Sunday, February 28, 2016

Independent Woman

I promised myself I wouldn't talk too much about an active relationship here out of fairness to the other party in it but I think I can talk in general terms about life and new love in middle age so here goes...

I'm constantly trying to make sense of this new chapter in my life. It's weird. I was married for so long that being married feels like the natural, normal state to be in. Then I was alone for seven years, absolutely certain that I would never find love again. And now I am in a relationship and it's great. But it isn't a marriage and isn't likely to be one. So the thing I have to make sense of is what is it I'm after in this new chapter?

The marriage was mainly good but, more than that, it was certain and safe. As far as I know, The Golfer never thought about us not being together and the marriage felt rock-solid. He was a very safe pair of hands. Losing him meant also losing all that solidity, all that certainty. And it took me seven years of living on my own after his death to begin to be a properly independent adult for the first time in my life. (We had got together before I was eighteen so I never did the living in a flat, dating lots of people thing) Being an independent single adult was SCARY. But also exhilarating. It was wonderful to do things without having to compromise with someone else - buy stuff, go places, move house - and even the tiny freedoms were new and exciting - choose what to eat and when, stay up till 3 a.m. and lie in till 9 if I wanted. I didn't even realise how hemmed in I had been in my marriage until my husband was dead and the marriage over. (I'm sure he felt hemmed in too - it's in the nature of marriage, I think).

But I was so lonely it made me ill. So I started dating. And got together with The Climber. And it's wonderful, much of the time - when we're not walking out or splitting up... When we first got together he moved in with me because he was temporarily between houses. I was so happy to have a man in my life, my house and my bed again that I fooled myself into thinking that we were living together and that within six months we'd probably be married. But he never saw it like that - a much more pragmatic person, my man is. Once he'd found a house, he moved out. And ever since, until recently, we have spent a few nights at his place together, then a few at mine, also together. Now, this might sound like living together but it isn't. And it certainly isn't being married.

After our most recent breakup, I said that things would have to change - that we needed to spend more time on our own individual lives. So that's what we're trying now. We spend a couple of nights together, then a couple apart, living our own lives. It's been great. We are both doing new things, picking up old interests that have been neglected for nearly three years while we played house. And yet, and yet...if I had my choice I'd still be married...I think, though I'm honestly not sure if it would be to The Climber (but that's another story.) Marriage still feels like the thing I'm made for - the natural state. But perhaps I just haven't got used to being not-married yet. I was married a lot longer than I've been not-married.

I wonder how others in my situation have found it. Did you honestly prefer being single and independent, even if you were in a new relationship? I'm trying to be very modern and grown-up about this relationship, and not just not minding that he does not want to get married or even live together properly, but actively choosing to keep my own independence too. But it goes against my natural instincts NOT to share everything with my man and not to expect him to be there for me all the time...

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