Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

45 Year Old Female, Single, Never Married: Is Something Wrong?

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on September 21, 2010

       Marjorie, forty-five, pretty, financially successful, smart, from a stable family, never married, often encounters “you are so lovely, why are you not married?” Together, we dissect this comment as both an insult and a compliment.  “Why do I have to be married?” Marjorie wonders aloud. “Why does that prove to people that I am normal?” Again, Marjorie ponders the assumptions that her friends and family make when they offer up their thoughts about her life. “Is marriage somehow the crown jewel?” She asks. I began to think about gender, knowing that many people in Marjorie’s world would probably say the same thing to a man, so this issue of marriage as the stamp of “normal” does not seem to be gender specific. At the same time, a single woman experiences a certain prejudice; a feeling that she is defective because she does not have a husband. Marjorie explains to me that if a woman is married, friends and family do not need to “worry”. The quality of the marriage seems to be less important  then the fact of the marriage. Similarly, a single woman might have a great support system, but this issue does not fall in the radar of being “OK”. I tend to think that Marjorie’s well meaning friends and family want her to be happy; in their worlds,  happiness comes with a family. A family begins with a marriage. I can see that, but I can also see that there are other ways to find happiness in the world. Marjorie is not so sure.

23 Responses to “45 Year Old Female, Single, Never Married: Is Something Wrong?”

  1. Shelly said

    Hang tough, Marjorie! Your friends and family just want you to be happy. If you are happy being single, then tell them!

    What is your role in this story, Shirah? To help her think through what it means to be happy?

    • Yes, that is my role. Marjorie has a dilemma between societal expectations and following her internal voice. Having just read Of Human Bondage, her struggles mirror the struggles of Phillip Carey, the main character. The tricky part is to help Marjorie not rebel from societal expectations, but rather I am trying to help her see that she should come to her own conclusions about what makes sense for her. Thanks as always for your comments.

  2. Kristin said

    This is a very interesting post, but I think the illustration you chose to accompany the piece stacks the deck against poor Marjorie. To me, the woman in the picture is almost a parody of a 45-year-old woman on the make. She’s flashing an ostensibly seductive smile, but her eyes are not smiling at all. In short, she looks desperate, and that desperation is sad. If that were Marjorie (and I understand it is not!), I could see why her family and friends would be concerned about her happiness!

    To me, the overall feeling of this post would have been different if you had chosen to illustrate it with a photo of a woman enjoying the desert fauna, or doing yoga on an oceanside bluff, etc. I couldn’t shake the image of the desperate woman as I read it! Was that an intentional choice? Is that an illustration of how her family views her?

    I LOVED your comparison to Of Human Bondage in your comment in response to Shelly! I think that is a really interesting comparison.

    • I agree that the picture does not capture my post. I don’t always find the image I am looking for.
      Thanks for mentioning Of Human Bondage. I might blog about my impressions of that book, but right now I am in the contemplation phase.

    • Barbara said

      Wow, I had a completely different reaction to the photo. I didn’t think she looked desperate at all – she’s just smiling in the photo! Kristen, are you very young? I feel that your response is based more on your value judgment of this woman’s situation (which was the entire point of the post) than her actual situation.

  3. People think I’m weird because I don’t drink alcohol. Does it mean you have to drink to be happy or normal? My life is as complete without alcohol as is Marjorie’s life without marriage.

    Really the issue is why is she not married. Is she afraid of commitment, has she not found the right person, does is she asexual, etc, etc, etc?

    There are lots of reasons why someone might not drink. One of the reasons I don’t is because I don’t like the taste. Seems like a completely rational reason to me. :-/

    • I think the point is that people have trouble accepting difference. Then, the individual who is “different” has to sort out whether they should conform or be true to themselves. This can be a challenging dilemma.

      • dearfriends said

        Thank you for pointing this out. Just watched movie about Georgia O’Keefe. Being different can be quite overwhelming. It takes great courage to recognize the “need to be true to self” and to act on that knowledge. We family and friends often are not supportive of that need to “march to a different drummer.” All the best, Barb

  4. kristin said

    hi barbara -no, im not particularly young but my reaction to the photograph combined with the post may well reflect a projection of my own fears about how i present myself to the world. your response to my comment has given me much food for thought! thanks!

  5. […] 45 Year Old Female, Single, Never Married: Is Something Wrong? […]

  6. PepGiraffe said

    Here, here. Though I would say that men are more likely to be thought of as closeted than abnormal.

  7. Cathy said

    Does happiness not come from within yourself regardless of sociological data, marital status, age, gender, occupation…?

    • Not exactly. Happiness is both a response to internal experience (self-confidence) and external validation. Humans are social animals. We are dependent on the feedback from others. Thanks for your comments.

