Cupid, you devil–go home!

I find it really poignant that so many people are Googling “love” and turning up my Valentine’s Day blog post on how I was very happy, last February, to be awash in family love, even though romantic love was absent from my life.

That my Valentine’s Day post is the single most popular post on Transition Times is just evidence of how many people are yearning for love, and happy to find affirmations that there are alternatives to the stereotypical “and they lived happily ever after.”

As the 50% divorce rate in the U.S. attests, very few of us live happily ever after.

For the other 50% who stay married, well—I would like to know how many of you folks consider yourselves truly happy.

My guess is that something like 25% of the people who dutifully marry in their twenties find themselves compatible enough to live happily ever after.

So what does that mean for the institution of marriage?

Is it good enough that a quarter of those who marry in their prime child-bearing years are likely to stay together through the rigors of raising children?

What are the alternatives?

Unfortunately, in our society, there are few alternatives.  Women of means can choose to have children via artificial insemination or surrogate motherhood, without needing the fathers in the picture.

But this is the exception, not the norm.

For most mothers, having the financial, emotional and practical support of fathers (or co-parents, in the case of lesbian couples) is essential.

Raising children is hard.  Raising them alone is much harder.  I can say this with conviction since I’ve been a single mother since 2009, and going it unofficially on my own for longer than that.

For the most part, divorcing women tend to argue hard for custody of our children. We can’t imagine being separated from the little ones we once carried in our bellies—even when they’ve become big hulking teenagers.  They are ours in a way that must be honored.

And yet…they are their father’s children too.  It never ceases to amaze me how fathers can be so casual about their offspring.  They will insist on custody to stick it to their divorcing spouses, but for the most part they don’t have the emotional attachment to their children that we women have.  Or if they do, it is something they are willing and able to forego if need be.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, guys—this is just what I’ve perceived from very unofficial observations of my own family and friends.

All this to say that those who are avidly reading my Valentine’s Day post should be aware that my feelings about love are very complicated indeed.

I love my children.  I love my parents.  I love my brother and his family.  My ex-spouse?  Well, I am grateful to him for the good times we shared, including bringing our two boys into the world.

I wish we could have survived as a couple.

And I am ready to move on.

Cupid, go home!

It’s fascinating to me that the Transition Times blog post that has gotten the most attention, by far, is “There’s more to love than Cupid and his arrows,” my Valentine’s Day 2012 post, which has been read hundreds of times since February 14.

Of course, people are always interested in love and romance.  And this is a positive, peaceful essay about being very thankful for the love I have in my life through my parents and children, to the point where I’m not missing romantic engagement.

Truly, I’m not.

There has been a spate of articles lately about so-called “singletons,” men and women who choose to remain happily single.

Some of the articles fret that such people may have troubles as they age, since they have no companions to help care for them.  A recent New York Times Room for Debate series, “Being Alone Together,” explored both sides of the issue, with many of the writers arguing that solitude has significant benefits.

I am not living alone; I am living with my two teenage sons at the moment.  I have to say that I do enjoy the rare times when I have the house to myself, and have no one but myself to please.

When I was in my early twenties, before I married, I lived on my own in Greenwich Village while I studied as a graduate student at NYU.  Although I had never felt confined or fettered while I lived with my parents, the freedom of living alone was fantastic, as was the convenience of living so close to the NYU campus and the stimulation of the Village.

But nevertheless, during those years I felt a tremendous pressure to marry, to have children—to paraphrase Mrs. Ramsay in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.

Did it come straight from my ovaries?

It wasn’t like my parents were pushing me at all. But I felt a kind of insecurity about being single, like I was lacking or missing something. I was incomplete.

In those days, the 1980s, there was a lot of talk about how if you didn’t find a mate in your twenties or early thirties, you’d be over the hill and never find one.  Believe it or not!  Stories of unhappy women in their forties abounded—women who had never been married, and were totally, miserably fixated on finding the ever-elusive Mr. Right.

Although I was living alone and perfectly content with my life, I still felt like it was temporary, and I’d better be constantly on the look-out for the man who would come along to complete me and open the door to my real adult life, which could only begin with those wedding vows.

Now, on the other side of two decades of marriage and a divorce, I am once again single and enjoying the freedom, this time without that little Cupidlike imp sitting on my shoulder warning me that I’d better focus on love and get myself hitched.

I have young friends getting married now and of course I wish them much happiness and fervently hope that they will be better marriage partners than my ex and I were for each other.

But I have to say, from my current vantage point it seems rather miraculous that one’s chosen mate at age 25 could still be the perfect partner at age 50.  What an amazing feat to grow together so harmoniously that you still complement and satisfy each other after so many years of married life.

I know it happens; I have witnessed it for myself with others.

I just suspect it’s the exception, not the norm.

I have no illusions about finding—or being–such an exceptional partner in the next chapter of my life.

And you know what?  That’s just fine.

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