Being 40 and single is normally considered a sorry state for any woman. I dreaded it too at first. It was my biggest fear to be in my 40s and not have a loving, caring man by my side. I wanted to be hitched, become a mother – the whole nine yards. That’s how I had my life charted out ever since I had turned 20. But things changed and so did my perspective.
Being Single At 40
In my thirties, after a relationship, with plenty of red flags, turned sour, I began re-assessing my life – its current status and my own life priorities. I was not happy in my job. I was living in a country that didn’t agree with my mind, body or spirit. London was cold, wet and grey, at the best of times – both in terms of the people and the weather! England had provided me with material sustenance, I had learned a lot from my various jobs there; I had lots of lovely things that I wanted, and had a great apartment in a wonderful part of town. But London life drained me and it was not what I wanted.
Leaving behind a lucrative career as a policy analyst, I packed up and moved to a sunny beach in France to become a novelist. Certainly, I was petrified of this drastic career change but I had a deep belief that this change in my life would make me happier. And eventually, lead to attracting the kind of guy I could spend my life with. At 36, I felt that I had learned from my life experiences, course-corrected, and was now well on the track to a fulfilling, complete life of security and comfort. Hah!
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The panic of being a single 40 year old woman struck me
Even though I was in a beautiful country like France, and finally, doing what I wanted, something struck me. I realized that my life was still nothing that I had charted it out to be. Where was my jolly good fellow husband? And our two kids? Was that ever going to be a reality in my life?
Cut to six months before I turned forty and I was on the verge of a panic attack. I was single, still a struggling writer and unsure where my next paycheck was coming from. I realized I needed to re-evaluate my beliefs and attitudes about being single and get back on track with my vision and goals.
In my mid-thirties I had finally given in and agreed to let my mom set me up with a guy. The people I’d met since then had been incompatible, had had no capacity for intelligent or stimulating conversation, only reinforcing my idea of marriage as life imprisonment rather than a bond holding forth the prospect of building something meaningful with someone who could understand me. I was advised to lower my expectations especially while being a single 40-year-old woman.
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Being Single At 40 Suits Me
Being 40 and single is no trigger to induce a panic attack. I’m learning that now. More recently, I’ve come to the realization that I might not be cut out for marriage, but that’s okay. I just have to be honest with myself and admit that I want to share my life with a life companion or a partner but on my own terms.
What I have to do is to adjust my perception of what a partnership might look like. Having a life companion isn’t just about being married or, for that matter, having a live-in relationship. It took me a while but I’m now in the process of accepting that I could have a fulfilling relationship living in separate places (not necessarily cities), even while still sharing as much as I can with someone I care deeply about, who provides me with the emotional support I need, the affection I crave and lets me give the same back.
If you were to ask me, “Are you open to dating in your 40s?”, I’d say unabashedly so. What I’m not open to anymore is settling for someone who doesn’t fulfill my idea of a partnership. I’m just happy to wait if I have to.
Single women over 40 need to hear this
This also means acknowledging and fully living the reality that I’m a strong, independent woman who is 40 and single and who consciously chooses to reject the idea of a hetero-patriarchal idea of marriage and partnership; who has to find her own definition of security – financial and otherwise – without reference to any male in her life.
It’s not new. Women have come before me and paved the way, just not any women I’ve ever met or known before. I’m searching for these women, convinced that they do exist, and seeking out new ways of being in the world that truly support me, my work, my legacy and my dreams. I’m discovering what it means to create something of my own and I want all the other single women over 40 to join hands with me.
What I really mean is that I can be forty and create art instead of children, nurture relationships with family and friends instead of with a husband, and partner in the way I define and negotiate with a man I care about, who loves me back just as I am. Women in their 40s, hear me out. It’s time to change the face of empowerment in the way that we want it to!