On being Single V being Part of a Couple
I realised the other day that it has been five years since I separated from a significant intimate relationship and that I have been ‘single’ for that length of time. It also dawned upon me that this was the longest period in my adult life that I had not had a boyfriend of one kind or another, be it husband, partner or simply a man in my life.
Over these last five years I have dated a number of times, had a few sexual dalliances but nothing of significance that has prompted me to want that person in my life on a long-term basis.
Five years ago, to find myself single at 63 years old, living in a new city (Melbourne) was the last thing I ever imagined and I certainly suffered for what seemed like too long a time. My hand which I had stretched out to grasp that elusive mystery called happiness, now fallen limply to my side.
That relationship left me shattered and bereft. Initially I thought my ex-partner was wonderful, the love of my life and we would grow old together. Sadly and shockingly he became detrimental to my mental and emotional well-being.
Yet, as I reflect on these five years of living alone in my apartment in a Melbourne city suburb, it has been a time of such potent growth for me as a person and as a woman. I am not afraid of being alone, as I used to be; I like my own company, despite being essentially a ‘delicious extrovert’ as one of my friends so generously described me recently. She was feeling sorry for me in this Melbourne lockdown at not being able to ‘gad’ about as I usually do; I continue to enjoy meaningful work which I am grateful for, and I have a community of friends and family who love me and I love them. I have also discovered the joy of writing in a serious way, and thus the creation of this blog, poetry and other projects I am working on.
But to be single is not always easy in a society where the dominant discourse of relationships is primarily based around a romantic view of coupledom. Couples are celebrated for being together for fifty years, no matter how miserable they are.
Against this backdrop, it can be hard to stay feeling empowered as a single woman and to be on the outside of this so called ‘norm’ of coupledom. Any one else relate?
I believe we should celebrate the courage of single women who have left relationships because those relationships were damaging to their sense of who they were at best, and at worst were blatantly unhealthy relationships.
Let’s honour single women for their resilience to stay single and not ‘settle’, because it seems easier to be part of the dominant discourse of being seen as a couple and to identify as being part of that couple.
May we banish that myth altogether that she is a sad, single woman who can’t score a man and that all she needs is a good f ….. ! Less of a conversation these days perhaps, but believe you me, it is still around in some of those locker rooms.
On that matter, I now deem deep connection with others, whether friend, family or lover, to be much more long-lasting and more satisfying than any pleasure one may enjoy from sex. I have enjoyed a lot of delightful sex in my life, but let’s face it, unless it is good sex with another, it’s not worth having if I may dare say so. All that messy stuff running down one’s legs when the pleasure may be minimal at best or simply non-existent ?.
Of course if good sex and deep connection are both available in abundance all at the same time, I will be the first to put my hand up.
And as for single men who I do not wish to leave out of this conversation ? Let them also speak about what it’s like to be an older, single man in a society where long-term coupledom is privileged. I am interested to hear. Please do tell ?