Prev Next

The Space Between Single And Married


This week we’re talking about the spaces in between, which seems perfect in this week where we start to transition from summer to fall. If wedding planning and early marriage are about one thing, I’d say they’re about transition. They’re about learning to inhabit that in-between space. So I suppose it makes sense, as someone who finds joy in running this site, that all of the posts this week speak to my soul in beautiful and complex ways. This morning’s post by Kathleen (who recently wrote about how wedding planning isn’t project management) is about the space between single and married, and it’s about the balance between valuing marriage as a central relationship of one’s life, while still equally valuing being single. I’m in love.

The Space Between Single And Married | A Practical Wedding

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the comments on this piece since it came out, and not just because I’m a cusp-y Gen Xer still in love with Jordan Catalano. Rather, it was the discussion of privilege and of non-melty relationships, and the space where those two ideas intersect that I can’t shake.

The simple truth is that I’m soon to be engaged, and I’m thinking about where my single self will go.

My people, meaning my family and friends, believe in marriage. And by that I mean they BELIEVE IN MARRIAGE. My parents have been married for over thirty years, and they both believe and communicate regularly that their marriage is the most important part of their lives. I’m the youngest of four, and growing up it was clear that my parents’ relationship was the central space of the family, not that between parent and child. All three of my siblings have married, and followed suit—chosen people and jobs and lifestyles that place marriage as the central value. My people are sure that their marriages are the most important thing they have and the thing that both helps and enriches their lives the most.

Within this world, I’ve been single. In some ways, really single—until recently I’d never been in a relationship that I thought would culminate in marriage. And seriously, being a part of a family that not only values marriage but credits it with their individual levels of happiness and success, being single is a lonely place.

The story that illustrates this the best is of Christmas five years ago. With all my siblings married (and childless), we marched down the stairs Christmas morning with me, the youngest, in front. We opened our “big” presents one at a time. My siblings and their spouses opened these magical, perfect gifts—a new camera, a trip to Mexico, a spa weekend, a cruise, my sister’s spouse had written her a love song. When it was my turn, I opened a gift from my parents, as I didn’t have a partner to purchase me a big gift. After the extraordinary parade of amazing gifts that had proceeded, I opened my present: a jar of pickled asparagus.

I won’t say that I’ve experienced the cultural privilege of marriage in its fullest, most isolating form, but I do think that it might feel a little like the moment after opening a jar of pickled asparagus.

The real reason I keep thinking about this and want to pin it down and document its every effect is that I’m soon to pass over to that space. I’ve found an extraordinary, very non-melty man and relationship. And now we’re talking rings and homes and bank accounts and futures, and soon I’ll leave solo and single and asparagus behind.

Being in a family that loves marriage while being single meant that I had to display and prove and show show show that I was capable and happy and successful alone. And guys, I totally did. I moved to a city where I knew no one. I bought a house. I ran a successful nonprofit. I traveled to fancy beaches. And even more—I did all these things while navigating Multiple Sclerosis, and its many demands, all on my own. I was the most skilled-at-being-single lady I knew. So much so that many friends told me I’d be “the best single mom ever,” as if my single lady capacities meant that I should probably just leverage those skills into single mom-dom. Which, I will be honest, prior to my current relationship was something I figured would happen.

And while I’ve found a guy who loves me for my capabilities and independence and the very things that made me super at being single, I’m also a little worried about where that girl is going to go. I want a marriage that looks like my parents’—that is both something to work on, but also the best part of my life. And I want to get a special, thoughtful present on Christmas, but I also don’t know what that will look and feel like after fighting to be happy and successful without those things.

How did you manage the space between single and married? I always thought I’d be mourning the fun of single life—of dates and drinks and the spontaneity that being alone affords—but I think it’s actually the hard stuff, the fighting to take care of myself that I might miss.

Photo of Kathleen by Stacey Bode Photography

More in Recent Posts Staff Picks

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

    My single self was gone in an instant. One minute, I’d shown up for ANOTHER Craigslist coffee date that I didn’t really even want to go on (you know, hardly changed out of my ratty old gym shorts sort of thing) and six hours later, I was smitten. When he left for Mexico two weeks later, I suppose (?) maybe I could have seized that indefinite period of uncertainty and done something just for me. I didn’t moon around waiting for that guy but when he came back, we were inseparable.

    We’re marrying at the end of the month and have a dog we both adore, a house, and some grand plans to move on and I’m STILL wondering sometimes where that single girl went. I’m beyond delighted but sometimes I’d like to take some bits of her back, you know, from that crack she fell into somewhere.

    • Laura

      Yes, this exactly. Five years into my non-melty committed relationship, I still wonder where single me went. I was raised to be a girl, and then a woman, who took care of her own sh*t, who had her damn own (although I like to think there may also have been a biological predisposition too). But then all of a sudden I was part of a partnership, and sometimes someone else took care of my sh*t, and sometimes I took care of his, and both of us were constantly getting our mutual damn own. Which really is great, just not anything strong, independent, single me expected. Most days, I still actively work at integrating/reconciling the “me-ness” with the “us-ness.”

