I’m 39 years old, I’ve never been married and I honestly don’t think I ever will.
I’ve had several long-term relationships but I wouldn’t say I’ve even come close to marriage — with no proposals or serious discussions about it.
For a while, I definitely wanted to marry and I think I always expected it to happen one day.
But as the years passed and it started to look less likely for me, not only did I start to let go of the idea, these days I have no real desire to get married.
If you’re feeling anxiety about never getting married or wondering “Is it normal to feel like you will never get married?”, this article is for you.
I’d like to explain the steps I went through and how I came to fully accept that I will never get married.
How to accept the fact that I will never get married: 14 steps to take
1) Express, don’t suppress — however you’re really feeling
Repressing how you really feel about the prospect of never getting married will do you no good.
Plus, there’s no need to fake it because however you feel, it is ok.
You might be feeling sad, worried, frustrated, jealous, angry — or a wide range of emotions when you think about your current relationship status.
It can be tempting when we think that we can’t have something in life to pretend that it’s all fine, even when it doesn’t really feel like it.
Although admitting you’re hurting might seem like a step backward on the path to acceptance, it’s always the first vital step.
It’s all a process and we can’t just jump to the end. Like all acceptance, you must start where you are right now.
So if the idea that you will never get married brings up a lot of feelings for you, you’ve got to let it out.
Don’t be afraid to tell people. Shame has a habit of keeping certain emotions locked away that would instantly feel better if only we shared them. Instead, we sometimes pretend that we’re not hurt, to preserve our image.
You also don’t have to become anti-marriage in order to find acceptance. You don’t need to try and convince yourself that marriage is stupid, or “just a piece of paper” that actually means nothing.
There’s certainly nothing shameful, un-feminist, or emasculating about wanting to be married either.
Real acceptance doesn’t need to make a case against the other side. It’s more of a quiet peace with whatever happens.
2) Understand that your marriage status is not a reflection of your worth
On a logical level, we know that getting married doesn’t mean you are somehow more worthy of love, but the wounded inner child in us didn’t necessarily get the memo.
Sometimes it feels a bit like marriage says to the world, “look, someone loves me, someone has chosen me, somebody wants me and only me”.
On the surface, plenty of us feel this way towards getting married. It’s understandable. We all want to feel loved, valued, and desired.
Marriage can seem to be the ultimate validation. Like getting picked for the most exclusive of sports teams.
That’s why merely the absence of it can also subconsciously feel like a punishment or a rejection.
If it didn’t cause so much suffering it could be almost laughable how quickly we can all end up turning on ourselves. Finding fault or seeing so-called flaws as justification for why you’re not married when other people are.
So I am appealing to your highest self right now (the wisdom within), not the fearful voice that we all have when I remind you that:
Not getting married does not mean that you suck and others are great.
Not getting married does not mean that others have something “special” that you don’t.
Not getting married does not mean that you are less worthy of love and affection.
In short, married or not, you still have the exact same precious intrinsic value.
3) Dig around into your real motive for wanting to get married
At some point or another, I realized that getting married was never my idea. It sounds kind of obvious really, considering marriage has been around centuries so clearly it couldn’t have been.
But I also thought a lot about how it never felt like it was presented as a multiple-choice option when I was growing up either.
Of course, some people didn’t get married, but even that never looked like much of a choice — more a cross they had to bear.
Every single fairytale, romantic film, or social expectation about relationships that I had been collecting since childhood reinforced the image that marriage was the end goal.
It was the ultimate prize all wrapped up in a big red bow.
My point is that marriage has many connotations attached to it that we didn’t create.
So many in fact that it can be so difficult to untangle what it actually means to you, from the way it has been presented to you throughout your entire life.
I wouldn’t say there is a “wrong” reason to get married or for wanting to get married, but sometimes the stories we tell ourselves aren’t even the real reason.
It can be really helpful to reflect on what it is you think that you want from marriage in the first place.
When I did this I realized that most of the things I was looking for were actually illusions — childhood daydreams, external validation, social status, etc.
4) Don’t compare yourself
The Instagram effect can be disastrous for your self-esteem.
We all know it — and research has proved it —looking at a false image of someone else’s life makes you feel terrible about your own.
Comparisonitis always leaves you lacking somehow, and it’s no different with relationships.
When you’re single or unmarried, you might look around at seemingly happy couples with envious eyes. You might wish it were you and wonder why it’s not.
