While driving home a few week ago, I was listening to a podcast I recently came across in which people write letters about a topic of conflict and the hosts give them advice. I had listened and liked a few of their episodes, so, when I saw an episode titled “The One”, I was intrigued. It was an episode on single women ages 20-50, who had written to the hosts about feeling very anxious regarding not finding “The One”.
As the episode was coming to an end and they kept reading snippets of the letters, the final thoughts of the hosts (who are incidentally both married) were something like “Well, some of these women will find love but maybe some of them will never find love.” I literally felt my self reaching to turn off the volume as I couldn’t bear to listen anymore.
Later I reflected on what had made me feel such resistance to their words that had conjured up this mixture of anger, sadness and shame. I realized what was affecting me was this notion that you either Find love or Not. It was of course not the first time I had heard these words but somehow it was the first time the meaning behind the words really hit me.
I remember a few years ago, when laughingly, I told one of my yoga teachers that my love-life is nonexistent. He asked me why do I say that, that do I not feel love in my life, to which I responded that of course I do feel love but what I mean is the romantic love. He knew what I had meant, but was trying to get me to pay attention to my choice of words and phrases.
I obviously didn’t think much of what I said and even thought he was being fastidious. But as I reflect on my emotional reaction to this podcast, I realize that the sense of shame around being single is directly tied in to these phrases and these beliefs.
This phrase “To Find Love” somehow denotes that the feeling of “being loved” only comes with finding and being with a romantic partner and if you happen to be single all your life, then you have basically never found and lack love.
Is this really true?
Do all married or paired-up people experience a constant feeling of being loved, connected, desired, understood and supported because they have a partner?
Do they never feel disappointed, frustrated, angry, sad, disconnected or even lonely?
If you have any honest married friends they would tell you, that they have a mix of all of these emotions on different days. They would tell you, that sometimes while even sitting next to their significant other they feel disconnected and lonely. And these are not marriages or relationships that are “not working”. These are the realities of human-ness.
I even wonder how many people go in to a marriage with the notion and expectation that once married, you should feel loved at all time and if not, then the marriage is not working. I know I used to think this during my long term relationship.
A truly brave married woman, once told me, that at times she has felt lonely, even though her hand is in her husband’s hand, who is being loving to her. But she is not really feeling the love because at that moment she is feeling insecure or not good about herself.
And this being single… this supposedly “not having found love”. Is this really true?
I ask myself; do I not, many times, feel loved by (and for) all those who are in my life, or come in to my life, from family and friends to many other experiences that bring that feeling of connected, understood, supported, and even desired? And do I not feel the same spectrum of emotions?
Why is it that we have come to think, agree and believe that being single means “lacking”? Especially for a woman.
I realize the desire for companionship can be a very intrinsic and even primal desire and may even come from a desire for having children with a partner. And not having found that companion or that imagined future with children is a disappointment.
But every time I have felt more than just disappointed, every time I have felt shame and despair for not being in a relationship, I have come to realize that it isn’t just about the desire for a companion, but to a much larger extent, it is because being single is looked at as “lacking” and that I am in this boat of “singles”, the boat of those who are unloved.
This book “The Four Agreement” comes to my rescue so often. It says that there are these societal agreements that somehow everyone has agreed on (maybe even unspokenly and unconsciously) and yet everyone suffers from them. Somehow throughout the years we made this agreement that if you find a partner, you are ok, you are loved, and basically you are on the right track to “happily ever after” and if not, then you are not.
It is becoming really clear to me that there is no emotion that is exclusive to the single life that I will not have once in a relationship or married. Sadness is sadness. Envy is Envy. Joy is Joy, Love is Love and even loneliness is loneliness whether single, in a relationship-but-not-married or married-with-children. Maybe the reason or subject bringing up the emotion will be different in single life vs. married life but the emotion itself is the same.
Today, I say to myself and to all of my fellow single sisters, that while looking for that life partner, just remember there is nothing lacking about you because of your single-ness and when and if shame or despair comes creeping up on you, just befriend it and ask it why is it here. Because it will not lie to you. It will remind you of the agreement you have bought in to, the agreement that has no basis, the agreement that blocks you from feeling love. And Love is Love!
As the great Persian Poet, Rumi says “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it”