      • Laura

        It should also be said that the fierceness Kathleen alludes to about fighting for yourself in singlehood – I don’t think that goes away when you’re in a partnership. I actually think it doubles, and is generally sublimated.

        First of all, it is just as important to fight for yourself when you’re in a relationship, except that now you have a permanent fan club (of 1 or more, depending on the size of your baby family) rooting for you.

        But, also. [This is serious.] That energy you put into fighting for yourself? I think it doubly goes into fighting for your relationship, for your family. I feel *fierce* about my partnership, my life, our life. We will make it *together*, goddammit. And the feeling of satisfaction from achieving/surviving/creating something together is so much stronger than any self-satisfaction I ever felt from doing something on my own.

        • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

          100 times yes. The me that did all those things when I was single to make a life for myself is still there, it’s just doing all those things to make a life for us now, and he’s doing the same. So our life more than doubled because of it.

          I had a blast when I was single, but there are some dreams I had back then that are working out so much better now that I can, in some ways, be in two places at once.

          Single me thought it would be a blast to work chains at a football game (single me had a lot of off the wall dreams). Last week we worked our first game of our second season on chains for one of the high schools in town. And it is a blast, just like I thought it would be. But even more so because my husband is living that dream with me holding up the other end of the down marker.

    • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

      I was also instantly smitten with my guy, and had a similar experience of the single me fading very quickly because of that. I’d never put too much stock in relationships, or I’d never met a man who was worth serious relationship energy before, so the sudden transition was very odd.

      • KB

        I am completely ok with most aspects of single me being gone. I actually didn’t like myself when I was single – I was lonely, brash, and in flux – but I also didn’t like me in other relationships, too, when I absorbed so much of partners who were frankly assholes. It’s only in this relationship that I feel more like “me” than before, probably because he encourages me to BE me. Although I do say that I would love to have more alone, quiet, and creative time to coax out the parts of me that were much more prominent when I had a living space all to myself.

        • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

          Funny, I miss the brashness I had…I only had to think for myself and my actions only affected me, you know? I didn’t have to think how they’d affect him.

  • adriana

    I’m struggling with this a bit too – but from a bit of different angle. As opposed to Kathleen, I grew up in a (divorced) household where marriage was something my mom warned me against (stemming from her own experiences). She encouraged all her children to be independent, self-sufficient, and to not derive value from a relationship. I grew up very happy to be single and not seeing myself as the kind of person who would ever get married. Cut to now where I am planning on getting married this fall to my amazing guy. While I am excited about the event and what it will mean for our relationship, I am struggling with how to handle the loss of the rebellious, “I am fine on my own and don’t need to get married” self. She is awesome – so where does she go?

    • Marie

      Me too. I grew up with my parents constantly fighting, culminating in a very nasty divorce. Being in the sidelines can teach you a few rules of the game, and the main rule I learned was “don’t get married; it all ends in tears.” I’ve been pretty dedicated to that rule so far, then I met The Guy and my plan went to hell (in a good way).

      We’re getting married next fall, and I already have mini panic attacks about divorce. I sincerely doubt we’ll get divorced (because who actually thinks that before they get married?), but whenever one little thing goes wrong, I instantly flash back on my parents’ marriage and start preparing myself for the worst. Then the rebellious “I don’t need no stinkin’ marriage, I’m awesome” me breaks out and I get to be her for a few minutes. Then I remember how wonderful my life is with him around, and that girl mutters a few things under her breath and goes away.

      So I think my rebellious girl is still there, somewhere inside. She shows up when I worry about divorce, and shows me that I would continue to be awesome, even if the worst does happen. And then she realizes how amazing life can be if you allow yourself a little room to breathe and change, and she goes back inside until I need her again.

    • http://www.thatbridesgotmoxie.com Renee

      Yes, this exactly. Before I met my fiance, I used to joke that my wedding day would be the worst day of my mother’s life, bc she will think she failed me somehow if I were to get married. My parents divorced before I really can even remember them living in the same house. My mother feels like she raised me to be a non-marrying kind of gal. The kind of person who doesn’t NEED to get married, so why would I want to?
      I struggle now, in this 13 month period between engaged and married, with my own feelings about that. Being raised by a single mom taught me a lot of life lessons. A lot of time, it served as a guidebook for what I didn’t want my life to look like. I can’t deny that she absolutely raised an independent, strong, capable woman. But, I also think there is no harm in letting another independent, capable person help you sometimes. I’m lucky that my fiance is that person. I just didn’t think I’d be dealing with the issue of disappointing my mother because I was getting married.
      And I too think about my single self. I’m also an only child, so when I was single and living alone I didn’t mind it all that much. Just the other day I was craving some alone time. I think I always will, it’s just in my DNA. I hope that part of my single self hangs around for a while.

  • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

    There are times when I miss the single girl, when I see an acquaintance who has set off on a year of travelling the world and moves to Australia to be a yoga instructor or when I want to spend all night at the gym or watching TV I know she hates. But we compromise and try to spend time by ourselves (even in our 600 sq ft apartment) so the time we spend with each other is quality. Like most things in a marriage, it works most of the time.

    • KB

      Totally second this. There are times that it feels like he is ALWAYS in the apartment and I never get to feel that separate space to do the things that I would probably end up doing if he was there anyways!

      • http://www.xwebseries.com Cali

        I’ve been experiencing this recently. My fiance lost his job about a month and a half ago and, consequently, has been at home A LOT. I used to get about 45 minutes to an hour by myself in the apartment after work before he got home, where I would just sit and relax and read. I didn’t think it would get to me, because we tend to be a very “do everything together (within reason)” sort of a couple… but lately I’ve found that I really miss that daily chunk of alone time. I’m also a hardcore introvert, so I need time left to my own devices to recharge. Over the last week or so, I’ve been better about just deciding, “OK, I’m going to go into the other room and read/write/whatever for a while by myself,” without feeling weird about it. Haha. It’s definitely an interesting balance.

        • Jashshea

          Yeah, he figured out WAY before I did that we didn’t need to be doing the same thing at the same time in the same room. Because, yall? I can’t read when he’s watching Pawn Stars.

  • http://Www.lauGhterinthelou.com Emma

    I consider myself fiercely independent and self-sufficient, but I did find other ways to channel that energy. I am slowly transitioning that “fight” to take care of myself into the upkeep and celebration of my marriage. You would be surprised how many skills and day-to-day tactics transfer :) APW has talked about this before, but I just thought it was interesting in this context. Yes, the single part is done, and no you aren’t suddenly caring for two people as if your spouse needs a keeper, but you do get to now take care of this new entity of family that can still fill that space, use those skills and become a new challenge.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      “I am slowly transitioning that “fight” to take care of myself into the upkeep and celebration of my marriage.”

      This is interesting. I have never really thought about where that energy got transferred. I guess my “fight” got transferred to marriage, but also the process of immigration and getting settled in a new country. Now that I am more settled, I think it’s being transferred again to my career. It’s freeing to think about transferring that energy from one place to another because it reminds me that marriage can be an amazing base from which to pursue dreams.

    • XO

      “I am slowly transitioning that “fight” to take care of myself into the upkeep and celebration of my marriage.”

      This reminds me of a blessing I heard at a wedding recently: “May you each have the strength to support yourself, and may you use that strength to support one another.”

      • Airplane Rachel

        Oooh, I like that.

    • Kathleen

      Emma- I love this idea– where will my fight transfer to? It feels like a physics problem, in the very best way.

  • http://dylanandsarah.com Sarah T

    I thought about this a ton when I was younger. I was The Cynic in high school, and when I started coming around to the idea that romantic relationships weren’t a lovey dovey waste of time, I needed a reason. I happened to read my dad’s copy of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and one of his big concepts is the progression from dependence –> independence –> interdependence. That’s in a business context, but I think it really works well in all relationships. Independence is good and necessary, but when and only after you master that, there’s a bigger better world with more than just you.

    I tried to get this concept in our ceremony, but our officiant had his own ideas… different story!

  • mimi

    I feel you on the jar of pickled asparagus! I’m the oldest of 5, with 3 younger siblings married and 2 of them now with kids. Our parents have also been married 30+ years and grandparents 50+ years. For a little while there, every day felt like opening a jar of pickled asparagus, although I also had lots of crazy single nights out and bad dates. I finally met my guy and mostly felt like I was ready to be done being single. My guy works a couple evenings during the week and sometimes travels for work, so I suppose I get my single time in while he’s gone, and that’s enough for me.

    Btw, do you live in a bungalow in the midwest? I live in the Detroit area and my living room looks just like the room pictured!

    • rys

      Ah, the pickled asparagus. I’ve been there, too many holidays and birthdays to count. 30 was a really tough one, as I was single, in the middle of exams, and maybe got a card. A couple friends stepped in to make sure I celebrated but that was one of the worst periods of my life in terms of feeling very very single, in the alone rather than the independent, sense of the word.

      Indeed, for the me — and I speak as a single thirty-something — coming to terms with the range of meanings of single, from alone to independent has been key in both accepting single in a confident way and being in a good space to be me in a relationship. I’m not worried about giving up the dates and drinks and spontaneity part of single life, mostly because the versions of dates/drinks/spontaneity I most prefer are with someone else. And while I can’t, alas, predict the future, I’m in a space right now in which I can see melding single (independent) me into Sarah T’s idea of an interdependent relationship. Because I’ve realized that even in my independent life, there are times when I really do need to be taken care of — and need to know that someone is there to fill that role — even if I generally resist any sort of dependence.

      Finally, I’ll add to the midwest shout-out chorus :)

    • Kathleen

      Mimi- the photo was taken in a good friend’s house- a bungalow in the southeast. And a big high five on a partner who travels– those nights are a very good settling/ single stuff treat for me as well.

