Learning to say goodbye to a happy singlehood

Guest post by Red

I proposed to my girlfriend early last December. I spent months organizing a big Hobbit premiere party, and cutting a fake trailer to show as my proposal. So when the girl of my dreams said yes, and everything went like it does in the movies, I thought that was the happy ending to my single-hood. Bam! You're engaged, it's what you wanted and worked for, proceed to have a bridal glow till you walk down the aisle! Right? Wrong.

I felt like there must be something wrong with me. I wasn't as happy as I should be. I got exhausted when someone asked about the proposal or the wedding. I thought it might be that I had spent months on a huge proposal and was just tired. I wasn't disappointed in how the proposal went, and I had no reservations about my now-fiancée. But I still spent about 50% of every day wondering if I should call off the wedding.

It was hard to watch my fiancee glow, and tell everyone all about this huge proposal that I was now convinced was a mistake. I knew I had no doubts about her. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, she was going to be the mother of my children, our life seemed like a wonderful adventure stretched out before us. But I still couldn't feel the excitement it seemed I should.

Lying in bed one night, sleepless and guilty, I started Googling “Cold Feet.” Among the fairly unhelpful articles, there was one titled, “Mourning my single self.” Upon reading it, I had such a moment of epiphany that I was surprised the choir of angels didn't wake my fiancee up.

I wasn't unhappy with my engagement; I wasn't scared of the wedding or the marriage. I was sad that the awesome things I did when I was single were no more. One of the aspects of getting married is the goal of never being single again. And in seeking marriage, I hadn't said goodbye yet to a lifestyle that had been good to me.

I was an epic single girl. I rocked being stringless and ringless. I never felt the need to be with someone, and so was only in relationships sporadically. It wasn't all great, but the good things outnumbered the bad. I loved using up all the hot water and leaving wet footprints around the apartment. I stayed up till god knows when, mainlining junk food and bad action movies. And more than anything, I liked the bar scene.

I knew every bar in my college town, and took it as a compliment rather than a statement about my lifestyle when the bouncers waved me in with recognition. But bringing people home was now a game I didn't get to play anymore. More and more after my engagement, I found myself chiding myself for checking people out. “You're about to be a married woman, you're not supposed to want to flirt anymore.”

I needed to know that I could still draw someone from across the room, that they could want to spend all night talking to me knowing I might not go home with them.

Almost in tears of nervousness one night, I told her my idea. I wanted to take her home from a bar one night. We would switch our rings to another finger, meet somewhere we've never been, and pretend to have met for the first time. I needed to know that I could still draw someone from across the room, that they could want to spend all night talking to me knowing I might not go home with them. I felt needy and horrible even asking, but thankfully my girl knew this wasn't a statement about her not being enough. She agreed and we waited for a good day.

A few months later we put the plan into action and the night went better than I could have anticipated. I picked a divey jazz club we had never been to. The old excitement of going out to meet someone was there — I got my hair done, and tried on dresses I hadn't pulled out in a while. I walked into the club, spotted her, and headed back to the bar. A few minutes later, this gorgeous blonde in a Star Wars t-shirt and killer boots asked if she could buy me a drink.

I found myself listening to her and engaging in the conversation more than I had in a long time. This wasn't like sitting next to her on the couch, plugged into two devices and making occasional comments about Portlandia. This was sitting together in a booth, being acutely aware of when our knees would touch, and wondering what she would do if I kissed her. I sat up straighter, tried to be wittier, and found myself falling for her all over again. And when we went home together, it wasn't just a matter of course, it was a mutual victory.

I feel better leaving my single self behind now. The date went so well for both of us, we might do a repeat every so often just to remind ourselves we would still choose each other. And when people ask us how we met, while I'm telling the real story, I can say in my head, “She saw me across a dim jazz club and asked to buy me a drink…”

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Comments on Learning to say goodbye to a happy singlehood

  1. So good to hear this! I’m really happy that you’ve shared as every now and then I wish I had spent more time in the single life – even though I’ve met my chosen match, my irreplacable one. I sometimes wish I could go back to the chase, the game, the not-being- accountable-to-anyone – not because I don’t love him, but I loved that too! I have to be careful to remember that it’s not my marriage I regret, but the simple singleness that I miss. I even periodically have to ask my spouse out on dates or hesitate on a kiss to remind myself why all those firsts were magical and why we chose each other. Relationships, marriage – they can get like old jeans – and you know a girl loves a good cocktail dress.

    • Thanks for sharing. I so want to marry my best friend, but I have been freaking out since the proposal. Your story was brave. I’ve been afraid to tell him that I will miss my singleness. Your words are wise.

