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Guest Post: 3 Tips to Creating Happily Ever After…YOUR Version February 12, 2013

Posted by Onely in Food for Thought, Guest Posts.
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SHEA_Poster_filmOnely is thrilled to offer a guest post by award-winning author and filmmaker Michelle Cove, with extensive input from her co-director Kerry David and her lead character, Jacqueline Boas. Cove, David, and Boas discuss a question people often ask them:

What is your biggest “takeaway” when it comes to being a single woman?

Copious Readers, what are *your* biggest takeaways (we welcome input from our male readers as well)? Please note that the opinions expressed in guest posts may or may not be those of Onely.org (although they usually are!).

When Michelle Cove and Kerry David started making Seeking Happily Ever After (www.seekinghappilyeverafter.com)— a feature-length documentary that explores why there are more single 30-something women in the U.S. than ever–they had plenty of theories about why women are staying single longer and whether the trend would stick. One of the many questions: what would happen if you took a 30-something woman who was perfectly happy being single and forced her to spend a year at singles events so she could get friends and family off her back? Would she be happier one year later like they insisted? Michelle and Kerry put 30-something Jacquie Boas to the guinea-pig test. We’re not going to give away the twists and turns, but here were some of the big takeaways they each experienced.

Michelle Cove (Director, Producer): If you are looking to meet someone, don’t bother going on any kind of a date until you check your walls. I’m talking about the invisible walls you may have put around your heart over time without even realizing it. At a certain point, just about all of us have had our heart put through a meat grinder, leaving us feeling vulnerable and wounded. It doesn’t matter whether it was caused by a boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, parent or someone else we loved. It’s natural to put up a wall of resistance so that doesn’t happen, can’t happen, again.  Once we get past the endless grieving—complete with baskets of wadded-up tissues, empty ice cream cartons of Ben & Jerry’s, and a sore ear from time spent on the phone for support—we conclude,  “well, I am not allowing myself to be that vulnerable ever again.” The problem with that plan is that you can’t experience real love if there’s a wall around your heart. People can feel you being closed off right away, and read it as emotionally distant. To enjoy intimacy with another being, we need to allow ourselves to remain open. We have to make the intentional choice to do so. Of course, we have to be mindful of whom we are opening up to; there’s no reason to do it with someone you instinctively don’t trust. But when your gut says this new person feels trustworthy, put your walls down and take a chance. Know you can survive (again) even if it doesn’t work out.

Kerry David (Co-Director, Producer): When you’re single people usually want to know how you feel about being it: Are you happy or sad?  Next they want to “fix” it, as though it were an affliction.  I used to find it annoying, but not devastating.  Then I made this movie. I listened to the stories our women told in the doc and felt enormous compassion. For the first time I understood just how hurtful other people’s comments about being single could be. I have never wanted to be a spouse or parent.  I never daydreamed about a big white wedding or an 8-lbs, 2oz mini-me.  I don’t hate children or men (far from it!); it just wasn’t for me.  I wanted a life of travel and adventure. Fortunately we’re living in a less judgmental society and more women than ever are opting out of parenthood.  Being happy being single is having its moment! But I do want to add this: Some of my friends confuse my enjoying being single with wanting to be single.  It’s not that, I’m just not afraid to be single.  Sometimes I fantasize about what my next relationship will look like; but I spend more time thinking about what my next project, adventure, destination or life experience will look like.  And for the record: I feel happy, sad, adventurous and lazy, I feel completely fulfilled, loved, challenged and joyous and sometimes I feel lonely.   But I feel all of these same things in a relationship too!

Jacqueline Boas (Main character): I learned a lot during the filming of “Seeking Happily Ever After”—not the least of which were things like “You thought that haircut was cute- it wasn’t.” and “You thought the last singles event you got suckered into going to and being filmed at was bad- don’t worry, there are worse”. But if I had to really narrow it down to the most important lesson I learned during those years (yes- YEARS) it took to finish the film (what I now know to be an invaluable period of my life)…it is this: Make your life what you want it to look like now. And then be okay with it. Don’t feel like you have to explain your choices to anyone. No matter how horrible the wedding guest across the table makes you feel. Or your grandmother. Or employer. Just focus on you being okay with it. Of course, this lesson really applies to all of us, right? How many women do you know list off the things they wish they had time to do or the places they wished they had visited or the dream job they wished they had taken, etc.? Many of us have the life they live now and then some parallel life they envision that starts after…finishing college or losing 35 lbs. or landing the perfect job or…getting married. As a single person I really was committed to living the life I wanted for myself. Traveling. Cooking. Going out with friends (singles and couples). Writing. Drinking too many cosmopolitans (how cliché) and kissing all the wrong boys (sorry, husband). I was fairly certain I would never marry and if I did…I wanted to make sure I had a life that was full when I met my future husband. Not to let my future husband fill my life. The husband (or wife) is…gravy. And frankly, some people don’t like gravy on their mashed potatoes.

Michelle Cove (michellecove.com) is the author of I Love Mondays: And other confessions from devoted working moms, Seeking Happily Ever After: Navigating the ups and down of being single without losing your mind, which is based on her award-winning documentary, Seeking Happily Ever After, and the co-author of the national bestseller I’m Not Mad, I just Hate You! A new understanding of mother-daughter conflict. She is also the founder of the blog The Cove (http://www.michellecove.com/the-cove-blog.html).

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1. Dr. Stanley Goldstein - February 12, 2013

These are good thoughts but the unconscious is very powerful and it would be a mistake to ignore its power. We are all a product, for better or worse, of our early developmental experiences. These profoundly affect the capacity to gain intimacy and joy in life. But, keeping this in mind and as I tell my patients, what is crucial is that one gain the capacity to function, that is, to have sufficient control over their thoughts and feelings that they can work and be financially independent, pay their taxes, keep out of jail, etc. How they choose to live their life beyond that is up to them and doesn’t warrant criticism from anyone.

Despite the typically American philosophy that there is no tragedy or fate, that one is either “a success” or “a failure” rather than that one has been successful or failed; and that if one tries hard enough they can do anything, including becoming President of the United States. Well, perhaps in the movies.

2. Alan - February 12, 2013

Is anyone else feeling a little less than pleased by this post?

First we hear about “walls”, which kind of sounds like the “you must have issues” stereotype.

Second we hear about someone who is OK with being single but really doesn’t want to.

And finally we hear from someone who was single who apparently now is married.

I’d have liked to have heard from someone who is more of the “single at heart” type. I think those of us who plan to remain single may shoulder the greatest burden. Those who plan to remain single temporarily only have to put up with the discrimination temporarily.

tehomet - February 21, 2013

I see your point but I think the ‘gravy’ comment saved the post from me shaking my fist at it. 🙂

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