  • carrie

    I was thrilled to say goodbye to my single self. I have never said that out loud. I was so very single and I didn’t like it. I liked my life, and I navigated it just fine – hell, even pretty damn fine. But I was missing something, and it was David. (I feel like a failed single person saying that, but there is it. It’s truth.) I love having another person to help me make a decision, someone to check in with, someone to love and protect, and someone to take the damn trash out. Now that we’ve been together for 3 years, married for 1, I realize that I cannot and should not say goodbye to her. The first year we were thrilled to have found each other and had that giddy, exciting first year. Then we got engaged, went through some family illness, unemployment, living together, and things got real. I was the unemployed one so I leaned on him heavily. Then we got married and were newlyweds and in our own cocoon for awhile. Now that we’ve emerged from our first year of marriage, we know we aren’t in a bubble. I think we’ve always known that, we haven’t huddled in our condo and shut the world out. But now more than ever, I love when he goes off to game with his friends. I don’t make plans, I plan to stay home and putter around BY MYSELF. Because I still love being at home on some Friday nights, just like I did when I was single.

    APW has talked about how community is good for marriage, and I think your single self is good for marriage too. Your fiance likely fell in love with you because you are a strong, independent woman. There’s no way you’ll lose that about yourself. I think for a lot of us, that woman makes too big a part of us to be totally gone.

    • Not Sarah

      I, somehow, never notice the smell of the trash, but my boyfriend always does. I love that he takes it out at my place and together, we tackle the recycling. It is so much easier dealing with that beast with a second person with the doorways and keys! (Plus, I’m a terrible procrastinator at taking it out.)

  • Amy

    I think this has been tricky for me too. I was single for a really long time and enjoyed every second of it. I went on trips, tried lots of new things, did late nights with friends, ate out A LOT. My fiance and I met and were engaged in 10 weeks. This whirlwind courtship was never something I expected to do. Nor was I looking for a relationship. It just happened. Since then we have had to navigate finding a home, moving and planning a wedding all within 6 months (October 6th is the date!) and yes, my single life has taken a hit. Going out and spending money on craft beer with my friends and buying a big dinner? No. That’s rent money and wedding money and bill money. Taking wild trips? Not so much. Seeing my friends three to four times a week? Um…no.
    It’s strange to have life wildly shift. I still feel independent but now there is this other person and we need to take care of a lot of things together. I had a lot of friends who got married and suddenly we wouldn’t see them anymore. I am trying to avoid that but I can now see why this happens. Your life shifts and your focus shifts. It’s crazy but true.
    I won’t really yearn for the single girl I was because really, I treated her well and she had a good run. Now I want to focus on my future with my future spouse and the adventure of that. I am sure it will be a hard balance at times in regards to friends but we will try our best to make it work.

    • Not Sarah

      Congratulations! That sounds amazing :) Good luck with all of the changes!

      May I ask…how you knew after 10 weeks? If you weren’t looking for a relationship, did you know that you were ready for marriage?

      • Amy

        Thanks! :)
        Does anyone really know if they are ready for marriage? :) I knew by date 3 I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. Everything clicked in all the right ways. All the difficult conversations happened easily. More importantly, there was something in my gut that just KNEW. Honestly, I never thought I would be “that girl”. The one who did this sort of quick dating, engagement and then on to marriage. I was pretty content with life. Then my finace came along and I realized my life was far better with him than without and he felt the same. Is it for everyone? Nope. For us? Yes. We aren’t really young (both in our early and mid-thirties, respectively) and neither of us wanted to wait. I don’t know if that really answers your question…

        • Not Sarah

          Sort of… That does make sense, in a strange way, thanks :) Was it scary reconciling all of that? Did you ever have a relationship where you saw things that way when you were younger?

          • Amy

            It was startling un-scary. The funny thing was that I was in a relationship before that that wasn’t bad, wasn’t good, just meh. I also didn’t want to hurry anything with that guy. With my finace it was such a different experience that I really cannot put it into words. Again, not for everyone but it has worked for us. I think because I tend to be more guarded in relationships, even my parents knew that this was one was “it” because I actually brought him to meet my family.

    • Amanda

      I love this: “I won’t … yearn for the single girl … because really, I treated her well and she had a good run”.

      Indeed. Meeting my one at 29 meant I had more than enough “single” time to go to university, get my MSc, move to a new country, begin a PhD, and fully and completely enjoy my singledom. My single self pops in from time to time and yearns for a trip with just my sister, Mom time, friend time, boozy dance parties, etc. I allow myself those things (and, perhaps more importantly, my husband understands they are important for me and encourages me to partake, even though we both know we will miss spending the time with each other), and it makes for the most balanced, happy life for both me and my husband. (I mostly hate it, but sometimes I can’t help but chant in my head – happy wife, happy life. It works both ways – happy husband, happy life – it just doesn’t sound as catchy!)

