DEAR DOCTOR KATHLEEN,
I am a 40-year-old happily unmarried woman with no children. I am not gay. I have chosen to live an independent life filled with great friends, family, career, and travel. BUT, I am so tired of answering the question, “You’re so nice! Why aren’t you married?” It feels like they think I’m defective. What I hear them saying is, “I wonder what’s wrong with you that men don’t like you.” Men DO like me; I just prefer to live by myself. I feel insulted and saddened and embarrassed, even though I love my life. How can I feel better about myself when others make me feel like I’m strange?
People often feel threatened by someone who doesn’t fit into their idea of normal. Normal used to be married with children. Now, it’s also normal to be divorced with or without children. People are wedding later in life, and delaying having children because of their careers. In Italy, for example, there is a great fear that the population and country will disappear as so many young people are choosing to remain single without children. Times are changing, but you have been a woman of independence when it was not fashionable.
It’s admirable that you haven’t succumbed to peer pressure to marry and have children just to “fit in. “ I’ve worked with many people who have lived lives of conformity at the expense of their own desires. They have betrayed themselves to be accepted by others. You have chosen to be true to your self and to your nature.
Remember this beautiful poem written in 1920 by Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken
|Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,|
|And sorry I could not travel both|
|And be one traveler, long I stood|
|And looked down one as far as I could|
|To where it bent in the undergrowth;|
|Then took the other, as just as fair,|
|And having perhaps the better claim,|
|Because it was grassy and wanted wear;|
|Though as for that the passing there|
|Had worn them really about the same,|
|And both that morning equally lay|
|In leaves no step had trodden black.|
|Oh, I kept the first for another day!|
|Yet knowing how way leads on to way,|
|I doubted if I should ever come back.|
|I shall be telling this with a sigh|
|Somewhere ages and ages hence:|
|Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—|
|I took the one less traveled by,|
|And that has made all the difference.|
LIFE GOES ON©
Kathleen Cairns, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in West Hartford, Connecticut. She works with adults, adolescents, and couples. You may call her at 860-236-5555 to make an appointment. She is the author of “The Psychotherapy Workbook.” You may email her at email@example.com and she will try to answer as many of your questions as possible.
Life goes on… and every day matters…