Yes, the thought of being single forever is lonely and even depressing. But wait! The good news is you can learn how to be happy anyway. At least 7 ways. Maybe more. This article is for all the single women and men who are 40+ and worried that their singleness will last forever and ever amen.
Here’s what 44 year old Joey said: “Watching my ex-girlfriend move on with a new guy is so painful,” he writes on How to Stop a Work Breakup From Destroying Your Workday. “We were together for a year before she surprised me with our breakup. She is also my coworker. I asked why she wanted to break up, and she said it was how she rolled. It’s been especially bad for me as she knew this was my first relationship, two years after the death of a woman I was engaged to. I must be so afraid to be alone that I missed important signs along the way. At the start she told me she wasn’t good with relationships and it took about six months before she committed to me and another three before we slept together. Despite that she was seeing and sleeping with someone within two weeks of our breakup. I am so hurt and crushed. And, I am scared that I’ll be single forever, that at 44 years old I have lost my chance to find someone to share life with. Any advice is welcome.”
The first thing that occurred to me is the importance of grieving your past losses. Life is painful and out of our control, and we aren’t often taught how to actively grieve and honor the past. If you’re like Joey (and all of us), you’ve lost people you love and you’ve experienced painful breakups. Have you grieved your loss, or are you constantly shoving down feelings that scare you? Learning how to grieve is a huge part of learning how to be happy.
The second thing I realized is that the idea of being single forever is sad and depressing – but only if you’d rather be part of a couple and you believe a committed relationship is the only source of your true happiness. The thought of being alone is something you need to grieve. Thinking that you’ll be single forever is the death of a dream, of your hopes for a family or a life with a partner….but being single is NOT the death of your happiness or joy in life.
Thirdly and perhaps most importantly: you CAN learn how to be happy anyway! You can find happiness and experience true joy whether you’re single forever, single for the next two weeks, or single until you’re 57 or 87 or 107 years old.
How will you face the fear of being single forever and find happiness? Let’s find out…
7 Ways to Be Happy Even if You’re Single Forever
Open the curtains and part the clouds! Let the sun peek in, bit by bit. Read through my tips below on how to be happy even if you think you’ll be single forever. Check out the links and resources for finding true meaning and purpose.
Remember that happiness is fleeting no matter what your relationship status is.
1. Find your true source of joy and peace (which is better than happiness)
A relationship is NOT a lasting source of peace and happiness. Relationships are vulnerable because they contain two weak, imperfect, struggling human beings who are subject to whims of fancy and folly and foolishness. Even the healthiest most committed couples hurt each other. People struggle with emotional and spiritual crises that affect everyone. They develop terrible brain and body diseases, they can become dependent and needy. They cause or experience bad accidents. People get sick and die, or they leave even when they promised they wouldn’t.
A life partner or relationship can’t “make” you happy. Only an internal source of true joy, peace, love and gratitude will bring you lasting happiness. For me, that source of power, joy, strength, peace, and freedom is God. He’s the spark that brought me to life and keeps me burning brightly. He’s the life force that surpasses all the things in this world that make me momentarily happy.
You’ll never learn how to be happy if you buy into the myth that being in a relationship is “better” than being single forever.
2. Commit to a daily search for joy and meaning
Can you accept the idea that an intimate relationship – even with the most perfect person – will not bring you lasting happiness? A healthy loving relationship is a wonderful part of life. A good marriage is a balance of hard work and a thousand tiny miracles. But no matter how great your relationship is or how long you’ve been married, you will have to eventually learn how to deal with your fear of being alone.
Let go of your quest for happiness because happiness is fleeting. Instead, start searching for joy, meaning, and purpose in your life. A joyful, meaningful, purpose-driven life is the only source of true happiness.
Commit to the idea of working towards meaning, purpose, and joy in your life. Let go of the mistaken notion that reading online articles and blog posts will immediately fill you with happiness despite your fear of being single and alone forever. Learn how to practice joy, acceptance and gratitude even though you’re single, lonely, and even afraid.
3. Pay attention to what makes you miserable
I recently stumbled across Randy Paterson’s book To Get Happier, Focus on What Makes You Miserable.
It sounds counterintuitive at first, but let’s follow Randy’s logic. He says that when we figure out what makes us unhappy – such as the thought of being single forever – then we can shift those thoughts and behaviors. We can get happier if we take time to think about what makes us miserable and avoid those activities, thoughts, and behaviors. This won’t happen overnight. Learning how to be happy is a process that takes time and thoughtful effort.
Here’s the good news:
“Once you begin recognizing the behaviors you’re doing that make you unhappy, then you can begin shifting them bit by bit,” Randy Paterson tells David Marchese in To Get Happier, Focus on What Makes You Miserable on The Science of Us. “The challenge is to let go of the idea that you’re going to change your entire life all at once.”
4. Disconnect from Facebook if it doesn’t make you happy
One of my most practical and personally relevant “happiness tips” is to get and stay off Facebook. I always thought I was weird because I felt sad and depressed after scrolling through all my “friends’” updates, events, parties, vacations, and amazing times with their families and loved ones. In How to Be Happy Single When You Wish You Were Married, I describe why Facebook makes me sadder than a scared lonely little puppy.
I thought I was the only one in the world who was depressed after a few minutes on Facebook – but I found scientific research that explains my feelings. In Seeing Everyone Else’s Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms – a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology – Mai-Ly N. Steers and her team at the University of Houston tracked the depressive symptoms and Facebook usage habits of a group of students at a Southwestern university.
