They didn't set out to be single, and they're still open to meeting a soul mate. Meet the new generation of women who are on their own and loving their happily never after.
One of my best friends—talented, beautiful, hilarious—has always been a man magnet. Yet for most of her adult life, she's stayed single. Either she ends the relationship when her boyfriend starts talking marriage or she never lets things get to that point. She says that relishing her independence—owning a home, pursuing her career to whatever lengths she likes, making friends from all walks of life—is the reason she hasn't married or moved in with someone yet.
But a few years ago, after yet another engagement in our social circle, my friend and I talked about what she was finding hard about the choices she's made. For one thing, she said, there were very few models for what her future life would look like. We barely knew anyone else like her, women who could have partnered long ago but didn't.
Soon, however, we may all know someone. At 27 million, the number of single women in America over 45 (including never-marrieds, widows and divorcées) has never been higher. And the percentage of these women who've never been married is increasing as well. A 2008 census update found that 11 percent of women between the ages of 45 and 54 have never been married, a two-percent rise since 2005.
"American women spend more years of their adult life unmarried than married," observes social scientist Bella DePaulo, author of Singled Out and a professor of psychology at the University of California in Santa Barbara. "So instead of thinking about single life as transitional, we should really be thinking of marriage as what comes between one single phase and the next." And if that spell of singleness should happen to last the rest of their lives, more and more women are finding they are happy with that.
"When I'm in a relationship, it's great," says Roberta Codemo, a 46-year-old writer in Springfield, Illinois. "But there is more to life than that. My life is complete on its own, thank you very much." This comfort level with going it alone doesn't mean these women have renounced all dreams of romance. But they've come to discover that happiness—a full life, a full heart—can be theirs with or without a partner.