Missing the single life

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Photo: Getty

So, OK.

The other day I got a bit ‘weird’.

The thing is, OK, confession, I have some pretty gnarly depression and, if left untreated for even 24 hours, it’s like I’m made of glass.

It brought about a thought that I wouldn’t normally entertain. For those that live with depression, thinking the worst isn’t exactly new.

Occasionally I need a slap in the face to remind me of how lucky I am and how I have NOTHING to complain about.

However, being in a long-term relationship can sometimes require a jolt of reality to realise how well (or not) your choices have been.

Me?

I am a BIG fan of pros and cons lists.

We recently did one after a light-hearted (re: totally serious) chat about having rugrats.

The con list kinda won, mainly as we love sleeping, having two fulltime incomes, we panic when the other cries (let alone a child) and I always have to eat soft cheese and prawns when the opportunity presents itself.

And this week? All those harrowing first day at school Facebook updates made me just want to keep my ovums to myself and his swimmers in his boxers.

The pro list had one thing on it – it had to look after us when we’re decrepit (and it had to be cute).

Talk about risky business.

I started thinking about my life as a 20-something. I was pretty much single the whole time, I think the longest time I was with anyone was 18 months to 2 years – at a stretch. With lots of break-ups to keep it interesting.

It started to crowd my thoughts to the point where I stopped dead in the middle of watching Judge Judy…

Was I missing my single life?

Let me rephrase that.

Was I mourning my single life?

Screen shot 2013-02-04 at 9.51.03 AM

The Mister wouldn’t understand this foot-loose-and-fancy-freedom ‘single life’, he was a serial monogamist. Although he was a dating late-bloomer, once he got going he was never without a girlfriend and has never been dumped.

It was like thinking about an ex. You mistake your entire relationship with the highlights reel. You start to feel sorry for yourself. You turn the computer on. You log in to Facebook. You punch in your ex’s name. You start to conjour up ways of getting around his privacy settings. Then you realise what you’re doing looks really dodgy. You turn off the computer.

I told The Mister about this recently (the reason why we can is that our relationship, no matter how pissed off we are with each other, is NEVER on the table, it’s NEVER at risk of being threatened by simply bringing up behaviour that’s normal, flawed and human).

In my funk, I just simply came out with it: ‘I think I’m aching for my single life, I’m really sorry, but I can’t seem to help it’.

Floodgates. Open.

‘I’ll never have another first clumsy, passion-filled kiss, first nausea-inducing phone call, first heart-pounding date, first thrill of holding hands, first sexy party with anyone else again. I’m just really sad about that.’

He looked at me like I was describing an episode of Party of Five. I, naturally, was the twitchy Julia Salinger.

Then he said something really matter-of-fact.

‘Well, you’ll never get dumped again.’

What he just said to me was what my favourite columnist, Dan Savage, has been saying for years.

Ultimately, every relationship we get into will end  – until we’re in one that doesn’t.

And then I read this the other day…

By the time most of us are in our thirties we’re covered in smudges of old loves and while they fade with time, they never vanish entirely. And while that process can be exquisitely painful – and it is, dear god it really is – who wants to see out their days unspoilt and pristine? Like a good pair of boots, you want your life to be properly lived-in before giving it up.

Word to that.

The trouble is, in these moments, it’s just a case of where the greenest grass is.

So how to you reconcile this with yourself?

You can always make a list.

Being single….

Pro – You can play pash-n-dash whenever you like.

Con – Your singledom becomes a topic of conversation whether you like it or not.

Pro – You can listen to whatever music you like, without headphones.

Con – You have weird conversations with yourself that are usually titled ‘What is wrong with me?’

Pro – No one really has to know where you were last night.

Con – After you divvy-up all the jobs that need doing around the house, it hits you that you have to do them all anyway.

Pro – While you’re getting ready to go out, you get a glittery feeling that you’re about to meet someone.

Pro - Booking up an entire weekend with dates from RSVP.com

Con – Getting to Sunday afternoon and feeling disenchanted with the quality of dates from RSVP.com

Pro – Eating ice-cream for dinner.

Con - Eating ice-cream for dinner.

Pro – Having lots of time for your mates that are boys.