These researchers reported that the more time a student spent on Facebook, the stronger the depressive symptoms he experienced. More importantly, the depression connection was influenced by how frequently the student compared himself to others on Facebook. This means it’s not as simple as “Facebook causes depression.” Also, there could be other factors that the researchers didn’t catch that were causing their observations. Plus – as with any study done on a group of university or college students – we need to be aware that 40-plus year old folks worried about being single forever have a different relationship with Facebook.
So this tip on how to be happy even if you’re scared you’ll be single forever isn’t about Facebook itself…it’s about developing self-awareness and insight into your own life. Learn what triggers sadness and depression for you. What makes you miserable? What brings you energy, life, joy, and peace? Reflect on your experiences, think about how your activities affect your feelings.
5. Accept that sometimes you’re just blah
Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Randy’s book:
“The idea of openness to, and acceptance of, negative emotional states is often very helpful,” he writes in To Get Happier, Focus on What Makes You Miserable. “If we recognize that I am going to be anxious and sad, I am going to experience disappointment, I am going to feel just sort of “blah” some of the time — all of those are absolutely normal aspects of being human.”
Whether you’re part of a couple or single, you’ll forever struggle with feelings of sadness, anxiety, fear, and unhappiness. Feeling down doesn’t mean you’ve failed at life or in your relationships – it just means you’re having a normal human life.
“If we can accept distressing feelings for what they are — part of the normal flow of human emotion —then, paradoxically, we will be less distressed,” writes Randy. “Our distress comes not from experiencing those emotions, but from our reaction to them as being unacceptable or abnormal.”
6. Surrender to the idea that you will be single forever
Take a deep breath, and surrender. What if you will be single forever…can you be happy anyway? Or, is a relationship the only way you could possibly experience happiness in your life? You may find How to Be Happy as a Childless Woman – Single or Married – helpful.
Try living with the idea that you’ll be forever single, without a life partner, alone and unaccompanied. Accept it, surrender to the possibility. How will your life unfold? Will you become bitter and miserable, or will you find ways to learn how to be happy anyway?
“Simply recognize that when you wake in the morning, before you start constructing your story about yourself and your life, mostly you’re actually kind of fine,” says Randy in To Get Happier, Focus on What Makes You Miserable. “The process is about recognizing the script that you write in your head that makes you feel miserable. Actually writing it down, getting it outside your head — all the reasons why you’re a terrible person and will never achieve anything and so on — tends to make them look less convincing. You start to see how your story about yourself isn’t necessarily true.”
7. Don’t believe everything you think and feel
“Sometimes we run into emotional trouble when we lose track of our childhood selves, our true desires and interests, the sources of energy and drive in our lives,” writes Paterson in Forget the Inner Child. What about the Inner Adult? “We base our behavior entirely on the demands of the moment, the expectations of others, or the norms of our society. As we do so, the life leaks out of our lives like helium from a balloon.”
Randy adds that we become disconnected from our ids (according to Freud, the id is the the only component of personality that is present from birth. It’s the unorganized part of our personality structure that contains our basic, instinctual drives – and it’s the source of our bodily needs, wants, desires, and impulses. The id acts according to the “pleasure principle.”).
So how do we connect a disconnected id? One way is to get counseling. Therapy consists of an effort to become connected to our ids and learn how to be happy. But, it’s important to remember that we can’t simply hand our lives over to our emotions and impulses. Rather, we need to “get our hands on the tiller and steer.” That’s the mission of therapy, to determine our own course and actions instead of simply following our impulses and instincts, fears and anxieties.
“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.” – Emily Dickinson.
Resources for Being Single and Happy Forever
In Madly in Love with ME: The Daring Adventure of Becoming Your Own Best Friend Christine Arylo shares practical, fun ways to explore and embody 10 branches of self-love every day and in every part of your life. Reading this book is like receiving permission to treat yourself as a best friend would – and learning how to be happy even when you’re scared you’ll be forever single.
Christine shares ways to:
- Shower yourself with loving words instead of criticism and comparison
- Go for your dreams with conviction and courage
- Choose the situations and relationships that make you happiest
- Discover and explore your deepest thoughts and desires — and act on them
Don’t rely on a relationship or a man to make you happy.
In To Get Happier, Focus on What Makes You Miserable, Dr Randy Paterson says most of us spend much of our lives trying to arrange things so that we feel happier and more contented with our lives – and often we feel stuck or frustrated. “We never ask ourselves how we could feel worse,” he writes. “But doing so can illuminate a road that runs in both directions. By understanding how we could lower our mood, we can often see more clearly how to raise it.”
Just for fun, here are a few examples of how to be miserable, from Randy’s article What Would You Do if You Wanted to be LESS Happy:
- Live in a place with no view: claustrophobic and little outside light.
- Find out that the person you just met and thought was terrific is actually controlling and erratic.
- Spend more money than you have coming in.
- Spend endless hours reliving all of your past mistakes.
- Surround yourself with miserable and angry people.
- Have no goals for yourself.
- Lose all my old friends and don’t make new ones.
- Work longer hours doing things I dislike for less money.
- Do not progress through life goals, instead only moving further away from them.
- Choose not to forgive people: Friends, family, co-workers, strangers, etc.
- Get stupidly, wildly in debt by purchasing things I don’t need.
- Become an atheist.
These are real-life examples of how not to be happy, from workshop participants. To learn more about Dr Randy Paterson, visit PsychologySalon.
Do you feel trapped in the past? Learn how to get over a breakup and embrace being single (perhaps forever!). Read How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex and Get on With Your Life.
What do you think of these tips and resources on how to be happy when you’re scared you’ll be single forever? While I can’t offer advice on relationships or dating, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.