    • http://www.rachelwilkerson.com Rachel Wilkerson

      I related to this comment so much. I moved across the country for my guy after a month of dating. It was a whirlwind. I feel very somewhat guilty about the sudden shift because I was totally happy with my life then….and so this change makes me feel like I didn’t? Because how could I have been happy then if I was completely happy to be doing something so very different within a very short period of time? I think that our culture tends to have an attitude about the whole getting-married-ditching-your-friends thing, but no one talks about WHY people do that or how to be okay with yourself when you WANT to spend more time with your partner than doing single-girl things. I don’t yearn for my single-girl self but I know others do. It’s just been a very confusing thing.

      • Amy

        I agree! I put it this way, at this point in my life, this relationship NEEDS to be a top priority. If this isn’t working then I have a problem. Also, since we did have this fast courtship/engagement/now wedding, we HAVE to get stuff done and be more practical. This means less beers with my guys and girlfriends and less nights out. It just is what it is. It doesn’t mean that it won’t change but right now, this is the state we are dealing with. We are both happy, try to be with friends when we can but know that at the end of the day we need to shop for the wedding, deal with unpacking boxes and spend time with each other.

  • Laura

    I struggle with this a little bit too. My parents have a strong marriage and it is very central to their lives, but they married very late and so both had a lot of experience with being single. They encouraged me to be independent and to strike out on my own. They did not want me to marry young. So I moved overseas, and it was a lot of fun for the first few years. I really learned how to care for myself and be resilient. But after a while, I felt like I’d gotten the whole independence thing down, and it started to feel like same old, same old. It was also very lonely and I really hated that aspect of it.

    When I met my FH, things moved quickly. We became “boyfriend/girlfriend” a month after we met and we got engaged four months later. But I was still in single independent mode so the shift was tough. At first I took my FH’s every attempt to take care of me as him trying to stomp out my autonomy. I’m a grad student and he has a steady, well-paying job, so I really struggle when he pays for things even though it just makes financial sense that he should.

    Now I am getting better at it, but part of me worries that if I am not up against the challenges of single life that made me resilient in the first place, I will eventually lose that resilience. I just keep reminding myself that marriage requires resilience too, a different type, and that’s something I’m only just starting to work on. And this time I have a partner to do it with, which is awesome.

  • http://theblogwhisperer.tumblr.com HeatherG

    This is so interesting and speaks to what I’ve been feeling so well. What I’ve realized is this: Wherever I go, there I am. Meaning, my struggles as a single person are kind of the same as my struggles now. When I’m feeling edgy and indecisive, I try to blame my other half, but I’ve come to find out is that I still have to take care of myself and struggle with the things I did when I was single. Not everything, mind you. But many of the challenges I faced alone are still the challenges I face (i.e., getting over fear of trying something new, time management, challenging myself, etc). They are a part of me. And while I might try to hold my guy responsible, when I step back, I realize, “Oh, this is where you have to put the breaks on and do something nice for yourself. Remember that lesson you were trying to learn so many years ago? Yeah, it’s still there even though you’re married.” In other words, I still have to fight to take care of myself. And actually, in some ways it’s more of a challenge than ever before.

    I personally like this part–the part that I’m still me with my pre-existing challenges. Even though sometimes I fantasize that maybe I won’t have to do this thing or that thing because I’m married, I know in my heart I still do. (Although, he does get the spiders and take them outside, which I’ll admit is really nice and I’m glad I can be rid of that particular “challenge”).

    • Kathleen

      I think this is so so wise, and speaks (in part) to Emma’s question above about “where does the fight go?”— it goes to the same stressors and questions as before. Yes yes yes.

  • Kess

    So, this is something I’ve struggled with, but from a completely different angle. I never really was a ‘single person’. I didn’t date until the second week of college and 4 years later, I’m still dating him! All of my learning and growing as a person was done while dating my SO and occasionally I morn the fact that I never really got to be a single person. Technically I was single before 18, but I feel that doesn’t really count as I was still completely under my parents guidance. In a weird way, I’m very grateful that half of our relationship has been long distance. It’s allowed me to be kind of ‘half single’ and for me to grow as a person.

    We’re definitely moving towards marriage (note that this seems to be a tradition in our family – my dad was the first guy my mom ever dated, my grandpa was the first person my grandma ever dated, my sister is still dating the first person she ever dated) and it’s scary. I’ll never get to be that single, independent person.

    • Julia

      Kess, exactly! I’m still with my college sweetheart and sometimes I worry that I’m not a strong independent woman because I’ve never been single as an adult. Long distance helped me, too– we lived 3,000 miles apart for the first 3 years of our relationship! I always joked that I got to live the single life, but without the loneliness (because I could always pick up the phone and call him).

      But I worry about forfeiting true singleness. A while back, I was even considering breaking up with him, just so that I could fulfill the modern narrative of being on your own and rocking it and then falling into love when you least expected it and didn’t think you needed it. That was when my best friend told me: “Strong independent women don’t make themselves miserable on purpose.” I think she’s right. You shouldn’t break your heart just so that your life fits any sort of narrative– whether it’s a traditional Christian narrative, or an independent feminist narrative. To the women who express strength and independence through singleness: YOU ROCK! To the women who express strength and independence through being part of a team and building a baby family: YOU ROCK TOO! Strong independent women live their own truths.

