Learning to say goodbye to a happy singlehood

Guest post by Red

I proposed to my girlfriend early last December. I spent months organizing a big Hobbit premiere party, and cutting a fake trailer to show as my proposal. So when the girl of my dreams said yes, and everything went like it does in the movies, I thought that was the happy ending to my single-hood. Bam! You're engaged, it's what you wanted and worked for, proceed to have a bridal glow till you walk down the aisle! Right? Wrong.

I felt like there must be something wrong with me. I wasn't as happy as I should be. I got exhausted when someone asked about the proposal or the wedding. I thought it might be that I had spent months on a huge proposal and was just tired. I wasn't disappointed in how the proposal went, and I had no reservations about my now-fiancée. But I still spent about 50% of every day wondering if I should call off the wedding.

It was hard to watch my fiancee glow, and tell everyone all about this huge proposal that I was now convinced was a mistake. I knew I had no doubts about her. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, she was going to be the mother of my children, our life seemed like a wonderful adventure stretched out before us. But I still couldn't feel the excitement it seemed I should.

Lying in bed one night, sleepless and guilty, I started Googling “Cold Feet.” Among the fairly unhelpful articles, there was one titled, “Mourning my single self.” Upon reading it, I had such a moment of epiphany that I was surprised the choir of angels didn't wake my fiancee up.

I wasn't unhappy with my engagement; I wasn't scared of the wedding or the marriage. I was sad that the awesome things I did when I was single were no more. One of the aspects of getting married is the goal of never being single again. And in seeking marriage, I hadn't said goodbye yet to a lifestyle that had been good to me.

I was an epic single girl. I rocked being stringless and ringless. I never felt the need to be with someone, and so was only in relationships sporadically. It wasn't all great, but the good things outnumbered the bad. I loved using up all the hot water and leaving wet footprints around the apartment. I stayed up till god knows when, mainlining junk food and bad action movies. And more than anything, I liked the bar scene.

I knew every bar in my college town, and took it as a compliment rather than a statement about my lifestyle when the bouncers waved me in with recognition. But bringing people home was now a game I didn't get to play anymore. More and more after my engagement, I found myself chiding myself for checking people out. “You're about to be a married woman, you're not supposed to want to flirt anymore.”

I needed to know that I could still draw someone from across the room, that they could want to spend all night talking to me knowing I might not go home with them.

Almost in tears of nervousness one night, I told her my idea. I wanted to take her home from a bar one night. We would switch our rings to another finger, meet somewhere we've never been, and pretend to have met for the first time. I needed to know that I could still draw someone from across the room, that they could want to spend all night talking to me knowing I might not go home with them. I felt needy and horrible even asking, but thankfully my girl knew this wasn't a statement about her not being enough. She agreed and we waited for a good day.

A few months later we put the plan into action and the night went better than I could have anticipated. I picked a divey jazz club we had never been to. The old excitement of going out to meet someone was there — I got my hair done, and tried on dresses I hadn't pulled out in a while. I walked into the club, spotted her, and headed back to the bar. A few minutes later, this gorgeous blonde in a Star Wars t-shirt and killer boots asked if she could buy me a drink.

I found myself listening to her and engaging in the conversation more than I had in a long time. This wasn't like sitting next to her on the couch, plugged into two devices and making occasional comments about Portlandia. This was sitting together in a booth, being acutely aware of when our knees would touch, and wondering what she would do if I kissed her. I sat up straighter, tried to be wittier, and found myself falling for her all over again. And when we went home together, it wasn't just a matter of course, it was a mutual victory.

I feel better leaving my single self behind now. The date went so well for both of us, we might do a repeat every so often just to remind ourselves we would still choose each other. And when people ask us how we met, while I'm telling the real story, I can say in my head, “She saw me across a dim jazz club and asked to buy me a drink…”

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Comments on Learning to say goodbye to a happy singlehood

  1. So good to hear this! I’m really happy that you’ve shared as every now and then I wish I had spent more time in the single life – even though I’ve met my chosen match, my irreplacable one. I sometimes wish I could go back to the chase, the game, the not-being- accountable-to-anyone – not because I don’t love him, but I loved that too! I have to be careful to remember that it’s not my marriage I regret, but the simple singleness that I miss. I even periodically have to ask my spouse out on dates or hesitate on a kiss to remind myself why all those firsts were magical and why we chose each other. Relationships, marriage – they can get like old jeans – and you know a girl loves a good cocktail dress.

  2. Refreshing article on cold feet! Not a topic usually covered thanks for doing so.

    • Thanks for sharing. I so want to marry my best friend, but I have been freaking out since the proposal. Your story was brave. I’ve been afraid to tell him that I will miss my singleness. Your words are wise.

