Observations exposing the myths surrounding single women

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Observations exposing the myths surrounding single women

We live in a world that highly values ‘relationships’, and rightly so, as being socially interconnected is an important part of the fabric of a healthy society. However, when it comes to relationships of the romantic kind, it seems that for women there is still a dominant social attitude that prizes being in a couple relationship above being single.

The number of single women is increasing globally for various reasons, yet many of the old negative stereotypes associated with female singlism continue, while several core positive assumptions surrounding women in relationships go largely unchallenged[i-v].

In my counselling work with women I have noticed that often added to the whole scenario is the fact that there is division, even amongst single women themselves, about how they perceive their situation. Some boldly celebrate their single status while others appear to feel distinctly uncomfortable and insecure or disheartened about not being in a romantic relationship[v]. Indeed, the attitudes and beliefs swirling around women, both single and in coupled relationships, are complex and profound.

For some women the state of ‘singlehood’ still appears to be strongly linked with a belief that it represents a lonely, sad existence, whereas having a partner and a family is seen as a guaranteed way of having a long, content, fulfilling and healthier life than their single counterparts[ii,v-vii]. Throughout both my private and professional lives I have noticed how such lingering societal ideologies about single women continue to be passed down from one generation to the next through family circles, the media and government policies which set females up to understand that women are meant to find a partner, get married (or at least, coupled up), and have children in order to fulfil their major roles in life and thereby win the approval, recognition and acceptance of those around them. The only difference from decades ago is that these days it’s becoming more common for women to also be expected to participate in the workforce in addition to performing many of the child caring and rearing and household chores[ii,vi,viii].

It seems apparent that a large proportion of women have taken this message so strongly to heart that they feel quite scared of being single and consequently seek a relationship as a way of meeting the perceived or real expectations from those around them. Amongst the single women I speak with there are few, regardless of their sociocultural back ground, who feel truly at ease with their single status. There is no judgement implied here as we can all recall times when we have felt obliged to ‘follow the rules’, spoken or unspoken, so as not to disturb or disappoint our family and/or the community.

Furthermore, I have noticed that these paradigms surrounding singlehood can play out differently depending on women’s childhood experiences. For some women who come from seemingly safe, secure backgrounds, the search for a partner can still be quite strong, not because the woman doesn’t have some sense of stability and access to supportive social networks, but due to factors such as the norms for women within the cultural group they belong to, or due to religious beliefs or even a sense of wanting to conform and feel a sense of belonging with the majority.

For other women, the negativity surrounding singlehood can be especially powerful due to early childhood experiences within an abusive family upbringing. The scars of such an environment commonly leave women with feelings of low self-esteem and shame and the choice to remain single is usually quickly discarded as it represents isolation and a reactivation of the feelings of rejection and abandonment that these women felt in their childhoods.

Battling with low self-worth motivates them to search for a mate in the belief that it will bring them the fairytale ‘happily ever after’ ending or somehow ‘complete’ them, yet at the same time these women find the reality of these prized close relationships confusingly challenging[viiii]. As one relationship after another ends, they find themselves as lonely and empty as ever. In fact, I’ve found many women come to counselling citing their lack of ‘success’, firstly in finding a partner and secondly in maintaining an intimate relationship, as being major issues for them and invariably the threads of low self-worth, underpinned by childhood abuse and neglect, can be seen weaving through their life stories.

In the never-ending search for love, women can move from relationship to relationship, never staying single long enough to stop and look inside themselves at what is going on.

Childbearing and caring is another major area where negative stereotyping towards uncoupled women can be witnessed[vi,vii]. The Australian Bureau of Statistics data highlights that single mothers make up 82% of the overall number of single-parent families, yet research shows that single mothers in Australia are commonly depicted in the media and through government policy as being irresponsible, a welfare burden on society, and even dishonest if they weren’t participating in the labour force[vi,x].

Furthermore, partnered women who do wish to leave a clearly dysfunctional relationship, are told by family, friends and the broader society either implicitly or explicitly that they are ‘bad mothers’ if they don’t keep the family intact[viii]. The single status of the woman is negatively scrutinised through a socioeconomic and political lens, rather than looking at how quality mothering and the best interests of the children can truly best be achieved[vi,vii]. But equally, anecdotal reports from mothers say they feel judged by family, friends and the broader society as ‘bad mothers’ if they stay with their partner for the sake of the children when the relationship is unhealthy and unstable.

