Being from Texas, I know a thing or two about “single anxiety.”
There’s a massive amount of pressure resting on your bony prepubescent shoulders to get hitched and create babies the second it’s socially acceptable to do so. Which, happens to be around the ripe age of 22.
I remember talk of engagements started swirling around our sorority house junior year – and I was a full and active participant. We talked about what rings we wanted, what kind of engagement we wanted – the whole shebang (!!!). Our brains weren’t even fully developed, yet they were absolutely hardwired to couple up. Society is one persuasive bitch.
For full disclosure, I got engaged last year. And am getting married at the end of this year.
I’ll be 29.
Which is 65 in Texas years.
While I did receive a fair amount of pressure to get married over our four year relationship (and add moving in together AND moving across the country during that time – yikes), I really did not face the unfair scrutiny of being single in your 20s. So I’m going to be completely honest and say I can’t personally relate to a lot of it. But I was single in my early 20s (it’s almost just as bad being single in Texas at 23 as it is being single in New York at 32 – I’m serious) and I have *PLENTY* of clients who are currently single or who have been single and could.not.stand.it.
So I get it.
And I’ve learned that there are things to consider that will lessen any anxiety you might feel over being single.
I want to be crystal clear – I do not think you should have any anxiety over being single at any age. Being single is a gift, and I’ve written about the joys of being by yourself many times. But I can’t ignore the fact that this society doesn’t appreciate the single woman as much as it values the single man. And I’m sure you can’t ignore it, either.
So I wanted to put together a list of things that my clients and I have found to be true about this time in your life. Think on them, consider them, and use them whenever you’re feeling anxious about your singlehood. I hope they bring you some peace so you can fully embrace this part of your life!
1. You are forced to get to yourself really well.
Well, maybe not forced. I guess you could go all ostrich-style and dig your hand in the sand so you don’t have to face yourself. But being single makes that kind of difficult.
How do you live when you’re by yourself? How do you fill your time? Who do you talk to? What do you look forward to? What do you think about the most? What tends to stress you out? What gives you joy?
You have the answers to these questions floating in your head all day every day. I know this, because you aren’t thinking about a significant other. So everything in your head is the product of your motivations when you are by yourself. Powerful stuff.
This might feel self-centered or purposeless, living a life that’s just full of you. But it’s not. In order to be there for somebody else, you have to be there for yourself first. Otherwise, you end up projecting your own feelings onto others and not really thinking about what THEY want because your subconscious is trying to be heard. So you’ll end up not only missing the ball with others, but also depriving yourself of your own basic needs.
It’s not good.
And the more you put this off, the more it will affect future relationships. You can’t get in the habit of orbiting around somebody else – you have to focus on making yourself happy before all others. This habit will strengthen all areas of your life and make your future relationships SO much easier.
Use this time to hone in on what makes you happy. Do not focus on trying to find someone new to please. Sit with yourself for as long as you can until you are completely sure you understand what makes you tick. Then, and only then, should you start considering the notion of making someone else happy, too.
2. The older you get, the faster relationships progress.
I’m not saying this to make you feel better. I’m saying this because I’ve seen it happen time after time after time. And you need to be prepared.
Once you have done your own work and have accepted the idea that relationships *are not* perfect and *will never be* – a whole new set of doors open. And people don’t mess around once they’re ready to settle down.
But first, let’s back up. It’s crucial to note that sometimes the reason we’re single is because our standards are astronomically high. Yes, it is supremely important to make the right decision when choosing to marry someone, but it’s also good to note that this person won’t be perfect. They will have their struggles. They will be moody. They will leave the toilet seat up, forget to inform you about black tie attire at a formal wedding, and “soak” dishes in the dirty damn sink instead of putting them in the mother-freaking-dishwasher. And it will take actual work from you to make the relationship a happy one.
So, again, once you’ve accepted that, you’re going to meet someone at some point past the “ideal” age (whatever that is) and it’s going to rock your world. Before you know it, you’ll be talking about moving in. Then marriage. Then babies. Then…omg how did this happen it’s been like two months?
It happened because you did the work.
Once you REALLY know yourself, you are going to attract someone who REALLY knows themselves, too. And when two people really know themselves well, they also know what they want. And they don’t waste their time with it, either. Forget four year long courtships followed with an 18 month long engagement. Why the hell wait when you know? Try having an 18 month long RELATIONSHIP before putting a ring on it followed by a six month engagement. Now THAT’S what I’m talking about.
I’ve always said that people who met each other and started dating at very young ages are absolutely screwed. This isn’t to say that they are bound for divorce or a rocky marriage.
Not at all.
But they had to experience their growing pains with someone else watching THE WHOLE TIME. And guess what? Their partner was going through their OWN growing pains, too! They had to get to know themselves WHILE also dealing with getting to know someone else. That’s a ton of work, and pretty stressful might I add. I’m sure for those couples it was more than worth it. But I’m sure some of them cringe thinking back on a few of those uncomfy patches.
So don’t think of it as you being broken or boring or whatever other lame excuse you came up with to justify why you’re single. Think of it has you being efficient. You’d rather get to know yourself FIRST before getting involved with someone else who also happens to have done the work, too.
3. You would feel pressure regardless.
Ah, yes. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Look, people are going to judge you no matter how you choose to spend your time. You cannot possibly become a carbon copy of anyone else, and with that, comes disappointment. People like to be validated in their choices. So if the majority of society gets married at 25, and you don’t, you’re going against their choices. People don’t like that – because they might start wondering, “Am I doing the right thing?? Am I too young?? OH SHIT.”
