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Would you rather be married or single?

Posted on Friday, March 26, 2010 in Aging, dating, Divorce, Happiness, love, Marriage, Relationships, Sex/sexuality, Singles

A few years ago, as I was standing on the soccer field sidelines watching The Kid do his magic, a mom I marginally knew through The Kid’s various sports started chatting.

It was the usual meaningless sideline chitchat — “How have you been?” “Good, and you?” — but then it switched to either something more genuine or, perhaps, voyeuristic.

What’s it like to be single?” — a valid
question since I was still a relatively newbie

And so I shared a little of the ups and downs of my new life as a cliche — 40-something
divorced Marin mom. But, as I started telling
her what was going on, I realized there was more up than down. And it was true; I was past the point of figuring out “Who am I now?” — which consumed a good year of my life, a celibate year, BTW, which was necessary but still sucked — and onto the next phase, which included Boy Toys followed by lots of dating
and safe but raunchy sex with guys other than the one whose boxers I washed for 15 years.

If you could forget the financial struggles and the uber-exhausting work-home balance thing, I was having fun.

“I envy you,” she said.

Envy me? What in the world was there to envy? I wondered.

Then, for whatever reason, the conversation moved to a different level — a  confessional level. She and her husband were struggling — what married couple isn’t? — and she was turned off by sex. Well, that’s not exactly true. She was absolutely interested in sex; she confessed some pretty freaky sexual fantasies that even had me blushing, so it wasn’t as if she’d suddenly turned frigid. She wanted to be ravaged in real life as she was in her dreams — just not by her husband.

And that’s a bit of a problem, isn’t it?

There are many of us who are perfectly content being married, and then there are those who look at singles with envy — we have freedom! we have sex (or for some, no sex)! we have no one to answer to! — while they have a hubby who snores and farts, doesn’t do his share around the house or with the kids, and who spends his weekends watching ESPN.

And yet, ask any single person what he or she wants — even the quirkyalones (remember them?) — and I’ll bet it will be this, a partner.

If most singles didn’t want to be happily hooked up, there wouldn’t be the massive (and incredibly lucrative) singles industry — dating coaches, self-help books, singles seminars, online dating sites, matchmakers, etc. — all intent on finding us The One, or someone close enough.

It’s the classic green grass on the other side thing for many: married folk envy singles, singles want to be married.

We all love a love story. In the past week, Single Mom Seeking blogger and author Rachel Sarah announced that she got engaged; dozens of her readers — me, too! — chimed in to wish her the best, the most comments she’s gotten on her blog in a long time.

Many of those same people have written in to celebrate her moments of triumph as a single mom, and offered advice for her “seeking.” But now, she is a “singles success story” — she’s getting hitched.

We all want a story to end with, “and they lived happily every after.”

I don’t need or necessarily want to be married again, but I certainly don’t want to spend my golden years alone. I’ll bet my fantasy-filled soccer mom doesn’t, either. And the closer I get to the age when I am no longer a desirable woman, the more seriously I think about that.

People like Lori “Marry Him!” Gottlieb say that none of her quasi-happily married female friends would trade places with her, a single 40-something choice mom. And people like “Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized and Ignored and Still Live Happily Ever After” author Bella DePaulo are always throwing out stats on how singles can, well, live happily ever after all by themselves.

Having been single, married, divorced and now in a relationship, I can say each offers its unique joys and sadness. I would like to find something that offers the best of all of those without having it look like a marriage, just like what author Elizabeth Gilbert was hoping to find with her lover, Felipe, who lived halfway around the world from her, at the end of “Eat, Pray, Love.” Then, she went and got married on me — !! — leaving me all alone in trying to figure it out. Yeah, thanks, Liz …

So, which would you rather be — married or single, and why?

Photo © Igor L.Petroff –

Bring on the comments

  1. BigLittleWolf
    Twitter: BigLittleWolf

    If you discount the solo-mom exhaustion and the financial issues (which you did, in your hypothetical), I think there’s plenty to enjoy about being single. I was single until I was 35. I’ve been single for the past 8+ years.

    Personally, I also enjoyed being married – but it was more the “illusion” of marriage, and that’s very lonely after a while.

    I think marriage – when it works – is lovely. But being single has advantages, too. That said, to be in a committed relationship, to share one’s life – that’s something I think would be wonderful. Especially as I approach empty nest.
    .-= BigLittleWolf´s last blog ..Terms of endearment (Let me call you sweetheart?) =-.

