Even as a little girl, Susan Booth, whose parents taught her self-sufficiency, never assumed that getting married and having kids were inevitable events for her future. As it turns out, they weren’t.
Booth, 49, never has married, but don’t feel sorry for her. She says she enjoys a full and happy life, filled with friends, fulfilling work, hobbies, family relationships and more.
“It just doesn’t faze me anymore,” Booth says about her single status. “At a certain point, you’re so comfortable with yourself that you don’t need to have somebody else. If somebody special were to come into my life, I would certainly welcome it, but I’ve become very comfortable and set in my ways. … I really believe that you have to be happy with yourself before you can be happy with someone else anyway.”
Society — perhaps especially during the holiday season — tends to promote the romanticized image of a “happily ever after” marriage as the one and only route to happiness, and the life goal for all women and men. Really? For many adults, happily ‘never’ after is their destiny, or they are single at least for a prolonged, but ultimately, finite period of time. According to last year’s U.S. Census Bureau figures, about 4 percent of people age 65 and older never married. Among adults of all ages, though, unmarried folks head a full 44 percent of households nationwide, the Census figures say.
Long-term singles not only can survive, but thrive, without Mr. or Ms. Right, experts say.
After all, as President Lincoln once noted, happiness is a matter of choice. No other person can make you happy, says DeMarquis Clarke, director of clinical training and assistant professor for the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Seton Hill University.
“I think that a relationship should not create your happiness; you have to create your own happiness,” Clarke says.
People absolutely can be just as happy single as coupled, he says. People can create their own families from friends and relatives, and don’t necessarily need a partner. The misconception is that single people are lonely and sad, and that they are single by force rather than by choice, Clarke says. This notion can drive people into bad, unhealthy and incompatible relationships, as people seek from others a sense of value that only can be found from inside.
“I think that people sacrifice their own happiness to appease others,” he says. “A lot of women get into relationships because that’s the thing to do.”
Andrew Wampler, who launched the www.singleshelp.org Web site in 2005 to help empower singles, says that so many people, unfortunately, have a very negative view of singleness.
“I think most people in general would, when they hear the term being single, make them shudder or something,” says Wampler, of Springfield, Ill. “It’s almost like a swear word in today’s society.
“Society and the people around us … the message that they’re sending us is, you have to be married or you have to be in a relationship in order to be happy. You can’t be happy without it,” he says.
People often think there must be something wrong with singles — that they party too much, or are selfish, or emotionally unhealthy — or think that they’re gay, says Wampler, 31, who never has married. He says he takes it one day at a time, and as a Christian, trusts God with his life. Wampler points out that even the Bible exalts singleness as a great spiritual opportunity.
“Single people can live fulfilling lives,” he says. “Just because the majority of people are getting married, it doesn’t mean we have to do what everyone else is doing.
“Being single is a much better alternative to being in a bad relationship,” he says.
Especially during the holiday season, singles should focus their time on serving others, which will bring joy to both parties, Wampler says. They also should spend time with friends and family, and be thankful for the blessings in their lives.
“We’re supposed to stop and think about whatever we’re thankful for,” he says. “Instead of dwelling on what we don’t have, be grateful for what we do have.”
Carolyn Leutwiler, author of “Singleness Redefined: Living Life to the Fullest,” agrees. Singleness, she adds, often is seen merely as the “waiting room” until the right partner comes along, and life begins. But why wait? You never know how long that period will last, and even if it is permanent, you can embrace and enjoy life, she says. Life offers so much more than just romance.
“Let’s make the waiting room a productivity center, so that instead of waiting, we’re actually being,” says Leutwiler, 37, of New York City.
As a Christian, Leutwiler says her sense of security comes from her relationship with God, rather than a marriage. Although she says she always wanted and expected to marry, her spiritual foundation gives her peace and joy about circumstances.
“The fact that I’m single is not at all a mistake,” Leutwiler says.
Jackie Pfeiffer, 56, of Winfield, Butler County, is a happily “never” after woman, and does not desire or expect to get married in the future. When she was younger, both she and her parents felt disappointed that marriage did not happen for Pfeiffer
“When you watch your friends get married, you wonder, hmm, what’s wrong with me?” Pfeiffer says. “But the longer I stayed single, the more I enjoyed it.
The retired schoolteacher says she loves the freedom of her single lifestyle.
“I’m content the way I am,” Pfeiffer says. “If I want to pick up and go somewhere, I can go.
“Sometimes you can get lonely; everybody does, whether you’re in a crowd or by yourself,” she says.
HOW TO BE A SUCCESSFUL SINGLE
- Don’t put your life on hold waiting for a relationship to happen.
- Find your life’s vision and purpose, and live it while you are single.
- One of the best ways to find your life partner is to be a happy, successful single person living the life that you really want.
- Know what types of people are bad for you, and avoid them.
- Don’t just wait for someone to come knocking at your door. It can be a long wait. Get out into social situations.
- Seek out healthy choices in potential partners.
- Always keep in mind that it only takes one.
- Create an attractive and compelling life that someone would be eager to be a part of.
- In other words, view being single not as a condition to be cured, but as an opportunity to be explored and lived out to its fullest.
ADVANTAGES OF BEING SINGLE:
- Freedom and independence
- Control over your time
- Control over your money
- Not having to tolerate someone else’s annoying habits
- No emotional roller-coaster rides
- The ability to become aware of who you are
MYTHS OF UNMARRIEDS
Many people view singleness as negative, but that’s not true. Look at these myths about being single, and the contrasting truth, from Andrew Wampler, who manages SinglesHelp.org, a Web site for singles.
- “Singleness equals loneliness.” — What about your friends and family?
- “A relationship will help me feel better about myself.” — No, self-esteem has to come from within. If you lack it, a relationship will make matters worse.
- “Being single is unacceptable, and I must be in a committed relationship as soon as possible.” — Actually, singleness is far better and healthier than a bad relationship, which you’ll probably find if you’re desperate.
- “Singleness is meant to be a ‘waiting period’ for finding the right person.” — You can embrace life and live to the fullest, right now.
- “Accepting singleness is giving up or admitting defeat.” — No, it’s a victory, because you have conquered your fears and anxiety about being single, and a mate may very well come along.
Printed with permission, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review © 2008