“Don’t worry. You still have time.” I’ve been getting that a lot recently. I suppose that it’s meant as some sort of consolation, as in “I can take my time to move on from my abusive ex-boyfriend because I’m not that old, yet.” Despite the person’s good intentions, this phrase always comes off as a negative. A reminder that I don’t have it together, that I’m still a mess even though it’s already been 9 months since I broke up with my abuser (but hey, who’s counting?). This phrase inadvertently sets a deadline for when I should feel better. I may still have time now, but how much longer until it’s too late? How much longer until I am permanently deemed a mess and a lost cause?

But on a deeper level, it’s a reminder that I am not conforming to society’s expectations of me. Because people my age are starting to get married and settle down, or at the very least are in a serious relationship. Me? No, I remain terrified dating. It’s been quite a while since I broke up with my abuser, but the thought of a man coming near me, being close to me physically or emotionally, makes me want to run the other way screaming.

But the thing is, I don’t know that I want what society expects me to want. I don’t know that I want marriage, kids, and living in a house with a white picket fence. I don’t know that I ever really did. And sometimes, that leaves me feeling like a failure.

There is a tremendous pressure on young women to do it all – earn the degree, get the amazing job, find the perfect husband, have beautiful children who will go to ivy league schools and be just as successful as you are. And wanting those things is most definitely not bad. It’s human nature to want to find companionship and have a family. But not wanting all of those things is also okay. Yet we seem to forget that so easily. If we aren’t married/dating/having kids, we feel the need to make excuses – “I’ve been busy with work,” “I don’t have time,” “I just got out of a serious relationship.” We make these excuses because we fear being looked down upon, or being subject to others’ pity or judgment. We’re left wondering “Am I failure because I don’t have these things right now, and I’m even not sure if I do want them?” But there’s no need to justify what we want or don’t want in life, and there is certainly no reason for anyone to judge.

Some of the most remarkable and successful people never married or had children. For example, Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel refused to conform to society’s expectations for her from day 1. She wore pants and comfortable clothing instead of corsets, she didn’t ride sidesaddle on horses, she traded in the ostentatious hats popular at the time for simpler designs so she could work, and let’s not forget about the fact that she was building her empire when women had just barely gained the right to vote. She not only revolutionized the world of fashion, but also helped liberate women from the dependent and rigid lifestyles they were expected to live. Born an orphan, she came from nothing, and yet the work she did and the movement she inspired lives on to this day. Gabrielle did all of these amazing things but she never married or had children. However I most certainly wouldn’t say she was a failure. I would say she was probably one of the most successful and extraordinary women that ever walked this earth.

I honesty don’t know much about what I want right now. But I do know what I don’t want – I don’t want to be pitied or judged, either because of what I went through or because I don’t have all the things other people my age do. I don’t want to be compared to them or to anyone else. I am truly and uniquely me. And for the first time in my life, I think I am finally starting to be okay with that.

All I ask, is that when you want to comfort a person by telling them that they still have time, think the better of it. Tell them that they are beautiful and amazing just the way they are in this very moment. Chances are, those are the words they really need to hear.

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29 thoughts on “

  1. Wise words. I was (am?) in a similar place with relationships. Taking the opportunity to get to know myself better rather than jumping half-heartedly/with negative anticipations into a relationship while still wounded from the last try helps. I don’t know if the fear every truly goes away, but it does get better.

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  2. Very inspirational post. I can relate to your journey of recovery from abuse, and know that everyone copes and heals in different ways. I’m also in the stage of having that pressure – career, education, children, marriage, house – argh! People try to reassure me about still having ‘time’, as if the expectation is set. But it’s not about anyone else really! We all have s unique journey to follow. Thanks for sharing:)

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  3. oh my goodness i suddenly feel so much less lonely, i have been abused by three partners and after the last one and then meeting a conartist who lied and tried to date me for citizenship- ive come to this place of peace where i dont think i want children or to be married. your reference to coco chanel makes me especially happy because i am a designer. and emotionally i feel so at home because i really sit and unpack the microaggressions in this and things people say often- like if i was 70 would that make this any worse or better that someone came into my life that forced me to realize finally that the world is not at all what i thought it was, that it might possibly be teeming w ill intentioned folks. its been years! and i am still struggling through ptsd. the thing that i can say is that -although its said over and over there is no time limit. i feel myself becoming less judgemental that i still have deep triggers, and full days where i can do nothing but sit across the room from the ptsd caused by the abuse and watch it closely. but your post makes me really feel less self doubt, less questioning, because there are so many of us out there. and the more we recognize this, the more we recognize it is not us, the more we can heal and help inspire each other to heal. onward sis. ❤ mukhtara

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    1. Mukhtara, I’m so sorry for what you have been through. Sometimes it really does feel like there are a lot of bad people in the world and experiences like these really make you question everything. Maybe that’s why the path towards healing feels so circuitous and uncertain and like it just goes on forever. But you are right – you are not alone and never will be. Survivors are everywhere and as long as we speak out and tell our stories, we can reclaim power over own lives and path towards recovery, and help others along the way. Wish you all the best in your journey. Much love – speak766

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  4. This is a pretty positive essay. Sometimes the first act of reclaiming ourselves is to simply tell others where our boundaries are. It’s a way to let the inner you know that you can take care of her. Bravo.