  2. Thank you! I spent most of my 20s dying to get married. Then finally started really loving my singlehood in my 30s. I traveled, changed jobs, moved to the city, became everything I wanted to be and then bam! Mr. Wonderful shows up. Just when things were getting good… I love my future husband more than anything, but I must admit that I’m gonna miss being single. If anything, I wish I’d enjoyed it more when I had the chance.

  3. Thanks for perfectly articulating how I’ve been feeling. I was perfectly happy single, stumbled upon the right guy way earlier than I thought I would, was super stoked to get engaged, got proposed to, then BAM! I feel all bad about not being able to do single girl stuff even though I hadn’t really done that for the 6 years we’ve been together.

    • I agree it’s strange to feel this nostalgia after you’ve been together long enough to feel like you’ve already left singlehood behind. But that ring is a physical promise of the future, and seeing the promise on my hand every day instead of an agreement in my heart is what brought it home for me. Even though we can’t legally get married where we live, the agreement still means a lot. Plus a ring is what I always used to check for! Now I’m part of the no-no club!

  4. I can’t talk enough about how happy I am to be engaged to the man of my dreams, but I have found myself missing the EXACT things you mentioned…mainlining junk food, walking into the bar with excitement about what may or may not happen, the stomach flip of meeting someone new…. Thank you for this most excellent description and fantastic idea of how to bring that stomach flip back every once in awhile.

  5. I was surprised at first that I related to this article as much as I did, because my fiance and I are a very very open polyamorous couple. I know I can get that fluttery New Relationship Energy (NRE) feeling, the thrill of the chase, whenever I very well please. I didn’t understand why I was still getting nervous if that was the case… and you nailed it. It’s definitely not about the other people. No matter what the marriage looks like, things are still going to change; I’m still going to be responsible for at least one more person than before; I’m still going to have to consult someone else about my life decisions and cooperate and not be alone. And that’s scary.

  6. I admit nothing. However, there is a distinct possibility that, the last time my husband was out of town, I might have gone out and bought beer, ice cream, and potato chips as my sole sustenance for the duration of his trip. Saying goodbye to one’s single days does not eliminate the possibility of mainlining junk food.

    • YUP. I’m a wicked introvert, and I really “recharge” by having the house to myself to do whatever I want. I try to explain this to my husband, but he doesn’t get it. He’ll retire to tinker around in the garage on a Saturday morning so that I can “have the house to myself”…..Not the same. I don’t know how to say, “I need to be completely ALONE and unattached so that I can walk around in my bathrobe, doing nothing all day but watching Netflix, knitting, and eating copious amount of popcorn/ice cream/Coke and my hidden stash of Lindt chocolate. And it doesn’t work if I know you could pop back to the house at any minute!” I had a few great evenings this fall, when sometimes he works until the wee hours of the morning trying to catch poachers…but once a week would be even better.

      • Super agree!!!! What keeps me sane is I work night shift 3-4 nights a week at a really high stress job, and he’s a 9-5 guys who goes to class when he’s not working to finish his degree. We sometimes have to schedule sexy time, etc, but what we lose in spontaneity we gain in me not freaking out and losing my ever-loving mind feeling trapped and caged in. Thank God he feels the same way lol… he gets his Netflix/ gaming time in while I’m at work, and I get silent house/ reading/ candles and incense burning in peace and quiet 🙂

  7. I like the jeans vs dress metaphor! It feels that way sometimes, and I actually wore a dress for the date that I’ve only worn once before. That, and the chase, is definitely something no one should have to hang up forever!

  8. Great article! I know this is something a lot of engaged/newly married people go through. I’m currently reading Emotionally Engaged by Allison Moir-Smith and The Conscious Bride by Sheryl Nissinen, and they both focus on letting go, and that is it healthy to grieve the passing of your single self, in order to fully embrace your married self.

    They’re not very offbeat in tone, but there’s lots of good advice there. Also, they seem to be geared at women who enjoyed dating/the singles scene, and who have a close relationship with their family. I can’t relate to either of those situations, but I have been able to take the advice and apply it to my particular situation. (For instance, replace “family” with “BFF” and bingo. My life right now.) I would recommend them for anyone going through what Red wrote about!

    • Thanks, I’ll have to look for those! I’m feeling a lot better now, but they’d be helpful going forward.

  9. Thank you for this post! I just got married, and while I love my husband and I’m happy that we’re married, there are times when I miss singlehood freedoms. I’m happy, but it’s definitely an adjustment.

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