It's happened to me — more than once. There were multiple instances throughout my 20s when I realized that I was the odd woman out. And when I hit my 30s, I thought I was immune to the trends. None of my friends had husbands or iron-clad relationships. None of them had kids. And then they did. It happened really fast, and now I’m a cool aunt to four babies, and bride to none. Boo-hoo, so sad, right? Don't get me wrong, I've been in relationships. Long ones, even. I spent five years with one man. But being part of a couple doesn’t wield the same weight it did even last generation. People are in and out of relationships. It happens. And yet—some of us are more in and out than others.

In spite of the fact it’s more acceptable than ever before to be scared of commitment, or at least delay it, I like to think connection always wins out in the end. Meaning, people do pair off. And, while sometimes you’re the last one left standing (like I am, at this very moment)—let me be the first to say that although I’m a strong, independent, badass woman who does not need a man and would rather be alone than with the wrong guy, it does feel really fucking brutal at times. Everyone that I’ve ever met with more experience than me, though, says one of two things: 

1) This too shall pass.

or

2) So what if it doesn’t? 

Okay, I realize number 2 is a lot harder. Especially since the world as we know it still caters to couples and one can’t always be strong. No need to worry though, because I don’t believe we’re left alone, ultimately, unless we choose to be. 

I offer you these 5 reflections on helping yourself get back to yourself in those difficult moments of doubt, loneliness, or self-denigration that sometimes like to crash the party when we’re single and surrounded by couples.

1) Being alone vs. feeling lonely

Huge difference. Many of us know this, but reminders are often useful. Unfortunately, even though hanging out with oneself can be a total blast, it's stigmatized. Especially for us ladies. I've gone to the bar and sat alone drinking whiskey with the best (and worst) of them. But it's extremely rare that I see another woman doing the same thing. I've never been self-conscious about eating out alone. Only recently did I begin to feel a little pathetic about the whole thing.

Upon further reflection, though, I came to the conclusion that it's not being alone that's making me lonely. It’s working too much, and not having time for my creative pursuits, or my friends. And yes, they are busy with their babies and their relationships. But when they do have time, I often don't. There's something in my own life that's making me lonely. And I'm almost certain (from past experience too) that it'll pass once I figure out how to restore balance in my life. And then my energy will shift for the better, and quality love interests respond to self-loving energy. Cardinal rule of humanity. There are no shortcuts. As a band of bad ass beauties once informed the world, you can’t hurry love.

2) Narrative therapy

Which brings me to the whole “so what if you don’t ever find love?” bit. It's a tough pill to swallow, I admit. I'm a hard-core romantic, so I get it. In spite of my unconventional feelings about romantic love, such as not really caring about marriage or children, I have definitely had occasion many a time to subject myself to a good old bout of narrative therapy. Whatever narrative “musts” you're clinging to, whether it's that you must get married before your younger sister does, that you must own a home by the time you're 30, that you must have children before it's too late, or that you must not be the only one of your friends who’s still single, it's important to realize that scolding yourself into a box based on what you have or haven't attained by a certain time really works against any goal you set for yourself.

single

Indeed, the self-scolding, more often than not, takes over the actually getting what we want. Don't work against yourself by not going with your flow. Things seldom (if ever) work out as planned. That’s the way love goes.

3) Freedom

George Michael sang a great song about it, so it’s gotta be a bona fide thing. Personally, I’ve spent the better part of my adult life striving to up my level of personal freedom: honing my ability to live alone, work on my own schedule, eat what I want, fuck who I want when I want, and fall in love with whoever I see fit have been long-term works-in-progress for me, and I’m really proud of the life I’ve created for myself, small and unimpressive though it may appear to some. When I think about how much I struggled to sustain my personal power and freedom in past relationships, I shudder and know that I would much rather be alone than recreate those dynamics—which I was just as much responsible for as the men I chose to be with. And I’m almost always watching at least one coupled friend go through bullshit I don’t crave. For now, I know that I’m working on me, and if I’m lucky, my freedom will fall in love with someone else’s freedom sometime. And the feeling will be mutual. 

4) Time and age are irrelevant, truly

Don’t get the wrong idea. I am not a classically patient person. I’m a horny, emotional, sometimes rash specimen of womanhood. But you simply have to treat time like it’s on your side. This can feel impossible, I know, especially for those of us who are sure we want children. The limitations of biology are real, as are society’s devaluing and desexualizing of “older” women. But guess what? Nobody said it was easy being a self-actualized human being. While there are ways to respond to your parenting desires such as advancements in science or adoption services, there is no such service when it comes to scheduling your next relationship. 

party of one

5) Doing justice to yourself

While I know a mountain of self-help listicles about seizing inner power and embracing singledom can cease to resonate and make one wanna vomit after a while—and goddess knows it’s TOUGH and terrible out there in the dating scene today—I’m a firm believer that if you have any capacity to self-reflect at all (you do if you’re reading this), then you know, somewhere deep inside, that rushing into something or settling for someone stacks the odds against you in a way that being single never could. I believe that the more wholehearted and less forced a relationship is, the better chance it has of actually staying the course. In the meantime, I suggest doing whatever it takes to be happy. Even though you can’t always get what you want, I think if you do that, you may just get what need. 

May everyone have love <3

Cover Photo Source: Nyanza D.