h2>Dating : Till death do you part. Really?
Wives typically outlive their husbands — but watch out for the collateral damage.
While flipping through Flipboard recently, one headline, from The Guardian’s “The Observer — Health & well-being” column of May 25 by Sian Cain, broke through the clatter of crush-your-core-with-these-ten-moves articles.
“Women are happier without children or a spouse, says happiness expert”
The headline summed up the remarks of Paul Dolan, professor of behavioral science at the London School of Economics, in a talk at the Hay Festival, a cultural event held annually in Wales. He was speaking about the “traditional markers of success” as examined in his data-driven book, Happy Ever After: Escaping the Myth of the Perfect Life. Yes, women increasingly have been deferring marriage and child-bearing in favor of careers and private lives that promise continued financial, social and sexual independence. The trope made sense, if in a Monty Python- ”This parrot is dead!” sort of way.
Surprise, surprise. “The latest evidence showed that the traditional markers used to measure success did not correlate with happiness,” the article stated.
Dolan’s book extrapolated data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) that’s compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that compared levels of pleasure and misery in unmarried, married, divorced, separated and widowed individuals, according to the story. And it went on to say that unmarried and childless women are the happiest societal subgroup. Woo-hoo.
Given that I’m currently unmarried at seventy (70) and never had kids, I could say that I agree. But then, I’ve never felt that being happy was contingent on whether I was married or not.
There’s happiness as a total state of being (akin to inner peace). And there’s happiness as a relative value that bops in and out depending upon circumstances. On the relative value side, being single does offer certain perks in that there’s nobody in earshot to question/complain about my actions and quirks.
- my piles of papers and books
- what time is dinner ready
- when am I going to be back home
- what took me so long
- why I’m not in bed yet
People think that because I’m single (after decades of partnership, marriage, and widowhood) that I am desperate for a new relationship. Not.
The other day, a well-meaning woman, a regular at my fitness classes, said, “Don’t worry, one day you’ll find a partner who can keep up with you,” like there’s a piece of my life that’s fallen apart and needs fixing.
It wasn’t the time for me to respond. Having just taught two back-to-back hours of Yoga, cardio and interval training, my Scorpio stinger was still on silent. Fortunately. At fifty, this woman glows with the sun-kissed looks of an angel and a soul to match, so I smiled and nodded, and allowed love to overpower logic.
Scribbling around later that night, the words pushed up lotus-like out of the muck of my mind.
There’s no piece of my life that’s fallen apart in not having a relationship. All that’s fallen apart are my running shoes.
Having a partner is not necessarily a solution to anything. To be genuinely happy with a partner invites me to be my whole self first, quirks intact. And to be totally accepted that way.
As the ancient Hindu mantra goes,
This is perfect. That is perfect. If you take the perfect from the perfect, the perfect remains.
What I do have, and have written erotic tales about, is my fuckbuddy. A fuckbuddy is something like a plug-in app (pun intended) that Wikipedia defines as “a software component that adds a specific feature to an existing computer program. When a program supports plug-ins, it enables customization.”
Customizing offers a lot more options than moping around, hoping for Mr or Ms Right to show up.
It’s something more women might consider rather than sweating over whether to swipe right or left. Or until the real thing comes along, as the song goes. Actually, a fuck buddy is about as real as it gets because there are no social filters around it. No pretenses or expectations. It’s like having sex as a fabulous experience in your day rather than as a major emotional commitment. Standalone. Disentangled. Self-contained. And you walk away smiling. The only other time that happens is when you go out for ice cream.
As for men, it’s known that being married makes them healthier and happier, a fact that Professor Dolan pointed to. Men “calmed down,” and took fewer risks, the Guardian story quotes him as saying. Only marriage doesn’t necessarily offer women the same degree of intimate sedation. Wives have to cope with the lineup of physical/mental issues — the dreaded ED, plus hypertension, dementia, cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s — that begin to afflict their husbands from midlife onwards.
And the fact that as men slow down in marriage, with more time on their hands they lean more on their wives for a myriad of things. The more dependent their husbands become on them, the more that women may experience psychological and physical breakdowns. “What’s the definition of retirement?” So begins the joke heard around lifestyle communities for active older adults. Then the punchline. “Twice as much husband and half as much money.”
Some women fall apart irreparably after their husbands die. As much from having taken the brunt of everything on their backs, as from grief or loss.
I stumbled through a similar period during the last several years of my husband’s life. And the transition from wife to caregiver/advocate to widow was excruciating.
A friend at the time warned me about the potential fallout. As a professional healer/counselor she had seen the collapse and demise of wives’ mental and physical health in the aftermath.
Even the case manager from a city agency told me that while the state would pay me decently to stay home and care for my husband, it wouldn’t be the best thing for me. “You need to keep doing your own work in the community,” he said. Damn right. It was keeping me sane.
Then came the gradual reboot to my current life, with my energy restored and unleashed — to write, teach and live as vibrantly as possible.