So I’m writing the second of my guest series myself…
In an echo of Pearl’s post, over the last couple of years I have been on a journey of discovery of the single life. Getting together with my ex-husband at 16 meant we did a lot of growing up together, so when I found myself living alone at 25, it was a shock to the system. Fast forward to 27 and being single for the first time in eleven years, and you can imagine the steep learning curve from dating to engaged to married to separated, divorced and single.
In marriage, there had been dreams, ideas and goals that we’d had. I had hoped to lose the weight I’d gained (thanks marriage!) before we had children, so it wouldn’t be quite so stressful an endeavour afterwards (can you tell I’ve never had children?!). It was somewhat bitter sweet to have the pounds drop off without trying in my miserable state – although a relief to have one area of my life moving in a direction I appreciated.
I have had to rediscover what it means to be myself, and what it means to be single: is that alone or empowered?
In many ways I think I lost myself in marriage. I didn’t develop a musical taste, because he liked music more than me. Some might argue I still have no musical taste, but at least now I know what I like – even if my Spotify playlist reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the mid 2000s with a smattering of current pop hits and some rock. I never wrote. In part that was down to teaching – which in part is why I left – but I also was aware I needed to spend time with my then-husband. Perhaps we didn’t spend enough time apart; or perhaps I didn’t really use that time well for things I loved to do. If I date or even marry again, I want to still pursue those things I love, that help bring me alive and make me eyes light up when I talk about them; I want to continue pursuing the things that made this man pursue me in the first place.
I could, I think, have easily lost myself in the motherhood dream. Don’t get me wrong, I would still love to have children. I would love to build a family and a home with someone one day. It would be great to be a wife and a mother one day. But I also still want to be me.
I write. I read. I go to the theatre (pretty often). I visit friends. I go out spontaneously. I watch sport, I go exploring and drink coffee. Now I’m not saying I couldn’t do all these things in a relationships, I can. Hopefully I will. But there will also be another to consider. They’ll have their own ideas, passions and things they want to do. Some of these we might do together, others independently; and that’s good.
I love being single for the freedom and spontaneity it offers me. I would love to date and get to know someone better, and see if we both challenge one another to be the best ‘us’ we can be, maintaining our individuality whilst creating a partnership too.
Finding a single life has been hard. Rediscovering my identity was a process. So was realising, deep down and hopefully for all time, that God was truly the only constant in life. I had to navigate through no longer having a help-meet to share my burdens. I had to drive myself everywhere, there was never a nap in the car (you don’t notice what you’ve got till it’s gone).
But finding a single life has also been fun. Moving, new career paths, different opportunities, old friends, new friends… I am, in lots of ways, entirely different to how I was 5 years ago – and it’s predominantly agreed on that this is a good thing!
One Saturday morning, not all that long ago, I awoke, stretched and had two primary thoughts. The first was just how good it would be if someone was around to go and get me a coffee, preferably some sort of fried breakfast, and help me nurse the somewhat fuzzy if not aching head I had rendered myself due to an unquantified amount of Prosecco. The second was that it was oh-my-goodness-SO-GOOD to not worry about waking up someone else or being woken up by them and to feel that I should in fact go and make them a cup of tea; my only need was to decide whether I in fact wanted a cup of coffee to accompany the book I would now read in bed enough to get out of said bed. The two do not tally. I cannot have it both ways, unless I begin to employ servants or a maid which is a new line of living entirely, and neither one I’m in a position to pursue or necessarily agree with as a lifestyle choice.
And I’ve been in both situations. I was married, potentially waking someone else up by kicking them accidentally in the leg and getting up to make them a tea by way of apology, or appreciating the freshly brewed coffee brought to my bedside to coax me out of a slumber. I am now single, enjoying cocooning myself in the entire duvet and reading an entire book because I can and want to, while also wishing a magical fairy godmother (or indeed, anyone) would provide a coffee, and preferably the fried breakfast I’m craving.
What do I love about my single life? I love dancing around, pretty much everywhere – if there’s music, I’m dancing – and not worrying whether someone else is embarrassed by that. I also have a lot more free time. I have finally engaged with Paul’s comments that being single means you can devote your time to God in a different way. My life is not being shared in the same way it is in marriage, so I can spend an hour reading the Bible, or singing away in my room without needing to consider what another might be wanting to do. It also meant that I was able to devote more time to church and leading the youth, and to give time more easily as, again, I only had to consider myself. Equally, once we separated I found I had to complete every task myself. In the early days, this was one of the elements I found hardest, although I’m more acclimatised now.
Separation taught me to be single, in a whole myriad of ways I didn’t expect. How to sleep alone in a big double bed, how to cook for one (eventually…or just eat loads), how to engage with the things I like and find a self-assurance and identity again. In dating, I would hope I will be able to learn how to be better married in the process, how to not lose myself and to maintain God as the centre.
For me, both sides have their weeds; those parts that suck and even once you’ve dealt with them, have a tendency to want to crop up again. Both sides have their flowers; the new ones you’ve planted, the perennials you notice year after year.
One myth that pervades the church is how marriage is the ultimate. Marriage is great, don’t get me wrong, but singleness is great too, in a whole load of different ways. One isn’t better than the other, they just have different flowers, different weeds, and look like completely different gardens. The grass isn’t greener in marriage because problems can be shared, companionship deepened and there’s sex. The grass isn’t greener in singleness because your time’s all your own and you have a incredible freedom in choices and identity. The grass is just, well, different.