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Single, nearly 35, feeling profoundly alone and terrified.
January 24, 2014 8:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm having a real bad night and pretty bad month or so. I'm trying to stay optimistic but it's so, so hard. Any kind words and support will help.

This happened back in May. I had a few rebounds over the summer which were fun, but now I'm trying to find "the real thing" and its so. damn. hard. I'm feeling like I made a mistake by breaking up with my ex, even though my therapist (plus many metafites) say it was the right thing to do. I left him because I wanted a husband and someone to have children with, but the thing is, now I have nothing and maybe I should have just been grateful for at least having a boyfriend. I'm sorry if that sounds dramatic, but I have put myself out there/been on many dates and I'm so burnt out. I just can't seem to connect with anyone anymore and the fact that I'm almost 35 makes me feel like my window is closing FAST. To make things worse, I may have the breast cancer gene because my mom and sister do (I'm not emotionally ready to get tested yet) and it just adds another level of urgency if I want to have a bio kid. It also makes me think about cancer and mortality and I really don't want to go through sickness and/or surgeries without someone.
Sure, I have friends and family who care for and comfort me and all that but for whatever reason its not the same as having a partner.
The fact that I screwed up with every boyfriend I've ever had...I'm nearly hyperventalating right now just writing this.

If you have been and my position and things have gotten better for you, I'd love to hear it. I'd especially love to hear it if you DIDN'T get the life you wanted but are ok anyway..happy even.
posted by hellameangirl to Human Relations (37 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you and your boyfriend were having troublesome, it was right to end the relationship, it never turns out good if you guys argued constantly. You need to lose yourself in someone, you can't just expect to fall right in love, you claim you have been on many dates, maybe that's your issue, or you aren't explaining the full story. Sorry for the troubles and I hope things get better.
posted by vulnus at 8:29 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


being alone is way better than being with a bad partner.
posted by bruce at 8:31 PM on January 24 [28 favorites]


I was where you are at 35. I had a kid on my own at 41. I'll be 43 next week and am happier than I ever imagined possible. It's hard to say what someone else's right answer might be, but I can offer you that life contains a lot of surprises and possibilities.
posted by judith at 8:37 PM on January 24 [38 favorites]


Be kind to yourself. No one is going to be able to promise anything about how this will turn out, but you've made the decisions you needed to make to have the possibilities in your life that you want.

Up front, I'm a guy, so the timing urgency isn't the same, but a bit over a year ago I separated and then got divorced from the woman I'd spent the prior 19 years of my life with, from age 20 to 39. A part of it was that I would like to have a family someday. And, well, I've had a rebound and a relationship, and been on probably 30 first dates since then. I've felt profoundly lonely and regretful at times. And, I've had the added joy of learning to date, really for the first time in my life, at the age of 40 - with the attendant opportunities for error and embarrassment.

But, I've also learned that sometimes those tough moments are just when I need to take a deep breath and do some mindless fun. And they are indeed getting fewer.

In short: while I'm still single, without any clear path to somewhere else, I'm finding a life for myself that is fulfilling in different ways. I think I've always been happy in certain regards, and I am now. I can honestly say I have felt more alive in the last year than I did in the five years of my marriage prior. It isn't fairy tale yet, but happy is out there - even without the laundry list of goals fulfilled.
posted by meinvt at 8:39 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Even though you were in a relationship you ultimately decided was wrong for you, you still need to grieve over it. You only ended things in May.

I am nearly 10 years older than you, and have felt myself in the past the same fear you feel now...and yet today I'm actually finding myself in that nervous fluttery "oh jeez does he like me I think maybe he does" state about someone I had a date with recently.

Your life is long. Many things will happen in it. This night will pass and tomorrow may bring things you could never have dreamed possible. And if it doesn't....well, maybe it's the next tomorrow that's supposed to bring it. Or the next. Or maybe you'll get sick of waiting to see what the next tomorrow will bring and when you're ready you'll say "fuck this" and go off and do something else, and THEN someone will come along and by that time you'll be thinking "not NOW, I'm in the middle of something".