But let’s say you do get married at 25. And then they all have babies at age 27. And you choose to travel and build your career instead. Or you have fertility issues. Then what?
It’s a never-ending circle of anxiety.
Of course, not all opinions are as damning as these are. Healthy friendships are full of support and kindness and empathy. True friends could give two shits when you choose to settle down. But…those aren’t the opinions you’re concerned over. Those aren’t the opinions giving you anxiety.
It’s society as a “whole” that you’re probably worrying about (or perhaps a specific group you have decided to deem as “normal”). But I’m here to deliver the disappointing news: You will never fit into those standards no matter how hard you try.
So yes, being single at a certain age might make you feel like a total black sheep, but there’s a chance you wouldn’t feel any better even if you were married. Because then, you’d need to have the “perfect” marriage. If you didn’t have impeccable work-life balance, an immaculately clean house, two perfectly behaved children, a repertoire of healthy, yet tasty meals, a tightly run schedule, and a happy disposition anytime in public – then you’d fail anyway. And be miserable.
So who is it we are trying to please?
Clearly, it’s not yourself.
And just to point out the obvious, this isn’t really about being single. This is about you feeling shitty about yourself for no reason and as a result you’re blaming your relationship status. Meeting someone *might* not fix this pressure you feel to keep up with the Jones’. You’re going to have to dig in and think about why you feel the need to change who you are to please a general population, and consider the fact that it’s no way to live.
I struggle with this, too, so I don’t want you to think you’re a shallow person for looking over your shoulder and beating yourself up over what you see. I get down on myself for living in a tough city with high barriers to entry and a lot of competition. In a lot of ways, my life would be muuuuuuch easier in Texas. But you know what? Getting married at 26, owning a big house, and having kids earlier isn’t an easy life, either. My alternate life in Texas would come with its own pressures and obstacles.
Again – we are screwed no matter what.
But what I can lean on is the fact that THIS life right now – these are MY choices. And I try as hard as I possibly can to cultivate a deep sense of pride in them. Otherwise, I’m going to float through life without intention and without joy.
I don’t want that for me. And I don’t want that for you, either. So understand that being single is what you are actively choosing right now, and every choice has consequences. Try your damned hardest to trust your decisions and have faith that you are doing what’s right for you. That’s all we can do in this crazy life.
4. You can get a “You aren’t marrying the wrong person” badge.
There’s this brilliant episode of Sex and the City called “A Woman’s Right to Shoes.” It’s one of my all-time favorites. I’ll spare you the play by play of the script, but there’s one scene in particular that I’m a big fan of.
Charlotte and Carrie are walking down the street, eating yogurt, and Carrie is royally bitching about how annoying it is to be a single female. Then, she says something interesting.
“Hallmark doesn’t make a Congratulations! You didn’t marry the wrong guy! card.”
Now before we beat ourselves up – we’ve all dated the wrong guy. Or girl. And some of us might have even married them. But I can safely say that if you are single at the moment, then you are not currently marrying the wrong guy. And you can absolutely be proud of that.
Being single in this very moment is you choosing yourself over somebody else that cannot and would not make you happy. What a beautiful gift you are giving yourself! The faith and the courage to make yourself happy instead of passing off some of that responsibility onto somebody else (which by the way is never a good idea regardless but that’s another blog post.) You are triumphantly owning that you are the queen of your own destiny. What’s shameful about that?
5. If you wanted to be in a relationship, you would be.
I’ve written about this before, so I won’t bore you redundancy. But the point is – there are people out there who get married not because they fell in love, but because being married to them was more important than all else. So if you want to get married, I have no doubt there’s someone within your social network who has the itch, too. Y’all can hook up together and ride into the sunset in a white dress and a black tuxedo. But that’s not what you want, is it? Because if it was, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.
Quiet your anxiety with the realization that your singlehood is an active choice, not an obligation. You have the option to get married whenever you want to cash in those chips. We can brainstorm all the ways if you’d like. It’s all about priorities. IF your priority is to get married, then girl get on it! But if your priority is happiness – then that’s a different story. In that case, I’d recommend holding onto those chips and cultivating patience for the right opportunity.
6. There’s lots of room to dream and manifest.
Ok so being single is kind of fun because you also get to dream about your non-single self.
No, the point of being single is NOT to dwell on getting out of this phase stat – you have LOTS of things going for you that do not require a plus-one, but it is nice to have the flexibility and openness to date whomever you’d like and dream about whomever you’d like.
You could fall in love with a rockstar. A professor. A kind person. A sarcastic person. An adventurer. A romantic. You could fall in love with anybody.
Isn’t that fantastic? You still get that excitement of not knowing what’s next. You could fall in love with your best friend of 10 years after a cozy cup of coffee or meet someone brand new on a vacation in the south of France. Anything can happen, and that magic doesn’t exist for everyone anymore.
Hone it in. Follow that joy that arises when you fantasize about a future life. Let it lead you to your actual reality. Manifest those desires and focus on the feelings associated with it. THIS is how people attract what they desire. And you have a blank canvas to paint anything you want. How fantastic!
Bottom line? Remember that being single offers up a world of opportunity and time. You have the space you need and desire to find out who you really are, and the flexibility to search on your own timeline for someone who is on the same frequency as you.