Can single women be happy? It is an ongoing debate. While I am hopeful that my husband is out there, I am happy being single AND I accept that I may never get married or have children. I admit, before I got to this point of acceptance, I had many days filled with sadness over being single, being childless, and possibly remaining single for the rest of my life. I recently interviewed Mental Health Specialist, Asha Tarry about what is at the root the sadness single women feel and 10 tips to help us get out of our funk.
S&LF: What is at the root of why some women feel sad about being single?
Asha: This is a great question I’ve been dying to answer–
A.) Because we have a self-concept of who we think we are; many people, characterize themselves by the professions we hold, or the roles we play in our families. We measure achievement by what we have obtained in life–a house, education, a mate, offspring. Often, and with the help of our families, friends and society, we also create a fantasy life that we add on to our real lives. Usually, fantasy and reality do not match the same beliefs about what is true and what is not true. So, when the fantasy of what we have told ourselves about what we should have in life, and by what time in life we should have those things, falls flat many of us feel like we have failed. The sadness lies in the notion that we “haven’t measured up!”
B.) It has been 4 decades since the Women’s Liberation Movement which was supposed to help women defy social norms, but women, many times, still believe that having a husband and having children is a “must-have” before you leave this Earth. Few are challenged by the belief that life is fulfilling with people–of all kinds–and experiences and contributions other than a partner and kids.
S&LF: Is that healthy… to feel sadness over being single?
Asha: A.) Healthy would be first acknowledging that you have this belief and deciding how you will hold yourself accountable to how you choose to live it. If you think that searching for a partner and raising a family coincides with what you believe is your purpose, then there is nothing at all wrong with that.
B.) On the contrary, if you are having adjustment issues–regular crying, irritability, feeling hopeless or worthless– to being single after a set age e.g. after 25 or 30 yrs old (with many women in Metro cities 30 yrs and over being single) than your thoughts and beliefs are taking a toll on your well-being and that’s not healthy; that’s stressful and in some cases, it’s consuming to most individuals
C.) Lastly, single living is not a life sentence. For a lot of happy, well adjusted women, being single is also a choice. Too many times we look at single people with judgment–“someone left them” or “they must not be able to keep a man” or “maybe they’re widowed or divorced” but then we give salvation to the ones who are single but they have a child! Being a parent is also a choice.
There is life, in living single. And single really means, unmarried. You can be partnered and be single or dating and be single and life can be enjoyable.
S&LF: What is the difference between feeling sad and being depressed about being single?
Asha: A.) Being sad is feeling a sense of loss of some sort; loss of the dream, the hopes of what you thought would be; loss of the fantasy. Being depressed is a deeper level of grief, hopelessness, worthlessness, afflictions of psychological pain that life has failed you or you have not met the expectations you or someone else set out for you.
B.) To be depressed about it leaves one feeling as if things will not get better, no one will love them because they’re unlovable.
These intense feelings can be detrimental to relationships with friends, or future potential partners.
Remembering life as exciting and careless when one was in their 20s is limiting. Life is exciting in all sorts of ways past the 20s; and relationships can be more pleasurable later on because you understand usually, what you want from your relationships with people; from your career and education. You can include extensions of loved ones into your life from godchildren, to parents and circles of supportive people.
C.) Every relationship does not have to be based on sexual intimacy to feel close–and that’s what we’re really talking about. Intimacy is getting close to others; that comes in all forms.
Tips on How Women Can Cope With Living Single
1. Make A List!–Write Down Your Top 5 Needs vs. Your Top 5 Wants For Your Life & Prioritize Them
2. Get Busy With Yourself!–Create New & Fulfilling Experiences In Your Life
3. Let Go, Willingly–Let Go Of The Pressures Your Family, Friends & The World Has Put On You To Be Married, With Children By Your Age
4. Make Requests!–From Loved Ones That They Not Repeatedly Ask About Your Dating Life. You Will Share It With Them When The Time & Person Is Right
5. Sign Up!–Sign Up To A New Group/Organization That Encourages Multi-cultural Living & Activities In Your Community & Abroad
6. Dress From The Inside/Out: Just As You Would With Old Clothes, Clean Out Your Own Hangups About Being Single. Talk It Out With Someone You Trust or A Professional If You Must
7. Remain Open To Relationships!–All Types. Date Men Friends; Have Friends With Whom You Enjoy Different Social Events, Dining Or Traveling
8. Reposition Yourself In Your Family–Are You The Rescuer or The Enabler and Maybe You Have Attracted That In Your Intimate Partners? Change Your Patterns!
9. Acknowledge & Affirm Who You Are Becoming–If You Are In A Space That Is Ready For Personal Growth, Acknowledge It & Affirm That You Deserve A Better Life!
10. Let’s Party!–Create Atmospheres Where You Laugh & Can Relax. If Anyone Worth Your Time Will See The Best In You It’s When You’re Smiling
*Above are a few social tips for women who are struggling with being single, living single, or living the single life anew. These tips are not to replace the seriousness of depressive symptoms or something worse. If you feel distraught or overwhelmed by your current state of being, sick help right away.
-Asha Tarry, Licensed Mental Health Specialist