Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Psychology Dot Com

Great article I found on www.psychologytoday.com:

(If you are married, chances are that you do not have an intriguing life story about how it is that you decided that you wanted to get married. Sure, you may have wondered about the particular person, or the right time in your life to do it. But as for the decision as to whether to marry - it is still mostly a given. Because getting married is assumed, the stories about recognizing your claim to single life become the more interesting ones. The stories are likely to differ according to the demographic categories we know so well - race, age, sex, country, city or small town, rich or poor, and so forth. Perhaps even more interestingly, the process of embracing your single life is different for people like me who are single at heart, compared to people such as our guest blogger, Elliott Lewis, who sees himself as closer to a quirkyalone. I'm so grateful to Elliott Lewis for sharing his story with Living Single readers. You can read more about him in the brief bio at the end of this post.]

Embracing Single Life by Elliott Lewis

I am a walking dating disaster. Seriously. Here are my stats:

I'm over 40. Never been married. Never had a serious relationship. Never even went to my high school prom. I was well into my twenties the first time a woman ever spent the night with me. Now, I go out on a date about once a year.

And you know what? I'm actually pretty happy with my life as a confirmed bachelor.

I was never one who wanted to marry early. But like most people, I just assumed it would eventually happen. So as the years went by and it became evident that I wasn't making any progress on the relationship front, I went into counseling.

My shrink suggested I would have been better off if I had been born and raised in a culture where marriages are arranged. Dating, she said, is how we weed out the field of potential partners. In societies where marriages are arranged, the extended family does the weeding out for you.
"You have several qualities that would serve you well in a marriage," my psychologist told me. "You would be a good husband and father... But it's the dating process that's messing you up."

She was right.

I had never been good at dating. I could play the game up to a point, but I couldn't close the deal. And my repeated failures in that department had left a lasting impression.

The failures are with me still.

There are three women in my past who I considered to be marriage material. So much so that I would have moved to the other side of the earth to be with them.

But they were not interested. Not at all.

Oh, sure, women have told me that I'm easy to talk to ("You're a good listener"), that I have a good sense of humor ("You crack me up"), that I'm a generally nice guy ("You're a hard act to follow"). Blah, blah, blah.

But I'm not into contemporary notions of chivalry, and I tend to reject stereotypical gender roles. I don't go to church because I am not religious.  A cousin of mine says I am "too logical in my thinking" to be married. Apparently, I am not what most women are looking for in a boyfriend, either.

As my psychologist tried to explain to me, if I really wanted to fall in love, settle down, and start a family, I would have to make some changes in how I approached the whole dating process. Dating is a sort of social dance, and I never learned how to perform some of the steps. I would have to learn them now, a bit later in life than most people, if I was ever going to be successful in finding a partner.   

As my shrink made clear, the relationship skills that I needed to work on could not be acquired within the four walls of her office. It would take some practice. And the only way to get that practice was to date. In other words, I'd have to make a few more trips through the very fires that had landed me in counseling in the first place. Honestly, I wasn't eager to take those steps.

That's when I had to confront a basic question: How badly did I really want a wife and kids and all the rest of it? Obviously, not badly enough to make it a priority.

While it's virtually impossible to summarize nine months of psychotherapy in a 900-word blog post, one of the things I learned through it all was this: It would be perfectly alright if I remained single. And that's exactly what has happened.

My single life, if I may say so, is working out pretty well. I built a successful career moving from job to job and city to city, climbing the career ladder with each move into new territory. I've traveled all over the world, stamping my passport in nearly a dozen different countries. Two years ago, I up and moved again and started law school. In other words, I've had the freedom to do a variety of things I probably wouldn't have been able to do if I were married. And I'm not finished yet.

Somewhere along the way, I became comfortable with my bachelorhood. While I am still open to the possibility of finding a long-term partner, I am not planning on it. When asked where I see myself in ten years, marriage and family are no longer in my extended forecast.

Are there days when I wish I was in a relationship? Of course. Just like a lot of happily married people have days when they wish they were single.

So if someone happens to cross my path and it seems like we could hit it off, I may still test the waters. But I am not interested in online dating, or being fixed up, or "putting myself out there."  Instead, I am focused on living the best single life I can.

It's a choice that others have a hard time accepting.

"You know what I think your problem is?" They'll begin, sincerely believing that they're being helpful. "You're picking the wrong women."

"Just don't give up," they'll argue. "There's someone out there for you!"

Others are more blunt: "Are you sure you're not gay?"

Oh, brother. Those of us who have embraced the single life do not want to hear any of this. If anything, we'd like a little reassurance that happiness can be found anywhere - yes, even outside of couplehood.
"I'll make a deal with you," I told one of my married friends. "I won't try to talk you into getting a divorce; you don't try to talk me into getting coupled."

Silence.

"Maybe you're just not looking in the right place," he finally said.

"You still don't get it," I told him. "I'm not really looking at all." 
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