Breathe. The fear you feel now will pass.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:40 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]


An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great. Keep your focus, and get ready to move forward. -- Unknown
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:43 PM on January 24 [38 favorites]


I didn't get the life I wanted, not by a long shot, but I'm ok anyway... happy even. I'm a spinster. I'm in therapy. I'm a cancer survivor who made it through surgery and treatment without a romantic partner. I'm not even insulted that my life is something you're afraid of, because there are all kinds of perfectly OK lives out there to lead.

The alternatives to learning to be happy without a husband and children were either death or constant misery.

You're going to be OK.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:45 PM on January 24 [69 favorites]


I know a couple successful, happy single women who decided they wanted to have kids on their own, and they seem very satisfied and the babies sure are delicious. Having a husband is not a prereq.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:46 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]


You were absolutely right to end the relationship. Right now you are caught up in fear of what might be, and so you want to return to someone who is familiar. You're afraid enough that right now it seems that it might be worth it to give up things you really want. But fear is not a great basis for a relationship.

Your window is not that close to closed. You still have time.

I'm older than you. I've dealt with cancer and other illness and life stressors as a single person. I want to have kids and get married but I'm not sure if it will happen or not. It's difficult and it brings up a lot of existential fears. But I have within myself what I need to keep going, and to create meaning in my life, and be happy. Whether I marry or not, whether I have kids or not. Those things would be wonderful, but I do not need them to be complete. You too, are already complete. You are enough as you are.

On a practical note: have you looked into freezing your eggs? It might give you some peace of mind.
posted by bunderful at 8:47 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


So you want kids. Kids are often a much longer term thing than boyfriends. Think about 10 years from now, and what you would wish you'd done, looking back. You might not have still had the bf at this point anyhow, who knows.

You could have a bio kid now if that's what you want. It takes time to meet someone, get to know them well enough to decide if you want a kid with them -- or, for a few hundred dollars you can pick the sperm donor of your choice. Fertility does decrease a lot after 35, more so if you get cancer treatments.

I really don't want to go through sickness and/or surgeries without someone

You really, really don't want to go through them with a partner that doesn't treat you well. It's actually not all that uncommon for people who get cancer and are in an unhappy relationship to decide that they would be happier going through treatment and the rest of their life without their partner and get a divorce.

You're stronger than you think you are. If it comes down to having surgery, you will grow mentally and spiritually stronger than you can imagine right now.
posted by yohko at 8:53 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]


It's actually not all that uncommon for people who get cancer and are in an unhappy relationship to decide that they would be happier going through treatment and the rest of their life without their partner and get a divorce.

Oh man. One day I was sitting in a waiting room (alone, with a book) and this couple next to me was having this argument -- actually the husband was doing all of the talking. He kept indirectly but clearly insinuating that she was not leaning on him enough cancer treatment, that he wanted to take care of her and she wouldn't let him. She didn't say a word.

And you know, it could have just been a rough moment. Maybe she went in for her radiation treatment and then they got ice cream and made up. But it seemed to me that their relationship was not good; either they'd never had a strong connection or it had been damaged, and now the stress of cancer was tearing away what was left.
posted by bunderful at 9:09 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


First of all, your window is not closing that fast. Fertility drops after 35 but doesn't disappear -- early forties, I reckon, is when you really have to decide, and there are still options then.

You are at risk for breast cancer but you don't have it now. Getting checked for it regularly will make it manageable if it does happen. This is something you can do.

It doesn't help you to think about 'having' things (like a boyfriend) other people 'have', just to meet expectations. Half of the people who get married divorce; probably another quarter are just kind of low-level miserable for the rest of their lives. Personally, I don't want to participate in those possibilities.

Of course you're going to burn out on dating when you feel like every date is your last hope. That's not fun at all. I would stop dating altogether for a while and try to learn how to make yourself comfortable.

Especially if you think it's you who "screwed up" your past relationships. Sorry, it takes two for things to go wrong. Conversely, I'm convinced 80% of a good relationship is the match. Understanding why things went wrong could help you choose someone better for you. That doesn't happen instantly -- insights pop up when you least expect them, over time, but therapy can help nudge it along.