      • margo

        This for me, too. While I had other boyfriends in college, I left college dating my SO. We dated long distance, which gave me a chance to live on my own, but I’ve never dated as an adult. Never joined an online dating site, never had a proper “first date” (everything is so much more casual in college!), or made plans when I didn’t take someone else into account. At times I’ve mourned that life and felt sad that I had my last first kiss at twenty-two. It is not what I expected for my life!

        On the other hand, it has made me really think about what it is about a single life that I’d really miss and make a point of not letting my relationship hold me back from that. I’ve traveled alone, while in my relationship. I pursue my own interests. I stay up late on weekday nights drinking with my best friend, to which he isn’t invited.

        And yes, I may never have another first kiss.* But by the time we have kids we will have had nearly 10 years of growing together, facing challenges and a thousand conversations about the shape of our lives. It’s not a whirlwind crazy romance, but it is a storybook romance of another kind. He’s been there for so much that there is little I can say about my adulthood that he won’t also understand and remember.

        *This is actually the best case scenario, isn’t it? It suggests there is no divorce, no pre-mature death and we grow ANCIENT together. Of course I know there are a lot of situations where we may end up smooching other people again, with varying levels of heartbreak beforehand.

        • Cleo

          “At times I’ve mourned that life and felt sad that I had my last first kiss at twenty-two. It is not what I expected for my life!”

          I so feel you there! I broke up with my high school sweetheart at 23 and once I was over the tears, my first happy relationship-y thought was that “I’ll get another first kiss!!!”

          Ironically, the next guy I dated (and who I’m currently with) was someone who I had kissed before my hs sweetheart and I got together. Soo…even then my last first kiss still happened at the ripe old age of 17.

        • http://workoflove.wordpress.com Shaelyn

          It is so awesome to think about what you think you’re missing about singledom and make a point to go out and do exactly that. When it comes down to it, there are very few things about my single life that I can’t make space for in my non-single life, and I don’t think I actually miss the things I wouldn’t be okay with making space for as a married lady.

      • Cleo

        While I haven’t been single for long in my life (probably a total of 6 months due to a 6 year old relationship in my teens/early 20s and my surprise! current relationship), my desire to be single and live out that narrative (strong, independent woman meets man and sadly relinquishes her single life) is part of the reason my relationship started out in a good place.

        I was having a rebound fling, at least that’s how I viewed it at first, but as I spent more and more time with this guy, I began to really like and respect him. However, he wanted me to behave like a girlfriend (please spend time with me because I like you), but treated me like (for lack of a better term), a booty call (Hi, I’m bored, come to my house right now!). I got tired of that behavior real quickly, and while “relationship me” would have sublimated my feelings and gone along with it, “wanting to be single me” called him up, told him exactly how I felt and said he needed to make up his mind about me. If he wanted to date me, he’d need to start by taking me on dates. If not, our flirtation was over because it was causing too much stress. And after a few seconds of stammering, he asked me out to dinner. We’ve been together ever since.

      • Laura

        Yes, yes, yes, and yes. You nailed it on all counts!

    • Meredith

      Same here. My partner and I started dating right at the end of our first semester freshman year of college. Now, almost 7 years later, we are still together. When we graduated, we moved to a new city and moved in together. Obviously, I’ve never been single. Nor have I lived alone.

      But! I think I’d rock at being single. As I mentioned, we moved to a new city after graduating, where we didn’t really know anyone. Our hobbies don’t overlap (and my partner works about 80hrs/week), so if I wanted to make friends and be involved in things I enjoyed, then I had to seek it out on my own. And go alone.

      My partner also has limited vacation so I travel alone. Last year I went to Mexico for 4 days, alone, just because I wanted to and I could. It. was. Awesome!

      Strangely, these last 3 years that we’ve lived together, I’ve become far more independent than I ever was in college. My partner has far less free time than he did in college, while I have more. So I have to fill my time somehow and virtually all of that does not involve him. This used to bother me. Not so anymore.

      I guess my point is that you can still be independent even if in a relationship. For me, his long hours have forced me into it rather than it being my choice, but I’ve learned to love it.

      • Another Meg

        Meredith, that’s pretty fantastic. It’s important to enjoy time alone.

        My fiance and I have a few hobbies in common, but we really enjoy our separate hobbies. I relish my time alone at the gym, while he loves time alone in the apartment, working on his computer. Saturdays in the fall will find him yelling at the TV during football games at one end of the apartment while I read or write at the other end and one of my favorite ways to end a bad day is to take myself out to dinner and people-watch while I eat. We spend a lot of time together, but time apart is SO necessary to our success.

