I Want To Be Single: Fighting Expectations For Marriage And Children
Let us state truths. I am a twenty-something-year-old Black millennial woman with zero aspirations for a husband or children right now. I can see minds churning when I make this sentiment public knowledge. I must be damaged, still healing from traumas, or still not mature enough for that commitment. Several persons have directed this concern towards me or my parents — what is that about? — in the past. Initially, my response was always a laugh or shrug. Now, I directly challenge this expectation of me. Why should I be focused on finding a husband? Why should I want children?
I have had the luxury of seeing my family members and friends find that someone they will spend the rest of their lives with and I feel an immense joy that they have what they have always wanted. In fact, I am the product of a successful marriage, thirty-two years of marriage and even more years of being friends. They even had the white painted concrete wall and two (successful) children. It ends there, however. There is no jealousy, no yearning for some missing piece, and no wishing I had someone to share happy moments with.
I am content with those who are around me presently. Finding my way to this outlook was a very tedious one, unfortunately. And it does not help that people insist on inserting their own opinions onto my decisions. But that is the nature of people when they think you are making a misinformed decision that does not match their own.
The Pursuit of Happiness
I spent my teens living my life, indirectly, based on the view that women who do not want these accolades for themselves are not “real women”. For too long, I felt that my life, for whatever reason, would be incomplete if I became successful but had no offspring or spouse to share it with. For an embarrassing amount of time, I felt the need to do as my peers were doing; planning weddings, finding baby names, and finding the right high school boyfriend to have the cute romantic novel ending with. I found it unrealistic then, but if that was the outcome of my parents’ relationship, why couldn’t it be mine as well?
Thankfully, modern-day psychologists have begun to face truths about living single versus married/committed life. Dr. Bella DePaulo has spent a lifetime proudly discussing living single and how “Matrimania” has shaped our views and decisions about our futures within and without relationships. She acknowledges that it has been perpetuated that people in marriages are always happier, healthier, and in some cases, have their lifespan extended beyond the normal span simply because they are married. Meanwhile, singles are described as lonely, depressed, and generally suffering from low self-esteem.
There has been and continues to be, no proof in this regard. In both aspects, people are recorded to be equally unhappy or happy in a study done in Poland. Researchers documented that being single leads to unhappiness when a person was involuntarily single (meaning they are of the belief that they would be better off in a romantic relationship). Individuals who were voluntarily single indicated that they didn’t feel the need to find romantic partners because they had good platonic relationships with their family and friends circles. DePaulo, also stresses the importance of this.
Happiness while living single is not out of reach even if you don’t find it your preferred way of life. The experts list the following as the keys to a happy and successful romantic relationship (ergo a happier life within it):
- Give their romantic partners the benefit of the doubt.
- Are kind in how they interpret their partner’s motives; that is, they try to attribute positive motives instead of negative ones.
- Are generous to their partners.
- Feel grateful and let their partner know it.
- Use humor to defuse conflicts.
- Do fun things with their partner.
As such, DePaulo asks, “Why can’t it be applied to platonic or familial relationships?” People are the same across any spectrum. They enjoy spending quality time and having a listening ear from someone who genuinely cares for their wellbeing - it does not need to be someone we are married to or romantically involved with. They could also be applied to building a stronger relationship with ourselves as well. Interpersonal skills are always in need of being strengthened. In most cases, the more we invest in an external relationship, the more we sacrifice and compromise about ourselves.
Unfortunately, during my search for my “other half”, I had to learn this lesson the hard way. Compromise is good for the sake of building better bonds with anyone, but it must be maintained in a very level manner. One person should not sacrifice or compromise more for the other person in a relationship, even if they do not mind. Over time it becomes draining and your supposed happy relationship becomes a place of deep resentment.
In those relationships in my teen years, I was happy and content to play the role of a loving and supportive girlfriend, and potentially the future wife and mother. But it always felt like I was forcing myself to fulfill these things in another person’s life. The more I learned about myself and to accept the truths about my mental illnesses, and the role my relationships (platonic and romantic) had to play in their development; it made me realize that I needed to get to know myself better and recognize what I really wanted. I needed to be committed to fulfilling my own needs and desires before I tried to do so in anyone else’s life.
Benefits Of Living Single
In time, I found that I was capable of being extremely happy without the permanent fixture of a partner. Even though I have had adult relationships and continue to foster an environment that will see me occasionally dating, I choose to prioritize myself and my tribe around me, rather than a permanent romantic relationship. Simply because it is what I prefer.
At the end of the day, we have to consider and maintain what is best for us. Finding things and people we will enjoy. We cannot allow the opinions of others to determine how we live our lives. What might have worked best for my parents and other family members might not work best for me. And that is okay.
Releasing society’s expectation and belief that an unmarried woman and childless woman (after a certain age) is unfulfilled has been one of my greatest mental accomplishments. People still insist on telling me “oh you’re young you still have time to change your mind”. If I do, then it would have been my choice and not a choice influenced by society’s matrimania. If I do not, I know I will continue to have quality relationships as I do now.
If you need more reasons to accept and embrace your own singledom or those around you, DePaulo and Medical News Today debunk some of these single myths in their articles. At the end of the day, we know people do find love and happiness in marriage. I still root for people who take that plunge, because marriage is serious work. A full-time commitment to not only loving and supporting your partner but also remembering to love and support yourself as an individual in that relationship.
People who add a child to their life are unrecognized heroes. But society needs to recognize that single women aren’t always the wicked witch, the evil spinster, or cat lady (I mean what is wrong with being a cat lady. Cats are awesome). Being a single woman in today’s society might be met with unsolicited opinions regarding your relationship status.
As long as we recognize that OUR decisions affect OUR lives only, we can do nothing but flourish. Living single when you are completely emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually attuned to loving and taking care of yourself cannot be seen as a negative. Do not allow others to sully your time for yourself. Everything has its time and purpose. For me, right now living single has taught me much more about loving, living my best life, while being much more appreciative of the people who are currently around me.
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