I was exactly your age in 2010 when my (terrible) relationship ended. It took me a year to make sense of things. (I used exercise to do that, partly. Angry burpees are the best.) I took some of that year and all of the next to have fun, with the explicit idea I would avoid relationships. I took classes in expressive arty things, met people, went dancing (did a lot of dancing!). I had a great time, and got asked out more often than I have in my life. Mind you, my frame of mind was different -- I was battle-weary and really, really glad to be on my own.

I also got serious about a career change and went back to school. I'm thrilled about where it's going, and I probably wouldn't have gone for it if I were still with my ex.

It's only lately that I'm thinking it'd be nice to have company. To be honest, I do feel a bit of a push around meeting someone, family, etc, and I've had to put the kaybosh on my social life (because, classes, homework, less money). But even now, when I'm in jeans and sweaters, not wearing makeup, hauling butt across town to campus, and mostly broke, in my late thirties, I am getting more positive responses from all kinds of people (including men) than I have in my life, and I think it's because I'm on track. I'm surer of what I want, and I like who I am. This wasn't true in my teens or 20s and definitely not immediately prior to 2010. I think people will keep responding for a few years, at least ;)

But if marriage/kids happen, good; if not, I'd rather have peace of mind than be upset (or even moderately annoyed) for the rest of my life.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:18 PM on January 24 [11 favorites]


You didn't make a mistake. Or, rather, there isn't anything you could have done - stayed with him, not stayed with him, waited until he was ready to have kids kids, forced him into having kids before he was ready, married someone else straight off the bat, had a kid on your own, decided to live happily child-free - that someone wouldn't be eager tell you was a giant, life-ruining mistake.

That little voice in your ear, whispering: you did it wrong, you had all these choices and you fucked it up, and now you're going to suffer - part of me thinks that's just the price you pay for being a woman in 2014. I'm in a relationship, without kids, and I hear it. My single friends hear it. And my friends with kids hear it too - not you're going to die alone, necessarily, but you sacrificed your career for your husband's and so now if he leaves you, you'll be destitute. Or you're putting your kids in daycare so now they're fucked up for life. Or you married your childhood sweetheart and everything is perfect now, but what if, when you get old, he decides to leave you for his secretary? What then?!

That voice - that wheedling, terrifying, doomsaying voice - is like the nightmare demon spawn of every clickbait-y women's magazine article you've ever read, every elderly female relative who ever clucked disapprovingly at you, every nasty internet commenter who just couldn't wait for the chance to tell you how your "window was closing" and now that you're 30 no one is going to want you and you missed the chance to have the life you wanted because biology is destiny and blah blah blah.

That voice is dangerous. It will trick you into believing that all the freedom you thought you had - to find a partner who loves and respects you and who shares your values; to have a fulfilling career, and to build a family - are actually impossible, and you want too much and and at the same time aren't trying hard enough. You want stories of people being where you are and being okay...happy even.. I'm sure you'll get lots. Most people don't live their lives on the schedule our culture has mapped out for them. Lots of women have children too early, or have kids out of wedlock, or have kids they can't support without help from the state. Or have kids when they're over 40, or become step-parents, or they hire a surrogate, or they adopt, or foster, or take care of their nieces and nephews, or move to the Netherlands and live in a free-love commune. And the whole time, that voice whispers: you're doing it wrong. You're going to end up unhappy, and it's all your fault. It never goes away. It's never placated. Some people listen to it, and some people try to ignore it. But the ones who are happy say fuck it, because that's all you can do. You may not have achieved the perfect life you dreamed of when you were seven, or twenty-one, but you made the best decisions you could given the options that were offered you and you built a life that you wanted, rooted in choice rather than fear. That has to be enough, because what else is there? We're all there with you, muddling through it together.

And now that I've given you all that late-night feministy cheerleading, I'm also going to drop this click-bait-y Atlantic article on you, because seriously, 35 is not the deadline you think it is.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 10:29 PM on January 24 [147 favorites]


In 2008 I left an abusive relationship. After that I gave up on men, moved to another country, went to grad school, worked with a couple of crazy internet startups, moved back to my home town, started working for a larger internet company, moved to California, met a great guy, had a baby and we're planning a wedding. Wrong order but who's counting? I was over 40 when our kid was born and he's now a few months old and perfect.