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  5. Beautiful and Amazing- always.
    You’ve read my post: The Other Man- so you can guess where I’m coming
    1. I’m taking time to know myself
    2. I’m setting up principles for myself- i.e. how i expect to be treated etc
    3. I’m taking full responsibility for my part in allowing this to happen in the first place-
    – why didn’t I think using the door to exit was an option all these years? Why was I scared?
    So I have a new list of options and the DOOR is up there in the top 4
    I’m so glad you shared this post. You are not alone 🙂

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  6. I guess there are many of us around. I am in my latest twenties and though my parents aren’t pressurizing me, friends and relatives keep asking me to get married. I don’t have a job either and that adds to the sorrow. Yes. People do try to make me look inferior.
    I do know I want to get married some day. Maybe that day will never come. But I don’t want to marry the next person I see on the street. I want to ensure that I know the person and we are compatible (at least). If I don’t find someone like that, I won’t marry. This is something people can’t seem to digest. Anyhow, currently focussing on the career front.
    I am happy for you that you got out of that abusive relationship. Many many people don’t get that chance. 🙂

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    1. Yes, I guess there are quite a few people out there who can relate to that pressure in some way or another. I completely agree with you – if I find the right person, then I would want go get married. But if I don’t, then I am not going to settle for less. Thank you for reading and commenting. I wish you all the best. Much love – speak766

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  7. I’m a stay at home dad whose wife is a high powered person in advertising. I’m waaay out of what society expects. It’s an uncomfortable place, but it’s my place and my family and are happy. Society does not dictate my life. I do. You do. Love this post!

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  8. Lovely and thoughtful post. The default position of ‘society’ is that you can’t be truly happy unless you are in a long-term relationship. Since leaving a long-term relationship, I have been having a beautiful relationship with myself, and I have found happiness within me that isn’t reliant on another person ‘completing me’. I am complete as I am, whether I choose to share my life with another or not. It can be hard but try not to let others’ expectations of where you should be in your life affect you. It’s not a race. Many of those who think they have it ‘sorted’ may find they don’t years from now. Knowing yourself and defining your own happiness will put you in a better position for a relationship, if you choose to have one. x

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    1. Hi Sky, yes I completely agree with you on all of this. I am glad you have found happiness within yourself. Like you say, that’s most important. Thank you for reading and commenting. Wish you all the best – speak766

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    2. Perfectly said… and even in a relationship of the most respectable societal norms most things go very wayward… the journey, no matter the twist and turns is very much to find how to have that relationship with oneself so that the instability of the outer world can be taken for the transitory nature it truly is…
      love your journey.. as you survive and sail it..

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  9. Perfect. You speak the words many women struggle to express and accept as a beautiful life. You don’t need that Susie homemaker life to be happy. Love for yourself is where true happiness radiates and that’s all you really need in life.

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  10. Wise words. ‘Time heals everything.’ is the most BS phrase used. It’s like putting a bandaid on a giant gash in the heart and saying it will hold the waterfall of pain from gushing out. For the longest of times I actually blamed people for being lazy or not really caring for saying such nonsense, however, slowly I have seen that their own pains prevent them from accepting and hearing yours. Sure, some are still just lazy and don’t want to deal with it. Which is fine I just want them to say so…
    There is no such thing as time limit on hurt of any kind. Hurt we feel inside is not a banged knee that gets better. The only thing I try to make sure is that I keep getting up. Again and again. Not subscribing to societal norms when it comes to how I should feel and when. Just to self. To accept self. To not forever blame self. Just accept…

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    1. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks it’s BS! You’re right – the only thing we can do is to just keep going despite what we’ve been through or what other people tell us. Wish you all the best

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  11. It’s been over 4 years since my break up and I feel the same way even now. However, I have learned to be alone and content with myself, and my inability to be alone was one of the reasons I entered into an abusive relationship. Basically, the years I have now spent alone have taught me to love me, and I think that had I loved me then, I would have made a wise decision. Chin up. Wisdom is never wasted time.

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    1. I’m sorry to hear you can relate. But I’m glad that you’ve learned to love yourself and be content with who you are. Thank you for reading and commenting. Much love – speak766

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