I’ve achieved far, far more on my own than I have in any relationship. Since my marriage ended I’ve become stronger in every conceivable way, and I feel proud of the calm, happy and stable life I’ve built for me and my son.
When I visualise my older years, I see myself still single. More specifically, I see myself living in a luxury static caravan next to the sea with two greyhounds. 60 year-old me is reasonably content and with most of the elements of the life I want in place (more greyhounds, and the Yorkshire Coast), but single.
I’m bemused by the way others fall so easily and gracefully into relationships when I think of the magnitude of all the different factors that need to align in order to meet someone you genuinely want to share your life with - and to have that reciprocated. I’m also the worst flirt on the planet and only tend to flick my hair if there’s a spider in it, so I’m told I don’t ‘give off the right signals’ (the last time I checked I wasn’t a mast).
Professionally and socially, I’m confident and outgoing. But in a romantic context, I suspect I’m actually more like a man. Before I know it, I’m treating the guy I’m attracted to like I would one of my close friends (swearing a lot and insulting them). As romantic techniques go, it’s a bit niche.
The majority of the friends and family I socialise with are in couples. I love going out, but there are so few occasions when I’m not the only person who isn’t part of a couple. People think nothing of openly discussing my status and asking “are you happy being single?” with unfiltered fascination. I’m tempted to respond by asking “are you happy being married?” but I usually refrain. The insinuation is that because I’m not sharing my life, I’m living less of a life. And although I feel incredibly lucky to have a life that I love - and live - on my own terms, there are times when I wonder if that’s the case.
Before I know it, I’m treating the guy I’m attracted to like I would one of my close friends (swearing a lot and insulting them). As romantic techniques go, it’s a bit niche.
During lockdown, I’ve enjoyed weekly facetimes with my mum and dad and my sister and lovely brother in law. As I sit solo in my box on the screen, I notice their interactions, their connection. I’m so grateful for my beautiful, supportive and hilarious family, but their partnerships set the bar high, and leave me wondering how nice it would be to have someone on screen with me, casually draping an arm over my shoulders, topping my drink up, or good naturedly teasing me for something I did that week.
One of the reasons I ADORE going on holiday with my son is that I don’t compare my life to anyone else’s. We do our own thing, in our own bubble, and there’s no one else to please. But I wish I could apply that feeling to the multiple Bank Holidays and long weekends I feel pressured to fill with ‘fun stuff’. What results is what’s supposed to be a weekend of enjoyment being some herculean test of character. It’s like if I choose to just stay at home and read, I’ve somehow let myself and others down. Yet I know that if I spent a Bank Holiday just knocking about with a partner, I wouldn’t feel the same pressure to ‘do more’, or the same whisper of inadequacy or emptiness if I didn’t. Why?
With the ability to practically order a relationship online through dating apps, I know it's relatively easy to meet someone. But surely it has to be someone you genuinely want around? For me, there’s nothing worse than being with the wrong person, and my pesky need to be authentic and honest in all situations means I can’t just string someone when I’m ‘not quite sure’. I'm also in the fortunate position that I love my own company. It's surprising how many people tell me that they don't!
But I’ll be vulnerable for once: I’d like to get married again one day. I’d like someone to put me first, to offer to tackle the awful jobs in the garden so that I have some energy left to just plant beautiful flowers.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to buy my own flowers. But I will ask this: if ‘you can’t love anyone until you love yourself’, how can someone who hasn’t done a scrap of the ‘inner work’ I have meet their soulmate as they reach for the same muffin in Starbucks? Or is that just another fallacy...
Answers in comments please.