Con – people seeing you out with one of these boys and thinking you’re on a legit date.

Pro - Having lots of time for your mates that are girls.

Con – Your Nan saying in front of everyone at Christmas lunch that it would be OK if you were gay.

Con – Watching Bridget Jones for the xxxth time and saying ‘Oh god, that’s me’, every 14 seconds.

But one of the best things about French-kissing my single life goodbye (yes, three months after I got married, I really should’ve reconciled this MUCH earlier but I have been quite busy) is never having to deal with the bullshit of having your whole relationship threatened during a disagreement.

If you know that your relationship is completely off the table, there is a sense of safety and a fairness of play. That no matter what you have to say to each other, your relationship can’t be used as ammunition.

I think I will always have these moments every so often. My pro and con mind will always want to weigh it all up and try to make sense of it all. And as much as I’m afraid that it may hurt The Mister’s heart from time to time, he realises that I sometimes need to shake the cage.

As for those first dazzling days of meeting someone new… the thing is, as I don’t believe in The One concept, I still meet those people that make me go awkward and blushy. Flirtationships are great reminders that you’re not a complete plank of wood.

My past relationship boots are heavy, well-worn and dirty, so I keep them outside most of the time.

Occasionally, I’ll go out there and try them on again, just to see if they still fit.

But I never forget there is another pair of shoes waiting for me inside.

And, while they too are smudged and imperfect, they fit my little hoofs perfectly.

Pippa blogs at The Wry Bride.

16 comments

  • ‘Well, you’ll never get dumped again.’ - loved that line, I think Nicholas Sparks just found his next books catch phrase

    Commenter
    Cam
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    February 22, 2013, 7:28AM
    • Dear Pippa,

      Lucky you! (said under my breath with a slightly nasty tone)

      From a very very single 32 year old woman, trust me, the grass is not greener. I have been lucky to have lived a very full and varied life, travel, adventure, career direction, time out to smell the roses and plenty of time to develop my own sense of self. But I have also spent plenty of time alone, not necessarily 'lonely', but simply alone in life's adventures. I have been single for 4 years currently, and my longest relationship has been 18 months. I've never really been in the position to plan my life with anyone else, and I have to say that beyond all the ice cream (or in my case popcorn) dinners, and the bad online dates, it's the lack of a second person being there to experience life with that I feel creates the biggest gap in my life.

      I too have some pretty amazing friends, and I must say that without them I would be lost, but friends do not replace a partner, nothing does.

      So, please, please, please be grateful for what you have, because there are many people who have never and may never experience the true love you speak of.

      In the meantime, I'll be over here in my corner keeping myself distracted with a post-graduate course, my day job, my freelance job and my hobbies... perhaps to the point that I won't even realise that something is missing.

      Commenter
      Once Upon A Time
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      February 22, 2013, 9:50AM
      • Well said Once Upon A Time. I'm in the same situation as you (career, post-grad, travel, friends and a constant feeling that I'm missing out cause I can't share it all with a loving partner). I hope Pippa truly appreciates what she has. It might be fun to fantasize about what single life was like in your twenties while you're nice and secure in your marriage, but actually facing single life in your thirties is not really funny at all.

        Commenter
        Al
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        February 22, 2013, 11:53AM
      • yep - the couple has proven to be the most enduring human relationship.

        It reduces risk - in a crowd of pickpockets, you always have someone to watch your back - police work in pairs for this reason.

        If you are alone and have a disabling accident, it's not happy to be lying on the floor unable to reach a phone. A partner can call an ambulance or watch over you.

        If one has a well-paying skill - they can devote themselves to that more efficiently, while the other can take care of the daily chores.

        Each should do what they do well, and don't mind doing.

        Couples can complement each other - I have high IQ but low EQ - my single life was all social gaffes - my partner has a lower IQ but a high EQ - she makes quick decisions and we have loving regular friends.

        Life is difficult - I've read we tend to make 30,000 decisions a day - immobilising for someone like me who has trouble making decisions - I just read of a guy who complained about stress while he was working, and now he's retired he's stressed from procrastination !

        A partner can cut through the crap - let's do this - don't worry about that - an external perspective to balance your internal festering fantasies.

