I've been single for nearly a decade
It could be eight years, nine years, or it could be ten? It strains my brain to remember precisely how long it's been and knowing the exact length of time isn't essential.
If my old self knew that her future self would still be single after all these years, she'd be devastated. But the future Hannah, who I've now had the pleasure to meet, is far wiser.
I've dated many men over the years
Initially, I wasn't happy unless I had a romantic interest in the works. I had low self-esteem, typical of many women of my generation, who'd been sold the Barbie fairytale story. I held the mindset that I needed a partner to complete me and live in a three-bedroom house with 2.4 children as the ultimate goal.
As such, my dating years were extremely disappointing
When we search for anything from a place of lack, we attract the wrong suitors. Like attracts like so if we're looking for someone else to help us to feel loved, worthy or secure, then we'll attract another who's looking for the same.
Can you see the problem here?
Two people both focusing on what they need and what they can get is never going to lead to a happy ending.
If we wait for someone to complete us, we'll be waiting for a long time. We're already complete, and nothing outside of us can ever hope to make us whole.
It may seem like romance can fill the gaping hole where loneliness lives, but romance is only ever a temporary distraction from the core problem of not feeling 'enough'.
The plague of our times.
I've now moved past the point of feeling like I need a partner to enrich my life
Additionally, the further I go in raising my self-esteem and creating a bountiful solo experience, the less I feel like I'd want to share it again.
Are the compromises worth it?
They haven't been so far.
Give and take
Where I see marriages and partnerships working well, the women have made compromises that I'm not prepared to make any more.
My grandparents had a beautiful marriage which was based on a deep and respectful love that spanned 65 years. Still, the compromises my Gran made were significant - she wasn't allowed to work, and she couldn't drive either.
I'm not suggesting that women nowadays will accept not working or driving, but we're expected to make at least *some* compromises.
I'm not prepared to take on the majority of the household chores, the running of a household or the social events. I'm not willing to attend work engagements, visit the in-laws every Sunday, or watch Manchester United.
The cost is too high.
I prefer to spend my time reading, gardening, walking in the woods or doing yoga. Or travelling to foreign destinations to sample the food, wine, locals and explore beaches and mountains in the sunshine whenever I please.
It's well known, and much talked about that women don't do well out of marriage or partnerships overall. Research shows that single women live longer than their married and child-rearing peers, and women who are not married and do not have children are among the happiest.
As the behavioural scientist Paul Dolan says: "If you're a man, you should probably get married. If you're a woman, don't bother."
I have fully and finally settled into my role as a Spinster
This feels wonderful.
Solitude is hard at first when we're not accustomed to it, but over time we begin to enjoy it as we reap the rewards.
I found myself in no woman's land. I no longer got invited to any events with couples, even good friends left me out. My children were growing up, so the social connections I had with other mums deteriorated too. Most continued to have more children and hence were always focused around the home and the family.
Additionally, the continual comments from friends hurt:
"Who are you seeing?" (Why do I have to be seeing someone?)
"Are you considering settling down again?" (I am settled.)
"Do you think you'll have (more) children?" (Absolutely none of your business.)
"What do you do for sex?" (I'm sorry what!)
Acting like we're a failed experiment, with everyone waiting to see how we'll get out of this one? *sideways glance* To be discussed in whispers at dinner tables up and down the country.
I felt the burden of this
I really did. I felt secondary, I felt like a spare part. I felt like a loser because of society's views and attitudes towards single women. I was also part of the problem because I held these views too.
Weekends were a struggle
I had nobody to ask to go for simple things like a coffee or to the cinema. And because I'd always been in relationships, I didn't have the confidence to do any of it alone.
Where were all the other single women? I had no idea.
So what was left?
I was forced me to spend time with myself, every second, minute and hour of every day. It was uncomfortable. But it forced me to connect with who I really am.
I found something deep inside of me that was special, that I wanted to hold onto, that would propel me forward and would always be there for me, it was myself.
'Oh god, she's found herself - *eye roll *'
Yes, I have.
That's another great thing about being single and having high self-esteem - something unbeknownst to me previously - I can speak from my heart now. I'm not caught up in what others might think of me. I'm me and I'm very happy with who I am.
So what have I learned from being single all these years?
- Society's views of single women are ignorant, outdated and damaging
- People's opinions of single women's experiences are false
- We don't need a partner of any kind to be genuinely happy
- The more time we spend in solitude, the more prosperous we become
- We can overcome the damaging beliefs that we hold about ourselves
- We can stand alone in every aspect of our life and thrive
- Intimacy in platonic friendship can be developed that is equally as powerful in terms of connection as romantic love
Life is an exciting adventure full of possibilities - the opposite of asking someone what they want for dinner every night for infinity.
Primarily I'm not looking for anything or anyone to make my life better, it's already the best it's ever been.
Loneliness is not an emotion I understand or can even remember anymore. I've tried to get to grips with it recently as to why I never feel lonely. I want to break it down so that I can help others who suffer. But I'm not sure, I don't know. All I am sure of is I enjoy my own company, I never get tired of it.
I'm always open to the idea of a romantic partner, but I'm not actively seeking one. If I never have another romantic partner again, I'm ok with that.
I'll leave you with a quote by Bella DePaulo Ph.D., a specialist in single living in Psychology Today:
"What's really remarkable is that lifelong single people – especially women – put up with a lifetime of economic disadvantages, enforced emotional labor, other people tut-tutting about how they are missing out, and all the other singlism and matrimania; and yet, as they sail into their 60s and beyond, they do just fine."
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Hannah Anstee is a former British Wellness Journalist turned Women’s Midlife & Wellbeing Coach.
You may know her from her work as Beauty Editor at YOGA Magazine or her contributions to The Independent or Psychologies Magazine.
Hannah uses a kind and candid approach to help women rewrite their stories.