Being single without children is not new or unusual. In fact, it is increasingly common. Some adults are single out of choice while many would prefer to be coupled. All are likely to agree, though, that being single is better than being in a bad relationship.
It is easier to remain happily single when you look in horror at the chaos that family life with sleepless nights and marriage counseling can be. However, there are times when being alone is heartbreaking. It is difficult to celebrate going to parties alone, being sick with no one looking after you, or trying to move furniture alone.
Societally single men are often treated better than single women. However, loneliness and longing for a partner and a family are not only something women struggle with.
Some of you may have chosen not to have a long-term partner consciously. Some of you may have woken up one day and realized that while being unattached in your 20s and 30s was enjoyable but as you approach midlife you want someone in your life. You may have given up on dating or you may be actively trying to find the one.
Wherever you are, let’s look at what you have to celebrate.
Your relationship with family and friends
You have to cultivate your social support network more intentionally than those with a family of thor own. You may not have a toddler to wake you at 5 o’clock every morning but at the same time you don’t have a toddler to take to the park on Saturday afternoons.
If you want to have a social life, you are fully responsible for creating it. You have no partner to fall back on. As a result you most likely have deep meaningful friendships. Your friends can also be your family, or you may be close to your family.
Not only do you have time for your friends but you may even have space in your life for new friends. Those with partners and families can become very insular. They only socialise with other couples or those with children.
You are happy to add a new friend into your social network because you are more flexible with whom you spend time with. You know how important relationships are and step up when someone needs a friend.
Work and career
Meaning in life does not necessarily come from a long-term relationship and marriage. You have probably focussed more on making sure you have meaningful employment. In fact, it was single women in the Victoria era who paved the way for all women to enter the workforce. All working women have a single woman to thank for their financial independence and careers. As a single professional woman you are part of a chain that has helped change the world for the better.
You may have noticed as well that you are expected to work longer hours or on days when no one really wants to be in the office. Don’t be afraid to push back. Your time is just as important as the time of your couples colleagues. However, you may also relish the fact that you have no school pick up or children’s bedtime to rush to. You can focus on your work without having to worry about the sick child at home. Neither do you have to manage your feelings after a fight with your partner. You have the opportunity to focus and thrive at work.
While your career is likely to be smoother and easier to manage than the careers of those with partners and children, you may very well also have extra time to contribute to your community. Many organizations based on volunteer work would struggle to exist without single individuals. As a single person you make the world a better place in more ways than you may realize.
Your ability to be self-reliant
Your independence and autonomy may be very important to you. Or, you may have had to learn the hard way how to manage on your own. It is definitely not fun to have to figure out what is required to maintain a car, how to set up wi-fi at home and what is wrong with your ficus. You are the one who has to always call the bank and be at home for deliveries. If you run out of clan clothes, you have no one to blame but yourself.
However, by now you have also realized that all these things are manageable. You can figure things out and find someone to help you when assistance is needed. You can rely on yourself and have learnt that you have the skills and tools to survive and thrive. This may be quite normal for you most days but for many couples individuals, this is a great source of anxiety. They do not trust their ability to effectively manage their lives. You have mastered taking care of all your needs.
Your wellbeing and happiness
Single women have been found to be happier than married women. This is not a surprise. Women are often expected to be nurturers. Men expect to be cared for by the women in their lives and women are expected to take on the nurturing role during illness and old age. As you do not need to nurture your partner, you are not running on empty.
You may still be expected to jump in when an elderly relative needs help as you do not have the commitments that your siblings with families do. You may choose to use the freedom you have to help others. Or you may choose to ask for everyone to pitch in.
Heterosexual single men fare less well than their married counterparts. Married men have wives who push them to eat healthy and look after themselves. Single men need to cultivate an ability to look after themselves. If you don’t know how, ask a single woman. She’ll be acing it.
If you are still dating, read this article to prevent unnecessary misery.
Matleena Vanhanen is a licensed Counselling Psychologist with over 20 years of experience working in Europe and the Middle East. She has a practice of couples and individual therapy at the MapleTree Center in Dubai.