I was recently having a conversation with my ex-husband in which he suggested that the ‘normal’ thing to do in my situation would have been to partner up with someone again by now.
This took place in the context of a discussion about our (as yet undecided) financial settlement, and as a contribution to that discourse especially I think it has little merit. The answer to my concerns about my financial security going forwards is never going to lie in becoming dependent, or even partially dependent, on the income of someone else. I’ve done that once, and to be honest it hasn’t worked out terribly well. If I had one piece of advice for any women embarking on a new romantic partnership, it would be to behave from a financial point of view always as though your loved one might be gone at any time, in the blink of an eye – along with his income, his pension and his superior economic power. No matter how confident you are that it will last, or that even if it didn’t, he would look after your interests financially. I hope that the generation my daughter is growing up in will learn this lesson from their mothers, who are nearly always left financially disadvantaged by having prioritized parenthood over earning and career.
However, I digress…
This talk of ‘normal’ got me thinking. And anyone who knows me, knows that thinking is something I do rather a lot of.
What is ‘normal’ anyway? Being single is becoming more and more common. Does that make it normal? The Australian Bureau of Statistics predicts that the number of single person households in Australia will increase by 4.3m in the next 25 years – an increase of 65% – and that 54% of those households will be single women. Not that abnormal then am I, statistically speaking?
But more than that, I don’t subscribe to the idea that my normality is based upon my relationships with other people, particularly since that can create a veneer of said ‘normality’ which, when you scratch just beneath the surface, reveals something not quite so normal at all. My own marriage was a good example of that.
The thing is that I suspect my ex husband – along with many other people – takes some of his personal validation from the fact that he looks so normal, with an apparently healthy relationship, good job, nice home. Other-esteeming, they call that. Some people are unbalanced by people who refuse to conform to these social norms, or won’t let them define them. To be fair, men haven’t exactly been beating down my door offering to relieve me of my financial burdens, but I’ve not been in any rush to settle down, and these days I wonder if I will. I have a level of freedom that I’ve previously never experienced, and I am defined by no one except myself. I like that. Anyone who joins my life is going to have to deal with that.
My sister once said to me
“The thing about you is that you’ve never needed anyone”
I think I’ve mentioned this before here – but I was quite offended at the time. Now I think I understand better what she meant and I realize that to a certain extent it’s true, and not necessarily a bad thing (although I’m pretty certain her intention was not to flatter).
I don’t need anyone. It’s true. But not needing people means that those I have in my life have been chosen – for themselves and not just because they are able to meet a need in me. In doing so, I give them the freedom to choose me, or not. I think that’s healthy. My people are there because I have an authentic, real connection with them, they know who I am without the veneer of ‘normality’ and we chose one another. And we continue to choose one another every day.
If that’s being abnormal, then so be it. Seriously – who cares?