But you need to remember that a snapshot of someone else’s life now isn’t the full picture. That is only a small part of their long story in life, just as your life right now is only a fraction of yours.
I know that plenty of times I’ve looked at couples and thought I wanted what they had, only for their marriage to fall apart in spectacular style just months later.
Moral of the story: there’s no perfect life and no perfect relationships whether you are married or single.
5) Realize that marriage doesn’t offer any guarantees
Another one of the silent hopes we often carry around when it comes to marriage is that entering into it means we can somehow sign a breath of relief.
Regardless of how free-spirited or adventurous you may be, we also all have a strong desire for security.
There’s nothing wrong with this desire, it’s just a psychological drive that we have.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests that once our basic necessities of food, shelter, and rest are taken care of, our next pressing urge is to feel safe.
It’s common for people to seek some kind of stability and companionship from relationships — and the most stable of all seems to be marriage.
After all, it’s a binding contract. A legal agreement. The ultimate pinky promise that you will always have someone to rely on.
The only catch is, in reality, it cannot offer you any guarantee of certainty. Life is by its very nature uncertain.
Whilst it’s totally understandable that we all go looking for some dependability and reliability in our lives to help us feel grounded, it’s also useful to appreciate that it doesn’t truly exist.
6) Know that marriage is a social construct
I’m not trying to lessen the value of marriage by referring to it as a social construct. It is just a fact. Neither am I suggesting that being a social construct makes it void of meaning.
The truth is that much of how we live our lives today is a social construct, including the money we use to pay for things and even the languages we use to communicate with one another.
But it can be helpful as a reminder that there is absolutely nothing “unnatural” in not getting married.
In purely biological terms, marriage means nothing. Clearly, no animals go through this little ceremony that us humans created.
Even though it may seem like a symbol of love to a lot of people, particularly in Western cultures, it certainly didn’t start out that way.
In fact, up until the 19th century, the idea of marrying for love was quite ridiculous. Its purpose up until then was purely practical.
It was an agreement laid out to manage sexual behavior, fulfill economic needs, and rear children. Sounds a lot less sexy when you put it like that doesn’t it?
Admittedly, that purpose seems to have evolved into something else these days.
But plenty of people make a conscious choice not to marry for the reason that it is a social construct and they decide not to display their love in that particular way.
Spider-Man and Avengers actress Marisa Tomei when asked why she never married, put it like this:
“I’m not that big a fan of marriage as an institution, and I don’t know why women need to have children to be seen as complete human beings.”
Whilst confirmed bachelor and actor John Cusak was short and sweet with his rebellious comment that:
“Society doesn’t tell me what to do.”
7) Throw out the relationship rulebook
Life works in some pretty mysterious ways and we can never predict how it will unfold. We usually get ideas into our heads about how we imagine the perfect love life should go.
The classic fairytale formula of course usually involves some version of:
- Meet “the one”
- Fall madly in love
- Live happily ever after and grow old and grey together
We still cling to this overly romanticized image of relationships despite the numerous examples around us that prove this isn’t the path for most people.
In the process, we end up putting so much pressure on ourselves to fulfill specific rules or stick to strict romantic timetables for when it all will happen.
The biggest problem is that when we get hung up on how we think things “should” go, we close ourselves off to all the other wonderful possibilities that exist.
Possibilities that can bring just as much excitement, joy, and fulfillment to our lives.
People’s love lives are not always a linear progression. Often they are a wild and wiggly line that can take you to many unexpected places.
Rip up the rulebook and try to enjoy the ride.
8) Know that marriage and love are not synonymous
If you’ve been thinking “Is it OK if you never get married?” — hopefully, this will answer that question for you.
Far from being some kind of weirdo, it’s never been more acceptable to be unmarried than the times we’re currently living in.
Even if you are in a committed relationship, there is a growing upward trend for couples to live together rather than get married.
In the UK for instance, whilst there has been an increase in homosexual couples choosing to marry, cohabitation between heterosexual couples is now the fastest growing family type.
Meanwhile, in the US, the number of married couples has dropped slightly (from 58% to 53%), but the number of people living with an unmarried partner has more than doubled since 1995.
9) Turn outdated stereotypes on their head
Some of the imagery used to describe unmarried people is far from flattering. There are certainly a few hideously outdated concepts of being “left on the shelf” lurking out there.
Even though arguably, “bachelor” has a certain charm to it, I am yet to meet one woman who would ever happily refer to herself as a “spinster”.
