Several years ago, I was hit with the anxiety of being in my 40s, unmarried and without children. Of course, I already knew these things to be true, but I suddenly realized that I was a bit different than most of my friends.
Most of them had been married, divorced, birthed a few children, married and some even divorced again. One of my friends recently even joked that I needed to get married and divorced like everyone else so I would be normal. I laughed at the absurdity of that statement, but not because it hadn't been said to me many times in one way or another.
Men (and many women) would ask why I hadn't been married - why I was still single?!?! At times, it seemed more like an accusation than a question.
If I could have given a simple answer to that question, I would have....but life is never that simple.
In my 30s, I was engaged to a man whom I loved dearly - the only man I ever wanted to have children with. Unfortunately, fate stepped in and changed our world so drastically that we were never the same. We never got to create the normal life we had dreamed of. He and I are good friends now, and still hold love in our hearts for each other - not the same kind of love - but the love of a shared story and strong ties.
I have dated, a lot, over the years. I have met many great, interesting, engaging, kind, generous men......but none of those relationships ended in anything more than great, deep friendships. That is a bonus - having great friendships with the men whom I once dated. Once you are in my heart, you tend to stay there.....
Don't get me wrong, I have also dated schmucks. Men whose very existence depended on creating a facade because the truth of who they were scared them to death! Those men, those schmucky men are the ones I am most grateful for - they taught me the hard lessons I had to learn.
They are also in my heart - just in a special box marked "Caution - Hazardous Material." I keep them there as a reminder of how far I have come - and of all the lessons I have learned....and have yet to learn.
Yesterday I received an email from an old friend. He wanted to share his story of heartbreak - to share the story of how he chased loved and found only deceit and lies. We were on common ground.
Aren't we all? I recognized in his story - was my story - our common stories. We are all searching for love. For connection. For a sense of belonging and a safe haven to be open and vulnerable. For some, that can be a very scary place and they will do everything in their power to run from it. Even though their words may say otherwise.
Others of us run to it like a honey bee to a newly birthed bud. It is our nectar. It is our nourishment. It is what fills us up and lends weight to our lives. So, we dive right in. Fully aware of the risks. Fully aware that we may get bruised or drown in it all. We dive in anyway.
Truth is - there aren't any guarantees when it comes to love. You can give your pure, open, vulnerable heart to someone and still have it pounded into oblivion. You can give and love and trust and let go and still find that all has been a lie. You can find true love - better than anything you have ever experienced - then have it all taken away by some horrible stroke of fate. Love from another can't always be guaranteed.
A marriage license does not guarantee a happy life. A commitment does not guarantee forever-till-death-do-us-part. "I will always love you" does not guarantee love always. Some people get the privilege of years of commitment and love always - but not many anymore.
That is not an admonishment of love, it is a reality of our times. So, while I have yet to be married, I am blessed to have been in love and loved. Some of those relationships - now dear friendships - have lasted longer than some of my friend's marriages. Neither is right or wrong - just is what it is.
Is it normal that I have never been married? Decades ago it wasn't normal for people to have been divorced - especially women. Lots of our cultural norms have changed - thankfully.
We are in new times. We have the benefit of deciding how we want our relationships to be defined and structured. We can get married. We can be domestic partners. We can share a great big bed or each have our own bed and only share when the mood hits. We can live in separate homes or share one together. We can be in open relationships. We can be in polyamorous relationships. We can be celibate. We can decide to live alone or with others in a shared space.
We now get to decide how to define the structure of in love with the person(s) we love. Is it normal?
I'm not sure. What I do know though - is that when all else fails - all I have is right now. This moment. Right now - I am not married.
I am going to be content and happy right now. Married or not. That - I can guarantee.
What about you?