never married, over forty, a little bitter

parallel tracks

I have a same-aged friend of mine, one of the small number who has remained single and childless and works in a professional job, and although we only talk a few times a year (she lives across the country), we are often simpatico in our thinking.

We talked this week, and remarkably, she has come to the same decision as I have, which is to embrace the unusual life path she has been on and to appreciate the uniqueness of her adventure.


I suppose I would be left quite lonely in this book group; fortunately the one I am a member of consists mostly of non-mothers or of women whose children have flown the coop. This article does remind me though of times I’ve been left lonely in life:

Is that a lame excuse? Have I, and our other club members, become lazy? Complacent? Has motherhood made us incapable of putting literary tragedy in its proper perspective? Or are we just…tired? Are we victims of the mentality that says we must do it all or die trying? (Books on this topic will almost always get the nod.) Is it so wrong to simply want to zone out with a magazine, or a Will Ferrell movie, instead of the latest Oscar nominee for Best Picture?


Love was undoubtedly one of the things capable of changing a person’s whole life, from one moment to the next. But there was the other side of the coin, the second thing that could make a human being take a totally different course from the one he or she had planned; and that was called despair. Yes, perhaps love really could transform someone, but despair did the job more quickly. –Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes, p. 53.


But the Laura Doyles of the world still insist that staying together in a marriage is the outcome to be wished for in nearly all circumstances. It never occurs to them that human beings have only recently been involved in the experiment of staying together over periods of up to 50 years or even more – trying to keep a marriage going long after children have been raised. With the vicissitudes of modern life, from relocation to job insecurity and harmful work/family balance trends (particularly in the U.S.), not to mention the sheer passage of time and divergence of personalities and interests, the idea of a one-size-fits-all-forever union ought to be recognized as unrealistic for many. For some couples, the marathon marriage might make sense, and good for them. For others, the benefits of separating when a marriage no longer works clearly outweigh the costs of staying together.

A 2004 study by Stanford Business School discovered fascinating facts about how no-fault divorce impacted women:

20% reduction in female suicide after 20 years (none for men)
33% reduction in domestic violence against women (after a rise in other states vs. a drop in no-fault states)
Decline in the domestic murder rate for women (none for men)

As we’ve seen with gay marriage, attitudes toward the institution are changing and slowly adapting to the realities of modern life, no matter what the Catholic Church and the Laura Doyles have to say about it. For women still facing stigma and blame in divorce, let’s hope we can speed the process.