With this ‘damned if I do and damned if I don’t’ type of scenario, it’s no surprise to also see that rates of domestic violence[xi], substance abuse and mental illness for women[xii] have skyrocketed in recent years!

Yet, the singleton story doesn’t end here because not everyone subscribes to the ‘being single equals a woman who can’t find a partner and/or is a burden on society’ mythology. Research is showing that a sizeable proportion of the single women population are loving every minute of their lives and self-report that they actually highly value their independence and consciously intend to remain single[v]. Some in society associate this trend as signalling a drop in moral standards. However, this particular group of women are very engaged in life and refuse to self-ascribe any of the negative connotations characteristically associated with singldom[iv,viii].

What we are being shown clearly is that there isn’t one ‘right’ way for women to live their lives.

Even within the single women group, there are wide variations regarding people’s attitudes towards their life circumstances.

"Being alone and not in a relationship is a period of grace. "

Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume I, ed 1, p 528

Underneath it all, what really counts is not whether a woman is single or coupled, but the quality of the woman herself.

The fact that within us is a being that is uniquely sensitive, accepting, wise and strong, has usually been hidden from sight for years. The possibility that there is a whole other world inside us to discover can be quite a novel concept to consider, let alone embrace and explore. Should we be willing to delve deeper, we firstly need to learn to tune into ourselves and honestly unravel all the facts from the fiction we have absorbed over time. From there it’s an ongoing adjustment process as we progressively develop a sense of authority and ease in allowing our own ‘normal’, our own inner calling to be shown to the outside world, and for that to be lived regardless of what the response may be.

It is a gradual yet revealing development, and both women in relationships and singles choosing to live this self-honouring way are leading the change in attitudes towards women, especially single women. What do such women feel like? Take a look here .

"Be the woman you feel yourself to be and not the one that has been told what to feel and be."

Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume I, ed 1, p 539


References:

  • [i]

    Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2016 Census QuickStats. Australia 2018 21/12/2018]; Available from: http://quickstats.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2016/quickstat/036.

  • [ii]

    DePaulo, B. Why Single People Can't Catch a Break. 2016 19/12/2018]; Available from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/living-single/201612/why-single-people-can-t-catch-break.

  • [iii]

    DePaulo, B. More People Than Ever Before are Single - and That's a Good Thing. The Conversation 2017 17/12/2018]; Available from: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-26/more-people-than-ever-are-single-and-thats-a-good-thing/8473398.

  • [iv]

    DePaulo, B. What Single Women Really Want. 2018 16/12/2018]; Available from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/living-single/201807/what-single-women-really-want.

  • [v]

    Willis, O. 'I Don't yearn for Someone to Complete Me': Why More Women are Staying Single. Ladies, We Need to Talk 2018 17/12/2018]; Available from: https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2018-06-17/why-women-are-staying-single/9873956.

  • [vi]

    Wolfinger, E., Australia's Welfare Discourse and News: Presenting Single Mothers. Global Media Journal, 2014. 8(2).

  • [vii]

    Wolfinger, E. Sterotyping Single Mother is Not New - Its History, and How to Challenge It. 2017 [cited 2018 16/12/2018]; Available from: https://www.csmc.org.au/2017/11/stereotyping-single-mothers/

  • [viii]

    Pew Research Centre, The Decline of Marriage and Rise of New Families, in A Social and Deomgraphic Trends Report, P. Taylor, Editor. 2010, Pew Research Centre.

  • [ix]

    Brandt, A. 4 Ways a Traumatic Childhood Affects Adult Relationships. 2017 22/12/2018]; Available from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindful-anger/201708/4-ways-traumatic-childhood-affects-adult-relationships.

  • [x]

    Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australia Today The way We Live Now. Census of Population and Housing: Australia Revealed, 2016 2017 16/12/2018]; Available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/PrimaryMainFeatures/2024.0?OpenDocument.

  • [xi]

    Australian Human Rights Commission, Violence Against Women in Australia. 2017, Australian Human Rights commission: Sydney, Australia.

  • [xii]

    World Health Organisation. Gender Disparities and Mental Health: The Facts. Gender and Women's Mental Health, UK [cited 2018 04/10/2018]; Available from: http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/.

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Role modelsRelationshipsMarriageParentingSingle

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    By Helen Giles, Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, MMH (Family Therapy), Post Grad Cert Family Therapy & Counselling, M. EPA.

    I love that life is amazing with every relationship offering constant drops of pure gold, whether that be in my work as a perinatal counsellor or through friends, family and others I meet in everyday life.

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    Photography: Matt Paul