“I just turned 50 in August and among the many things I’ve accomplished – including running my own business and having more than 100 articles published – there’s something I forgot.
I forgot to get married.
When holiday season began, I suddenly became painstakingly aware of my singleness, especially with all the family friendly posts on Instagram where I love to hang out.
But when I really thought about it, I said to myself, ‘I am OK with being single.’ I guess I’ve become the spinster I always worried about becoming, but this year I also really started to love her; truly, madly and deeply. In fact, right now, I can’t think of anybody I’d rather celebrate the holidays with!
My concern about being single didn’t come from inside me as much as it came from the feeling of being judged. The circles I run in have traditional values where women are concerned. And not being a wife or mother makes me something of an oddity, and sometimes it makes me a target of gossip.
So, I thought it would be a good opportunity to make a statement about the way people perceive and treat single women ‘of a certain age.’ I want to say this to all of you, ‘Don’t judge.’
You don’t know how hard it is. A lot of you were just lucky to meet someone when you were young. I wasn’t ready.
You make judgments like, ‘she’s selfish, she has daddy issues,’ or whatever. The truth is, women like me who grew up abandoned by our fathers and without father figures who showed us love or affection don’t hate men. We just learn not to count on them. And we learn to really, deeply value the good ones and not want anything less. We don’t want to marry men like what we had in our lives. So, we’re extra cautious and careful because we also understand the abuse, neglect and abandonment in our backgrounds makes us more vulnerable to attracting bad ones. We really have to keep strong boundaries.
Perhaps, too, we don’t prioritize ‘husband hunting,’ or feel pressured to have children the way women do who had a good father and strong family. We didn’t grow up learning kids are a blessing. We were taught, ‘You are a burden.’ Children were not a joy for our parents.
The most important lesson I learned because of my parents’ divorce was what a bad relationship can do to people. My parents never spoke again after they divorced when I was three. It made me more sensitive to how a bad relationship can destroy you and maybe it scared me, or maybe it made me smart enough to know, I’m not doing it unless it’s the right man.
I knew I would not have children unless I met a man who would be a good father. I saw how hard it was on my mom to be a single, working mom without support. I was not going to put a child through what I went through. I wasn’t going to have kids with some deadbeat guy, or a man who could pay bills, but had no capacity for emotional support and affection, or a random sperm donor just to check ‘things women are supposed to do’ off the list.
I still have hope and optimism there’s a good man out there for me, but pragmatism tells me it might not happen. My heart is open, but my patience level for men who don’t value authentic relationship is low. Solid, good relationships are hard to establish and rare whether you’re a single woman or man. I know some of you silently judge me; for instance women who are not in good marriages and know they made a mistake, but now their lives are so entwined they are stuck. I think you envy the freedom single people have and you criticize us as a form of denial.
What I now know for sure (like Oprah, never married) is being in or out of a relationship is not where happiness begins or ends and no matter your relationship status, much of life is done solo. There are just as many studies that show people who are single are the happiest as some say married people are. I did not have such a happy youth. In many ways, my life began after surviving cancer when I turned 40. I’ve spent 10 years unlearning a lot and am actually now a fairly happy person…much happier now than I was in my 20’s.
I still love kids and babies and I have traditional family values. I even taught Sunday School for three years! I love my friends who are great couples, and I have many. And I love my friends’ kids. But I don’t envy or begrudge them. I celebrate and love them. I don’t spend much time, if any, thinking about or judging other peoples’ relationships, but if I did I’d probably nail it. I’m fairly perceptive.
So please, don’t judge me for being single. And I won’t judge you. Don’t assume all relationships and families who look good on social media, or in holiday postcards, are really as happy as they appear.
And don’t forget about your single friends and family during the holidays. Though we’re often content to be alone, it’s not always easy for us to ask to be remembered, or included when we’d like to be.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jenifer Mangione of Palm Beach, FL. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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