As a single mom with a chronic illness, I never think “I wish I had a man to help me”

From an early age, I was taught that I had to find a man to marry so as not to end up alone in the world.

As a woman, I was not able to take care of myself – at least that was the message of my Cypriot-Australian culture – I needed a husband to help me do it.

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

The checklist included other references: was he from a good family? Did he have a good job? Money? Was he the father of a family?

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

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

Dating after divorce

After our separation, I explored different casual relationships as a single mom.

These relationships were mostly rooted in sexual chemistry.

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

It was as if my body was opening a path forward.

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

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

I think single mothers, especially those with chronic illnesses like me, are vulnerable to such relationships for fear of not fending for themselves.

But in the long run, I have found these kinds of relationships detrimental to my emotional well-being.

While the person can be nice and a good person, if they are not the right person, it impacts my self-confidence and self-esteem, which also affects my physical health.

After a while, the positives that a person brings to your life don’t outweigh the negatives.

It wasn’t until the end of the second relationship that I realized that checking all of the boxes for my migrant parents was only half the equation for a successful relationship.

While these things must be there, the other parts like physical / sexual and emotional compatibility, connection and compatibility must be there as well.

Speaking to other women, and in my own experience, it’s common for women not to learn that these are essential ingredients.

Culture, religion, or conservative parenting styles can even condition women to believe that wanting these things is selfish and shameful.

Support comes from all sides

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

I now realize 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 is not good for our children to see us settling for less than our needs.

This means that they will also do the same in their relationships. They need to see their parents happy and in love, not cranky and dissatisfied.

I have learned how empowering it is to rely on other male supports in my life; my male friends.

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

Whenever I need help, I ask them. Whenever I crave masculine energy, I pick up the phone and chat with them.

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

“I know it’s gonna be okay”

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

I have built strong inner resources to cope. Take care of yourself, exercise, meditate, keep up to date with doctor’s appointments.

I cut myself a little slack and take take out on tough days and try to stay positive.

Although my chronic illness has only developed in the last few years, I still know that everything will be fine.

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

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 non-fiction book, Not Till You’re Married and tweets on: @koralyd.

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