  3. Thank you! I spent most of my 20s dying to get married. Then finally started really loving my singlehood in my 30s. I traveled, changed jobs, moved to the city, became everything I wanted to be and then bam! Mr. Wonderful shows up. Just when things were getting good… I love my future husband more than anything, but I must admit that I’m gonna miss being single. If anything, I wish I’d enjoyed it more when I had the chance.

  4. Thanks for perfectly articulating how I’ve been feeling. I was perfectly happy single, stumbled upon the right guy way earlier than I thought I would, was super stoked to get engaged, got proposed to, then BAM! I feel all bad about not being able to do single girl stuff even though I hadn’t really done that for the 6 years we’ve been together.

    • I agree it’s strange to feel this nostalgia after you’ve been together long enough to feel like you’ve already left singlehood behind. But that ring is a physical promise of the future, and seeing the promise on my hand every day instead of an agreement in my heart is what brought it home for me. Even though we can’t legally get married where we live, the agreement still means a lot. Plus a ring is what I always used to check for! Now I’m part of the no-no club!

  5. I can’t talk enough about how happy I am to be engaged to the man of my dreams, but I have found myself missing the EXACT things you mentioned…mainlining junk food, walking into the bar with excitement about what may or may not happen, the stomach flip of meeting someone new…. Thank you for this most excellent description and fantastic idea of how to bring that stomach flip back every once in awhile.

  6. I was surprised at first that I related to this article as much as I did, because my fiance and I are a very very open polyamorous couple. I know I can get that fluttery New Relationship Energy (NRE) feeling, the thrill of the chase, whenever I very well please. I didn’t understand why I was still getting nervous if that was the case… and you nailed it. It’s definitely not about the other people. No matter what the marriage looks like, things are still going to change; I’m still going to be responsible for at least one more person than before; I’m still going to have to consult someone else about my life decisions and cooperate and not be alone. And that’s scary.

  7. I admit nothing. However, there is a distinct possibility that, the last time my husband was out of town, I might have gone out and bought beer, ice cream, and potato chips as my sole sustenance for the duration of his trip. Saying goodbye to one’s single days does not eliminate the possibility of mainlining junk food.

    • YUP. I’m a wicked introvert, and I really “recharge” by having the house to myself to do whatever I want. I try to explain this to my husband, but he doesn’t get it. He’ll retire to tinker around in the garage on a Saturday morning so that I can “have the house to myself”…..Not the same. I don’t know how to say, “I need to be completely ALONE and unattached so that I can walk around in my bathrobe, doing nothing all day but watching Netflix, knitting, and eating copious amount of popcorn/ice cream/Coke and my hidden stash of Lindt chocolate. And it doesn’t work if I know you could pop back to the house at any minute!” I had a few great evenings this fall, when sometimes he works until the wee hours of the morning trying to catch poachers…but once a week would be even better.

      • Super agree!!!! What keeps me sane is I work night shift 3-4 nights a week at a really high stress job, and he’s a 9-5 guys who goes to class when he’s not working to finish his degree. We sometimes have to schedule sexy time, etc, but what we lose in spontaneity we gain in me not freaking out and losing my ever-loving mind feeling trapped and caged in. Thank God he feels the same way lol… he gets his Netflix/ gaming time in while I’m at work, and I get silent house/ reading/ candles and incense burning in peace and quiet 🙂

  8. I like the jeans vs dress metaphor! It feels that way sometimes, and I actually wore a dress for the date that I’ve only worn once before. That, and the chase, is definitely something no one should have to hang up forever!

  9. Great article! I know this is something a lot of engaged/newly married people go through. I’m currently reading Emotionally Engaged by Allison Moir-Smith and The Conscious Bride by Sheryl Nissinen, and they both focus on letting go, and that is it healthy to grieve the passing of your single self, in order to fully embrace your married self.

    They’re not very offbeat in tone, but there’s lots of good advice there. Also, they seem to be geared at women who enjoyed dating/the singles scene, and who have a close relationship with their family. I can’t relate to either of those situations, but I have been able to take the advice and apply it to my particular situation. (For instance, replace “family” with “BFF” and bingo. My life right now.) I would recommend them for anyone going through what Red wrote about!

    • Thanks, I’ll have to look for those! I’m feeling a lot better now, but they’d be helpful going forward.

  10. Thank you for this post! I just got married, and while I love my husband and I’m happy that we’re married, there are times when I miss singlehood freedoms. I’m happy, but it’s definitely an adjustment.

