You're still a whole cake
How can I be totally okay and happy with being single while also staying open to the possibility that I will meet my person eventually?
As a single woman who we know (because you’ve shared some of your thoughts and insights) has struggled with dating in her 40s, how do you maintain your conviction that you’re a badass amazing catch in the face of lots of rejection and being ignored and just clumsy, ill-fitting match-attempts?
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Dear Sarah and Kelley
The simple answer is I like myself and I know that other people’s perception of me has nothing to do with who I really am. But of course, it took me a minute to get here :-)
I believe I’m a badass amazing catch for the right person. This means I’m not a good fit for everyone else and so when I get rejected — or do the rejecting — I do my best to take it on the chin and remember this. I don’t believe there is just one person out there for me — I believe there are tens if not hundreds of people on planet Earth that would make great partners for me, and I them. I still have faith that I will draw the right people to me, but I stopped “waiting” for that quite a while ago. I believe it’s the waiting that makes us feel nuts. It makes it almost impossible to be content with our lives as they are right now because we believe something is missing. We live in a society that favours relationships and views marriage as the ultimate prize so to be single is to be viewed as a loser. Even the word implies something is missing. How can we be present in our fabulous lives if we believe something is missing? Even worse — it’s something we can’t control.
I believe you can absolutely be happy and okay with being single AND stay open to the possibility of meeting your person. I don’t believe one precludes the other. In fact, being okay and happy with being single makes you more attractive which in turn makes it EASIER to attract your person. There’s a different energy around people who are happy being single compared to those who are not. When you’re happy being single you’re much more present to your own life and people notice that. When you’re unhappily single your time between relationships feels like an arduous slog to be endured until someone comes along and saves you. You emanate a needy vibe — people notice that too.
Being content with being single — even better, let’s just call it independent — means you’re not trying to escape from something which in turns helps you to make better choices. Dates are so much easier when you’re not pinning all your hopes on a stranger who comes with their own set of wants, needs and dealbreakers. When I was in my early 20s and desperately wanting a boyfriend I would have been happy with anyone who gave me a second look. I didn’t know myself well enough to know what would have been a good fit for me, so I did the thing that many young women do and became what I thought they wanted me to be, going as far as changing how I dressed to fit in with my college boyfriend.
Now I’m here in my late 40s I know who I am and how I like to live. I know what matters to me and I try to paint an accurate picture of myself in my dating profiles so that the people who’d be a good fit for me recognise me. Some say online dating is a numbers game — meet enough people and eventually one of them will stick — and in some ways that’s true, but you need to filter people before you even meet them to increase your odds of clicking in person. One hundred first dates with just anyone won’t serve you — you gotta find your kind of people by being so thoroughly unapologetically yourself you repel anyone who isn’t aligned with you.
“Ill-fitting” is a really good description of many of the guys I thought were the right ones for me. There was the photographer who was still hung up on his ex. The app developer who was married to his job and emotionally avoidant. The corporate guy I had good chemistry with but so very little to talk about. At the time I thought each of these men had potential and when it didn’t work out I was disappointed and wondered if there was something wrong with me. But there wasn’t at all — they just were just ill-fitting matches.
Finding the right match is all about chemistry, alignment and timing. It’s possible to have chemistry with people and yet have nothing to talk about. You can share the same world views and best first kiss only to be told discover they’re leaving the country. You can both be ready for marriage and kids but while you look good on paper you just don’t fancy them.
Chemistry + alignment + timing. It’s that magically elusive combination that’s rare enough to be worth pursuing when you find it. But because it’s rare you’re going to encounter plenty of false starts and red herrings along the way. That’s why we have to cherish our independent selves. To look after our own hearts and fill up our own cups. To nurture our friendships and community. And to recognise that it’s okay to occasionally feel the pang of missing a partner — and to act accordingly. Phone a friend, cuddle your pet, cook your favourite dinner, wrap yourself in a blanket and then get an early night. Public holidays, birthdays and particular times of the year can bring a sadness with them so know how to look after yourself. Be prepared and tend to your relationship with yourself like you would a love relationship — because it IS a love relationship!
We learn so much about ourselves in relationship with another but I wholeheartedly believe (and know) it starts with the relationship we have with ourselves, so being thoroughly delightfully bravely single gives you a head start on that. Having spent 14 years in back-to-back relationships and now 14 years as a single person, I can report that my single years have far and away been the easier, calmer and most fulfilling years. Being single is a bloody gift and living your life as you wish to live it is the real prize. And here’s some truth: being single is so much better than being with the wrong person. It’s so much better than trying to make it work with someone who doesn’t want that too. So much better than putting up with abusive behaviour. So much better than living someone’s else dream while you sit on the sidelines.
Your life is happening right now so continue building a life you’d be proud to share with another human. BE the person you’d want to date. And when the right person comes along it’ll be the cherry on top of an already fabulous cake. If we approach dating knowing we’re already a whole cake we’ll navigate the ill-fitting matches and disappointments much more gracefully. Align yourself with people who appreciate the whole cake, who don’t want to change the frosting or wish you were a carrot cake rather than a Victoria sponge. And likewise, hold out for exactly the right flavour for you.
And if it doesn’t work out? You still have a whole cake.
Love, Susannah xo