Never-married and childless, Stephanie (not her real name) never dreamed her life would turn out the way it has.
“Singleness is something I deal with constantly,” the 35-year-old educator said. “I overhear my co-workers talk about ‘checking in’ with their spouse, and it reminds me I don’t have anyone to check in with. It even affects my friendships. I overreact when someone doesn’t respond to an invitation. I know that if I don’t hang out with them that evening, I’ll be alone.”
Some people may dismiss Stephanie’s complaints with the thought: “What’s the big deal? Enjoy your freedom; marriage isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, anyway.”
Stephanie, however, wants married individuals to understand something, “Singleness is a real issue,” she said. “It’s a painful issue. And it’s bigger than they think.”
For Americans in general, the number of single and married heads of households is about equal. For blacks, things get even more complicated. Forty-two percent of black women have never married compared to around 27 percent of white women, and some statistics have indicated that when you add up African American never-marrieds, divorcees and widows that percentage jumps to an unbelievable 70 percent.
Stephanie can relate to this, being African American. She muses, “Out of about 15 of my closest African American girlfriends, only three are married. But I think all of my white co-workers are married.”
The emotional toll weighs on women like Stephanie, who have never had “Sex in the City” type experiences with men. “I’ve never had a serious relationship. I don’t even know what its like. It’s hurtful to tears.”
A deeply spiritual person, Stephanie relies on prayer and her church family for support. But at times, she still struggles to maintain hope. “I try to stay positive, stay involved, stay busy,” she said. “But I battle daily to keep believing God over what is constantly in my face.”
Other singles manage what is before them in unique ways. One twice-divorced mother with no desire to re-marry seems to attract men like a magnet. She picks them up at grocery stores, social events — even her front yard. Rather than let them go to waste, she introduces the eligible bachelors to her other single friends and has gotten a reputation for being a match-maker.
Another 30-something single recently met a man in Europe. After one whirlwind month of romantic and interesting dates, she decided she could marry him. “I mean, if we share the same faith and he’s a good person — I’m going to go forward (with marriage),” she said.
The happiest singles seem to be those who have a vibrant social life are involved in loving relationships, enjoy their careers and are satisfied with their lifestyles in general. There’s just no getting around it, being single and in a relationship or as a single parent is quite different than just being single.
Most self-help books and workshops for singles focus on being emotionally healthy for future marriage and greater satisfaction with life as it is.
They’d sum up their philosophy with, “Better to be single than in a bad marriage.”
A new wave of writings, however, could be summed up in the title of a book called, “Get Married.” One of the greatest of human fears is that of being alone in the world, and having a family symbolizes moving through life in constant relationship.
These new writings emphasize helping singles marry, believing that the deepest satisfaction in life is found in this oldest of institutions.
Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.