Single women enjoy the benefits of freedom, financial independence and the ability to prioritise their career above family. Staying single is a choice that Indian women are choosing in increasing numbers, as they refuse to settle for less than satisfying relationships. Pallavi Bhattacharya analyses why, like all other choices in life, choosing to staying single has its pros and cons.
A circulating SMS goes like this: ‘Marriage is like a mouse trap. Those outside it are craving to get into it. And those inside it are craving to get out.’ This holds true, for so many single people, dying to tie the knot maybe envisioning a perfect life post-marriage. It is only after marriage that they realize that it comes with its own set of problems.
Being married or staying single is a choice. Like all other choices in life, singlehood or being in a relationship has its pros and cons.
THE BENEFITS OF STAYING SINGLE:
Sue Tosto, Relationship Coach says, “If you’re single, you don’t have to rush home and cook dinner for your family. You don’t have to fall into the habit of putting everyone ahead of yourself in taking care of everyone else’s needs. You have only yourself to worry about.”
“You come and go as you please, without having to worry or think about what someone else may say or do. You can go on vacation without thinking about where someone else would like to go. You don’t have to answer to anyone else with regards to financial matters. If you’d like a pet you go buy one without worrying if someone else in the house will like it or not.”
According to Pushpa Moorjani, Co-founder of Swami Brahmanand Prathisthan School for the Mentally Challenged, “Married woman have obstructions and rules to follow, (don’t do this, don’t go there, don’t talk to this one, what will people say, think of family prestige etc), so she is always craving for independence and this may destroy her self-esteem in the process”.
Loreta Desouza, working with the Indian Airlines as Office Superintendent, adds, “One of the best things about being single is that you have your own individuality and you can help many more people. When you are married you tend to restrict yourself to your own family. Whereas being single helps you develop your own creativity and individuality. You have a lot more freedom, as you can choose what to do and how and when to do it.”
Not many people appreciate the fact that, in general, single women are far more self-sufficient than most married women. We often see married women (especially those from very conservative families) relying on their husbands for everything, from writing a simple cheque to buying a house.
If you ask them a simple question like, “Where will you spend your vacation?” the likely answer is, “I have to ask my husband.” Sometimes wives are so clingy or over-dependent on their husbands that they lose their individuality and feel they can’t survive without male protection.
Single women, on the other hand, learn to single-handedly manage their job, housework and finances. They’ve learnt to fend for themselves without banking on a man to do things for them.
The ideal traditional Indian bahu is expected to cook and clean rather than have a career. At work, however, your boss is not likely to entertain the excuse that your domestic responsibilities are hampering your job productivity. Married women are therefore expected to look after the house meticulously, as well as manage their careers efficiently.
Single women, on the other hand, can put in late hours at work without anyone complaining at home. They can go on official tours without a mother-in-law complaining that she is being unhomely and disloyal to the family. A single woman can plan her career and dedicate herself to her work more effectively than most married women can.
THE DRAWBACKS OF BEING SINGLE:
Nobody To Share Expenses With
Rent, electricity and phone bills, petrol, daily groceries – you’re the only one paying all of them. There’s nobody to share expenses with. The positive aspect to this is that you are in complete control over your finances. And the satisfaction that you get from being financially independent is great.
Unlike some married women you don’t have to rely on your husband to give you money if you want to buy an outfit for yourself. When a single woman saves money to buy her own apartment or afford her dream vacation, it gives her immense confidence to be able to achieve these things on her own.
The popular impression of a ‘spinster’ is that of a lonely, old lady, dying all alone surrounded by her cats. Whereas it may be true that a single woman is more likely to return to an empty house than a married woman this isn’t always true. A single woman may not be living with her partner, but is likely to live with her parents, roommates or friends.
Also it’s not always true that a married woman comes home to a little piece of heaven and falls into the arms of her lover, after a hard day’s of work. She may simply come back to a house where the husband is chiding her that dinner is not ready, as he watches a cricket match on TV.
Never Having Biological Children
Although artificial insemination is yet to become a viable option in India, this may change in the near future. Dr.Hrishikesh Pai, Secretary General of the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction, Gynecology and Infertility Specialist at the Lilavati Hospital IVS Centre says, “Though I do get single women who want to undergo artificial insemination, since it is not yet legalised, I don’t do it. However, the Government of India is in the process of legalising it in near future.”
Deliberately having a love child conceived through natural means, and choosing to raise the child without the father may have social complications, which is why this is not often heard of in India. Also there may be problems when the child grows up and wants to know the identity of the father or met him.
Role models like Sushmita Sen have made adoption a viable alternative for single women bitten by the mommy bug. Alternately, you could always enjoy the company of your nephews and nieces. Volunteering or joining an NGO that works with children is another way to satisfy your maternal instincts.
Your biological clock ticking should never be a reason for tying the knot with the first man who wants to marry you. Companionship with a desirable partner is a much healthier reason for marriage than having a child.
