I'm Single and Pushing 40, But I'm Also Done with Dating

Shannon Ashley

There are far more important things than couplehood.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=4HSU05_0YCrLE2700Photo by Alejandro Alvarez on Unsplash

You know how people tell you that love and romance isn't everything? Uh huh. People used to say that to me and I would just smile and nod along. The truth is that I didn't believe them. For the longest time, all I ever wanted was to find my person and quit going through everything alone.

I believed in love, but now am certain I didn't even know what it was. Like most people, I confused real love for attachment, admiration, affection, and infatuation.

A string of various boyfriends, an unconsummated marriage, two severe heartbreaks, and one unplanned daughter went a long way to change my mind about love. Or at least, to change my understanding of it.

These days, falling in love is difficult for me. On the one hand, I know I’m the kind of person who can grow to love many different kinds of people. But on the other hand, I can only fall deep for the kind of person who makes my heart race and my breath catch in my throat.

I fall for connection.

I fall for depth.

I fall for men with a real wanderlust. Men who go after their dreams and love life with abandon. Honestly, I don't think I can fall too hard for anyone who doesn’t mesh with me in some esoteric and ineffable way.

It isn’t easy finding that kind of dynamic. It’s the stuff of magic, moonlight, and marvelous art. It’s also not impossible, and to be frank, I could fall in love right now. There’s a 46-year-old man who lives in Atlanta, and it wasn't that long ago that I was completely head over feet. And heart.

However, I'm also practical. I have to be as a single mom. That means my 6-year-old daughter comes first before my romantic relationships. So sure, I could fall in love with a man two hours away in Atlanta. I just couldn't uproot my life over that love.

And I'm alright with that.

I've learned a lot about love over the years, and the biggest lesson is how it's not worth rushing into. It's also not worth forcing or trying to fit it into a certain place. It's not worth making it happen.

Because you can't make good love happen. Not just because you want it.

The true measure of a woman has nothing to do with her relationship status.

I never really knew how much women are judged for their singleness until I became a single mom. I thought our world was better than that, but I was wrong. For nearly seven years now, I've been peppered with questions and showered with unsolicited advice.

Strangers who whiff out any flaw in me are fast to announce why I'm so single. Others ask when I'm going to try to get married. Shouldn't I go to church to find a husband?

People are often telling me how it's not good for a woman to be alone. Especially when she's a mom. But on the other hand, people like to critique my writing and tell me how it's just a poor attempt at building a life that matters. ICYMI, a faction of folks out there believe that every single mother is a failure. Hint: it's the same faction of people who think that every dude with an ex-baby mama has been the victim of "toxic femininity."

But what's true? We act like single women are in constant danger of becoming crazy cat ladies if they don't settle down soon. But single men get to be confirmed bachelors. You know, the stuff of every woman's fantasy. They're not crazy--they're distinguished and desirable.

It's wonderful when couples find each other, and better yet, build a life together. But it's also neither a tragedy nor hardship for a woman to be single today. We're no longer the property of men, which means we get to pursue the same independence as them too.

It's okay to slow down and let love find you.

This is also called "living your life." And again, our culture is much better at letting men do just that. Women are frequently and unfortunately discouraged from investing in themselves and their careers.

Even in 2021, too many people are concerned about a woman "wasting her fertility" by developing other possibilities for her future. As if wife and mother are the only roles she should play.

I can't help but wonder if so many marriages fail because of our tendency to hunt after love and try to capture it like an animal of prey just because we think we can't be alone.

But if more of us would slow down and quit trying to find love? We might actually live our own lives first. And you know, pursue a lifelong passion before hitching our trailer to somebody else's ride.

After spending most of my life passively waiting for it to happen, I'm taking action to pursue my passion for writing. I won't lie. Despite all the challenges, it took little more than a week to hit my flow and know in my bones that I was on the right track. That's it. Three years ago, I took one week to believe in my dreams and now here I am, writing for a living.

So I've become a big believer in the power of positivity, and doing the work it takes to create the life you envision. Along with that, I think that doing what you love and living a life you love is a great way to open a space in your life for romance... if that's really where your path leads.

A life without romantic love at any given moment is not the end of the world.

Many of us have been guilty of feeling as if singlehood means our life is on hold. Hopeless romantics like the one I used to be often think our lives can't even begin if we don't have a partner.

I began dating 25 years ago. Does that mean my life should be on hold? I don't think so. The world around me keeps turning regardless of anything I do or don't do.

Right now I'm in a place where I'm making my dreams come true. I'm writing my future to build a life I can be proud of. And really, I've never been more proud of myself. Investing in my dream to write is the best thing I've ever done--proof enough that your life needn't be on hold without a partner.

I used to be so darn impatient about love. Like it couldn't come quickly enough for me, and once I fell in love, I couldn't wait for our life to begin. Now I know that building a future and the ability to thrive is the thing that cannot wait. Giving my daughter an example of strength and tenacity can't wait.

Looking for love can wait. It doesn't make a person sad, tragic, or even lonely. I don't need a partner to be worthy, and I don't need a partner to be taken seriously. I get to invite love into my life just by following my heart and my passions.

My life can't wait, but dating surely can. I don't even have a ton of time for a romantic relationship--I'm too busy taking care of my daughter and me. I used to feel guilty about that. As if my being single said something negative about me. Like it meant I was unwanted.

But healthy relationships aren't about having somebody around to make you feel wanted. It took me ages to understand that. That good love isn't about feeling complete with a partner, and it isn't about what anyone else thinks.

Our culture looks at a 38-year-old woman and assumes her damage. Single mom? Red flag. Fat? Oh, that must be the problem.

Yet, it's not. I've dated just fine over the past few years. In the long run though, dating just isn't worth the effort to .

Online dating isn't all bad either.

I'm keeping my heart open to love, even though I'm not looking for love or doing the online dating thing right now. Honestly, there are a lot of great things about online dating despite its problems. You've got to weed through a lot of instability, however.

Some men who comment on my writing keep telling me what I should or shouldn't do with my life (like never use a dating website or start looking for a husband). But I've had some wonderful relationships that began online, and I've walked into some real-life trainwrecks too.

The most important thing about finding good love is that you know who you are, and you know how to handle yourself like a reasonable adult. You have to know how to recognize, give, and receive good love. No matter how you meet a potential partner.

Don't feel bad for me for being "done."

Just because I put my love life on hold and am SO OVER looking for love, that doesn't make me bitter. I'm not jaded about love in the least. I still believe that it's better to have loved and lost. And I'm definitely open to loving again.

It's just that my life won't hinge upon whether or not it happens for me. I'm at peace about the whole thing.

Single or not, my life can still be filled with love.

And that's pretty dang magical all by itself.

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Single mama, full-time writer, ex-vangelical. It's not about being flawless, it's about being honest. I cover real-life issues, like family, parenting, relationships, and spiritual abuse.

Cleveland, TN
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