Ask Sahaj: I’m 37, single, and worried I’ll never have a family

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Dear Sahaj: I am a 37-year-old single woman, and I am afraid that I am going to miss out on the opportunity to have a family. I try online dating on and off as I don’t often meet single men. I’ve had some success with online dating in the past, but I haven’t been on a second date in five years. The rejection is hard, but I usually move on after a day or two.

I am active, have hobbies and moved to a midsize town earlier in the year for work. I’m honestly at a loss for what to do or how to change to be more attractive to men (online and in person). It’s hard being late 30s and single because most people my age have families. How can I be more at peace with a life alone and the prospect of missing out on having a family of my own?

Still Single: It seems like life has not been going according to a timeline you had in mind, and that sucks. Two assumptions you made stick out to me in your question: First, that you are doing something wrong, and second, that there’s a certain order that your life is meant to take.

You are convinced that you are the problem. It’s easy to feel like you are not deserving or you did something wrong when things don’t work out the way you want. It is even more difficult when you feel like you are the only person in a group who is an outlier. But more than one-third of Americans between 25 and 54 are not married.

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The more time we long for something, the more likely we are to idealize it. It’s time to take this vision of the life and timeline you wanted off the pedestal and reimagine a new way of living. It’s not that you won’t wonder about if and when you’ll meet a partner; instead, it’s a matter of how much it preoccupies and takes away from other things that are in your life right now.

Unfortunately, and no matter how much you want it or how hard you work, you can’t control when you’ll meet someone. Peace comes from acceptance — an acceptance of what you cannot control and an acceptance of what is right now. The hard part is moving through this pain without letting it keep you stuck in a state of unhappiness.

You may need to grieve that your life isn’t abiding by a timeline, and you also may want to examine the way you define concepts for yourself. Particularly, I’m fascinated by what “family” means to you, how tied it is to a partner and a child, and what this looked like for you growing up. You want a family, but I wonder what part of that feels unquestionable and what part of it feels negotiable. Is having a kid the part that is nonnegotiable? If so, would you consider pursuing parenthood on your own with the possibility of a partner being incorporated later?

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Reflect on why finding a partner is so important to you. Is it for companionship? Is it because your parents modeled a healthy partnership? Is it because you are expected to want it? Wanting a partner isn’t a bad thing, but thinking about why you want one may help you shape your intentions.

As for dating and not having a second date in several years, it may be helpful to reflect on why that is. Don’t lower your standards, but rather consider if you are dating the same type of man or if you have unrealistic expectations for what a first date should be or feel like.

Finally, take some time to think about your existing relationships and ways you can expand this community so there are connections with others who share in your personal experiences. It’s imperative that we build community and relationships where we feel supported at any age and at any phase of life. Focusing on other goals and hobbies can help you integrate meaning and cultivate hope into your life. Continue to consider what it looks like for you to still want a partner and family while also enjoying and investing in your life as it exists today.

This can be incredibly hard in a culture that encourages hyper-independence or interdependence in traditional and romantic relationships. However, investing in other variations of love and family — albeit not in the ways you imagined it — can still give you connection as you continue to build a life of joy and fulfillment.

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