"So, what's the secret for getting a good marriage?" asked my friend Ellen.
"Choose wisely and learn what it takes to stay happily married," I blurted out. Yet many of us first need to believe that we can succeed in marriage.
Marriage has changed in recent decades. In general, women no longer need a husband for financial security or to meet society's expectations. Also, given the current high rates of marriage failures, it's no wonder that so many women who say they want marriage unconsciously block themselves from committing. The real issue, for many, is the fear of failing. It's human nature to yearn for a life partner. Yet more singles than ever before are avoiding commitment.
About choosing wisely, if you think it's supposed to be like a romantic movie in which you cross a crowded room to connect with the stranger whose eyes met yours, think again!
It's not a matter of finding the right guy and the magic should happen. It's more about knowing that none of us is perfect, but we can still be quite wonderful. It's about how we deal with what comes up for us. And it's about finding someone with qualities we value who's willing to work with us when issues arise -- and they will.
Many lovely single women say it's so hard to find a good partner. A few examples:
A woman I met on a cruise when we were seated with our husbands at the same table, waiting for entertainment to begin, said her daughter, Emily, in her late 40s and still single, wasn't interested in marriage.
Anyway, that's what Emily told her.
A bit later I met Emily. A public relations executive, she was very attractive, with clear skin, soft chin-length hair, and a ready smile. When we spoke privately, she looked at me in the eye and confided, "I want to get married. My friends do too."
Susan, 31, with a four-year-old daughter, does body work and teaches yoga. She usually says "My life is fine." Yet in rare moments of vulnerability, she asks, "Why can't I meet a great man who accepts and really cares for me, and wants to be with me for life?"
My friend Ellen, who had asked me for the secret recipe for a good marriage, had an early marriage to an abusive man, divorced him fairly quickly and has avoided commitment since then, not for lack of interested men, but because she fears another disappointment.
Never Too Late
Women in their 70s and beyond do marry. My own mother, of blessed memory, married again in her mid-seventies, long after she and my father had divorced. It turned out wonderfully for her and her new husband.
Many Women Secretly Want Marriage
Many women of all ages secretly hope to marry but are too bashful to say so -- whether because it's not popular to announce their desire, they fear being viewed as needy or desperate, or they lack confidence that they'll succeed.
Recently published books (1) and articles (2) have been turning the old negative "spinsterhood" label on its head, touting the advantages of being able to live life on one's own terms instead of being tethered to a partner. What fun it is to dine and travel with women friends! How lovely to enjoy one's own company in solitude!
Marriage: Here to Stay
Personally, I believe in marriage. Of course, I also believe in a women's right to choose to remain single.
I'm convinced that after existing for thousands of years, the institution is here to stay. Yet, given that some vocal and seemingly credible segments of the popular culture are painting marriage as outdated, it's no wonder that so many single women are reluctant to say they want more out of life than freedom from being "tethered."
By getting past what is holding them back from committing, learning how to choose wisely, and continuing to invest energy to keep the relationship thriving(3), they can create the kind of marriage they've always wanted, one that is emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically and materially fulfilling--and lasts a lifetime.
1. All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, by Rebecca Traister, and Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own, by Kate Bolick are examples of currently popular books that promote the single lifestyle for women.
2. "Going Solo--More Young Women Embrace Single Life," by Sharyn Jackson, Minneapolis Star Tribune, republished in Marin Independent Journal, May 10, 2016.
3. The book, Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You've Always Wanted, tells step by step how to hold a gentle, loosely structure conversation with positive communication skills to keep the relationship thriving.