Married or Single – A Reality Check

Married or Single – A Reality Check

10308756_10152020030026637_832718966636061706_nI’ve lost more than one close friend because I was married and my friend was either not married, or divorced. There seems to be an unspoken and clumsily resurrected wall placed by women of our generation between the married and the unmarried; an unspoken ambivalence of sorts that keeps us from communicating openly and honestly about relationships. I find it disheartening. We have so much to learn from one another.

Yesterday, was my 32nd anniversary. It was a day that I couldn’t help but think about all the anniversaries that have gone before, the years leading up to this particular day. I love my husband and he loves me, this is true, but we both got what we asked for in our marriage…and it wasn’t a Hallmark movie.

I, like most young women in the sixties and seventies, was swept away by the idea of romance and love and that perfect someone.  I wanted the “happily ever after”, a “soul mate”, a champion of my cause, a knight in shining armor. I wanted him to love me for exactly who I am, find me beautiful, desirable, brilliant, witty, clever and utterly irresistible, no matter how I looked or behaved. I was sure I would feel the same about him. We would live and love blissfully ever after, raise perfect children and change the world with our love.

Or, I thought that’s what I wanted. The narrative was indelibly imprinted in my imagination from Cinderella to Love Story, and this woman with an overactive imagination and a hidden addiction to symbolism, fell prey to an idea that propelled me through one bad relationship after another.

At twenty-nine I found myself broken into tiny little bits and left dying by the side of the road. (Well, in a manner of speaking!) Inside and out, the dream I was chasing had slipped through my fingers and let me down….big time.  All around me friends were marrying and having children, chasing careers and living my dream…only they weren’t.

During that year I decided that if I was not married by the time I was thirty I would end it all, (a dramatic challenge to the love gods). The point was I could not let go of my desire to love and be connected to another human being in some rich and meaningful way and I was pretty sure the only way that was possible was by following my imagined destiny.

As the clock ticked away, I pulled myself up off the pavement and, to the best of my ability, started living my own life. What else was there to do? I learned something during that year. I learned for the first time that I was okay alone. In fact, I was more than okay alone. I was enough. The life I was living was a life worth living, partnered or not. I began to feel an inner strength I didn’t know I had.

It was precisely the moment I let go of my obsession with the Hallmark dream that I turned around to see my destiny, my honest-to-goodness soul mate standing right beside me already.  How many hours had we spent discussing our “relationship” problems (with other partners), our hopes and dreams, our desire to be better, happier people? He knew exactly who I was, and I knew exactly who he was, even as we were not as familiar with ourselves.

In that single moment of awareness my heart skipped a beat. It was a new kind of giddy that far surpassed the tongue-tied awe I felt with previous potentials. This man was not an idea, he was a person and I knew he was my destiny. What I didn’t know was what was in store for us over the next thirty-two years. Again, it was not a Hallmark movie, but it was our destiny, our desire, our commitment to life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Again and again over the course of our marriage we have each had to surrender our stubborn obsession with unrealistic beliefs about what the perfect relationship and marriage looks like. Again and again we had to find ourselves before we could find each other. It has not been easy. Nothing about it has been easy.

There have been times when divorce looked a whole lot easier and when being alone sounded like nirvana. It was during those times that I was most saddened by my divorced friends who had no compassion or ability to put their arm around me because they were so convinced that my life was better than theirs and that even a difficult marriage was preferable to divorce. I found myself pulling away because of the resentment I felt from them and the guilt I felt from me.

It’s too bad, because in all truth people are people, and how we connect with ourselves, our lives, and each other is what’s important, not who we may crawl into bed with at night. Ultimately, we all just want to love and be loved. How we go about doing so is just in the details. Marriage is just a detail of how we go about loving and allowing ourselves to be loved. And, don’t bring up sex. There is a whole lot more bad sex among married couples, than good. If we don’t know how to deeply love and accept ourselves, we can’t go beneath the surface sexually for sure, and superficial sex is pretty gosh darn empty.

So my wonderful single and divorced friends, perhaps you can begin to see that your hard-done-to complex is not much different from many married women’s hard-done- to complex, and as such, should be the warning flag that it is. Feeling sorry for ourselves is a way of abdicating responsibility for our own happiness and well-being. When we feel sorry for ourselves, when we feel resentment toward others because they appear to be happy, or guilt because of someone else’s expectations or ideas of us, we are living with the false belief that something, or someone, outside of ourselves is responsible for our happiness. This is the false belief that will continue to keep us miserable until we take back the steering wheel of our life.

Dorothy Sander 2014 copyright





7 Replies to “Married or Single – A Reality Check”

  1. Measuring our ‘inside’ against someone else’s ‘outside’ will always do us a deep disservice! Great article on realism in relationships…all kinds of relationships. I’ve been married, cuz that’s the track I was on at 21, divorced at 37, and remarried to my soul mate for 26 years now (together for 31 yrs) and along the way I’ve been blessed to keep and have friends that were single, married, divorced…somehow we managed to make the relationship important enough outside of our relationships or lack thereof. Women’s competitiveness and scarcity thinking shows up all over the place, doesn’t it. Thanks for another great article.

  2. Dorthy,

    I loved your post. I have been single for the past 40+ years after a ten-year marriage producing two lovely children. Over the years, my best friends have been single, then some of them married, some of the divorced. When I was young, I had the image of the “better than, ” “happier” married woman versus my struggles as a single self-supporting parent.

    I have come to know that it is, six on one hand and, half-a-dozen on the other hand. It boils down to a choice… a way of life. We all feel happy, sad, lonely, mad and it has nothing to do with our marital status. I have had friends who took back an unfaithful, unkind or unloving husbands after a divorce. I wouldn’t have done so, but it was their personal choice.

    I have also come to know that some people are made to be part of a couple more than others. My friends who were more obsessed with becoming part of a couple, inevitably found their counterpart. But just like me, sometimes they happy, and sometimes they were unhappy. Those feelings were not dependent on whether they were a couple or not. I found it sad that some married and single women can lose intimacy and friendship because of the personal choice of marital status. It seems to me that warped perceptions on both sides would cause this type of problem.

    The only challenge I have found being single is a feeling of being alone and ostracized in social settings, not being included with my married friends. Our time together, of course, revolves around they family circumstances. Although, I don’t think that this needs to change.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful reply and for sharing your perspective. I definitely feel both sides add to the distance and both sides can find the solution. Bringing any issue out in the open is the best way to gain awareness and understanding, a benefit to all healthy relationships. Good friends support and accommodate one another’s needs and preferences.

  3. Your photo is stunning. It took my breath away.

    About the topic from the other end of the lens: As a married woman, my greatest fear when my friend Carolyn’s husband died a few years ago was that she wouldn’t want to be my friend any more. Now it seem to be such a silly, irrational thought, but then it seemed like a possible outcome of her loss.

    Widowed, divorced, single, whatever, I am loyal to my friends for life, no matter what their marital status.

  4. Dorothy, I’m at a loss as to how to reply to your post. I loved that you discovered that you were enough before you found out that you loved your husband. I can relate to that. I’m sad, though, that you found that there was a strain between you and your single friends. I’ve never encountered this issue, and I wonder if I was missing the pain of my single friends. As for me, a friend is a friend no matter what their marital status, as Marian said above.

    The only thing I can think is that, perhaps some single women feel less than because they’re not married, and blame those of us who are married for the way they feel. That’s sad, and my heart goes out to them.

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