Do We Settle Because We’re Afraid of Being Alone?

Do we commit to less than perfect partners because we’re terrified of being alone?

A webinar about spinsterhood got me thinking about this over the weekend. On Sunday, Jody Day of Gateway Women led the discussion with Civilla Morgan, who hosts the Childless Not by Choice podcast; Shani Silver, host of A Single Serving podcast, and Donna Ward, author of She I Dare Not Name: A Spinster’s Meditations on Life. (Read my review of her book here.) Ward, who lives in Australia, has just released an American edition of her book.

Our world is not kind to women who for whatever reason, aside from becoming nuns, never marry or have children. The assumption that everyone has a partner is even stronger than the assumption that everyone has children. Have you noticed how the world is set up for couples? Two settings at the restaurant table. Win a trip for two. Here’s a two-for- one coupon.

The word “spinster” has ugly connotations. It implies that something’s wrong with you, that you failed to attract a man. You’re unattractive, weird, asexual, can’t get along with people. Then again, as Ward writes, maybe you attracted plenty of men, but none of them were good enough to spend your life with.

Bachelors are not quite as frowned on, but still we wonder: what’s wrong with you? Why don’t you have a wife and kids like everybody else?

Maybe, like Silver, you like being on your own. You don’t need to be married or have children. She complained that every resource she sees for single women focuses on dating: how to get a man and end your single state. But for some singles, that’s not the issue.

It’s like being alone is a fate worse than death.

I have been alone for 12 years now. I get lonely. I have my memories to keep me company, but memories don’t put their arms around you. Memories don’t help you move that fallen tree branch that weighs more than you do. Memories won’t watch your purse while you go to the restroom, drive you to the ER when you sprain your ankle, or listen when you really need to talk to someone.

But having been married, it’s like I get this check mark from society on the box that says, “Approved.”

The list of challenges living alone goes on for days, but I don’t want to get married again. I like my freedom. Most of my widowed friends feel the same way. We have found our solo power and we like it. When we need help, we call each other.

When I was younger, would I ever have considered a single life? It wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it could have happened.

No one asked me out until I was in college. Too nerdy, too fat, not social enough, parents too strict? I don’t know. I was already wondering if I’d ever find anyone, if I’d be like my Barbie doll without a Ken. I was afraid no man would love me when everything in my world told me a woman needs to get married and have children. So when someone finally wanted to date me, I didn’t ponder whether I liked him; I said yes. And I continued to say yes through a first marriage that failed and a series of unsuitable boyfriends between marriages. When I think of all the garbage I put up with just to hold onto a man . . .

By the time I met Fred, I had come to believe I would be single for the rest of my life. What if he hadn’t come along? I hope I wouldn’t have married another dud just to have someone. I know people who have done that. Don’t you?

I can count on one hand the number of people I know who never married. People wonder about them. Are they gay, do they have autism, are they mentally ill, or are they just plain weird? What if they’re regular people who surveyed the choices and said, “I’m fine by myself”?

My dog follows me around all day. She’s afraid of being alone. Humans are afraid, too. Maybe it’s the herd mentality. The zebra that wanders off alone gets killed by the lion. But maybe we don’t need to partner up for safety anymore. We can just be part of the herd.

So how about you? Have you settled so you wouldn’t be alone? Do you think it’s better to make a life alone rather than to be with the wrong person? Does the idea of a solo life scare you so much you’re willing to put up with a less-than-perfect relationship to avoid it, even if that means giving up the chance to have children? Let’s talk about it.

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The Nomo Crones are meeting again for another Childless Elderwomen chat. On Sunday, June 20, noon PDT, I will join Jody Day, Donna Ward, Karen Kaufmann, Jackie Shannon Hollis, Maria Hill, Karen Malone Wright and Stella Duffy. We’ll talk about coming out of the COVID cocoon and the skills we’ve learned from our childless lives. No doubt, our talk will range all over the place. We’re a rowdy bunch. To register to listen live or receive the recording later, click here.

