On Owning One’s Singlehood

I have some friends who intended to build careers or have adventures before they settled down.  They were all married by about 25.  Then many of us who just assumed we would be married by 25 took much longer.  I’m one of those who has lingered past 35 with no husband in sight.

It’s doubtful that even those girls who wanted to delay marriage planned to be single.  It’s hard to do something well without willing role models or trailblazers.  It’s hard to do something well when you made no accommodation for it in your plans.  I avoid singles’ events, publications–even the label itself.  I have no interest in being a spokesperson for singleness or someone people pity or someone younger single women look up to.  Yet somehow I have become all of those by default.  It feels like a burden or punishment, not a calling.

I’ve gone through various phases over the years.  The “I’m-really-fine-alone (aka-I’m-in-denial)” phase, the “I-think-it’s-right-around-the-corner” phase, the “I’m-tired-of-thinking-about-it-so-I-give-up” phase, and the “I’m-tired-of-thinking-about-it-so-I-give-up-but-I’m-actually-hoping-if-I-give-up-the-guy-will-show-up-since-‘It-always-happens-when-you’re-not-looking'” phase.  What I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced is true acceptance and patience.

As the years have ticked by without a lasting relationship, as I’ve navigated heartbreak after disappointment after “if only,” it’s become harder and harder to keep singleness from defining me.  When you’re young, you can blame the “guys out there;” when you’re older you know you’re the common denominator.  People ask you why you’re not married, meaning it as a compliment, but what is really means is “What is wrong with you that we can’t see, and how can we fix it?”  It’s impossible to be happy and fulfilled without a mate, right?

Well, there are a lot of lonely married people, from what I hear.  There are a lot of people who got married for the wrong reasons.  There are a lot worse things than being single.

Being a follower of Christ adds a whole extra dimension to the experience.  Do I trust God to bring me a good man at the right time?  Is there “The One” or could it be one of several people?  Did I pass up someone He sent me?  Did I mess up a relationship that could have worked with my selfishness and immaturity?  Did God forget to create someone who fits with the unusual person I am?  Am I being punished or disciplined?  I could certainly argue most of these away with scripture.  But the truth is, most of the scripture only gets as far as my head, and the heart is still panting.  Or when the truth penetrates deeply and I experience some peace, it tends to last for about a week.

I have come to a point where I can own how much it hurts me to have “failed to marry,” much as I wish I were healthier.  It’s been important, and difficult, for me to tear down the wall of self-sufficiency and independence and to let the hard emotions surface.  I know I was designed for relationship, I know I want to experience real love, and I also know I will someday.  I would really like to get to the point where I am fully cognizant that this is something I want, but also fully alive and proud of myself in the present moment.

I have lots of theories about why singleness is becoming so pervasive and about my own story but I’m not sure I have any answers.  Still, let me take a moment to remember some good things in this time since thankfulness always helps:

  • I control the remote
  • If I feel like eating cereal, it’s fine by me
  • I don’t have to deal with in-laws or decide where to spend holidays
  • I have lots of time for my friends and I get to help with their babies
  • I have deep friendships with guys that will be inappropriate when I’m married
  • I laugh and commiserate and swap dating stories with my single friends
  • I meet a lot of interesting people
  • I have time to figure out who I really am, independent of how a mate sways me
  • I can focus on developing a deeper intimacy with God
  • I have time and energy for ministry and service
  • I don’t have to consult anyone on how to spend money
  • No one complains about the number of shoes I own
  • If I want to travel, I travel.  If I want to read in bed all day, I do.  If I feel like watching “Runaway Bride” for the 20th time, I do.
  • There’s a luxury of time for reading, writing, and hobbies
  • I can salsa dance with strangers
  • Whenever love does come, I will think of it as a miracle and be unlikely to take it for granted
  • No one snores

I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the above.  🙂

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