  2. Don says:

    I think everyone wants the ‘happily ever after’ we see in the movies. Unfortunately, the movies don’t include the hardships of life that come with any relationship. It’s hard to make any marriages work these days in a time of fast information and even faster relationships.

    Great question….tough answer. Yes, I guess I do want to grow old with someone and not be alone the rest of my life. However, I think I should live with my mate for a few years to ensure that marriage is the right thing to do. I have had many girlfriends since my divorce 10 years ago and none of the relationships lasted. I’ve had 6 women tell me they loved me since my divorce and claimed they wanted marriage, but things just never worked out with any of them. I’m not so sure if that in today’s society, people are just looking for the next best thing and not actually seeking a lifetime commitment.

    I am seeking a ‘forever and a day’ kinda love that is full of fun, laughter, and enjoyment of each others company. I come from a rural area where people say what they mean and mean what they say. I have said I love you and meant it…I have thought I found ‘the one’ several times, only to find out they were not looking for forever, and had my heart broken as a result.

    I am seeking a best friend and a lover too that can trust and communicate openly…and so far the communication and trust have been the hardest part to find.

    For now, I am happy being single and alone. Happiness comes from within and you’ll never find it in another person or a relationship. I do think you can be happy and live happily ever after with a partner if you find someone you can find attraction, humor, trust, love, and open communication with. I just get tired seeking the diamond in the sea of coal…
    .-= Don´s last blog ..Life, Money, and the Largest Wound…Part IV =-.

  3. Having gotten married so young (20) I’m glad that I’ve had the last 8 years since my divorce to be single and get to know myself better, date, and “do my own thing”. That being said, I had to do this with all the responsibilities of single-motherhood, which as you know, is not easy.

    I prefer being in a relationship but haven’t found the “right” one yet and so…I am happily single, and thankfully not in an unsatisfying or unhealthy relationship. But I do hope to be happily hitched someday. 🙂
    .-= Mindy@SingleMomSays´s last blog ..Busy, Busy, Busy =-.

  4. Mike says:

    Like you I don’t want to spend my golden years alone. Neither side of the fence is perfect so as I hop back and forth I’m enjoying the ride until one side wins eventually.
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Biking Around =-.

  5. Steve says:

    Some people just don’t know what is involved with each choice until they get there.
    .-= Steve´s last blog ..Dating Rant: Child-Free Travel Bugs =-.

  6. Jim Everson says:

    ” And the closer I get to the age when I am no longer a desirable woman, the more seriously I think about that”

    Kat, you will always be desirable, regardless of your age, because your desirability comes from being smart, funny, kind, observant, witty, and a damn fine dancer. I. for one, would be thrilled to find myself on your dance card at 90 years of age. So don’t think that the choice of whether to spend your golden years alone or with companionship is a decision that has to be decided soon. As far as I can tell, you are going to have the liberty to decide what you want for a LONG LONG time.

  7. April
    Twitter: aprilabtbalance

    No, I wouldn’t say that what I want is a partner. When I finally made the decision to remain single, it was like a giant weight had been lifted!
    .-= April´s last blog ..I am =-.

  8. dadshouse
    Twitter: dadshouseblog

    I’m happy for my last 10 years of being single. But there’s tons about being married that I miss – the built-in companionship, intimacy, vacation partners, family holidays, full time seeing the kids.

    I’m ready for a full-time girlfriend with marriage potential. I don’t want to be alone forever.
    .-= dadshouse´s last blog ..Split Lip For a School Band Concert =-.

  9. Martini Mom
    Twitter: martinimom

    Ah, yes. I married the wrong man, so being single was definitely better for me. (Not blaming that wrong man, we just shouldn’t have been together… except for the wonderful child we produced). After my ex-husband and I split, I was mostly single for 5 years and I REALLY needed that time to be me, without compromise (except, of course, the compromising I did for the sake of my son). While I enjoyed being single, and sometimes miss some of the freedoms now that I’m not, I’m very happy in my current relationship.

    I think, personally, I prefer a relationship (though not necessarily marriage – I don’t know if I’ll do that again) to being single, but only if it’s the RIGHT relationship. I know many people who are so averse to being alone that they’ll settle for someone who’s not quite right. I’d rather be alone that be with the wrong person.
    .-= Martini Mom´s last blog ..Tales of an unwed mother =-.

