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How to embrace Singlehood with Pride!

15 Mar 2015

“Being single doesn't mean you're weak. It means that you're strong enough to wait for what you deserve.” 
― Niall Horan

Singlehood among women has always been frowned upon more than that among men.Whether a woman is divorced, widowed or unmarried by choice, it is never easy for her.  When women decide to stay single, assumptions are made there must be something wrong with her and parents are often looked down upon for not being able to find a suitable match for their daughter. One must be proud of being single because not a lot of people are strong enough to embrace it. When you are single, you have the ability to lead your life on your own accord. Women like Lata Mangeshkar, Oprah Winfrey and J.K. Rowling have taken singlehood by storm by being spectacular legendries.

I have known Jaya aunty since childhood. My mother and Jaya aunty taught in the same school. Jaya aunty got divorced couple of years’ after Shaily, her daughter was born. Shaily’s father went away and started his family with another woman and never contacted Jaya aunty since. Jaya Aunty would often visit my mother and talk about the struggles she had to go through.  She was a school teacher, had to take care of all the household work and her daughter, as well. At work, she would sometimes hear rumors about how her husband left her. She even contemplated remarriage and started looking for potential partners but found none of them to be a good enough father for Shaily. Finally, It was time for Shaily to go to college.  Despite a serious financial crisis, Jaya aunty managed to take care of Shailys education.

It had been a year since Shaily had left for college when my mother went to see Jaya aunty. She had been on sick leave for more than a week and what my mother saw broke her soul. Jaya aunty looked terrible. Her hair was mess, eyes bloodshot and dark circled, her personal hygiene looked questionable and her home smelled funny. She was clearly depressed from all the loneliness she had to handle post Shaily’s departure. When my mother entered the room, she was shocked to find a few cartons of cigarettes and some liquor bottles!! My mother comforted and then confronted her. She told her she felt very lost after Shaily left. She had to distract herself.  She has no physical, financial or emotional support. She broke down on about how empty her life is and how she doesn’t have any hope in the future.

Why a woman decides to stay single?

·Her own will: Women themselves might decide to stay single and do not want to date or get into a serious relationship at the time. For a lot of women, this is a conscious decision that they are happy with. There are women who might not be ready for a relationship given their previous experiences. They may have faced certain situations or traumatic events compelled them to not remarry.

·Peer Influence: Colleagues, friends and acquaintances often influence single women to stay single. Successful single women peers may become role models for their friends to choose this way of life. Or peers with bad marriages or relationships may make their unmarried peers choose to stay single.

·Family and community:  Even though family always stands through in times of crisis, singlehood often becomes stressful because of conservative and orthodox practices and rules family and relatives, especially in the Indian context. Even in todays modernized India, a lot of communities don’t allow women to remarry. Widows are often forced to live with in-laws where she may not be respected and often taken as a carrier of ill fate rendering her responsible for husband’s death

The perceived stressors for single women:

1. Financial problems: In India, it is very common that women are brought up in a way that household activities are stressed more than educational careers. When faced with loss of spouse due to death or divorce, they’re engulfed by financial crisis and it intensifies if they have children.

2. Isolation: Single women find themselves lonely at the absence or loss of companionship. Since singlehood is not appreciated, they find it difficult to adhere to some group or companionship

3. Emotional trouble: Single women (may) often find themselves helpless and hopeless. They also feel lack of identity and lack of confidence. According to Kotwal and Prabhakar (2009), “in social sphere majority of single mothers tried to avoid attending social gatherings and had changed their dressing style due to depression they had develop poor food and eating habits”.

4. Sexual abuse: Single women often face sexual advancements as compared to married women. They may be perceived as women who are looking to be asked out or courted.

5. Social stigmatization and familial ostracism may occur for women who choose to remain single often resulting in inadequate psychosocial support. This often leads to feelings of alienation and helpless in times of stress or an adversity.

Psychological and emotional disturbances resulting from these stressors:

1. Anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder, phobia and post-traumatic stress disorder (on sudden loss of companion)

2.  Depression

3. Substance abuse

Coping strategies:

1 Psychological therapies: An array of psychotherapies therapies, such as relaxation, cognitive restructuring, coping skills’ therapies etc., are available to cope with stress resulting from being single. Family should indulge in counseling as well because this process heavily needs the support of the family too.

2. A healthy lifestyle: Simple lifestyle choices can keep the mind positive and healthy. For example, proper sleeping patterns and eating habits, exercising regularly, joining single women clubs or groups to find a stronger sense of belonging, indulge in activities of interest like painting or cooking, avoid alcohol, nicotine (smoking) or other drugs stringently or resort to contemporary relaxing therapies like aromatherapy, massage therapy, meditation.

3. Look up to role models: Aim higher or Draw inspiration from other leading women who are single. There are many single women out there who lead a successful life and productive life. One can always learn!

Singlehood is way of life for many and should be celebrated. It has its ups and downs and all we need, is a bag of good coping skill and lots of motivation and inspiration from other women living single successfully, to sail through this smoothly.

 


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