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A Life Alone?

A female friend of mine, who wishes to remain anonymous, recently made the decision not to re-enter the dating pool after she ends her current relationship. She intends to remain single for years, and possibly forever.

In brief, the motivation for this decision is that she wants to be independent. She has made important life decisions for the sake of men who disappointed and hurt her, and resents the power a man would have over her if she depended on him. She would be comfortable never having children… so what does she need a man for?

When I heard it, my heart sank. Is this the victory of (a caricature of) feminism? Women liberated from men, and men discarded as unnecessary?

(For the rest of this article, be aware that I'm talking about women in general and not about my friend in particular. Don't ascribe everything I say below to her.)

For a long time I have believed that my great means and deep desire to care for a woman was my advantage in the relationship market. I would be the man uniquely dedicated to her happiness, doing everything in my power to make her feel valued and secure. That is what I could offer, that is what would set me apart.

But she doesn't want that!

Perhaps she wanted that when she was young. Before she depended on a man who was undependable. Before she was with a man who took her for granted. Before she changed the course of her life for a man who didn't reciprocate her seriousness. Now, because of her experiences, she is afraid of what I have to offer.

In the not-so-distant past, marriage was as much an economic arrangement as a family arrangement. People were poor, and sharing resources made the couple much more comfortable. But in the modern economy it's typical that a person's income is more than sufficient to meet their needs. The economic side of marriage is fading in importance. And to a person who is comfortable without having children (which is also increasingly common in wealthy nations), the family aspects of marriage also hold little appeal.

I understand how someone could conclude that romantic relationships are more trouble than they're worth.

But I don't like what it implies.

Unlike my friend, I do want to have children. But more than that, I have been living the single life for a long time and I don't like it. I've been increasingly unhappy being single, especially with my birthday approaching. This revelation from my friend has shaken up my understanding of relationships. What I thought was my advantage is, at least for some women, something to run away from.

I don't know how many women are content to live their lives alone. But whatever the number, they condemn an equal number of men to being alone. Some won't mind very much. I'm one who does. It's sobering to realize that to some presumably large number of women, I am considered worse than nothing; that they would rather be alone than be with someone like me. (To paint it even more extremely, imagine the same idea but use the phrase "last man on earth".)

Whatever happened to the fairy tale? Where is the woman who wants what I have to offer, and who would want to work as hard for my happiness as I want to work for hers? If she met the wrong kind of men, she's afraid of a guy like me. If she met the right kind of men, she's already married. Either way, she's not out there for me to meet.

I need to reexamine my approach lest someone else's decision to live life alone force me, unhappily, into the same.

Be mindful when commenting that my friend wishes to remain anonymous.

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