Early morning television viewing can stimulate a mind. Today, while preparing breakfast, I was watching the CBS Sunday Morning Show. They announced this is National USA Singles' Week. On the screen statistics were flowing.
* Ninety-six  million Americans are single.
* Fifty-four  percent of singles are women.
* Sixty-three  percent of singles have never been married.
* Fourteen  percent of singles are widowed.
* Twelve and two-tenths [12.2] percent are single parents.
[Ten  million women, two and two-tenths [2.2] percent men.
* In New York State alone, fifty  percent of the population is single.
* One third of all births in 2002 were born to single mothers.
I thought; how fascinating, so many singles celebrating their marital status; yet, from my observations many are actively searching for a spouse, a soul mate, a sense of security, a sex partner, or something else.
Social scientists stress human beings are gregarious in nature. They crave a meaningful connection. I observe they do and they do not. Often they unknowingly create chaos, controversy, conflict, and counter all that they value. "Til death do we part" often becomes divorce or worse living in a relationship that is dead or destructive. Still, individuals hunt for bonds; they gather a throng of relationships. People want to unearth that profound liaison.
Many are looking for the love of their life, or at least a quality companion, a supportive soul who would be special friend, an intimate. We all want a shoulder to cry on or so "they" say. Perchance, a person to share our space would be nice. We want so much or so little. Some are certain of their needs and they say so openly. They ask and they receive.
The day before, while listening to Cable News Network, a reporter introduced a news story. With whimsy in her voice, this journalist avowed, "Every young person dreams of the day." In a fanciful tone, she went on to explain, "Even in our youth we look forward to such an auspicious occasion." The Make-A-Wish Foundation was granting a young girl, Nicole Hastings, her dying wish.
Hastings, a cancer victim, wanted to "wed" her beau. In a union ceremony, the two were joined. As I listened, I found the overture more dramatic than the tale. I thought and said aloud, a wedding is not the fantasy of every youth; "It was never mine."
That thought coupled with the two narratives caused me to ponder further. My assessment became personal. I am intentionally among the millions of singles. As I observe the raw statistics and contrast these with the notion of every child's dream, I wonder. Are the raw emotions that led me to my choices similar to those others experience?
Days earlier, before reviewing the aforementioned anecdotes, I was discussing my own familiarity with marriage. The topic arose because I had expressed my disdain for the "three try rule." Apparently, for some, when people disagree, neither "should" try to "sway" the other more than three times. For me, this notion is silly.
I do not consider a sincere sharing an attempt to convince another that they are in error. To illustrate my belief in consistent, caring, and calm dialogues I shared a personal story with an acquaintance. I recounted the tale of my former mate and I.
Considering the divorce rate, the longevity of relationships, the frequent disputes among couples, and the fact that Eric is my former, one might think this will be a tale of woe. My words will be expressions of wrath, rage, and fury. We all know there nothing comparable to a woman's scorn. That said; let the saga begin.
Eric and I knew each other for about a year before we spoke of "moving in together." There was no hesitation on my part or on his. During the twelve months of our acquaintance, we spent most every waking hour together. When we purchased books, we would buy two of the same and then read and discuss them together. We could and did talk for hours. Friends commented, "If you saw one of us, it was likely the other was nearby." We were best friends.
Our courtship was not formal. We never actually "dated." At home, in restaurants, on street corners, and in moving vehicles Eric and I chatted endlessly. We were together in public places and in private sanctuaries. We sat, or walked together for hours; we talked the entire time. Religion, philosophy, psychology, and politics were our favorite subjects. We spoke of the personal, professional, and the profound. No topic was taboo for us. Yes, physical intimacy was part of our repertoire. Eric and I exchanged passionately and with pleasure.
Eventually, we decided to share a home. There too, we worked well together. We never had a dispute about the toothpaste. We each squeeze the tube from the bottom. Eric and I are each extremely tidy. We love to decorate; aesthetics is important to each of us. I love to cook; he loves to eat. Shopping is our shared entertainment. Gardening warms our hearts. Most of all, we like each other's company. Disagreements were few and far between.
If the car needed repair, this was distressing. Dollars were tight. During summer, our incomes were reduced. At the beginning of this season, there was a period of adjustment. In those early days of summer, there was usually one disagreement. Again, financial pressure was the catalyst for our quarrel.