  11. Ah, the single self. I mourned my younger, single self last night when I watched Girls S02E05 One Man’s Trash. The whole thing reminded me of being 19-22 in general, and one tryst in particular with a mysterious older man. It was fun and exciting and then quickly turned sour. I had some fun, some bad, some weird experiences during those years – but I wouldn’t change anything – those experiences made me who I am today.

    I do like the idea of the play dates – I might suggest it sometime…

  12. Thanks for sharing. You hit a raw nerve with me. I was feeling like an ungrateful, spoiled fiancé for letting my mind go there. I feel normal again. I am still a separate person. No matter how awesome and perfect for me that my sweetie is, a huge life change will be subject to an adjustment in thinking and being. We are going from “me” to “we”. I am glad that you brought it up, and shared. Amazing timing.

    • McKitten, I know exactly how you feel. I felt like such a needy bitch to ask this of my Fiance. But change is always hard, even when it’s good change. The way I see it, needing to say a proper goodbye to your singlehood is just another way of showing your commitment going forward, not a sign of selfishness. I’m glad I could help, and don’t beat yourself up!

  13. You know, I do not htink you have to leave everything of your single self behind. My BF and I have been an item for more than five years, and just yesterday I flirted with the guy who had repaired the BF’s ipad when I picked it up – just for fun and because that is how I roll. The BF knows and doesn’t mind – after all in the end I come home to him. I go out with friends if I want to, and living together is mostly like living on my own – only there is someone to drag me to bed when I fall asleep on the sofa at night. Every once in a while we dress up and go on real dates, and every once in a while we stay at home, have pizza and watch crappy movies.

    (The BF was really afraid of moving in together, and was relieved when he noticed I did not mind him spending time at the pub with his friends. Or meeting his female friends. Or playing Xbox games till the early morning – as long as he still gets up in time for his day job.)

    Sometimes we have these weird thought about how our life will be as a couple – how we are going to do everything we saw grown-ups do as children, or everything we see on TV (going on couple dates, really??), or everything someone else tells us a couple should do when they move in together or get married. Yeah, forget it. Your life, your rules.

  14. Ahhh, so many good things here – just another reason why I love the Offbeat Bride website for giving people a place to have an honest conversation about this major life transition of marriage. Thank you, Red for your insight that grieving singlehood just might be a necessary part of ‘happily ever after.’

  15. So happy to see an article on this! I went through the same feelings and emotions when I realized that my partner was the one I wanted to marry. It was hard and confusing, and when I realized that I was mourning my happy single times, it made it so much easier to move on. I met him far earlier than I expected to, and it certainly changed so much for me! It’s so validating to see something like this in a public way. Thank you.

  16. Another one here that is very glad to have read this article! I got married a few months ago, and I have struggled recently with accepting that my choices aren’t completely my own. While I am generally super conscientious of other people’s feelings, I have had a hard time accepting that I’m going to have to make choices and compromises that I may not want to make. Seems so basic and reasonable, and not something I expected to have a problem with at all. We’ve lived together for almost 3 years before we got married, and our relationship always felt super easy. There was no adjustment period moving in together. So it seemed to me that being married would be easy too, but there was something that felt like it shifted that has made me mourn being single and giving up some of my autonomy. Nice to hear that this is a normal part of it for other people as well.

  17. Ditto, I am also getting married this June 29th. I have never been so scared or nervous about making a commitment in my life. I really dont understand. My fiancee and I have been together 8 yrs and living together 7. I was the one to ask her to marry me. I cant imagine her not being in my life, she is my best friend. Now wedding planning has become an instant anxiety attack :'(

  18. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! I have been feeling the same way and it is so good to see someone acknowledging this in such an insightful way. I too proposed to my fiancee so it feels particularly weird to be mourning the single me from the position of asking her to marry me. It’s so nice to hear someone has felt similarly! Anyway, thank you again!

  19. This is so wonderful, and although when I was upset I did know what I was feeling, I just didn’t know what to do about it. What a fantastic idea! I’d like to try it but my fiancée is so stubborn and dead-set on “We are us now, there’s no singularity” that I’m not sure he’ll want to. (He doesn’t even want to keep any sand in our individual vases from our sand ceremony. We’re about to have an argument over it.) Eh, we’ll see. Even if we don’t end up trying it, it’s so nice hearing that so many others feel the same way. Already feeling a bit better. Thank you!

  20. Just wanted you to know they I’m revisiting this article as I patiently wait for my spouse (erm, a sexy stranger) to walk in to this jazz lounge. I left him a note at home saying ‘Paul, meet me at the Palm Lounge at 9:00pm. Bring your A-game. Let’s fall in love all over again. Yours, the Sexy Stranger at the Bar’
    Wish me luck!! Butterflies and nervousness galore over here!

    • Bry, don’t leave us hanging! You can’t start this story and not see it out to completion!

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