If you’re a single woman over 40, chances are you’ve spent some time huddled in the cold, wet muck of life’s trenches. Statistically speaking, you’ve probably been married and divorced (or at least coupled and uncoupled). There’s also a decent chance you’re a single mother who understands what it is to lose yourself in duty and come home to yourself. Or maybe you were so focused on building your career that marriage and babies were the furthest thing from your mind, and you had to endure endless questioning about when you were going to settle down. As if marriage and children are a shortcut to purpose.
Whatever life war you were waging, here’s what I—a single woman over 40—know about you: You spent countless hours belly down in the mud, with survival as your main goal. You gained and lost battleground. You have battle scars that you wear like a badge of honour. You lost yourself, rediscovered yourself, reinvented and rebuilt yourself. Sure, you knew there were other soldiers on that battlefield with you, but in the dark and chaos, you often felt like you were fighting a hopeless war. Woefully alone. You came out on the other side a woman who knows her value, who has tested her strength, who loves herself, shadows and all.
You’re healed, you’re whole, and you finally feel ready to bring a partner into the new life you’ve carefully crafted for yourself (versus the loneliness-fuelled series of post-freedom mistakes you initially made). Not because you need someone. You don’t need anyone—you’ve done it all alone, and well. You’re happy to be flying this plane solo. But the right co-pilot sure would make the skies feel a little friendlier, no matter the weather.
So why does finding that co-pilot feel so difficult? I’m going to share a hard truth with you, sister: It’s more than the sad reality that the modern dating scene is littered with landmines—ghosting, catfishing, situationships, ethical non-monogamy and polyamory. It’s not that all the good ones seem to be spoken for. It feels hard because you’re making it hard for yourself.
I’ll say it again to let the message sink in: It feels hard because you’re making it hard for yourself. Yes, YOU.
After all the battles you’ve fought, after all the work you’ve done to heal and love yourself, you still aren’t sure how to live in peacetime. It feels foreign to you. You’re still armoured up for battle, hyper-vigilant. You’re guarded because you want to preserve what you’ve created with your own blood, sweat, and tears. With all due respect to Pat Benetar, love is not a battlefield. So, from one Warrior Queen to another, I offer five tips to help you put down the artillery and stop fighting yourself.
You know better than anyone that love isn’t always enough. You’ve had your heart broken, maybe more than once. You’ve had your trust broken, maybe more than once. The heart you gave to others in the time before coming home to yourself wasn’t your whole heart, and still, the pain was unbearable. Now that you’ve reclaimed and opened your heart, the thought of trusting someone with it is terrifying. But it’s not about the other person, or not only the other person. It’s about trusting yourself—trusting that you’ll always do the next right thing. You know that heart now. You know what’s good for it, and what isn’t. What’s aligned with your values, and what isn’t. So, do the next right thing: Trust yourself. It’s okay to make this about yourself. Start bringing some main character energy to your life’s story.
People often speak about how scary love can be, but it isn’t. Love is acceptance. Where there is acceptance, fear has no power. We don’t fear love: We fear its absence. Most of us grow up believing it’s a scarce resource. We dole it out only when we feel confident that it will be reciprocated. This is an immature level of love that isn’t truly love at all because it comes with conditions. Love in its purest form is given freely, without expectations. It’s an extension of the love you have for yourself. Look at where you’ve been, Warrior Queen. Look at what you’ve done, even with fear swirling in your gut. You acted with love. So drop the expectations and conditions. Stop focusing on outcomes. That’s living in the future, and all we have is now. Be here now, with love. You’ll find fear has no place here.
This one is the Warrior Queen’s greatest challenge. You got to where you are because you make shit happen. You kept things under control when so much felt out of your control for so long. You got so used to controlling outcomes that you forgot to be open to magic and possibilities. Diving back into the dating scene puts so many things beyond your control. Breathe. Surrender to uncertainty and focus on what you can control. You can’t control the actions of others, but you can control what you do about those actions. You can’t control who will like you, but you can carry yourself in a way that ensures that YOU like you. No matter what happens. Read point one again, and fall up into the cloud of unknowing.
We tend to invest energy in the people we want, without asking ourselves if they’re worthy. It’s control by a different name. You want what you want, right soldier? You’re used to giving yourself what you want in this phase of your life. But you need to ask yourself how you feel after spending time in someone’s company. Is your battery full or empty? An empty battery is a sign that you’re not investing your energy wisely. It should be an exchange, not a one-way flow.
One of the bravest and most radical acts of self-love is to allow our raw, authentic selves to be seen. You might think you’re living your life out loud. You’re enamoured with the life you’ve built for yourself, along with everything and everyone in it. Your inner light beams out of you in technicolour when you’re with your people. Sometimes, strangers get caught in the cross beams and find themselves more than a little dazzled. But when you’re faced with someone you find exceptionally attractive, someone you are deeply interested in? You find yourself trapped in your head, overthinking things. Or maybe you purposely douse your light, not wanting to be too much. You can never be too much (or too little) of anything for the right person. So let your freak flag fly. Let them see you in all of your weird and wonderful glory. On days when that feels hard—and we all have them—remember this life lesson I learned from my youngest daughter: It feels better to be yourself than to be liked.
Wishing you love in peacetime, fellow Warrior Queen.
Amanda Burgess is a Toronto-based writer who specializes in slice-of-life content that women over 40 can see themselves in and be inspired by. With over 22 years of journalism, PR, branding and advertising experience, she’s a seasoned storyteller that helps clients craft stories and campaigns that move people. She is co-founder if the Sharyn Mandel School in Gobele, Ethiopia, along with her late husband and his family. Looking to be the change she wants to see in the world, she is also a Certified Cancer Journey Coach who creates a safe space for cancer patients and caregivers to design their dream lives—while living with cancer, and on the other side.
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