But I remember being single and scared at 35, having that whole panicky feeling every morning at 3 am. That little voice that sits in your head asking you what it's all for if it's just you. What's the point if you never get married, never have kids, who's going to look after you when you're old. Will I always be the lonely aunt people invite for Christmas just to be kind? Then I worked out that I could spend the next 40 years being miserable about not being married or having kids or I could spend them doing every other damn thing I ever wanted to do. So I took option 2. And look how things turned out.

I mean,I still might be that lonely aunt. But right now, things are looking pretty amazing. I just wanted to be a data point for you. (Though my kid just spent the whole evening throwing up and I just heard him do it again. Another data point :) )
posted by yogalemon at 11:02 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]


what would happen if you decided that you were *thinking* you are alone instead of *feeling* you are alone? then what might happen if you try to think a different thought -- something like "I am no more alone than anyone on this planet. we are all born into the same situation. I belong where I am right now."

this is something I try to do often. i have found that my feelings are a result of my thoughts, and not vice versa.
posted by macinchik at 11:03 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


This helped me and changed my life.
posted by ladoo at 11:50 PM on January 24


My mom had me at 35 and I turned out okay. My parents got divorced when I was 12 and I rarely saw my dad even before that. I was okay. (My parents both remarried happily in their 50s, my mom with a man who had never had children and whose previous wife died of cancer.) My aunt had kids in her late 30s and they're both fine. I had a great, smart attractive professor who had a kid alone at 40 and then ended up marrying a perfectly nice man a few years later. I have an aunt who's infertile but happily married to my uncle for many years. She's now thinking of adopting late in life.

Listen, there are all kinds of ways to make families and be happy at all kinds of times. The cards sometimes shuffle weird, and not everyone has the standard experience. This is okay!

If I were you, I would make plans to have a baby on your own. You can research it, join groups for it, ask around, go to the doctor- do everything except go through with it- and then just wait a couple more years, if you want. Knowing you have it as an option will make you feel better and give you something exciting and happy to do.

If you don't want a bio-child in particular, you can always marry a man with kids or adopt later in life.
posted by quincunx at 12:15 AM on January 25 [5 favorites]


That voice - that wheedling, terrifying, doomsaying voice - is like the nightmare demon spawn of every clickbait-y women's magazine article you've ever read, every elderly female relative who ever clucked disapprovingly at you, every nasty internet commenter who just couldn't wait for the chance to tell you how your "window was closing" and now that you're 30 no one is going to want you and you missed the chance to have the life you wanted because biology is destiny and blah blah blah.

So much this.

One of the things that shocked me about reaching my late 20s was how all of that kind of doomsaying was just such a crazy lie. You know, I was really scared in my teens and early 20s about how life would be as a woman after I passed, like, 25. That nobody would find me interesting or attractive anymore and that I would be pushed aside in all areas of life and discarded and disposed of, and I would just sit around eating ice cream in bed in my sweats, hating myself. Basically, everything that Cathy cartoons tell you that life is like for women over 25.

So I was absolutely shocked to find out that it was all just an absolute lie!!! I often feel like my life is like living in Never Never Land or Disney World. Yeah, I get super stressed out and have lots of responsibilities and fairly crappy/annoying things happen at times, but much of the time, I can do whatever the fuck I want! I can spontaneously go to Hawaii for a weekend. I can adopt a dog whenever I feel like it, like I could wake up tomorrow and just go get a dog and nobody can stop me. I hang out with my friends whenever I want, stay out as late as I want and do an enormous variety of fun things all the time. And I can sit in my bed and eat an incredible amount of ice cream if I feel like it, which I have been known to do, and I do not feel like a loser when I do it, I feel like a pirate! I am just so so so grateful for this life, which is very different from the life I had when I was 20, 21.

About the attractiveness thing, significantly more people have tried to get with me than at any other point in my life, including more teenage and college-aged people than the number of the people in those age groups who tried to do so when I was that age.

I'm just happy. I'm not like trying to sit there convincing myself, okay, well I would rather be 24, but if I can't have that again, I can live with this. Not in any way. I'm happy, I'm thrilled, I'm overjoyed.

