Oh my GOD it feels good to no longer be on the desperate manhunt. I had been on a self-hating manhunt for nine years, ever since I turned 30 and began to suspect there was something very wrong with me because I was "still" single. I don't know what has finally broken the belief, I really don't, but I am finally -- at the age of 39 -- able to reject the idea that I am unworthy of existing on the planet because I don't have a husband, because no one has ever bought me an engagement ring, because I've neither made nor inspired a long-term relationship commitment. I have completely and unarguably failed to make myself into a wife and WHO CARES? What does it matter?
It mattters NOTHING. I was living a nightmare, convinced that without a wedding ring on my finger I might as well be dead, I should be dead, it woud be so much better to be dead than to be unmarried. I was caught in a horrible conflict, absolutely certain of these two things: 1) Only marriage could establish my worthiness and loveability, and 2) Marriage is a fate worse than death that must be avoided at all costs, even the cost of my self-worth. I desperately wanted to be married more than anything, more than I wanted to live because only marriage could determine that I was worthy OF living, and I was absolutely terrified of marriage and knew that marriage was death in and of itself. These two beliefs were completely irreconcilable and I was constantly in a vice of conflict as I tried find the action that would resolve this pain. But there was no action that could possibly resolve it.
So I hated myself. I hated myself for failing to get married, hated myself for ruining so many relationships, hated myself for rejecting men who wanted to marry me. Self-preservation (defined as avoiding the "tomb" of the marriage contract) won out over the need to establish my loveability over and over and over and over and over and over and over again and I hated myself every time. I needed to believe that I was worthy, needed to believe that I had a right to live, needed to believe that I was a loveable, good person, and I hated myself every time I blew the chance to finally achieve that self-acceptance. I hated myself for breaking up with people and denying myself the peace of knowing that I am GOOD. I hated myself every time another relationship went down the tubes and I hated myself in the solitude in between. I hated myself all the time.
Truly I was fucked, but I am fucked no more.
I don't know what changed it, but somehow, silently, deep inside me, the mechanism that held those two festering beliefs in place has broken. Like chains falling away or a fever breaking, the belief that only marriage can determine my self-worth has finally released me. Or I have released it. Either way it's gone.
Is this a permanent change or will the rattling terror be back, perhaps with my 40th birthday or 50th? My two prison guards, the belief that marriage determines my worth and the belief that marriage is a fate worse than death, have let me go and I don't know why or how, but O my god I can finally stretch and turn and feel how truly great and gorgeous and incredible I am, and I don't need anything else to confirm it.
Is this how others feel? Is this how guys feel? Is this how all those "confirmed bachelors" feel, like George Clooney and Jack Nicholson, they feel like they are just fine and being married has NOTHING TO DO with their self-worth? And why the hell didn't I learn that? Why didn't anyone teach that to me?
I am 39 years old and I live alone and no one has ever bought me an engagement ring and maybe no one ever will and so goddamn be it. I find that without that vice of conflict, my "need" to find a life partner and marry him is gone. I don't care about getting married. I don't particularly want to be married. I like living alone, I prefer living alone, I'm fine with living alone. I don't want kids. I'm not a family person and maybe I'm not a relationship person either. So no wonder I've been dating all this time and never ended up married or pregnant. I didn't want to be!
I feel so lucky that I've reached the realization that I don't want to be a wife or mother, without being married or having children. I think a lot of people reach the realization that they don't want to be married or have kids after they've gotten married and had kids. And that prison sounds just as bad as the one my mind had created for me, except that the married-with-kids prison usually lasts a lot longer than nine years.