‘I’m 39 and single . . . how do I stop yearning for a loving relationship and be content with a pretty great life?’

Tell Me About It: I feel I can’t force it or by sheer determination manifest it into existence

PROBLEM: I broke up with my ex three years ago. It was a great relationship and I thought we would go the distance, but when it came to having difficult conversations and being vulnerable, we were both dishonest and fearful and things did not work out.

I spent a year in counselling and made huge progress on my learning to love myself and understanding my needs, how to develop boundaries and so on. When Covid hit, the possibility of meeting someone new seemed likely as there were many coffee/walking dates etc. I met some lovely people, but nothing has kept momentum.

I’m now 39. I’m still single, living in a (wonderful) house share in Dublin. I’ve gotten a promotion at work and my career is going great. I would love to meet someone and have a deep and intimate connection. It’s not happening.

I feel I can’t force it or by sheer determination manifest it into existence. I find myself wondering about egg retrieval and freezing and the chance that motherhood won’t happen for me and it may be years before I have a significant relationship again. I know it is better to be on my own than with the wrong person. I have two weddings coming up that I want to enjoy (and not suffer comparison-itis and constant envy). It’s also incredibly difficult as I am in the minority amongst friends and so most conversations socially are dominated for hours about children and little else.

How do I manage my own sadness and disappointment?

How do I remain hopeful for my own relationship/ family?

How do I celebrate my friend’s happiness (which I genuinely feel), but it feels so distant for me?

Feeling very selfish and sorry for myself. Everything else in life is lovely!

How do I stop yearning for a loving relationship and be content with a pretty great life?

ADVICE: You ask great questions: how to be happy with what we have and not constantly compare ourselves to those closest to us and how to grieve for current or future loss. First there is the reality for women that age affects successful pregnancy so your idea of freezing your eggs offers you some breathing space in terms of seeking a lifetime relationship so you should definitely consider doing it. We are often unconscious of an underlying life plan against which we measure our track through life until we find that it is unachievable or unwanted.

For example, the expectation of home ownership continues to be held deeply within us even with the growing reality that this is not achievable for many. Accepting fully what is happening is both wise and forgiving, as it has the advantage that it allows recovery and opens up new avenues for discovery. You are 39 and have found out (through strife) how to reflect on and refine your fundamental understanding of yourself and this is an amazing discovery which will have enormous impact on any future relationship you will have. However, the loss of the standard timeline of commitment and family is one that you have to let go of and this involves grief and loss for you.

Taking comfort

All grief involves a process of sadness, withdrawal and taking comfort from those close to us and with time we emerge from this to engage fully with life again. For you the joy of seeing your friends celebrate their marriages comes with equal measures of loss for yourself and space for both emotions need to be made.

Your friends will understand if you need to leave early or indeed forgo events if the pressure on you to perform (acting happy) is too much. Learning how to manage comparison and envy is an issue most of us are forced to tackle as we go through our lives. It helps to understand that comparison only leads to one thing – misery. With that understanding, it is life affirming to drop the comparison and immediately accept whatever is happening (because it is real) and then look at what action you need to take, if any. Your life needs very little adjustment as you have a good career, good living circumstances and lots of friends. However, patience is required to allow life to offer you its riches.

Adopt an attitude of faith in your future and this will allow you to wait without anxiety for opportunities to arise. Your self-awareness is very good, and this capacity will allow you to process your sadness as well as celebrate your successes, giving you a very secure base from which to make life decisions. Trust yourself!