Updated: Aug 21, 2021
Arghhhhhhhhh, how many times have you been asked this as a single/divorced/separated woman?!
And this question is just the start of a slippery slope of cliché responses to our answers...
If you've politely explained that you're trying but not successful yet, then you usually get a bit of this: "you'll find a man soon", "you're such a lovely/good-looking/[insert compliment here] girl, I don't know why you can't find someone".
Whereas if you try to explain that you're not actually that bothered by a relationship or have other priorities, then it usually goes something like this "oh, you'll change your mind when you find "the one"" or "Work isn't everything you know".
I'm not sure if it's the responses or the wry looks that go with them that get me more but apart from it being a boring question that people seem to ask as much as they ask couples in relationships "when are you popping the question?" and married couples "when are you having kids", the reality in all these three cases is that these questions imply a narrative that we "should" all be following.
It's not their fault. It's what they were asked, it's what everyone asks, and so they continue to ask too. It's classic small talk chat. But we're in an ever-changing world where that conversation needs to be different. It's not that those topics are completely off-limits, they can make for some really deep, meaningful conversations, but they aren't always met with the open space to discuss and share in that way, nor are they asked in a way that facilitates that.
I experienced this myself when I was married. The minute we were married, the only question people had to ask me was "so when are you having kids?", and if they didn't ask, it was some implied comment within a conversation. As the pressure grew on it, the more I realised this wasn't something I wanted, and when I expressed this to family the responses grew to "you'll change your mind in the future", "you'll be ready someday." Per-lease! It was the refusal of my choice that did it for me, the disbelief that I might not want children that did it for me. And it was in this moment, that I realised what it would mean if someone loved you unconditionally.
So roll back round to the single (divorced) life, and that same kind of vibe is around just taking shape in a different sneaky form. I haven't been single long enough to be asked this specific question yet. That or people assume the pandemic means dating didn't really occur in that time, but clients I've spoken to get asked this a lot, or comments made similar to that effect. And whilst I ultimately work with clients to develop their boundaries on the situation, to move past worrying what other people think and to live by their own values as opposed to other people's expectations, it's time we raised awareness around why this question shouldn't be asked in such a way.
If this question is going to be asked, then the enquirer needs to be open to any response and should refrain from placing their belief system onto another person. They need to be ready to hold space for the responders choices that may not align with their own beliefs, or what they would expect or do for themselves, particularly in the case of choosing a single life. If the responder mentions having difficulty finding someone, it isn't advice or reassurance via a cliché comment they need - it's empathy, and understanding, and even an inquisitive mind to follow up if the enquirer doesn't have firsthand experience of the struggles of dating.
And this doesn't just apply in this conversation or topic. This is a growing theme of how to let everyone be their own person through their own choices, so long as it doesn't hurt or harm others, and making deep meaningful connections, seeking to understand, not inform or belittle.
So stop asking women why they're still single. Ask them what they're spending their lives doing, what they're working on, and how they're making the most of their life, what opportunities they're making the most of right now. Whilst some may bring up their relationship status and go into detail, be it in a positive light of enjoying it, or a negative of finding the struggle real, let them be the ones to open up if they want and don't pry - just take an interest.
Otherwise... it's just isn't any of your business!
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