With the entire world focused on Covid—2020 has turned into a year of meltdowns, protests, offended people and arguments over whether one should or shouldn’t wear a mask and why.  To top it off—it’s an election year.  Armageddon could be near after all!

As if spending the year in isolation wasn’t bad enough—I’m constantly asked why I’m not married—how could I not be married—and if I’m in a relationship.  Why do people not ask, “how are you?” Or “are you having a good day?”

So—as a break from the Covid craziness—let’s take a breather to talk about something else, shall we?

In life never forget

Where you started….

Where you are from….

What your education taught you….

If you have a life similar to mine, you are constantly reminded of all the above statements.  Never forget where you started and where you are from.  Let’s start there.  I was born, and started life in a very urban, forward thinking city—however, was raised in a small town, close knit, old school mentality.  Society has a habit of giving women complexes about things that in the overall scheme of life should be a non stressor.  Societal pressures in a small town can be even worse when it comes to getting married or having children.  When I was younger, everyone asked me how many children I wanted, followed by, “when I was an adult and married.”  An assumption was made I would be married.  My answer was always the same, “I do not want any children.”  To which I would get a horrified look.

What female isn’t dreaming of a house full of children?

This female.

The look of terror on their faces became more pronounced as I reached my teenage years and into my 20’s.

Once my friends began to marry off—things became fun.  Flying all over the world for bachelorette parties, bridal showers and weddings.  It didn’t matter we had to wear horrible dresses, made out of odd fabric, looking like half dressed, different shaped clones as we walked down the aisle.  All of us were looking forward to the party proceeding the church, so, in our minds, it was worth it.

Once all weddings were in the history books—there I stood—single.  Although I was fine with that—no one else was.

Those of you single tracking with me—did you feel the burn as you were the only one unmarried?  Suddenly it became the mission of everyone to “find you a man”.  If a male is single he becomes an immediate setup.  It didn’t matter if he had three arms, four heads or still lived with his parents.  Married people like to see people — married.

Soon my group of friends went from girl’s trips, lunches and dinners—to birthing classes, diaper changes and baby talk.  I found them no longer inviting me to gatherings because “what would we speak about since I didn’t have children?”  The judgement continued.  How does having a child suddenly make someone superior to another?

I never considered myself to be the type of person who would fall short at anything. I had integrity, loyalty, and dogged determination.  As life continues, it seems as though society merely judges women based on beauty, weight, marriage and children.  Not necessarily in that order.

Go ahead and think you’re going to be parent of the year—you do not know judgement until you have a dysfunctional, behaviorally challenged child.  I’ve stayed up many a night with friends melting down from the judgement of their parenting.  I’m not a parent—but have seen first hand the destruction from criticism.

Life proceeded—my career took off and quickly I forgot about the judgement of society.  My time was filled with business trips, meetings and strategy.

Often I’m asked, “How is it someone like you is not married?”  Someone “like me”.  As if unmarried is a death sentence.

So, here are my thoughts on relationships to those women out there feeling like social rejects because they are without children and unmarried.

Relationships take two. They are give and take— and all about commitment.  These are all common descriptive of what people use when describing a good relationship or marriage.

While I agree that all of those things may be important and true, sometimes we simply fall short in keeping up with those standards.  For instance, keeping score is not good.  I had it described to me as “washing your half of the car”.  I’ve always looked at it as washing the car.  I’m going to do as much as I physically am able to do.  Whether that is all of it, half of it or a quarter of it.  Think of how you’d feel if you were in fact washing a car and the person you were laughing and enjoying the task with, suddenly dropped their sponge in the bucket halfway across the hood and said, “I’m done!  That’s yours!”  It’s not that you wouldn’t continue washing the car, because if you are like me, you want to do your part.  It’s just that life isn’t that simple.  In life sometimes we are capable of holding the hose and rinsing—sometimes we can pick up the sponge and wash the entire vehicle — and other times we are doing good if we can sit in the yard and keep whomever is washing the car company.  No matter, we are there and giving it our best effort.

Eventually, I fell into social pressure.  Looking back, it wasn’t something I wanted to do—more something that was imposed on me as a right of passage into being an adult.  One could write a book on the idiocracies of society and the pressures created by them.  I make no excuses and own my bad decisions.  What I’m saying is—had I grown up in the urban, forward thinking part of the world—my decisions would have been innately different.

