Hax: Advice for the sad, single people

The Washington PostMarch 28, 2014 

Carolyn: I get you are a strong believer of the be-content-with-yourself theory of singlehood. What I am not getting is when someone is longing for a baby, we "get" this and understand if they skip other people's baby showers, etc. We can understand their pain. When someone is single and longing for a partner, we assume something is wrong with them for craving something outside themselves. Your advice has really followed these lines and I don't see the longing as all that different. Please explain.

ANONYMOUS

What else is there but self-contentment? To curse your bad luck (or good taste)? To blame past partners for not being marriage-worthy, or not regarding you as such?

No life goes exactly as planned, and so our happiness with the one we have will depend largely on how productively we respond when it takes an unwanted turn.

Infertility is indeed a similar, unwanted turn, but with significant differences. For one thing, you can know you're infertile; you can't know you'll remain single in perpetuity. Plus, infertility is a physical condition for which there are treatments, and alternatives; the alternatives are imperfect, but they're part of a defined set of choices, typically made within a defined period of time. By contrast, an adult who wants to be someone's spouse cannot turn to medical intervention, surrogacy, fostering or adoption.

The main difference here may just be that infertility allows for a logical grieving point, which people like me can then account for in advice and expressions of concern and sympathy for dodged baby showers. There is no such Moment, no last round of IVF, on which a lonely person can hang his or her grief

So that is where I'd amend my advice: Pick a point, and grieve. Grieve what you hoped or planned for that hasn't materialized - maybe when you first form the thought, "I thought I'd be married by now."

But keep letting grief make your decisions? No.

Do the hard work to be content with yourself. Maybe you'll like it better as a tenet of Buddhism: Learn to want what you have.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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