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Dating as a single mother with chronic illness, I never think ‘I wish I had a man to help me’

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From a young age, I was taught I needed to find a man to marry in order to not end up alone in the world.

As a woman, I wasn’t capable of looking after myself – at least that was the message from my Cypriot-Australian culture — I needed a husband to help me do that.

There was no mention of love or sexual or emotional compatibility and connection.

The checklist consisted of other credentials: Did he come from a good family? Did he have a good job? Money? Was he a family man?

When I got married at 22 my relationship ticked all those boxes.

It was great until it all started to feel terribly wrong. And then, 10 years later, I got divorced.

Dating after divorce

After we split, I explored different casual relationships as a single mother.

These relationships were mostly rooted in sexual chemistry.

It made sense, considering I was never taught anything about sex or sexual compatibility other than it was a sin outside marriage.

It was as if my body was paving a way forward.

With family ties still strained and stressful complications with co-parenting, after seven years of casual dating, I once again fell into another safe and comfortable relationship.

It ticked all the boxes but left me feeling frustrated and like a dead fish.

I think single mothers, particularly those who suffer from chronic illness, as I do, are vulnerable to gravitating to such relationships out of fear they will not be OK on their own.

But in the long run, I’ve found these kinds of relationships detrimental to my emotional wellbeing.

Even though the person may be kind and a good person, if it’s not the right fit it has an impact on my confidence and self-worth, which then also affects my physical health.

After a while, the positives that a person brings to your life does not outweigh the negatives.

It’s only through the second relationship ending that I realised ticking all of my migrant parents’ boxes was only half of the equation for a successful relationship.

While those things need to exist, the other parts, like compatibility, physical/sexual and emotional connection and compatibility, also need to be there too.

Talking to other women, and in my own experience, it is common for women not to be taught that these are essential ingredients.

Culture, religion or conservative parenting styles may even condition women into believing that wanting these things is selfish and shameful.

Support comes from all sides

While I initially feared leaving my relationship and not having companionship and support, after almost a year, I have never once thought I needed a man to help me.

I realise now that wanting love and wanting a man to help me are two very different things.

I now know what kind of relationship I want and need. It’s not good for our children to see us settling for less than our needs.

It means that they will also do the same thing in their relationships. They need to see their parents happy and in love — not moody and unsatisfied.

I’ve learned how empowering it is to lean into other male supports in my life; my male friends.

Having male friends is great and so is having great brothers-in-law.

Anytime I need some help I ask them. Anytime I am craving male energy, I pick up the phone and chat with them.

I am great friends with my ex-boyfriend and he is still a positive influence in my daughter’s life.

‘I know I’m going to be OK’

Cultivating a positive network of friends and family around me helps. I was single for seven years and I was OK.

I have built strong inner resources for coping. Self-care, exercise, meditation, keeping up-to-date with doctor appointments.

I cut myself some slack and get takeaway on challenging days and try to remain positive.

While my chronic illness has only developed in recent years, I still know I am going to be OK.

Taking a bit here and a bit there can almost create a whole person. And, in the meantime, I’ll wait for my man to come along.

I haven’t given up on love at all and I never will.

Koraly Dimitriadis is a Cypriot-Australian writer and performer and the author of the poetry books Love and F—k Poems and Just Give Me The Pills. Koraly is working on her first nonfiction book, Not Till You’re Married and tweets at: @koralyd.

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