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Childless Fun Coming Up This Weekend!

Dear friends,

I want to share a couple things that are happening online this week that you might want to participate in.

Nomo (non-mother) Crones

“The Body and the Cycles of Life” is the topic of a new “Nomo Crones” childless elders’ chat happening Saturday, March 20. Jody Day is the organizer. I’m one of the women participating, along with Karen Malone Wright, Stella Duffy, Maria Hill, Kate Kaufman, Jackie Shannon Hollis, and Donna Ward.  

The flyer is posted above. Although most of you are much younger, I think you might enjoy taking an hour to listen. Our bodies, these amazing places where our spirits live, are fascinating. They have been made to procreate, but what if we don’t use those baby-making parts? Or what if they go wrong on us? Register here at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_QBZqJhxxSqyjmxhIyqg2Zg. Be sure to convert for your time zone.

Childless Summit

If you’re not ready for crone wisdom, consider participating in the first annual Childless Collective Summit March 18-21. Katy Seppi, who has organized it, who is a young dynamo who wants the world to understand what it’s like to be childless not by choice.

Seppi is the founder of Chasing Creation: Designing an Unexpectedly Childfree Life, which includes a blog, Facebook page, and more. Find out all about the Summit, register and watch a video with Katy at https://www.chasingcreation.org/. Once you register, you will receive links to all the sessions.

Seppi’s story is an interesting one. She talked about it recently on Jo Vraca’s (un) Ripe podcast. She and her husband both grew up Mormon in Utah. Although the church is very pro-children, her husband wasn’t keen on the idea for the first decade of their marriage. Then, when he felt ready to be a father, they couldn’t get pregnant. Katy had fibroids and endometriosis. She had surgeries and tried IVF, but it didn’t work. She had suffered pain from her endometriosis for years and opted for a hysterectomy. She has spent the years since then dealing with her grief and finding her way through a life without children.

The Childless Collective Summit is a four-day virtual event, featuring 28 speakers, all focused on topics related to being childless not by choice. The free Basic Access Pass gets you in to all the sessions. If you can’t watch them when presented, you can still watch the recordings online later. There’s also a paid All Access Pass that gets you transcripts of the presentations and other goodies.

Day 1 focuses on our stories, Day 2 on healing, Day 3 on making connections, and Day 4 on looking ahead. Keynote speaker Jody Day will address “How to Create a Meaningful Life Without Children: Lessons from a Decade of Healing” on Sunday, March 21 at 2 p.m. EDT. Click here https://www.chasingcreation.org/summit-schedule/ref/26/ for the complete schedule.

We’ve Got to Talk About It

When I started writing about childlessness back in the 1990s, I had to look hard to find anyone else writing and speaking about the subject, but we are blessed now to have lots of people joining the conversation. You can read books and attend conferences and podcasts online, but you can also start the conversation at home. I know we’re limited by COVID right now, but if you look around, you may find others with stories similar to your own. You may have to start the conversation by noting that you don’t have children and asking if they do, but you’re not alone. With 20 percent of women not having children these days, the answer might be “No, I never had children.” Get together, ask them how it has been for them. If they say they do have children, explain your situation anyway. Help them to understand.

Etc.

I hope to see you online this weekend at the Summit or the Nomo Crones chat. Thank you to everyone who participated in the 99-cent sale for Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both. I appreciate your support. If you missed it, it’s still only $2.99 on Amazon for the Kindle version.

It just occurred to me: Do some of you have trouble looking at all this childless stuff online because your partner might see it and get upset? I live alone, so I don’t think about it, but I can picture someone’s husband or wife–or their stepchildren–looking over their shoulder at the screen and urging you to shut it off. Does that happen? Let’s talk about it.

St. Patrick’s Day hugs to one and all. I’m wearing my green socks, shirt, and earrings. Have you got your green on?

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