And ladies, it gets worse I’m afraid.
Apparently, the original meaning of spinster was reserved for women below the age of 26 years old. Anyone older was referred to as “thornback”.
Although, I’ll let you decide if that is cooler or even more tragic sounding.
This dowdy image of what it means to be unmarried is outdated and nothing like the modern reality.
Charlize Theron, Oprah Winfrey, Tyra Banks, Ricky Gervais, Sheryl Crow, Al Pacine — some of the world’s most successful, talented, richest, powerful, creative, funny, and attractive have chosen not to marry.
Leonardo DiCaprio, for example, decided to not bother getting married and just date models his entire life instead.
Now does that really sound SUCH a terrible existence?
Turning stereotypes on their head is just as much about appreciating that there isn’t really a good relationship status choice or a bad one.
Every choice we make has pluses and minuses, wins, and compromises.
What counts is a) picking the best option that suits you at any given time b) accepting and making the best of the hand life deals you.
And if that means forever dating models, oh well, it’s a tough job but I guess somebody’s gotta do it.
10) Deepen your independence, self-love, and self-acceptance
Like so many of the things outside ourselves where we seek fulfillment, it can end up being a red herring.
**Cliche alert** but learning to deeply love and respect yourself really is one of the best investments of your time and energy.
Put simply, the more you think that you totally rock, the less you will feel the need to turn to other people or things for validation.
As a side effect, this often ends up strengthening all of your intimate relationships too.
Whilst many people get married for positive reasons, plenty of people find themselves falling into marriages because they feel like they need someone in their lives.
And sometimes anyone will do, even if that means lowering personal standards, losing healthy boundaries, or damaging their self-esteem in the process.
I found that the more independent I became — which definitely took practice — the less I felt like I needed anybody else to make my life feel whole.
That means that now, the relationships I get into are because I want to share my life with that other person, not because I don’t want to be alone.
Ultimately the more we try to love and accept ourselves and our lives as they are, the easier everything becomes.
11) Realise you’re not a victim of circumstances, you do have a choice
I think this is one of the most empowering steps to accepting you might never get married is to recognize that in some way, you’ve chosen this.
Obviously, if you’ve got zero interest in getting married and never have done, then you did choose this.
But if that’s not the case for you, you might be thinking: “hang on, I didn’t choose this, I wanted the fairytale but I can’t have it so I’m just trying to accept it.”
But before you decide that’s definitely the case, hear me out.
Much of our behaviour is actually an unconscious reaction which is based on our hidden beliefs about ourselves and the world. How we were brought up, the influence of others, individual characteristics, and experiences all shape this.
When I first started to see the signs that I wouldn’t get married, my instant victim response was “woe is me”.
But the truth is, I knew that on some level, the reason it hasn’t happened is because I haven’t chosen it.
After all, there are literally billions of people on this planet. Statistically speaking there are plenty of men and women out there who want to be married.
I could have found one. If you truly want to get married, I’m convinced you can too.
A former colleague of mine used to joke that I was “unlikely to take a husband”.
At the time I thought I would eventually marry, and so it was just a humorous little statement. What I didn’t realize was that he was actually very right.
My personality and my desires have led me down a different path, and I ultimately chose an alternative lifestyle rather than the conventional one.
So if you’re wondering, why do I feel I will never get married?
The most simple answer could be because you know yourself and deep down you’re not convinced it is the best fit for you.
12) Never say never
After tirelessly following these 13 steps to accept that you will never get married, this last step might seem a bit counterintuitive.
Try to equally accept that you might not get married, or that you may end up getting married after all.
Because true acceptance is actually about being ok with whatever will happen.
You don’t have to decide right now that you will never marry, you just need to feel great about yourself and your life regardless if you end up walking down the aisle or not.
You don’t actually need to accept that you will never marry — you just need to let go of any need for it to happen.
The truth is that life has a habit of throwing plenty of twists and turns at us along the way. It’s impossible to predict where you may be in the future.
Circumstances change, desires change, we change.
Who knows, you could suddenly decide to get married on the spur of the moment at the ripe old age of 99, from the comfort of your nursing home.
And in between now and then you might change your mind 100 times back and forth over whether you actually want to get married.
As they say, never say never.
Because really, what’s more important than accepting you will never marry, is realizing that either decision in itself won’t make you less or more happy in life.
Both are just potential routes to take on your own individual journey.
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