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As older singles, many of us feel particularly eager to meet that “special someone” as soon as possible. Some of us may have already spent a number of years on our own. Others may simply be yearning to share the final decades of their lives with romantic partners. Few of us question these hopes and dreams, as they are what we’ve been conditioned to follow. Who wouldn’t want to fall in love?We should, however, think twice about what we really want. Recently, actress Emma Watson acknowledged that she has come to terms with being “self-coupled.” Living life without a partner and children isn’t a sign of failure; in fact, living independently can be extremely liberating and fulfilling.
Many older singles are now realizing that living on their own can be more gratifying than searching for their “perfect match.” Perhaps you are your own soulmate! Here are a few older adults’ thoughts on the subject.
Loving the Single Life
Diane, 52, has been single on and off for the better part of two decades. Though she used to struggle with the notion of being single, age has given her a new perspective on the subject. Rather than dreading spending the rest of her life alone, she finds the concept of self-partnering to be liberating. Like many men and women her age, Diane has rejected the conventional narrative of finding “The One” and getting married.
Tom, 68, has also become a recent convert to the notion of self-partnering. After losing his wife a few years ago, Tom went through a period of self-reflection. He tried dating, but found that his heart wasn’t invested in the process. Though he met a number of nice women, he didn’t connect with any of them on a deeper level. After taking a break from the dating world, Tom realized that he was actually finding greater fulfillment in other areas of his life. He rekindled former friendships and spent more time with his two children. Recently retired, he found that he finally had more time to invest in hobbies like camping and tennis. For now, Tom has put his search for a partner on the back burner. “I’m happy with where I am in my life right now,” Tom says. “If I happen to meet the right person, I’d definitely be open to pursuing things further. Right now, though, I’m enjoying being single. I have a busy social life and tons of time to spend with my friends and kids. That’s all I really need!”
Diane agrees. “When I lived with my last boyfriend, I realized one day that not a single room in our apartment actually belonged to me. I didn’t have the physical or emotional space to really be myself. We ate together, went to bed at the same time, and made all of our major decisions after consulting with one another. Now, I just do what I want, when I want. If I want to buy something, I just buy it. It’s so incredibly liberating to be able to make my own decisions and live my life on my own terms.”
Singles: Are They Happier?
Most of us have been told that we’ll only truly be happy once we find “The One.” Recent research, however, has shown that this is not actually the case. Studies are proving what Diane and Tom have experienced for themselves; singles of all ages are generally happier and healthier than their married peers.
Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioral science at the London School of Economics, researched this subject for himself, publishing his results in his book Happy Ever After. Surprisingly, his research results were met with widespread backlash. Everyone wants to believe that love is the key to long-lasting happiness. Singles, particularly women, find it especially hard to fight back against the social pressures surrounding the “happily-ever-after” narrative of marriage and family. Society, says Dolan, appears to be suspicious of singles. Many of us struggle to believe that anyone could be happy being single, as this goes against everything we’ve ever been told.
Self-coupling, however, doesn’t mean singles have to live lives of loneliness and isolation. Singles are finding that their bonds with their friends, family, and peers can be just as meaningful as romantic partnerships. When the bonds in our lives boost our self-esteem and lead to feelings of social belonging, we feel personally fulfilled and secure in our identities. Connection and meaning are the real keys to happiness.
Finding Fulfillment Outside of Romantic Relationships
Robin, 63, found that her greatest struggle with being single was overcoming external pressure to date again. “My friends were all trying to set me up with their friends. They kept encouraging me to create new online dating profiles... it was exhausting! I just kept telling them that I wasn’t interested, and eventually they got the message.” Robin says she’s found happiness in other areas of her life. She goes on a big vacation once a year with her friends, all of whom leave their husbands at home. She meets up with a hiking group once a week, volunteers on a regular basis, travels locally, and spends lots of time with her friends and family. “I’ve joined a lot of online groups to connect with other active adults over the age of 50. I’ve met people who also enjoy hiking, and I’ve even met up with some of my online friends while traveling.”
Of course, being single isn’t without its challenges. “It’s true that the holidays can sometimes be lonely,” Robin admits. “When I know I’ll be facing an emotionally challenging time, I remind myself that I need to reach out to my friends. Having friends who really understand me has made all the difference.”
All of us have dreamt of meeting our “soulmate” at some point in time. In reality, many of us haven’t met the right person to join us on our journey towards happiness and self-actualization. Many partnerships ultimately become toxic or constraining. Though a happy romantic relationship can lead to deeper emotional fulfillment, living an exciting and healthy life as a single adult is far better than committing to an unhappy partnership.
How can you become your best self? Is romantic love really an essential element in the formula for self-fulfillment? You can enjoy a life of social, sexual, and economic freedom without a life partner. By enhancing your bonds with friends and family members, pursuing your hobbies, and seeking meaning through other spiritually-fulfilling outlets, such as your faith and volunteer work, you can build a rich, multi-faceted life filled with deep emotional meaning. Listen to your inner self, and be the companion you really need. By lovingly “self-coupling” with yourself, you’ll likely discover that the only person you really need has been there all along!
Ultimately, living your best life is about growing as a person and achieving contentment in this “third act” of your life. Perhaps you can find someone to join you on this journey; perhaps you will be better off traveling this path alone. Spending your final years with the wrong partner is a waste of your potential. If you find that you’re struggling to meet “The One,” perhaps take a second look in the mirror. The person most deserving of your love and affection should be looking right back at you!
Foto: © Marek Studzinski/ pixabay.com