I think about those guys I worried about, the ones who, at 22, and 23, mocked older women. The skeezy guys who were in their 30s and hit on me and my friends when we were college-aged because supposedly women their age were so horrible. To me, at this time, it's so insane that I ever worried about those people and what they thought and how they would treat me in the future. I feel like I am doing way more awesome and interesting things in my life than those people ever did and the idea of caring what they think is bizarre. The idea of even talking to people like that or having them in my life is like, something that wouldn't even be worth my time. It would be a high schooler caring if a third-grader thought they were cool.

These things are different from your concerns but I think they are all kind of part of the same parcel, and I am talking about them to say -- so much of what we are taught to be afraid of is just complete lies.

I am not sure why they tell us these lies. Part of me thinks that it is about control. Encourage women to settle down, partner up and start having babies, by telling her dramatic stories of how miserable she will be otherwise. And another part of me thinks that it may also be about profit. Unfortunately, often, fear sells.

I suspect some of the things that you are afraid of, some of the miserable ways that you imagine the future being, are just lies that you have been told. I have every reason to think there is a good chance your life will turn out to be shockingly awesome, even if you end up single for some years, that it's not something you're just enduring, just getting through loneliness and misery trying to convince yourself it's not that bad, but you might be truly ecstatic in your life.
posted by cairdeas at 1:00 AM on January 25 [56 favorites]


as quincunx put it: What's the point if you never get married, never have kids, who's going to look after you when you're old.

i think about this all the time. i used to be very anti social and introverted, but now i gather friends around me often. they replace what many people seek for in one mate, and to be honest the variety is quite lovely. i participate in multiple types of friend groups all over the city i live in, meeting new people. i put more value into my friendships because i am not solely focused on only one. you don't get as deep a connection, but there is something to be gained from each unique person. i try to give to these people, to organize and pull them together, to create this new different life for myself. i don't know what i'm doing but i can tell you that right now it seems to be working and i'm feeling pretty happy with this alternative.

still, i see my friends pairing off, getting married, having babies. "leaving me behind." the fear rises up and yet... i'm not alone. i hang with my married friends and most are still the same old friends as before they were married. i go visit the ones that have had babies. (me! i don't know the first thing to do with babies and yet there i am, doing it!) i AM that crazy aunt cristina! i am slowly becoming okay with that. my friends are my family, and right now my family is pretty huge!

i just feel like love and marriage and kids is one road. one well worn road that works for many, but that has been trod on again and again and again. we know where it goes. you know where the road it doesn't go? over that hill, over into the woods, over by that lake. so many options! what is beyond those things? i don't know.... but it's my time to explore and find out :)
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 6:20 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


OP don't be afraid, but do be motivated. Facebook tells me anecdotally that there's nothing more common than a woman meeting at 34, marrying at 36 and having her kids at 37 and 39. But it doesn't happen by accident, or through imposing the identical dating standards they had when they were 25. Make a ruthless assessment of yourself and the dating market where you live. Figure out the compromises you can accept, and those you can't, from the menu that is offered: divorced, short, poor, older, fat, uncool, ugly, (ir)religious, (non)drinker, (left)right-winger, etc., and be open to people who require the acceptable compromise alongside other assets.
posted by MattD at 7:26 AM on January 25


Check your memail.
posted by the latin mouse at 8:09 AM on January 25


I can so identify with where you are right now. I broke it off with someone (we were engaged) when I was 35. I am so SO SO glad that I did. I really wanted kids and a husband, but I realized, thankfully not too late, that I didn't want kids with him. In fact, it would have been a nightmare.

I was so scared to go it alone again, but there was a ton of life, new experiences, new friends, and eventually a new relationship awaiting me. I went for about nine months expressly NOT trying to date anyone and that was a good idea for me. In the meantime I just plunged into doing stuff: took a class I always wanted to take, took a trip to Belgium just to drink beer and carouse with a girlfriend, got involved in a couple volunteer activities that were really fun, etc.