  10. Vincent says:

    I definitely want and need to be closely connected to a lover, whether or not married. Marriage takes a much higher degree of compatability than I envisioned before getting married. I’d rather be single than married for the wrong reasons or to the wrong person. I’ve learned it takes at least a year to really get to know someone. I wasn’t enough compatible to my spouse and didn’t realize it before we married. I need to work much harder at marriage if i do get married again. I am very grateful also for the child my marriage produced and he’s my greatest ever achievement and the love of my life so I can’t regret my marriage either, despite the pain of divorce. It can be so hard to be human.

  11. Jenni says:

    Right now? Single. I need time to focus on me, my kids, and finding out who I am.

    Could another marriage be in the future? Right now, I’m going to say no. But part of me sometimes thinks “eh.. maybe one day.”
    .-= Jenni´s last blog ..‘She Picked The Dog Over ME!’ =-.

  12. Linda says:

    You just have to love Jim’s comment. 🙂

    I was with the same man since I was 16 years old and now that I am single I would have to say, right now, single is where I want to be, I’m just not sure if single is where I want to stay for a lifetime.

  13. amy says:

    married. or at least long-term partnered. i’m not in a hurry, but i do hope to find someone to make that commitment with again.

    for the time being, i would really, really, REALLY like to have a stable, committed relationship with someone i’m crazy about who’s crazy about me. but not actually crazy. once a week sleepovers. the occasional weekend away. eventually hanging out with the kids. and take it from there.

    why is this so difficult???? oy. I really wish I could be happier, or at least content, single. I have a great life, great job, great friends, great kids, great stuff happening with my writing. why is that not enough, putting me in the camp of the quasi-happily married friends?
    .-= amy´s last blog ..almost blue =-.

  14. Amira says:

    It’s funny, but it does seem like the grass is always greener on the other side.

    When I was married, it was such a struggle most of the time that I wished I was married. Actually, what I wished was to be HAPPY being married–but I wasn’t.

    Being divorced and mostly single for nearly 6 years now, I miss being in a relationship A LOT. However, I also see the positives of not being in one and sometimes just really appreciate all the things that I don’t have to deal with when I am connected to someone.

    All that said, I hope to find a companion for the long-term, and sooner than later.

  15. lala says:

    My divorce was just finalized last month. Wasn’t really “single” through the divorce period — was FWB involved. Now that the Ex and FWB are gone I feel that I can breathe and figure out where I want to be and who I want to be with. Not in a big rush to find someone…would be nice to have someone to hang with and do things with.

  16. Kat Wilder says:

    BigLittleWolf — I agree; a committed relationship is very, very nice.

    Don — Yes, Happiness comes from within and you’ll never find it in another person or a relationship. That said, we’re social beings, and we want to share that happiness, don’t you think?

    Mindy — I hope you get happily hitched someday, too!

    Mike — I think enjoying the ride is all we can do sometimes.

    Steve — well, yes! It seems so easy, until …

    Jim — With that kind of thinking, I just may come knocking at your door when I’m 70, and say: “Here’s the desirable babe you ordered.” Don’t finch, OK?

    April — Well, if you’re coming from a bad relationship, I so understand that sigh. I sighed, too. And, you know, cried …

    Dads — I have a feeling you won’t be alone forever.

    Martini Mom — Yeah, I think you and I think alike. Being alone is better than being in a bad relationship, but being in a relationship is better than being alone. I really do love loving somebody, and being loved back.

    Vincent — oh, yeah! Despite all the and stuff with the ex, the kid always makes us think, well, it couldn’t have been all that bad, because looky what I got! Yes, marriage takes a huge amount of compatibility and work and humor and flexibility and …

  17. Kat Wilder says:

    Jenni — the figuring oneself out is huge ; don’t give in! Once that’s healthy, you can go forward into whatever commitment lies ahead.

    Linda — Ahem, yes, Jim is being quite generous. But since I’m a flattery whore … You have a good attitude. If you’re in it, feel good about it.

    Amy — Wow, I have no idea why everything — being married or being single or being divorced — is so hard. I just know it is sometimes. And then, it isn’t, making me feel like that line in Monty Python — “She turned me into a newt!” And when it’s clear he’s not a newt: “Well, I got better.”

    Amira — I hope you find a companion for the long-term sooner than later, too. Don’t give up the faith!

  18. Kat Wilder says:

    lala — yes, well, we do need to take care of some, uh, needs, don’t we? We may be divorced, but we’re still women! 😉