35 and Single

I met my first boyfriend at 15 and stayed with him for five and a half years. 

I met my second boyfriend at 21 and stayed with him for five and a half years.

at 26, I left him for my next boyfriend and stayed with him for four and a half years.

And then I finally cracked. It wasn’t a clean break. I was having an affair with a classmate in nursing school and the whole thing blew up in my face. I finally realized at that point that, cliched though it may be, I was suffocating. I felt crowded and controlled and had for a long time and hadn’t taken the time to recognize those feelings. It was like it hadn’t occurred to me that I had feelings at all. I had rationalized the whole thing such that I could make myself happy by doing whatever I wanted behind the scenes, while maintaining the status quo on the main stage. 

So at 31, I found myself single for basically the first time. Ever. 

It didn’t have to be that way. I could have reconciled the whole thing with my boyfriend at the time. But mercifully, I knew I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I needed some quiet time. Some ME time. Needed to regroup. I always saw myself as strong and independent, as someone who didn’t need anyone. But I had no idea how much work I had to do.

I thought it would be super easy. That I’d spend some time puttering around the house without anyone to bother me and then I’d meet somebody and THAT would be the one. I’d be all fixed and have the perfect relationship that time.

Of course, it hasn’t worked out that way. Boys don’t just fall out of the sky and knock on my door the way they did when I was 18. Maybe I’m not as cute as I was. Maybe I’m not as flirtatious. But I discovered very quickly that at our age, everyone is already married, or at least paired off. 

Besides that, I have issues. It’s recently come to my attention that I’m petrified of some guy showing up and pushing my boundaries. I was taught by example to appease and to ignore your partner to whatever extent possible. And my relationships have featured me smiling and nodding when someone told me what decor was acceptable and which behaviors were appropriate (hence the “doing whatever I wanted behind the scenes”). Funny because everyone who knows me would characterize me as a strong, opinionated, stubborn woman. But I guess somethings are just too insidious to pinpoint. 

So what if a guy showed up tomorrow and wanted to share my space? Too scary. I’ve had two boyfriends crowd me out of my space before. What if someone showed up and wanted to share my time? Too scary. I’ve had boyfriends monopolize my time before. What if I wake up six months in and realize that I don’t like some particular aspect of the relationship? Too scary, at that point, habits will be set and it’s too hard to fight over it. 

Somehow I just can’t see my way to speaking my piece calmly and confidently and having a partner who respects that. 

So I find myself, at 35, single. People think that’s great. Or that it’s not a big deal. And it is great. And it’s not a big deal. Except that it’s different from being single at 25. People my age are married. Some of them have children. All of them (hopefully) are working. Everyone is responsible and (somewhat) tired. We’re not roving around town in big packs anymore looking for something cool to do and new people to meet. So not only is it harder to meet new people, but it’s hard to find a buddy to pal around with. There’s very little “Hey, let’s go get a drink” or “Have you tried that new place…” without “I dunno, let me see what my husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner wants to do”. 

It sounds like whining. I’m not whining. I actually socialize a fair amount. I also like my own company and I’m not disinclined to do things on my own (usually). The truth is I don’t need anyone. I make my own money, I carry my own groceries, fix my own leaky faucets, kill my own trespassing vermin. I take pride in my independence. But being single at 35 is different than at 25.

I didn’t think it would be this hard. 

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