Advances in medical science have now made it possible for older women to have healthy children. Film Director, Gurinder Chadha, recently had twins at 47, so waiting to meet the right man is now a choice that women can make without concerns about fertility.
Some single woman feel a sense of void on seeing a couple dancing, holding hands or kissing passionately in a park. If you’re addicted to love, think of it as the solution to all your problems, or feel incomplete without romance in your life, this void may gnaw at you, leading to self-pity at your aloneness.
However, one fact to remember is that if you feel incomplete and unhappy without a relationship, you very likely will feel the same way even in a relationship. Looking for another person to “complete” you is the biggest myth we’ve been sold by popular culture. The fact is, you have to love yourself and feel complete by yourself before you can be in a healthy relationship with someone else.
Besides, not all married couples are in love, basking in romance and having great sex. You only have to read the ‘Agony Aunt’ columns to see that marital and sexual woes are the rule rather than the exception. It’s also not true that single women lack romance in their lives. Even if they do not have a boyfriend or husband, they are free to date.
If some singletons feel a tinge of sadness on seeing a couple, it’s very likely that many married woman are also envious of single women. Pushpa notes, “When a married woman sees her single friend, carefree and liberated, being able to support herself and live with dignity, while she is chained to life-long-imprisonment of an ungrateful and selfish family, it can leave a married woman totally demoralised, which her own family may not even know”.
A married woman may feel guilty if she fancies a man other than her husband, or even be trapped in an unhappy marriage, but a single woman is free, by her conscience, to have infatuations and date as many men, as much as she pleases.
People Assume You’re “Available”
Because a single woman can date anyone she wishes, there will always be people who feel either threatened or attracted by her freedom. Friend’s wives may see her as a threat to their husbands. Married men, on the other hand, may proposition her, assuming that she’s not selective about whom she dates.
As Anu Bhatnagar, Public Relations Consultant notes, “Sometimes people are threatened by a single woman, especially if they have a son, brother, husband around fearing you might snatch that guy. Because for the world, a single woman is a woman looking for a guy and she will do anything for one. They don’t want to know why she is single. Parents have hidden their NRI sons from me, though I did not even know they had one. But after a stage, if you know what they are doing, it can be amusing if you have a sense of humour.”
Dealing With Intrusive People
Nalina Samynathan, Public Relations Executive says, “Family functions are an absolute pain when you’re single with everyone asking you why you’re still single and not married and being surrounded by couples making you feel like a third wheel. I might as well tape the explanation and replay it to everyone who asks.”
Pushpa says, “A majority of people in society look down upon single women because they are jealous of her bravery. Societies have their own imaginations and they feel every single woman is unhappy, an easy catch, unworthy and an object of pity. It’s high time they realized that a woman sometimes chooses to be single, and will be ready for commitment, only if she finds a worthy man. She will not clutter her space with society-must-haves.”
Uncomfortable questions and assumptions about your singlehood will bother you even more if you are not happy about your single status. You’ll find it easier to ignore or laugh at these comments if you don’t pity yourself for being single, and are not desperately seeking love.
Loreta advises, “You need to know how to deal with society and be able to handle people. If people’s assumptions as to why you are single are incorrect, just let them say what they want and get along with your own life. You need to develop your inner spiritual strength to be unfazed by people’s comments on your single status.”
Photographer, Paul Steven, advises, “Try avoiding situations which may get you stuck answering annoying questions on why you are single. Schedule your day around family members, friends or acquaintances who are positive instead. Life is too short to be the alternative to positive.”
Nalina says, “I think the pressure to get married comes from the age old belief that women have to be protected as they are the weaker sex. Parents worry that when they’re gone their daughters will be alone in the world with no one to look after or protect them.” In reality there’s no guarantee that your children or husband will look after you when you are old. They may be just too caught up with their own lives to do so.
Whether married or single, it is best to take responsibility for yourself, care for your own health, and do your bit to stay as fit and healthy as possible. You could also form a support group of senior citizens in your area who decide to be there for each other when ill. Such communities are very popular in the West, and will become popular in India with the realization that children cannot be depended on to take care of you.
Anu says, “You need to understand the fears of your parents, but at the same time show them that can really live on your own and make sensible choices in life. Regarding society, largely ignore or avoid them. Don’t waste your energy, wisdom and time trying to make them see sense, as it will just frustrate you.”
Sue advises, “Set a boundary with friends and family. Refuse to discuss it if it’s always ‘their’ way, in ‘their time’ and directly linked to what ‘they’ believe you should be doing in your life. Don’t get sucked into the biological clock thing. Don’t settle for marrying the first perceived best thing out there if you’re not sure.”
Thoroughly enjoy your single life by being in the moment, rather than thinking of it as a ‘waiting phase’ for marriage. Learn to see the positive side of being single and use it as an opportunity to discover and develop your talents, and express yourself creatively. Enjoy the ‘single and loving it’ tag while it’s still yours.