According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 40 percent of adults were single in 2009. Researchers have found that the “single stigma” is worst for women in their mid-20’s through mid-30’s. Women 35 and older are more content with their single status and don’t complain of social pressure as much as younger singles.
Michelle Cove, director and producer of the feature-length documentary, “Seeking Happily Ever After,” has just compiled a book by the same title. In between its covers, Michelle presents simple but smart steps for singles to identify their relationship needs and goals, and learns how to pursue healthier, stronger relationships. I have pulled the following suggestions from chapter four, “The Princess in Waiting.”
1. See the princess dream for what it is.
So many young women and men cling to a Cinderella fantasy they learned in their youth, perpetuated by tabloid stories of happily-ever-after celebrity weddings that require zero hard work. Michelle encourages young women to see the fluff in their past relationships, and to kill the fantasy attachment before they dump too many suitors. She encourages single 20-somethings to dig for the deeper reasons behind the Cinderella fantasy, journaling about the disappointment cycle in their love lives and what they REALLY want in a relationship.
2. Determine whether you’re simply pining for help.
Michelle is savvy in throwing out this question to singles seeking a prince: “Do you really want a prince charming or are you simply tired?” Because Cinderella, after the glass slipper fit on her dainty foot, never had to do all those menial chores again. Nice. Or cater to the stepsisters. Even nicer. Which begs the question: In pursuing a perfect mate, are you simply chasing after a much-needed break from all of our responsibilities? If that is the case, why not delegate your tasks as much as possible, so that we that your exhaustion doesn’t distort your perspective on relationships.
3. Add your own bits of glamour.
This one not only holds for singles in search of a flawless partner, but also of tired working mothers who fantasize about the perfect job or vacation that will rejuvenate the soul with zero effort on her part. Michelle reminds us that there is no quick fix. However, there DOES exist dozens of activities we could do every day that might very well give us the shot of adrenaline we seek in a fantasy mate: signing up for a random class at the community college, learning how to play tennis, going to the beach with friends, volunteering at a local SPCA. Last year I joined a masters swimming program. It wasn’t a week in Hawaii, but it did provide a sense of adventure and satisfaction, especially as I tried to swim strokes I hadn’t swum in 25 years.
4. Search for new models.
Writes Michelle: “One way to begin adjusting your expectations is to seek out the relatives and friends who you consider to be in strong, healthy relationships. Ask them about the ups and downs of their husband, and what compromises they may have had to make over the years. What did they love about their man? What drives them crazy about him? What were some of the adjustments that they had to make in the name of their relationship? This is a good way to start seeing that solid relationships don’t hinge on a perfect man and they can’t be the solution to your problems.”