Since the title of this column is Magic at Midlife, it's probably obvious that we believe in joyous relationships. Yet we also realize that couplehood, like parenthood, is not for everyone. Some people choose to be single, and we celebrate that choice. Have twelve lovers or none - it's your life, and you are old enough to make those decisions for yourself.
Even those who would prefer to have a partner are likely to spend part of their later years alone. After all, a substantial number of marriages or partnerships end in divorce or separation, and in happy couples, one partner will likely outlive the other. If you are newly single, for whatever reason, it will take some getting used to. How you approach your single state will make a big difference in the quality of your life.
First, don't buy the stereotypes. Why are single women regarded as lonely spinsters to be pitied, while single men are seen as playboys to be envied? Neither view is accurate in most cases. There is a lot of social pressure to be part of a couple, so speak up if you feel your decisions are not being respected.
Make your life full, not empty. Think about what you want, what fulfills you, and what makes you feel productive. Then do it. Go back to school, take up whale watching, or refinish a chair. Stay happily busy and engaged in life.
Make your house a home. Just because you live by yourself, you don't need to eat off a tray or live out of boxes. Make your "nest" your own special haven and a welcoming spot where you can invite friends.
Consider a pet. It's much less lonely to come home to a tail-wagging fan than to an empty house. A word to the wise: You may not want to let your dog get used to sleeping in the bed with you if you want a sex life in the future. It's hard to focus when your pooch is snarling at your lover or whining at the bedroom door. Just saying.
Find friends. Join a walking club, a book club, or an environmental group. Get politically active. Use a site such as www.meetup.com to find people who are interested in common activities and friendship. Learn to play bridge or join a community chorus. Discover what level of social activity suits you - not too much, not too little.
Don't put off what you want to do. If you want to travel, travel (find a tour for singles if you don't want to go by yourself). If you want to see a movie, buy yourself some popcorn and enjoy. Take a book to a restaurant if you wish, or just relax alone. Don't worry what others may think. They are probably not thinking about you at all!
Just say no. If you feel you are being pressured to consider a relationship and you don't want it, remember it is your choice - not your children's, your mother's, or your Great Aunt Sue's. If you have been widowed or divorced, you will heal in your own time, not when others think you should.
Be clear about your intentions. If you want to date but don't want a committed relationship, say so at the start. Be wary of potential partners who think they will rescue you from loneliness or convince you to get married. Find someone whose goals match your own.
Have fun! Spend the weekend in your pajamas, eat what you want when you want it, go to bed late or get up early, and enjoy the perks of being on your own. Whether or not you want a relationship eventually, you will be an interesting person with a satisfying life.
Previous Magic at Midlife Columns:
Sex in Midlife Relationships: Complicated but Wonderful!
Upgrade Your Communication Skills
Tending Your Relationship as You Tend to Aging Parents
Learning from Your Relationship History
When Extrovert Meets Introvert
What Do You Want in the Long Run?
Creating Holidays for Changing Families
Northwest authors Jennifer Y. Levy-Peck, PhD, a psychologist and her husband Charles Peck, have experienced the single life due to widowhood and divorce before getting together. You can participate in the creation of their book "Magic at Midlife: Your Relationship Roadmap for Romance After 40" (and enter to win a $100 Amazon gift card) by sharing your experiences in a survey: www.surveymonkey.com/s/MidlifeRelationships.