        Last night we had a crazy guy yelling inside his unit, smashing windows, disturbing the neighbourhood - he turned the gas on before the police broke down his door and took him away. My theory - resentment - re-thinking - too much time alone thinking about yourself - a rat-cage of repetitive thoughts - can build up until you explode - and then everyone looks at you - crazy ! Don't be that person.

        Commenter
        agreed
        Location
        sydney
        Date and time
        February 22, 2013, 12:53PM
      • It's a hard one. I was you too, and when I hit 40, I thought - well, I guess it's time to give up.

        Then at 40, I met someone - and at 41 I became pregnant. Really easily too (tip - get yourselves on the pill - it really does prolong fertility - no wasting your eggs every month). Baby girl born at age 42.

        And now, my baby girl is 4 and we're getting divorced.

        But I'm no longer alone, as I was through my 30s - I have my darling little girl.

        I've also discovered that it's MUCH easier to meet someone when you already have the child. MUCH. As a single girl, I didn't get HALF the interest from me that I am now getting as a divorced mother. Perhaps the desperation aspect has been removed from the equation... although that sounds awful to say, doesn't it.

        I guess my message is - if you want the family, perhaps don't wait for the right man. There are other options for women now who want to have a child.

        Commenter
        Caro
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        February 22, 2013, 1:31PM
      • @agreed You are quite right, couples do have those advantages however.......couples also have the following disadvantages:

        (1) in a zombie apocalypse, you need to be concerned about your partner leading it more likely both of you to be infected (singles can just high tail it out of there, and kill anyone whos infected on sight)

        (2) you can have the lovely event of a couples mid-night hissy fit of fighting on the curb, with tears, sitting in heels in the gutter and screaming for effect, hence ruining the group of friends you went out withs night.

        (3) you have the same sexual partner all the time and as much as someone says its magical and wonderful each and every time - try eating the same chocolate cake each and every day, it HAS to get boring at certain points, and anyone who says differently is just plain lying.

        (4) Couples tend to rely on each other for all the reasons you mentioned above e.g. risk, emotional stability, in times of stress, etc so logically this would mean the individuals in the relationship would develop at a slower rate for any positive change they are trying to make e.g. developing more of an EQ or they just dont develop as people.

        And re: your final comment, I believe the most common reason there is a police call relates to domestic disputes from couples - e.g. the woman or man beating the other one during a massive argument.

        Commenter
        Jeremy
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        February 22, 2013, 2:00PM
    • Once Upon A Time ~ 32 is way too young to give up ....

      Commenter
      chilled out
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      February 22, 2013, 10:05AM
      • I used to be Once Upon a Time at 32 & now I am 39 .... when is the acceptable time to give up?

        For married people they have made a choice to leave a single life, for some single people it is never their choice to be single. When you have had the choice you never seem to be able to remember what it was like to face not having that choice.

        Commenter
        Easy to say
        Date and time
        February 22, 2013, 12:02PM
        • I hear what you're saying, Pippa. I do. Really I do. If I have learnt anything, though, it is these pearls of wisdom: Contentment is far more realistic and attainable than happiness and leads to a place of more peace. You'll always long for what you don't have ... regardless of the place you're currently at, because life is full of both clouds and silver linings. And change is inevitable, and with it comes the need for adjustment. Also, no matter your perceived imperfections, no matter what or where they are, there will usually be someone in admiration (tinged with a little envy) of you and your life. And if these are the sources of your great concerns, then be grateful because life is treating you very kindly indeed ... and you should appreciate that because things in life can swiftly and unpredictably change when you are busily planning your life.

          Everything is a matter of perspective, and even that can change daily in the excitement and the drudgery of daily life (and everything in between).

          Commenter
          Lulu
          Date and time
          February 22, 2013, 12:13PM
          • Whilst it aspirational, why will you never be dumped again have a clumsy first kiss etc? None of these things can be a certainty. Plenty has been splashed on these very pages to suggest this is often not the case, for any number of reasons. Or is it just, to a newlywed, the thought that being married is always going to be "happily ever after".

            Commenter
            Geemacaitch
            Date and time
            February 22, 2013, 1:16PM

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