If Eric loaned our one and only vehicle to his badly crippled Dad, I was not happy and said so. Mr. Smyth had rheumatoid arthritis; he could barely maneuver his feet or let alone hold a steering wheel. This worried me. I felt if his Dad needed transportation, one of us could drive him. I usually did. That was fine with me, for I enjoyed the father of my beau.
Over the years it was evident, Eric and I had few struggles and much joy. While we did not have problems between us, being human, there was a need to grow, individually and together.
I always thought Eric knew me better than I understood myself. However, that did not negate the fact that his opinion of what might be best for me, was not always identical to my own. When he would voice his viewpoints, particularly if it differed from mine or caused me to question my lack of ego strength, I would, initially become defensive. That reactive stance did not stop me from reflecting upon what he said, for I knew he truly had my best interests at heart. His expressions were consistently delivered with love.
In the moments, days, weeks, months, and even years later I was thankful that we always shared openly and that he told me of his truth. I needed to hear these views so that they were in my mind, available when I was ready. There was so much I wanted to learn; there still is. I felt a need to be in better balance, to blend more pleasurably with the world around me. I loved my life; however, then and now, I feel there is always a need to grow.
Eric also wanted to evolve; mostly he wanted our relationship to go forward. He wanted to marry me. I was not ready for marriage. Eric genuinely wanted us to be legally committed. I know to my core that Eric would not have changed my mind or me after three futile attempts to influence my way of thinking. An enduring and meaningful transformation would not occur if the dialogue ended permanently at that point.
If Eric had worked to persuade me on only three occasions I would have never learned, let alone truly heard to the wisdom he shared. I believe it highly unlikely someone will change after another states an opinion three times. The chances are less likely if the exchanges are volatile. I think change is a process; it evolves, as do we all. Saying that and contrasting it with my thoughts on marriage, I question. Did I develop as much as I thought I had?
Please allow me to continue the pondering. Perhaps you will join me. Are you reflecting on your own relationships as a married person or a single?
Eric words were consistently kind, calm, caring, and loving. He was not critical of me; nor did he condemn my choices or me. He came to me with love and though he left our abode, or I did, it was not because we no longer cared. I feared marriage!
Patient as he was for oh so many years, he tired of waiting for me to change my mind. He felt he could not go on as we had. He wanted us to marry. I was certain I could not.
Eric and I parted ways physically, though not fully. We never parted emotionally. To this day, decades later we are still deeply connected. I marvel at this. Intellectually I know much; I have grown infinitely, even my emotional realities evolved far beyond where they were. However, as I evaluate my essence, I wonder how much of the past still permeates the present. It seems, when I am placed in a position to truly do as I had not done with Eric, I freak.
I recall reading a study long ago reporting that children of divorce, long into adulthood, struggle with the prospect of marriage. Many wed; however, even the elderly that were once children of divorced parents show evidence of scarring. The wound formed in youth does not truly disappear. It may be modified, still it lingers.
After parents drop the bomb of divorce on their kids, and many believe the impact is immediate and brutal, but gradually fades over time.
That is not at all the case, contends clinical psychologist and divorce expert Judith S. Wallerstein. In her new book, "The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce," she writes that the effects of divorce on children are less like a bomb than a time bomb, carrying lasting ramifications well into adulthood.
When I was young, eight years old, ten days after my natural parents twentieth wedding anniversary, my Mom walked out. This shocked me. My family seemed so stable!
Though my Mom re-married, as did my birth father, and all was perhaps more wonderful than it was before, I grew skeptical. The scar swelled up in me. It was invisible; yet, imposing.
I had serious relationships; I chose well. However, when I feel or felt as though the other person was getting too close, or at times, even before this realization, I would subtlety sabotage the relationship. The departure was never bitter, for I never chose an explosive man. Nevertheless, these break-ups were painful.
I would always conclude of the men in my life, excluding Eric, "They never really knew me." Then I would realize, "Of course they did not; I never allowed such an intimate connection." Sex was always good; however, an individual can sustain a separated self even when co-mingling.
Then, I had a liaison where the other did as I had always done. He pushed away any closeness, I thought that I had evaluated anew. I truly believed that I had worked through my anxieties. I surmised that this situation helped me to see myself as I really was. In being with the man that rejected familiarity, friendship, and a deeper intimacy; I saw myself through him, my mirror reflection. I essentially established the fallacies of my fears; yet, now I wonder. I am uncertain.
As I watched the statistics roll by, as I assess my current circumstances, I am thinking; I may not have evolved as I thought I had.
