Happily ever after?

According to Michelle Cove, the author of Seeking Happily Ever After, many women today are redefining the meaning of personal happiness. No longer does a rich, full life necessarily mean marriage and children. In her book and documentary film, she examines the lifestyle variations  of  modern woman. She also discusses how to find your own definition of ‘happily ever after’. The book has good tips for dealing with the other peoples’ expectations – well meaning or not – when a woman isn’t happily married by 30. Whether you are a single woman or the mother or friend of one, do not miss a word of this illuminating interview.

DD: Why did you decide to write your book?
MC: I’d gathered three years of research about single women and their needs, having created the feature-length documentary seeking Happily Ever After: One generation’s struggle to redefine the fairytale (www.seekinghappilyeverafter.com). The film is meant to ask questions and provoke viewers. But I wanted to go a step further and try to answer some of the questions that came up during interviews, such as: “How do I know what I even want for myself when everyone says marriage is the answer?” And practical questions including “What will I do if I need medical care and am alone?” or “How can I protect myself financially as a single woman?” I hope women will see with this book that their concerns are completely normal and there are concrete things they can do about them.
DD: Do you think women have a hard time knowing what they want or like in a lifestyle or relationship because they have been programmed to think they need to be married or in a relationship
MC: Absolutely, we still live in a society where weddings are considered the finish line. Even though there are more single women than ever, most still feel the stigma that says there is something wrong with them because they aren’t on the path to marriage and babies. But it is slowly changing. I am meeting more and more women, for instance, who feel they can voice the fact that they don’t want to have children – and it doesn’t mean they don’t like children. It’s starting to become a valid option.
Michelle CoveDD: Why do women like bad boys so much, even when they have been hurt by them?
MC: Well, certainly there are women who unfortunately don’t feel they deserve better for themselves for whatever emotional reasons. I think, too, there are women who simply seek drama and excitement because their lives are feeling a little flat. Bad boys get the adrenaline going. But there are so many smarter ways to add excitement – travel, sign up for a class you’re passionate about, apply for a challenging job, learn how to rock climb. Bad boys are all effort, no payback.
DD: Do you think that single women today are stigmatized?
MC: Definitely. In fact, this year Live Science conducted a study about this topic. Researchers interviewed 32 middle-class, never-married women over age 30 and found that these women feel they still have to justify why they are single. I think a lot of married people still see single women as a project and want to “fix them,” which is just ridiculous! In the book, I tell readers that there is no need to play along with being someone’s project.
DD: Why do so many women seem to have a hard time finding “good” men to date, when they want to date?
MC: I think a lot of it has to do with figuring out what makes a good man for YOU. Much of my book is centered on helping women understand why they are attracted to certain types of men and how that is working out for them, and figuring out what kind of men might be better for them. It’s easy to “fall hard” for an attractive guy. It takes much more thought and effort to make wise choices about who to date and then make sure to keep your eyes open. It’s actually the opposite of “falling.”
DD: Are many women prepared to be single – financially or emotionally? Do we educate women for this option?
MC: Financially, yes – at least among the college-educated women I interviewed around the country. There are more women in college today than men, more women buying their own homes and establishing careers for themselves. Emotionally, I think we can better prepare women for being single. In both my documentary and book, I encourage women to really think about what “happily ever after” looks like to them today as adults, and teach them how to tune into their own needs. The more women learn to do this, the better their chances for being fulfilled -and this is true for both single and married women.