Yes, it can be Tough to be Single in Midlife
There clearly are challenges to being single in midlife, from the merely practical to the more deeply personal.
Some daily tasks are just plain difficult when you live on your own. Stephanie* explains: "It is harder to get stuff done around the house; there's just as much work but only one person. There's no handy husband and you often run the risk of being ripped off by workmen you hire. When you have to move or lift things, you have to call someone for help. It has to be planned, not spontaneous. You also have to lean on friends for a ride to or from some doctors' appointments -- a colonoscopy buddy."
Single mothers in particular feel the weight of responsibility managing so much on their own: "A lot rides on my shoulders. I'm worn out being the initiator in my business, in parenting, on the home front, and for the whole personal side of my life. Just too many decisions to make morning, noon, and night," says Bonnie.
Gertrude agrees, wishing she had a partner to lean on, "It would be nice if someone was waiting to see me at the end of the day, to give me that warm hug and to offer support when I am going through something." Nights can be lonely: "You have a lot of lunches with married friends because dinner time is for their families. Sometimes that means you are home alone on a Saturday night, unless you have lots of single friends," explains Stephanie.
Family members may have unfair expectations when it comes to their single middle-aged relatives, especially when they don't have children, like Stephanie: "Even your parents treat you differently when you are single and childless, or at least mine do. Despite the fact that my parents are retired and in good health, they have always expected me to use my limited vacation time to travel to them for the holidays or other visits, even when I have had better accommodations for a visitor than they do. I crave the opportunity to entertain my family in my house, to show them that I can cook, decorate for the holidays, and be a good hostess."
Some, like Gertrude, resent the pity: "Holidays with the family have been awkward many times, especially when my young niece and nephews have their significant others with them. 'Poor Auntie,' still alone on the holiday -- they don't say it, but I sense this is what they think."
And traveling alone can be awkward. "I love to travel and many trips that I have gone on included couples. Some couples try to include me in events, but I do feel like the third wheel sometimes," explains Gertrude. Tracy is lucky to have a travel companion but she gets grief for that: "My best friend and I have been accused of being lesbians because we don't date, we take vacations together, and spend a lot of time together. I don't get it. We enjoy each other's company -- who else are we supposed to spend time with?"