This may not be the path you want to take, but I also explored the idea of being a single mother by choice. I actually did an IUI with an anonymous donor, although it didn't work for me. I ended up meeting the fellow I am together with now about a month after that and now we are expecting our first baby in April. If that hadn't happened, I probably still would have continued the single mom route, hard as it would have been. I would have been fine alone since I had built up a rich life around me. But I get the longing for a partner. Just know that that can come at any time in life, even if it's not right now, when you want this person to appear.

Hugs to you. Please feel free to message me privately!
posted by medeine at 8:12 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


Oh, MattD. I know you don't mean it that way, but don't you see this is exactly the well-intentioned but undermining advice that is fucking with the OP's head? We don't know anything about the OP's standards for men in her twenties, other than that she dated one person who didn't want kids. What does your advice tell her, other than hinting that she's worth less now on the dating market than she was at 25, so she better get ready to lower her standards? Do you really think that, given the words she's written above, that this is a woman who needs to be more ruthless in her own self-assessment - a woman who's beating herself up and wondering if she ought to have been "grateful" simply for having a boyfriend whose life goals in no way matched her own?

It doesn't seem likely at all to me that OP got where she was by having standards that were too high; ruling out the divorced, the fat, the ugly, the irreligious, etc. At least, we have absolutely zero evidence for that. You're the one bringing that narrative to the table. We do know she settled for someone whom she knew wasn't right for her, and then didn't leave...in part because she was running scared and feeling already like her time was running out.

I don't think you need to be any harder on yourself than you already are, OP, and I don't think "ruthlessness" is the right attitude to bring to this search. I'd suggest, in lieu of ruthlessness, openness. Openness to guys you might not have considered before, sure, but also openness about what you want, and openness to other kinds of lifestyles than the one you think you need in order to be happy.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 9:14 AM on January 25 [25 favorites]


"I really don't want to go through sickness and/or surgeries without someone"

My mom died of cancer at 57 and in the end a lot of yucky stuff surfaced about their relationship (not huge affair stuff or anything) but he would try and help her up, and she would feel that he was hurting her "being too rough" and get upset....and he started to chat to women online (she absolutely didn't know that- but he just couldn't bear the thought of being alone) He was just trying his best. My point is: you want to have your best friends around you when you're dying, and that isn't guaranteed to be your spouse.

I'm 33 and a little frightened of being sick and alone- but the odds of that are pretty slim, man or no man, kid or no kid... Just love people the best you can and make plans that make you happy- date, freeze your eggs, sign up for horseback riding and go to the gym. And what will be will be.

Me personally? If I decide at 38 that mr pony and I won't work- well, last week I decided I'd be fine with a sperm doner- problem solved. The right man will show up when you're living the life you want to live !
posted by misspony at 9:38 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


You may not have achieved the perfect life you dreamed of when you were seven, or twenty-one, but you made the best decisions you could given the options that were offered you and you built a life that you wanted, rooted in choice rather than fear. That has to be enough, because what else is there? We're all there with you, muddling through it together.

Quoted for fucking truth.

And, also, you made a thoughtful and intelligent choice to evaluate your options-- your real options-- and decide that it was better to be alone than settle for something that was much less than you wanted. And that's very, very difficult, and it's very, very brave. Your ability to recognize your real options and make brave choices will serve you well, not matter what happens in your life.

So many people (including me sometimes) refuse to recognize the reality of situations. When I got divorced at 32, I spent a long time feeling like I'd "lost" the happy future I saw in my head, with my husband and my house and a baby and everything being peachy-keen forever. But the truth was, I would never have gotten that everything-is-perfect future, even if we hadn't divorced. My real choices were between:
1) a frustrating marriage with someone who didn't really want the same things I wanted, and maybe a resentment-filled co-parenting relationship
or
2) a divorce (and at least a chance to find someone who wanted more of the same things I wanted)

I'm 39 now, and I've had relationships and challenges and things have happened, and my life looks much different than I thought it would. I don't have kids. I don't have a husband. But that's okay, because I chose this. No one forced my life on me, it's mine and I own it. I have me. I have my cat. I have awesome, supportive, wonderful friends. I'm not alone. I know what I have, and I know that I have done my best, and no one can take that away from me.

