For many women, being single is not a chosen lifestyle, but a deeply painful and disappointing experience. Some have suffered through a social drought so severe that they feel they are going to dry up and blow away. Some have had several dysfunctional relationships, often including marriage and divorce. “Why am I still alone?” they ask.
It is tempting for the woman who finds herself persistently or repeatedly alone to blame men for her difficulties. It is tempting to lament that there are just not enough good men. But the fact is that single men out number single women born before 1955.
A chronically single woman—that is, a woman who thinks she wants to be in a committed, intimate relationship, but finds herself persistently or repeatedly alone, or involved in relationships that cannot progress into commitment—is increasingly commonplace, says Karen Jenkins in the book Chronically Single Women.
She says that in the process of courting and dating, we reveal who we are to others. That’s what it’s about—the self-revelation essential to find a suitable mate. We have to be willing to be known—at first by our appearance; next by our opinions, values and our strengths and weaknesses; and ultimately by our souls.
But some women are afraid to be known. Not feeling very good about yourself makes it difficult to let others get close. Most disastrously, it can make a woman want to hide—and true love seldom finds it’s way into hiding places.
Some women are not so much ashamed of who they are, as they are unsure. Such a woman fails to express herself because she does not know what to express. She therefore does not attract many men—not because they dislike her, but because they can’t see her. When a woman is uncertain about who she is, she will instinctively defend herself by avoiding real contact with others. She will therefore do such things as avoid eye contact, keep her conversations superficial, act aloof, avoid opportunities to get closer to others and demean herself in the presence of others.
The fear of being known is really the fear of being rejected, and it may cause a woman to behave in such a way that she will not be known at all.
Part of what may keep a woman chronically single is her attachment to partners who are not actually available to her, or acceptable to her, for a committed long-term relationship. These include men she could not, or would not, stay with. There is a place for such relationships, and they can be positive growth experiences. But sometimes what starts as a temporary arrangement begins to turn into a more permanent attachment, and then the problem occurs. She will then need to make him fit. The woman begins to delude herself into thinking the unavailable man will somehow become available, the inappropriate man will change. Becoming lost in such fantasies is not uncommon among chronically single women, says Jenkins. Fear of being alone motivates many women to do time with “fixer-uppers” that they have no intention of accepting as is. For some women attachment to unavailable partners is chronic.
If you are a chronically single woman, and if you find yourself attracted to a man who has some trait that limits his availability for a committed, intimate relationship, it is worth exploring why you want to spend time with a man who lessens, rather than strengthens, your chances of marriage.
Not all chronically single women are chronically lonely. Some have no trouble meeting men and getting relationships started; they have trouble keeping them going. These women are very busy dating, mating and leaving men; or dating, mating and being left. Outsiders may see their lives as in enviable whirlwind of romances or as a pitiable series of failures. Their close friends see their despair—trapped, as they are, in the revolving door. So says Karen Jenkins in her book Chronically Single Women.
A woman appears taken when she enters a temporary relationship with an unavailable partner. All relationships, even undesirable ones, require work, and her temporary relationship may distract a woman from her goal, and give others the impression that she is not available. Very often, therefore, women learn that they cannot find a mate until they let go of a temporary partner.
Some men are unavailable because they are afraid of commitment—and it is not hard to identify them, unless unresolved issues block the view. It is frequently women who have been neglected by their fathers who are attracted to these men, for it is so much easier to follow the familiar pattern—to keep trying to gain a man’s attention—rather than to confront the problem and to change it. Some men who are perfectly capable of a mature relationship are nevertheless emotionally unavailable, such as men who are on the rebound.
It is curious that some women can delude themselves into believing that married men are available, when it is well known that even those who promise to divorce their wives seldom do. Some women habitually play the role of the other woman, motivated by ambivalence, unresolved fear of commitment, or a need to continue some childhood drama such as a daughter’s wish to steal Daddy away from Mommy.
Perhaps she is occupied by an addiction or a compulsion—by a substance, such as alcohol or drugs, or by a behavior, such as eating, gambling or working. Addiction and compulsions make a woman appear taken because the substance or behavior increasingly becomes the center of the woman’s life. It is her best friend, her lover.
You may also appear taken by carrying a torch for a lost love. Sometimes a woman hangs onto a lost love not because she wants to keep loving him, but because she wants to keep hating him. Feeding her resentment seems to redress her sense of injury, and fills up the empty space. But she repels men with her anger, and she is at risk of extending her resentment to include all males.
There are also women who are so dependent on their parent’s approval that they are not free to choose a mate without it. Also, some chronically single women have children from earlier marriages, and find that these children occupy her so much that she isn’t available for an intimate relationship for herself.