By my 20’s I found myself healing from a relationship which had been a very abusive one—nearly taking my life— the finale of it took me years to heal from physically and to extract myself from mentally.  After the healing was to a point I was mobile again and I had moved far enough away to feel secure, things felt as if they were finally getting back on track. A great job—freedom—success—healthy—I was an independent woman.  Most importantly, I was safe.

While recovering—My hope about the validity of a healthy, long-lasting relationship had disintegrated —I found myself focusing on career, hobbies, friendships.

The experience caused me to evaluate all relationships and marriages. It made me wonder about the secrets people potentially keep, the lies they might tell, and the capacity of people, in general, to remain loyal to one another on a long-term basis.  Loyalty and integrity have always been first and foremost in my life.  This experience exacerbated those traits to a much higher level.  I held myself to the same expectation.

You realize how much effort it really takes to be in a successful, faithful marriage or long-term relationship. It takes honesty, guts, loyalty, integrity and constant communication.  You must deal with your issues, admit to your faults and confront your fears head on.  You need a great deal of patience, love, maturity and respect after the initial passion is gone.  I don’t mean love as in lust — but love as in I’m going to care for you, support you, put you before my own needs, remain faithful to you even when you’re being unlovable, annoying, or sick and never think of wandering to a more convenient path— kind of love.  It’s easy to play house in our heads when we are young.  When things get real after a decade or more together—problems with children, issues with parents, political differences, religious discrepancies—that’s when the rubber meets the road to success or failure.

I spent years alone after what I perceived the greatest failure of my life.  There was no dating and my sense of self was slaughtered. It’s an experience that will drain you and leave you dry.

Over time, as Morgan Freeman so elegantly states, “get to living or get to dying” — I gave myself some grace and began to accept myself.  My nutrition became healthy —my fitness routine calculated, challenging and strong.  My happiness became a personal accomplishment. I put my past in the rear view mirror even though the darkness of it, at times, still disturbed me, my goal became to turn it into a life lesson.  To help others push through their own dark period — my self improvement—ongoing.

The reality is—There may be no way to tell if your partner is lying to you or cheating on you. There may be no way to know for sure that you will never commit an act that hurts your partner or anyone else — even when you believe you never would.  But if you believe in trust and integrity—listen to your instincts within you—apologize when you make mistakes—and believe people inherently have good intentions—it is possible to move past the pain of the darkness.

Relationships are a complicated dance of empathy, understanding, communication, effort, trust, loyalty, compassion, vulnerability and integrity.  Ultimatums drive people away.  Jealousy only shows immaturity and failure.  Lying will leave you empty and alone.  Know yourself before you expect someone else to know you. Love yourself. Be prepared to forgive things that you would want your partner to forgive you for. Know what you can’t forgive and don’t expect it in return.  You can’t hold others to a higher standard than you hold yourself.

In the end, although I remain single, and although I’ve seen very, very few successful marriages based on honesty and trust— although I’ve seen more toxic relationships than healthy—I still believe marriage be it legal or a committed relationship— can be a beautiful partnership and journey.

Sometimes we forget how long a lifetime can actually be when we enter into a partnership like marriage.  We focus on the wedding and not the work.  We focus on ourself —our own needs—instead of the partnership.

Perhaps we also fail because many of us haven’t learned the value of a relationship that has a reward beyond measurement for our effort, care, patience, and respect. Sometimes we become so jaded and resentful —we don’t fully connect in a healthy way.  We drive away those that are good for us— and migrate toward those unhealthy for us as it is easier to explain fault than to do the work involved for success.  We do this in friendships as well.

The silver lining is that there is always a chance to come back, to learn, and to use mistakes as stepping stones to greater things. I’ve had to walk away from people I originally thought possessed the loyalty and integrity desired—but in reality were dark and toxic.

Sometimes the darkest lessons lead us to the brightest peaks of our potential. Know that it is possible to find yourself in there— beyond dark—and come back brighter than ever.

You are never in the wrong place.

Sometimes you are in the right place looking at things the wrong way.

Blink to clear your eyes—see things in a different positive way—do the work—the reward is limitless.

Stay Healthy!