It's okay to mourn, and it's okay to feel scared and sad when things are uncertain, and it's okay to feel sad about the way your life could have gone. But it's also important to give yourself credit for being strong and knowing what you want. Even if things' shake out differently than you hope, I personally think it's better to know what you want and make active choices not to settle than decide you're okay with whatever pale simulacrum comes along. You deserve more than the merest baseline of happiness, and even if your life ends up looking different than you've hoped, your ability to own your own life can give you happiness.
posted by Kpele at 10:08 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


I'm also about to turn 35 and am single. I decided when my last relationship ended 3 years ago that I would rather be single than be with someone who wasn't a good match for me. I am happy with my life. I want a relationship, but I also enjoy being single.

In the time since my last relationship, I bought my own condo, adopted two dogs, and received a big promotion at work. I love the freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want. When I decided to adopt a second dog, it was my choice. I didn't have to deal with another person's opinions. When I want to go on a trip, I can go wherever I want without having to take someone else's desires into account. I can buy big ticket items with consulting with someone else or discussing whether we can afford it as a couple. I know what I can afford and I don't have to deal with another person's opinions on the subject. I'm thinking of buying a new car and I don't have to deal with a partner who might or might not like my choice in cars. Lastly, I don't have to share a bed with someone. I love having the bed all to myself. It's my kind sized bed and I can stretch out and have the covers all to myself.
posted by parakeetdog at 10:30 AM on January 25 [4 favorites]


As to the going through illnesses alone thing - I had surgery for a heart defect at 25 and my boyfriend at the time fell to pieces, didn't know how to handle it at all. If I complained about how I was feeling he'd tell me I was very lucky he was someone who'd put up with this and most men wouldn't. The worst thing about the surgery and the horrible, lingering after effects of it was being completely trapped: not being able to get away from him and having to deal with his antics on top of the physical stuff that had seriously curtailed me (and was still sending me back to hospital in an ambulance every week or so). As soon as I recovered I left.

At 28, I got cervical cancer. Boyfriend at the time made polite noises about how awful it was and could he do anything, etc. but used the time I was in hospital/indisposed to cast about for sex with others on the internet, watch four hours of porn at a time rather than spend time with me, write long, heartfelt love letters to his ex about how much he missed and still loved her. This was just the tip of the iceberg of all the other horrible shit he was doing that I'd only find out about later.

This is all to say that having a partner doesn't necessarily mean you'll get support or love or help from them when the chips are down. I'd much rather have been on my own for my heart surgery and recovery, and much MUCH rather have been on my own than with the guy I was with during my cancer treatment. I envied single people so much then.

As to the 'must have kids soon' thing, my OB/GYN told me I had till I was early 40s and not to worry too much about that. The media exaggerate wildly about it because it shifts units and proscribing women's behaviour is always popular because mysogyny. No matter what you do you're doing it wrong, so I've just given up trying to fit the script.

I'm 33 now and married, but at least two of my friends get divorced every year. No relationships are set in stone, and who knows what the future will bring.
posted by everydayanewday at 10:40 AM on January 25 [12 favorites]


who's going to look after you when you're old.

I would be lying if I said I never worried about this myself, because I do. But I've also known people who HAVE children who still ended up having to make other arrangements when they got old because their children were either unable or unwilling to do so. So, while it ups your odds, having children isn't a guarantee.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:59 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


I agree that you will have a great life regardless.

You asked for success stories in terms of your life goals, so: I got married after 35 and we just had a baby. Here's the thing, almost every person I dated before my husband was just a terrible match for me. I had some decent relationships but mainly a lot of drama and feeling bad about myself. Actually being in a relationship with someone supportive and kind and ready to start a family was a whole different thing.

This is just all to say that the past is not predictive of the future. Just because it didn't work out last time has nothing to do with your next relationship.
posted by rainydayfilms at 12:38 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


you've got time. it feels otherwise, but you've got years ahead.

there is never certainty and there is never complete safety... only the illusion and the slightly higher chances of predicting the very short term future, but in a 5 year, 10 year, 20 year time frame, you will do things you cannot even begin to imagine.

don't sweat this too much. it's part of being human.

big hug. we've all been where you are. good luck.
posted by FauxScot at 1:00 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]


I'm gun shy about relationships so can't help much on that one, but there's definately a lot I like about being single.. even living alone is fucking great after weird house sharing experiences recently.. I appreciate it more than I ever did. Life can be weird like that.