Granted, for years the divorce of my natural parents impacted my decisions. Their deep division influenced me infinitely. They had been together for twenty-plus years, then poof!
My Mom remarried and chose a man I love. However, after twelve years, this nuptial also died. There was reason to think it might. After a two-year courtship, the two married. My Mom attested to the notion, `once the vows were taken, everything changed.' Her new husband was not the man she thought she knew.
I learned later, my Mom felt that she entered her first two marriages for the arrangements seemed convenient. True love had not been her motivation. Knowing this, when involving herself again, she consciously chose to look for a deeper, more meaningful, love. She married an amazing man. The two intertwined as one. Their union was glorious to observe. Being part of it was even better.
Having experienced the delightful thirty-plus year legal joining of my Mom and my newer father, I realized that what happened to my natural parents marriage need not be life, that of others or my own. Not every one feels a need to separate or divorce.
Still, I now acknowledge that I struggle with the idea of cohabitating. It is a fine construct and wonderful for others. However, when I consider the possibility, I still say "No." I am not alone or lonely. I may be single, but not sullen. I experience no sorrow. In truth, I love my life. Still, I muse; do I truly wish to be without a significant other?
My Grandfather always wisely claimed, "No one does anything that they really do not want to do." I flash back on Eric. I acknowledge, at times our fears stop us from recognizing what would bring us greater pleasure. I have often mused of the Rolling Stones song, "You can't always get what you want; we get what you need;" What we need is more than we ever allow ourselves to knowingly want!
I am so very confused. I feel that I cannot talk to others of this for I experience that we all justify our emotions. I feel lost. Single and sensationally happy, or married in wedded bliss. What is real and what is fantasy, or is the more accurate term self-fabrication.
Thus, I ask myself, is it habit and the pleasure of my own company that keeps me from joining with another? Are my earlier experiences still within me and looming large?
I can still belt out a Carly Simon favorite, "That is the way I always heard it should be." The line, "Soon you will cage me on your shelf; I need to be me first by myself" resonates for me now, as strongly as it did in my youth.
As I listen to all the discussion of weddings, marriages, and single-dom, I cannot help consider, what is true for all of these people. Do humans desire a connection, thus wed? Do marriages meet expectations, good, and the converse? What of being single? How many truly enjoy the prospect, as I definitely do; and do they also feel great anxiety at the thought of genuinely being alone in the world?
Oh dear reader, I invite you to share your story, to probe your mind and your heart. Whether you are married, single, or strolling the streets with another, though there are no legal documents to bind you, what do you think of commitment and closeness? Are you as I, do you acknowledge that one does not necessarily lead to another. There is no direct correlation.
For me, the question is, what feeds our souls? What do we need, want, crave, and create? Sigh, I have no answers, only curiosity. I do not celebrate my singleness; nor do I embrace marriage. I only feel great confusion and ask for your sharing. What have you discovered, discerned, and what deliberations were most helpful to you?
I invite you to open your heart, your mind, and to join with me in seeking a truer understanding of coupling.
What Do You Want, Need, Deeply Desire? Perchance it is here . . .
* CBS Sunday Morning. CBS News Broadcasting. Sunday, September 17, 2006
* Celebrate National Singles Week, By Buck Wolf. ABC News.
* National Unmarried and Single Americans Week. Sponsored By Unmarried America.
* The State of Unmarried America, By Women's Voices. Women Vote. February 2006
* How many singles seek to adopt? Adoption Media.
* National Singles Week Celebration. Tribe Networks
* Dating Statistics. Search Your Love.
* Marital Satisfaction and Change: Research Findings, Contributed by Paula R. VanBoxel, Recent Research on Adult Development. Hope College. October 5, 2001
* Dying teen to have the wedding of her dreams. Associated Press. MSNBC News. September 15, 2006
*The Effects Of Parental Divorce On Adult Children's Romantic Relationships, Contributed by Noelle Wood. Hope College. December 2, 1997
* Divorce Lingers On By Michelle Quinn. San Jose Mercury News. Wednesday, November 10, 2004
* Effects of divorce last well into adulthood, expert says, Joe Eskenazi. San Francisco Jewish Community Publications Incorporated. Friday December 22, 2000
* The Effects of Divorce on Children, By Mary W. Temke. University of New Hampshire. Cooperative Extension. May 2006
* "You can't always get what you want; we get what you need!" By Rolling Stones
* "That is the way I always heard it should be." By Carly Simon and Jacob Brackman.
Betsy L. Angert Be-Think