A friend of mine asked me to write about single life at 40, and I obliged. She is one of the many many many non-single friends that I have, so she was probably wondering what us single gals do at this age, especially since I am not crying into a tub of ice cream over my dating profile. So I thought I would give you a little insight into my personal life.
I will start with a disclaimer – don’t try this at home kids! I happen to have 2 things going for me: the first being that I have a fairly low sex drive and the second being that I don’t want children, so it has taken a great deal of pressure off of me to find someone immediately, and allowed me to resist the urge to club random guys over the head and drag them back into my cave. If you don’t have these two things going for you, then take everything I have written with a grain of salt.
There are many people who don’t believe that I am happy being single, and the truth is – some days I am not but most days I don’t give it much thought. That being said, over the past few years I have learned a few lessons about love, which have changed how I think about men and relationships, and I am going to share them with you, along with some stories from my life.
1. Sometimes the hardest thing is to know. This is a saying that we have here in Barbados, and it is spot on in the case of relationships. I discovered several years ago that people get into relationships for a myriad of reasons – for love, for companionship, to start a family, for image to name a few. I learned not to judge these reasons as good or bad, but to realize that sometimes the hardest thing is to know why the person you are interested in wants the relationship, and notice whether their reason is compatible with yours. If it is, there is a much better change of it working. And I don’t assume that other people hold the same values as me. When I was a teenager, I remember being shocked when I would meet guys who I thought wanted to marry me and live happily ever after, and really they wanted sex more than anything else, and I complained to a friend of mine who gave me the first advice I have ever had regarding values (and still the most memorable). He said (and I am paraphrasing here – I can’t repeat what he said) that just because I trust someone not to steal my TV doesn’t mean I should trust them not to break my heart. I think I always assumed that we all had the same values when it came to relationships – mostly the ones that you watch on the movies or read about in fairy tales (at that age anyway). It was eye opening to discover that this wasn’t true, and that advice has served me well. It is for me to get as much of a picture of the relationship values of anyone I am interested in, and make my decisions accordingly. And as a side note here – just because it is love, doesn’t mean it will last (or should happen at all) and just because it didn’t last doesn’t mean it wasn’t love (a line from one of my fave TV shows – “The Catch”)
2. But the chemistry though… I will be honest and say that I had never really experienced meeting someone and feeling instant chemistry. I honestly had experienced (and always thought) that relationships were built on some sort of matching game where we put down our cards one by one to see if they matched and then made the sensible decision, and the attraction would grow over time. So I was pretty shocked when I met someone and had to talk myself out of taking them home and ripping their clothes off, and realized that he felt the same way too. And even more intriguing – it didn’t work, and it was never going to work, and that was ok too. What it did teach me was that chemistry is a real thing, and I vowed that if I do ever get involved with anyone in a serious relationship the chemistry NEEDS to be there.
3. And another thing… I need to feel like I can be myself. I will be honest – I have met guys that I really liked, and I borderline stalked them to figure out what type of girl/woman they wanted me to be, and then made a very concerted effort to fit into that mold. And it seemed like a good idea at the time, but in the past few years, I have noticed that there are some interactions I have with men where I genuinely felt as if I could be myself, with minimal judgement. For me this is my definition of intimacy – to feel as if I can show myself without a fear of judgement. And I decided that this is something else that will be mandatory in any relationship I get into. I do not have the energy to keep up a façade for any extended period of time.
4. And apparently men have feelings too! This is something I need to remind myself of daily, even if it sound strange to you that it would be a discovery of mine. I was stunned when I saw the truth in this – not only that men have feelings, but that they have pretty similar feelings to the ones I have!! They might not express it in the same way, and this is something that threw me off, because I had numerous men telling me (very seriously) that women are emotional and men are driven only by logic. In some cases I think these men even believed this, but I only had to watch them have certain life experiences to show me that men can be just as vulnerable as women and they need to accept this, and find an outlet for it. This is me jumping to conclusions now, but I figure it must be hard for some men to live in a world where expression of human emotions is seen to belong to women alone, or is associated with being effeminate. So here it is – any man I get involved with needs to find a way to be in his feelings, and be ok with it.
5. And in the meantime – enjoy life! Because as I mentioned before, sometimes I think it would be nice to have a partner. I will confess that what I have found the most difficult is that many of my close friends are married or in relationships, and it has been hard to stay positive in friendships sometimes when I feel like I need them so much more than they need me. My friends are such a huge source of support for me, and I found it hard to accept how our friendships changed once they got married and had families. These are the people I travelled with, laughed with, cried with and went through so much with. Sometimes it feels as if they have moved onto another chapter while I was left holding the page and trying not to let it drop to reveal this next part of my life where our friendship plays a much smaller role for them than it does for me. That is my truth. But life is still there to be lived, and I am finding as many ways as possible to enjoy it. This includes maintaining connection with those friends – even though our friendships look totally different now – and providing support where I can. It also includes joining organizations and activities with people that I have other things in common with – my book club and voluntary organizations to name a few. And the last thing I will mention here is that I don’t let being single stop me from making plans and making things happen. Anyone who knows me knows I love to travel, and I have travelled with friends and on my own, and I will be honest – I didn’t enjoy the travel on my own nearly as much. But I still did it – and I was able to see sunrise and sunset over the grand canyon… see the Hollywood sign in all its glory… walk through Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island. And I didn’t regret any of them. I did these things by combining them with conferences or trainings that I wanted to attend, and tacked a few days on at the beginning or the end.
The reality is - I don’t want to wake up in 10 years time and regret passing up on opportunities simply because I didn’t have “the one” to do them with. There are so many adventures left in this world, and if I meet someone to journey with, we will not run out of things to do. In the meantime, I will have fun and enjoy time spent with my favourite people – which include my friends and my sisters, and you my dear readers!
And as a bonus lesson - one thing I learned is that humans are social creatures, designed for community, relationships and intimacy. So while I talk about single life, I have definitely made an effort to curate those things in my life, and this brought me a great deal of joy over the years.
And on that note – I am off to visit a friend!!
I bring you big love from a small island.
PS Above you will see a snap from when I visited Robben Island. I will have to tell you about THAT some day!