One thing I probably have in my favour is I'm never bored. I'm not quite sure how I manage that as I fuck up spectacularly in other ways. I have an enquiring mind, I do stuff, I spend time cooking good food every day and watching my warm fluffy cat... my primary source of hugs. The best thing that's happened recently apart from relocating is getting closer to launching my business. I'm shitting myself yet totally excited and inspired. Now I'm tied in with a start up and am meeting lots of interesting people with energy behind new ideas. I'm finding this a very, very healthy and inspiring environment ... for me.

One of this 'cohort' makes me laugh every time I see her. She jacked in computing to start a design business in her 30s. She's funny and warm and an optimist without being one of those nauseating ones. It's great to be making a new and healthy friendship :) I feel excited about getting to know her more and the stuff we might do.

I would really think about sacking off the dating. I'm a total internet dating cynic.. but had a spate several years ago of addiction to it. Some of my feelings at the time reminded me of your post.
You are vulnerable right now.. don't put yourself in a possible lions den.. when you yourself are so hungry. Think about other needs and wants. There's plenty of other stuff to do.

Re: the possible health issue... come to that in your own time. If you're clear you can relax about that :) If you're not you can face it (and you will) and escape the squirming uncertainties in your head. A biggie for me, I think, in a situation like a diagnosis would be connecting with people in the same boat more than anything.

Think about looking into cocounselling international to build community, support and a space to release scary emotions.
posted by tanktop at 2:26 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


I was in your shoes (currently on the verge of turning 38, single, with a genetic propensity for breast cancer and severe infertility), and while my life hasn't turned out how I dreamed it would, I'm currently having IVF using donor sperm. I know other women who have adopted by themselves (though it isn't easy), or met someone when they were 37, and had kids when they were 39 and 41. I haven't given up on meeting someone someday-- anecdotally, I know plenty of people who met someone in their 40s, 50s, or later.

One caveat: I've seen multiple comments on this thread suggesting that you shouldn't worry about your fertility until your early 40s. That may be true, for some (lucky) women. Having been told by multiple doctors that I should use donor eggs at the age of 37, there's no guarantee that you'll be one of the lucky ones. Agree with the recommendations above to freeze your eggs, if that is medically and financially an option for you.
posted by rhymeswithcheery at 2:30 PM on January 25


You really need to give it time. It gets better and better and better. You do have to stop punishing yourself for not achieving a fantasy and let the pieces fall where they do.

Be resilient. It takes work. But stop beating yourself up.
posted by discopolo at 2:38 PM on January 26


who's going to look after you when you're old.

if this is your only reason to want kids i think it's a bad one. what if you die prematurely? what if your kid does? if you invested the money you would have spent on a kid i think there's a good chance you'd be able to pay someone to look after you when you're old.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:02 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


I love this Dear Sugar column and I hope it helps you. Remembering it always quiets the similar thoughts that creep into my mind.
posted by janerica at 9:36 PM on January 26


Thank you all so much. I'm grateful for everyone who took the time to write. I realized I didn't even really ask a question so this probably shouldn't even be on Askmefi...so thanks for not scolding me!
posted by hellameangirl at 9:40 PM on January 26


It seems it's better to be alone than to be with someone who shares little of your goals and values. If you broke it off with him, you did so because internally this was the correct thing to do. Please don't second guess yourself.

Now you have a life to look forward to. You are ONLY 35, not 80. At fourty the thing regarding age is most people are relieved, not because they don't live, in fact many live better than they ever have: Because suddenly shallow expectation regarding looks and relationships vanish. The point is, even today, your door is wide open, and many more will be wide open to you. You have new friends and acquaintances to make and new people to meet.

Even better, nobody to silence yourself for, nobody heaping their demands on you. Now you can cultivate your own desires and self. That's all, you just need time for you. The rest happens when you are not looking.
posted by Fayrose at 5:15 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


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