  8. Melanie said

    While I am not 45 years old and am actually getting married in August 2012 (will be almost 31 by then), I struggled with the same “societal expectation” issues as Marjorie 13 months ago. These came from my family, especially my older sister (5.5 years older) who was married before she was 28 and had her first child before she was 29 (my age) and her second child before she was 33). I would constantly hear: You are getting old. Your niece and nephew want more first cousins. Your niece wants to be a princess in your wedding (blah). Basically, what is wrong with you if you have a great career, you are active in the community, you make friends easily, etc? Don’t you know time is passing you by. I discussed these societal expectations with my analyst numerous times. I even went through a period where I said I will never marry or have kids to basically tell all of those societal expectations (and the voices behind them) to you know what. And then when I met the person who I am deeply in love with and will marry (whether certain individuals agree with my decision or not), I was told by my parents and sisters that I am impulsive and my biological clock is ticking and I don’t know what I am doing, etc. I just find it ironic that when I declared that I will be single forever (of my choosing of course — a defense mechanism) and then went back to the “norm,” (whatever the “norm” is) I was ostracized because I made a declaration once and then I changed my mind. I know I don’t need a husband or children to be happy because today is a different world; but, I also believe that my life will be more fulfilled (and is already more fulfilled) by sharing it with my future husband and possible children.

    • shirah said

      Interesting. People tend to pigeon hole others, so as to simplify remembering the basics of their personality. Change is hard on others because then they have to re-evaluate what they thought about you. At first, they had expectations that you were not meeting. Then, they got used to you as a single woman. Now, they have to readjust again and see you married, maybe eventually with kids. You are right that if you are trying to please your family, you would stay in one track. Luckily you are following your internal world, and making decisions that way. Good for you. It sounds like you also feel that your psychoanalysis is very useful to you to develop a healthy separation from your family. Good for you again for sharing that. Thanks.

      • Melanie said

        You stated: “It sounds like you also feel that your psychoanalysis is very useful to you to develop a healthy separation from your family.” My pyschoanalysis has definitely helped me develp a healthy separation from my family (and still helping me), but I often think that through transference, I have not found a “healthy separation” from my analyst. She takes on many roles — whether mom, twin sister, older sister, “parent in absentia,” etc — the attachment that I had towards my parents (need for approval and affirmation) has recently resurfaced with my analyst (surfaced many times throughout the last 4 years). I just wonder if I will ever be able to have a healthy separation from her, even though I have heard many times that I will “know” when I will be ready for that separation. The burning question in my mind is: will she be ready?

  9. shirah said

    Not to make light of your relationship with your analyst, but your last line is very funny. It is funny because that may be the hard part. I can understand that you might feel that you need to take care of her and so you can’t terminate. That is a hazard in any long-term relationship. I see your dilemma that you anticipate separating from your analyst as challenging in similar ways that separating from your family was. I would hope that separating from your analyst gives you an opportunity to separate in a way which is both respectful and warm. Let me know how that goes, when the time comes.

    • Melanie said

      When the time comes…I hesitate to use the word “termination” because “termination” to me means death. I have read the literature and I have heard from my analyst several times that termination is not death (she used the word graduation a few weeks ago because of my adamancy about hating the word) but rather an accomplishment. I can accept that. I too hope that termination will be more like a graduation and that it will be respectful and warm for the both of us. When the time comes, I will tell you how it goes. Thanks for your insight.

  10. Denise McCallum said

    Poor Marjorie. Why, there must be something wrong with her? Maybe she just likes women? Why is she hiding, spending all that time with family?
    I am 45, single female…I am “Marjorie.” Post a picture of Marjorie with red hair and that is me. I’ve heard all the same queries from concerned friends and loved ones and it isn’t easy. It’s not easy to live your own life as your heart desires and yet its worth it in the end because its your life and you lived it. No one else can live life for you.

    As far as living within societal norms and achieving balance you may struggle. I struggled with this. I suppose I still have moments where I wonder if I have adopted too much “antisocial” behavior. Ask yourself what will help achieve your goals and ultimately make you best pleased. You probably have done things the “hard” way and challenged yourself where others have chosen less complicated courses to follow. The result of your decisions have been personal growth and experiences unlike anyone else. Those decisions have made you strong in ways others have not experienced. You have traveled the path less chosen…celebrate that!

    God Bless all the Marjories of the world for they light the path for all those in the future. Our world is changing rapidly. People are going to really evaluate if they want to continue to follow the rules of society as they are now. People will question if happiness depends upon marriage and having children. I think others might look to Marjorie and say, “Look at that beautiful woman. She gave of herself to help others. You can be single, childless and still be happy.”
    Its a new century. Societal norms are bound to change. Marjorie is a maverick…ride the wave of change. If society can finally accept gay marriage, they certainly accept the personal choices of the outside thinkers and the trailblazers of this world.

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