can help it. That might not be possible if you have to relocate. But you can still make the move as relaxed for them as possible by keeping to some routines and schedules.

Don’t stress out the kids more than they may already be. Don’t unload your burden on them or turn them into a friend and confidant. Our children are not our best friends; they are young and impressionable and need a mother. Depending on age, they may not be able to easily process what is happening to their family so don’t burden them with your problems.

Our kids don’t need a super mom who has it all figured out. They need a mom who shows up every day, provides for their emotional and physical needs, and is doing her best.

 

Sometimes you have to ask for help

You can’t rely on yourself all of the time to work out your problems. You are going to have to ask for help at some point, and that’s okay. Lean on friends and family for emotional support. Keep company with the ones that have a positive attitude, optimistic outlook and who laugh the most.

Have a support circle. If that has changed since the divorce, look outside your circle, develop a new one, or broaden your circle to include others: a local support group, church group, community classes, a Meetup group for single moms, workshops, online social media single mom groups …

Calling the Marriage Quits When Your Parents Are Against It

498032295

It took a lot of courage to make the decision to divorce. You know it’s the right thing to do. What you weren’t expecting during this challenging process was the lack of support from your family. Their reaction came out of nowhere.

Maybe they’re being critical or acting a bit hostile toward you. Maybe they’re even lobbying against you breaking the marital ties. You’re surprised, confused, doubly hurt that you have to deal with more relationship disruption.  Now more than ever you need them. What’s a soon-to-be-divorced woman to do?

 

What’s Going On?

What to do is consider the reasons why they’re pushing back. Understanding that will reveal strategies for getting them to see things your way – at least in part. Consider what may be happening is:

·         Your parents are emotionally tied up in the break-up that they have no control over.

·         They see the breakup as their breakup too. You may have a close-knit family, lots of communication and get-togethers.

·         They are close to your husband and don’t want to lose that connection.

·         They are not walking in your shoes. They can’t see your action from your perspective.

·         They don’t know the inside story of your marriage – and you may not want them to.

·         They fear your decision is not well thought out, or that you’re taking the easy way out.

·         They don’t believe that unhappiness is a good enough reason to divorce.

·         They are afraid for you and your future; your emotional and financial well-being.

·         If you have kids, they are afraid they won’t get to see their grandchildren as often or at all.

·         Your decision triggered anxiety, shame, regret or even jealousy that you dared do what they did not in their marriage.

·         They are divorced and are worried you will experience the same divorce hardships they may have experienced.

·         They have old-school attitudes, among them that marriage is forever, no matter what.

·         Religious beliefs about divorce are why they are against it.

·         They are not, in general, being sympathetic and understanding. They have a “You made your bed and should lie in it” attitude.

·         They were instrumental in your decision to marry and now they take your divorce as their failure.

·         “What will the neighbors think?” worries them.

 

 What to Do About It

 Just as you showed bravery, independence, certainty in your decision to divorce, you can do the same in dealing with your parents. Use your inner strength and love for your parents to create strategies for encouraging their acceptance.

·         Talk out your decision with your parents. It could be they are still in shock. Give them time to process and adjust to the news.

·         Show sensitivity and compassion for their feelings.

·         Acknowledge that your parents come from an older generation and have different values.

·         Keep the lines of communication open between you and your parents.

·         Assure them that your decision is not a reflection on them and how they raised you.

·         Be open and honest with them. Tell them how unhappy you were in the marriage (you needn’t go into the fine details).

·         Ask for their support if you need it or you think it would help patch things up.

·         Ask for their help with the things your husband would handle for you.

·         Point out the positives in your decision.

·         If you are a parent, reassure them they won’t be cut off from their grandchildren. Tell them the kids deserve a relationship with their grandparents, no matter what happened to the marriage.

·         Explain that you have a future plan and that you can manage on your own. If you have kids, explain how you will be able to provide for their financial and emotional well-being living solo.

·         If your parents are divorced, reassure them that you will not experience the same difficulties as they did.

·         Don’t let them lay a guilt-trip on you. You are an adult, not a wayward child.

·         If they are making waves, disengage temporarily to create some distance. There’s a chance they will come around and get past it.

 

 The Comfort of Accepting

Ultimately, only you can make the decision to divorce. You know what?  You’ve done your best to make the marriage work. You are no longer a child and under their control. You don’t need to ask for their permission. If your parents don’t see it that way, that’s their decision. You’ve done nothing wrong.

Of course, it hurts and you love them. They raised you, guided you to adulthood. You’ve come to them for support and advice much of your life; Why can’t they support you now? Water under the bridge. Deal with what’s going on now.

Take solace in having pleaded your case, explained why you know the decision is right, and that you’ve given them some time to reflect and process their feelings. Now it’s their turn to accept or face the fallout. The ball is in their court. If they’re not budging after a period of time, the only thing left to do is accept. Learning to accept – as hard as that may be – will not add to your grief in the long run; Trying to change them and failing will.