    • Sarah

      I was basically going to write this comment! I met my fiance when I was 21 and he was 20. Having had no boyfriends in HS and all of three very short term relationships in undergrad, I always expected to be living the single life well into my 30’s — and I was pretty excited for it. As it turns out, there wasn’t a lot of time for adult, single me to develop, and I wonder what it would be like to be picked up for a grown-up date.

  • RachaelRei

    Thank you for this article, it made me realize why I’m struggling so much with my “in between” (read: engaged) space, but for the total opposite reason! My family is very insular and has never made room for my boyfriend (now fiance) over the 4+ years we’ve been together. I’ve had to come “single” to all the family holidays because everyone else is single. On the other hand, my fiance comes from a divided family, his only brother is estranged and his mother talks constantly about divorce, hers and otherwise, it can seem a little insensitive given we are newly engaged. In fact, his mother is a social-worker-divorce-champion of sorts; she sees it as rescuing and liberating women from bad relationships.
    My fiancé and I have a great relationship and we want a strong marriage to be central to our lives. Without the good examples of marriage that you have, I guess it’s up to us to be examples and make the mold…not to mention plan this wedding, which no one seems excited about!! How do I tell all our prospective families to stop being so cynical, not all hope is lost for marriage??

    • Kathleen

      Oh oh, I want to sit down with you and talk about this. I’m so sorry your having to champion marriage to your families, but my only advice is champion it. Say aloud all the things you believe and want to believe and only believe on the good days about your partner and relationship–and say them to your families. They will start to believe you, I promise (says the girl who was told all the things :)

      • RachaelRei

        Thank you for this, definitely what I needed to hear!! I will do my best, and I know I have a super supportive fiance, who has been an amazing teammate through all this. No matter what we will try to have a great wedding, and an even better marriage.

  • http://turningtoward.blogspot.com Kara H.

    My single self didn’t go down without a fight. I really loved being single and honestly wasn’t looking for a relationship when I found myself in one. And it was a bit of a rough transition as the relationship got more serious. I love my FH and love being his partner, and now I can say that we’re pretty interdependent and lean on each other for support. But at first, I struggled to give up taking care of myself all the time- I didn’t want to seem needy or co-dependent and habits die hard. It took a while for me to begin to ask for support and allow him to help me. Slowly I’ve learned to be part of team.
    We’re getting married in a few months now, and I’m excited. But at the same time, it will be a big change. I fought marriage at first because I was afraid it would be so restrictive (I’ve always liked being able to pick up and move to a strange place or take a job overseas and such). And while I’ve finally figured out that I can still have that in a marriage (we’ll just do those things together with a bit more planning), I’m pretty sure this adjustment from a very self-sufficient independent life will continue for quite a while. It’s a learning process.

  • Brittany

    So I don’t think the single girl goes away. She just changes into the single girl who undestands that she will use her stengths for a slightly larger team (2 instead of 1). All the things you learn in the single years, the ability to navigate life with optimism, financial wisdom, social grace, etc. all are attributed to the single girl because she figured these things out on her own. Well, these things are just as necessary for the married girl. And I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. Our cultural narrative has marriage and singledom as two separate entities, when in reality this is just not the case. Married girl and single girl are different facets of the same Girl, like mother girl or sister girl or professional girl. They all mish mash into forming…whole girl! Upon marriage, the single girl goes through a slow transition (or quick, whatever rocks your socks) into realizing their place in the world/marriage…cue married girl. It can be easy or painful, or both, and all of it is okay. There are shifts and stretches and feeling cramped until you one day see with clarity, you are exactly the same person you were when you were single. Just slightly different. You are single-girl with an extra appendage…the spouse! I am not a different person than when I was single. I am the same person, with the same goals, thoughts, feelings and life. Being married just adds a permanent partner to my team. All of my strengths from being single just made me a better married person. My husband married single girl, just now they call me married girl.

  • KateM

    This whole post, exactly. I just spent this past weekend with a group of my college girlfriends for a bachlorette party. I am the first to get married of the second wave and the only married girl this weekend. There is definitely a closeness that we have with each other that is different than with our friends who got married right out of college. We have struggled and been each others support group and gift givers for the the last 10 yrs. We have been there for each others heartbreaks over the years and at times taken the place of having a spouse. It was so important to me to not be that smug married friend and really remember what it was like to be single and that weddings and the ensuing celebrations can be difficult when you are alone. I haven’t magically forgotten the last 10 years just because I am now a happy newly wed. Straddling my single self and my married self from a friendship level has definitely been hard.

  • eb

    I am one month married and struggle a lot with this, especially in the context of not wanting children and marrying later in life. I feel like being married is as much an assault that my independence can take (and up until marriage I had very ambivalent feelings on relationships overall and worried about being “trapped” with someone who didn’t keep their end of the bargain). I didn’t automatically just give in–it took a few months before I could let this person in slowly, know they were trustworthy of keeping my heart. But keeping just a sliver of that independence I had before is something really important to me. I kept my name when I married, why wouldn’t I keep a little piece of my life from before? It’s hard to read so many accounts of people saying that everything was automatically perfect and easy from day one. Don’t feel bad if that’s not your reality.

