Late last year I started a new relationship with an amazing man. Energized and enlightened I quickly opened myself up to a kind, educated, patient, and successful younger man. Truthfully, it had been a long time since I met a guy with whom I actually saw relationship potential. We traveled together (a key relationship test in my book), we did Sunday yoga sessions, we explored Houston’s fine food and genuinely enjoyed one another; while it lasted.
When we met, I offered to him that we should never overlook our cultural differences, unfortunately, the relationship ended due to other obstacles beyond my control. With a six-year age gap, we ultimately realized that our future goals went down differing paths. While break-ups are common, and at 40 years of age I’ve experienced several, the end of this relationship made me realize that what I miss more than his company was the feeling of normalcy I experienced while I was someone’s girlfriend. Yes, months later, as a fairly strong and independent woman, I can admit that somehow my “in a relationship” status made me feel normal.
Honestly, I didn’t realize I felt abnormal before this relationship. By normal I mean that I felt like my life was similar to that of others for a while. I felt like I was part of the crowd, Surely, I’ve been blessed with the best friends and family who support me through the ups and downs of life, still, the support I receive when I meet a new guy is pretty amazing. Everyone loves a love story and naturally my friends get excited when I go on a date with a man I want to see again. This time around, friends offered to double date to make sure he was worthy of my time and attention, and people reached out for updates after I spent the weekend in the city. Ultimately, I felt like my life was mirroring the typical experiences my married friends went through at some point.
Of course, I enjoyed the routine of having someone who asked how my day went. I liked the normalcy of spending an entire weekend with someone I enjoyed talking to. I even liked my friends reaching out and scheduling happy hours with me rather than me, the single one, reaching out to them for some girl’s night out time.
Since the breakup I’ve wondered where this idea of “normal” stems from. Is it dictated by family and what expectations they set during one’s upbringing? For instance, my father always said I would get a “hubby” all my own some day. (Yes, I am waiting for that saying to come true and wondered why he always added ‘all my own’… would someone really want to share?)
Maybe it is influenced by your friend group and a desire to keep up with the Joneses? Or is it larger than that? Culturally, is the normal standard to be steadfast in loving relationships as adults? While I don’t clearly know the origin of such standards, I can admit that the feelings mirror some of those awkward middle and high school year experiences. So with age, I somehow have not outgrown desires to be like the crowd.
Sitting in a small (yet mighty) statistical group of unmarried, childless women at 40, I have days where I am so grateful for this life because I can only imagine what life will bring. Other days (okay sometimes mere hours later) I wonder why my life is what it is. I also ponder what I’m missing without a partner and what life decisions I made to leave me apart from the group mean.
Like earlier blog posts, I write to provide insights that I’ve uncovered in my experiences. Maybe others can benefit somehow, too. Encouraged by statements like, “he’s out there” and “it’ll be worth the wait” I get up every morning aware of my situation and embrace my single status without regrets. Nonetheless, as I reflect this summer, I recognize that in addition to love and companionship, I ultimately desire to feel normal somehow in this crazy world. Until then, I will do my best to fill life with friends, family, and experiences that make my abnormal world complete.