The approach of Valentine’s Day has caused me to reflect on the value of love in our lives. I’m no expert on love but during the ten years before I married husband #1 and the seventeen years I spent as a single person between husband #1 and husband #2, I’ve had a lot of time (27 years) to reflect on the pros and cons of being single and on my own versus being married. There are plenty of arguments on both sides and we’re wise to focus on the positives regardless of our current status.
Being single means doing your own thing without compromising. You can eat whatever you like, whenever you like, or not at all if you prefer. You don’t have to fight for the blankets in the middle of the night and you can spend your money however you wish without having to justify the cost of those shiny new red shoes. You can pick up and go wherever you like on vacation and it can include all the shopping you can cram in without someone complaining. On the other hand, it’s wonderful to share a vacation with your soul-mate when you’re going to visit a special place you both enjoy. Sipping delicious wines and marveling at spectacular sunsets is always more satisfying when shared with someone special.
As we get older, boomers appreciate the difference between being in love with someone and loving someone. In love is that surreal, heady state we enter in a new relationship when we’re savoring the euphoric high, while we’re not quite sure where the relationship is going. We can still have that feeling after many years of being with one person. A girlfriend recently commented on how her heart still skips a beat when her honey comes into the room and they’ve been together for more than thirty years (second marriage for her too). That’s wonderful—being in love with the person you love.
Loneliness is one of the major downsides to being single. Much as I appreciated the benefits of being on my own, there were many times during my single years when I was reminded of how lovely it would be to have someone looking out for you, sharing the ups and downs of everyday life. Many boomers are now single again having lost partners in recent years. This is when loneliness can be most acute.
Once, I dropped a coworker off at her home after we’d been away for a couple of days at a meeting. Her partner had a bag of her favourite fruit (papaya) waiting so it would be there when she returned home. That simple, caring gesture said so much.
Another time when I was working late at the office one of the guys I worked with called his wife as we were leaving a meeting. She was sick and he wanted to see how she was doing. “I’ll be home soon honey. Go to bed and I’ll make you some tea and something to eat as soon as I get home.” That caring tugged at my heartstrings. Incidents like that reminded me of lovely it is to have someone who cares when you’re sick, when you’re tired, or when you’re stressed. I was single at the time, living alone and often worried that I could be dead for days before anyone would notice. The buzzards would be circling my bed before my presence would be missed.
Regardless of whether we’re sharing our lives with someone special or living successfully as a single person, it all comes down to perspective. There are pros and cons to both situations but the fact that we’re still here to enjoy each new day is a gift in itself. So many of our friends and family members have departed too early and sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we are so fortunate to have each other, whoever that ‘each other’ might be. As The Beatles said so well, “We get by with a little help from our friends” and as we age, we have a greater appreciation for what that means.
Friends become family and are an essential part of the love we give and the love we receive. In fact, friendships are often more enduring than our relationships with a husband or wife. Ideally, we get both in one package but more often we get our love from a variety of sources. Ultimately, it really is love and kindness that make the world go round. When we celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, let’s celebrate everyone who brings joy and love into our lives—not just partners and spouses, but also friends, acquaintances, relatives, and even kind strangers. We get what we give so let’s give generously.