  • Moe

    I have a Masters in singlehood. True story. In 40 years of singleness I traveled the world, graduated college, been the single friend in a crowd of married couples, been a bridesmaid, lived alone, lived with a roommate, been to happy hour, blind dates, online dates, good first dates, good boyfriends, had breakups, girlfriend vacations and founded the Bad Date Hall of Fame to commemorate all clowns I had met before I met Mr. Wonderful.

    Somewhere in the first few weeks of dating my husband my single life ended. I don’t even know how it happened I just stopped thinking about “him” and “me”. I had transitioned into thinking about “us” and a future together. I was ready though. I was ready to live life as a team and was completely burnt out on living my life solo. I had been through two hospital stays recoving from surgery and was so thankful that I had friends to help me…but I was sad that there was no special someone there to hold my hand when I woke up.

    Because I eloped spontaneously I never had an engagement period. So now in the smallest decisions I am beginning to realize the magnitude of the choice we made when we married. I think the ‘in between spaces’ are priceless. They give you time to adjust, change, adapt and if you’re the type of person who is set in their ways you will NEED that space.

    • Cleo

      I love this comment. Nothing else to add. It just reeks of wisdom.

    • Jashshea

      This totally makes me smile, Moe. Lovely stuff. :)

  • Pingback: The Space Between Single And Married « A Practical Wedding … | Love Advice()

  • http://www.Eclectic-Unions.com EclecticJessie

    I don’t see my single self as being very different than my married self. Maybe it is because I work from home, and spend a solid twelve hours (at least) by myself every day. Maybe it is because I am fiercely stubborn and won’t change my routine or because my family was always very kid or family oriented (as opposed to relationship or partner).

    The way that others perceive you, and treat you, has a big effect on this, too. Both of our families are a bit stand-off-ish, and are drawn together, more from obligation than anything else. Because of the way that they seem to treat and see us, it feels less like a unit when we are with them. When we are at family events, I feel like we are both there as our single selves, who just happen to be hanging out together.

  • http://onegirloneguytwocats.wordpress.com/ Heather

    I’ve been married for two years, and kind of leapt into the relationship with my husband when we first met 5 years ago. I was done with being single, and didn’t realize how many perks there were to being single until we were a couple and then married. I have a 4 month old now and I love both he and my husband, but I admit, there are times when I miss being single for the little things… taking a bath in peace, going on solitary drives, being able to be irresponsible when the urge hit me because it didn’t affect anyone else but me. Being in a committed relationship is wonderful, but there’s something to be said about making the most of those times when you’re single.

  • Kathryn

    When we were engaged I regularly had dreams where I knew I was getting married, but then I realized it was to an ex. It would end with me saying something like “Wait, this can’t be happening! I’m not supposed to get married to you!? I won’t do it.” I’d wake up flustered.
    Now that I’m married (to the right guy, thankfully) I have dreams where I’m out somewhere and there’s a cute guy (the other night it was Jon Hamm, which is weird – I don’t watch Mad Men or anything) and we’re flirting, and then I stop and think for a second “Wait, aren’t I married or something? I think I might be. Hum.” So, I guess I’m dealing with this question too now, of letting go of my single self, but still being myself, only it’s unconsciously.

  • JaM

    I loved this statement: “…show show show that I was capable and happy and successful alone.” Being recently engaged I find myself very happy that I did put so much into being single. Being a “wife” will come with its own joys, challenges and things that I need to prove (unfortunately). However, I’m thankful I have the singledom days to remember and know that I lived them out well!

  • Melissa

    I always imagined that I would be ragingly independent, living in my own small apartment with a cat and excessive amounts of tea, living life on my own terms. In reality, I ended up in a very committed relationship with my guy almost immediately after leaving my mom, and home state, behind. He and I leaned on/supported each other a lot. I never expected to depend on someone else they way I depend on him. It scares me sometimes, that we are so fully dependent upon each other.

    Now that we are successfully on our own, it’s not much different than what I imagined. Slightly less tea, and no cat, but someone I can count on to have my back. Definitely nice to always have someone in your corner, as another commenter mentioned, though it is different to act as a pair, united, and not a pair of individuals.

    • Kathleen

      Melissa, this is exactly what I needed to hear. It seems crazy to think that I can be just as happy married as I am single, but duh. Of course. Why wouldn’t I be? Thanks, lady.

  • NightHawk

    Prior to dating my current boyfriend, I was all about having space. I loved being in long distance relationships because they meant my boyfriend couldn’t smother me. The thing that most attracted me to my boyfriend, in the beginning of our relationship, was that he didn’t call and text me all the time. He would text me every few days to ask me out on another date, and then we would go on the date. Rinse and repeat, no unnecessary contact in between.

    And yet now…one of the things that I love about my boyfriend is that when I’m working at home in another room, he’ll come up every hour or so to kiss me.

    You might find that what you want changes :)