Excerpt from the Introduction

This Workbook can serve as a rallying point for women, individually and in small groups, to work toward personal change and productive social change. Thirty exercises are divided into four sequential parts to guide you along the way. They move from recognizing how societal messages have become ingrained and effect how you feel about yourself, to shifting your thinking, to making change –- creating your own messages, to dealing differently with family, friends, and society.

Part 1, “Recognize How You’ve Absorbed The Messages,” helps you realize the power and negative influence of the messages you’ve heard from early childhood right up to the present. These are the messages that say being married has more value than being single, and you should be married. Before any change can occur, though, you first need to be clear about the effect of these unconsciously internalized messages.

Part 2, “Shift Your Thinking,” has nine exercises that offer new perspectives on how you can treat yourself and think about your past and your future as a single.

Part 3, “Fighting the Blues,” offers a number of other possible explanations for why you may be sad or depressed — not necessarily because you do not have a man. These exercises help assess if you are depriving yourself of intimacy or a good social life; if you are leading a boring, unfulfilling life.

Part 4, “Changing: You Can Make A Difference,” challenges you to take specific actions — individually, within your family, and in the larger community. These exercises may not leave you feeling better about being single, but they will move you away from blaming yourself for being single and give you direction for working toward a cultural change.


You can use this workbook on your own or as part of a discussion group. If you choose to use it with other women, the group can select one or two exercises to work on at home and to discuss at the next meeting.

The discussion can focus on how family members’ and society’s expectations have shaped women’s initial reaction to the exercises. Each meeting can end with women asserting an action plan for themselves. This can be something they will do differently — within themselves, with family members, or in the larger community — before the next group meeting. And, the group can take action together. Remember, change occurs when there is personal growth and a unified voice.


Each exercise has a specific goal and a number of steps. At the end of each goal, in parentheses, are page numbers that refer back to pages in With Or Without A Man. Each exercise is followed by a Worksheet for noting your responses. However, you may prefer to choose your own journal or notebook. There is also space for noting your insights as you work the exercises.

You will need colored pens or makers. The only other tools you will need for working the exercises are your imagination and your willingness to no longer be affected by society’s messages that you should be married.

You are now ready to take steps to change how you see yourself as a single and to help society react differently to singles.


INTRODUCTION …………………………………………………………………………… 1
Exercise 1 Messages From Childhood About The Importance Of Being Married 7
Exercise 2 Messages From Childhood That Taught You To Not Trust Your Feelings 9
Exercise 3 Social Messages That Say Being Married Has More Value Than Being Single 11
Exercise 4 Longing To Be Married 13
Exercise 5 Stop The Self-Blame 16
Exercise 6 Advantages And Drawbacks Of Being Single 20
Exercise 7 What You Miss But May Not Have To Do Without 23
Exercise 8 Crystal Ball: If You Could Look Into The Future 26
Exercise 9 Don’t Be Cruel – To Yourself 29
Exercise 10 Grieve Over Lost Dreams 32
Exercise 11 It’s Not Your Fault: From Depression To Ambiguous Loss 35
Exercise 12 You Are Not A “Spinster” 38
Exercise 13 Honoring Your Accomplishments 40
Exercise 14 Do You Want To Be A Mom? 43
Exercise 15 Maybe Your Sadness Is About Not Having Your Intimacy Needs Met 48
Exercise 16 Maybe Your Sadness Is About Not Having Your Physical Needs Met 52
Exercise 17 Maybe Your Sadness Is About Not Having A Rich Social Life 55
Exercise 18 Maybe Some Of Your Sadness Is Not Yours: The Grief Circle 58
Exercise 19 Being Single Does Take More Planning 61
Exercise 20 Being Different With Men 65
Exercise 21 Your Life Has Meaning: Creating Your Life Scrapbook 68
Exercise 22 Retire The Old Messages About Being Single 72
Exercise 23 Create Your Own Messages About Being Single 74
Exercise 24 If You Had A Man 77
Exercise 25 Change Undoable Goals to Doable Goals 80
Exercise 26 Twenty Five Things You Want To Do Before You Die 83
Exercise 27 Alternative Responses To “Are You Married?” 85
Exercise 28 Men Aren’t So Fragile 88
Exercise 29 Find Meaning In Being Single 91
Exercise 30 Taking Control: Steps Towards Change 94
Author’s Note