Qualifying

I admit that I struggle with the general idea that one has to “qualify” in order to get married. There’s this list of things that single women are given and expected to accomplish before they are ready to get married. We tell our girls that boys will always be there and to get their education first. You’re expected to work on yourself, do fun things, finish school, pay off debt, and get a decent job among other things before you qualify for marriage. Now granted, my story is different in that while I’ve always wanted to get married, I had a feeling that I would be on the road less traveled for a long time. I just didn’t anticipate how long it would be. I was hoping for 25 but now I’m pushing 30 without any actual potential mate on the horizon. I find it frustrating when I’m told that there’s something that I’m doing wrong or just haven’t done yet that makes me unqualified to be married. I see people all day, I’m a good listener, I can hold an emotionally safe place and challenge the perspectives of others in a way that is non-threatening and supportive. I’m the sole provider of my household of one and while I’m not rich, bills do get paid and I travel once in a while. I recently completed the highest educational level one can achieve (PhD) and yet the Universe still apparently sees me as unqualified for a mate. I’m all about doing the work but shit, being alone gets old after a while. I’ve learned how to self soothe and what to do to calm myself down but there are times that I’d sell my soul for a hug and the knowledge that someone has my back. Yes, I’m approached by guys but so far they aren’t ready for anything serious or want me to finance their lives and take care of them. Neither is an option I want to live with. It sounds corny but I want to matter to someone. Really matter. I haven’t found that yet and the older I get the less optimistic I am. It’s just exhausting and tiring doing it alone all the time and while I’ll always do what I have to do, I wish things were different.

Success for a price

“Nothing in life is free. There’s a price to be paid for everything and the sooner you learn that, the better off you’ll be.” I remember watching a children’s video when I was little where this mantra was repeated several times. But the older I get, the more I think that the saying is true. Nothing that’s worth getting comes easily. Running a business requires hard work, getting the perfect body requires good eating choices and gym time. One thing that I frequently hear myself talking to clients about is creating the life that you want for yourself. While I’ve never been an expert at taking my own advice, there’s something to be said about putting effort into getting what you want. A huge part of success involves actually defining what you want. It’s easy to get caught up in day to day life and lose track of the bigger picture. Be specific, write a plan, or get a vision board. Be willing to pay the price for success because the time will pass by anyway.

Living at home

One thing about being a therapist is that I get to meet people from different walks of life and backgrounds. While everyone comes to see me for different reasons, sometimes I hear similar sentiments echoed my multiple people. I’ve met with a lot of people who are stressed out because of their adult children who are living in their home. Many times these are devoted parents who have attempted many times to help but they are at their wits end because they truly believe that their adult children in their 20s, 30s and 40s never intend to leave. As expected, there’s often a lot of clashing as the adult kids want to be respected and do what they want to do while the parents feel inconvenienced and many times feel obligated to make some sort of rules or give a move out date. Some of this is truly due to the economy as it can be harder to get a good paying job and the cost of housing continues to rise. Sometimes people have no other choice than to move in with family and save money. But there’s another group that doesn’t see the need to move out because it’s comfortable. In these situations the adult child usually refuses to get a job and the parent feels helpless because they don’t want their child to be homeless. In the cycle of life there’s a time ideally where the parent and the child switch roles as being the caregiver for each other. I’ve met many parents who desperately need help from their children but the switch has never been made and instead they are giving all their resources and money to their children who aren’t appreciative and it’s at the parents’ detriment. However the parents refuse to do anything because it’s their children and they feel obligated to care for their (adult) able-bodied children for as long as they are alive. The endless cycle continues because neither adult child or parent wants to make a different or a difficult decision. It’s definitely a phenomenon that I would love to do more research on at some point.

Adult children

The older I get, the more I realize that being a good parent requires copious amounts of patience. Day after day I meet parents with adult children who are literally sucking the life out of them. They live at home or close by and are constantly requesting more items and money. Yet, they can never make enough to move out of their parent’s house. I get that the economy isn’t typically kind to recent graduates and that it takes a lot more money than it used to in order to sustain a decent quality of life. The parents feel guilty because their child doesn’t have a decent job and can’t make it on their own therefore they open the doors of their house “for as long as needed.” Bad idea. While I know that everyone needs help at some point in their life and that hard times happen to everyone, there’s something detrimental about constantly acquiescing to the demands of your adult children because you want them to be happy with you. Living your life in perpetual sacrifice for your children HAS to stop at some point. It holds them back from becoming responsible adults and keeps you stuck in your life. You can’t continue to cater to the wants and needs of able-bodied adults who don’t feel like working and don’t want to move because they’re leaving their rent-free housing. I hear parents complaining about their children and how stressed that they are but refuse to put boundaries in place and enforce them. It’s not a pretty sight. These are people who won’t have a decent retirement because of their actions and the choices that their children have made. It’s quite unfortunate.

Commitment these days

I think that if you ask a millennial what their dealbreakers in a relationship are, the chances are high that you’ll get quite a list. The truth of the matter is that marriage isn’t what it used to be. More people are getting married and changing their minds about it afterwards. There’s also the trend of getting married later in life so marriage is not seen as the only avenue to financial stability. We see better examples of co-parenting and amicable splits. Our parents and grandparents may have stayed married because they felt that they had to but millennials don’t feel the same way. We know that life is too short to be with someone that you can’t stand and that you can’t put a price on peace. It’s one thing to be married but another thing entirely to be happily married. No relationship is worth keeping at your own detriment just to say that you “hung in there.” Lately, I’ve met quite a few middle-aged people who are staying in relationships where their partner is actively sabotaging their goals. Their sole reason for staying is because “Jesus hates divorce.” And at the end of the day they have to make a decision for themselves or for the relationship. I personally believe that being alone is better than being alone in a relationship ESPECIALLY when it’s not healthy.  Regardless of age, it’s important to put yourself first because no one else ever will.

A Sad Reality

This month is Domestic Violence Awareness month and it is definitely needed and deserves attention. More recently I’ve had the opportunity to work with some women who have experienced it. While DV impacts both men and women, so far professionally I’ve primarily worked with women. People seem to be always quick to judge this population and I have to admit that women quite often catch the short end of the stick in the court of public opinion. There’s an opinion that women who stay with cheating spouses are just doing what is expected of them and in many situations men aren’t questioned when they leave a relationship if the tables are turned. The truth is that it’s not always easy to get out. Abusers often control finances and seek to isolate their victims from close family and friends. It’s even more complicated when children are involved and there are questions about next steps and potential custody battles. It’s also important to realize that abuse doesn’t always have to be physical. It can be emotional and verbal as well. In order to make a plan to leave the relationship, one has to come to the understanding that it’s an unhealthy/abusive situation. I’ve had women tell me that every marriage has ups and down and that they don’t want to be quitters by leaving when it gets tough. Many have been encouraged by pastors and faith leaders that they should just submit to their spouse and just bear their cross. It’s important to understand that most victims don’t leave their abusers on the first attempt AND that they are more at risk for increased violence when they try to leave. This is why it’s important to be a supportive friend because you don’t know what someone is going through. Many times women won’t open up to their friends or relatives because they feel ashamed and may feel like they have failed in the relationship and/or marriage. Be present, be aware, be supportive. Learn and recognize the signs of an abuser and don’t give second chances.