In John and Stasi Eldredge’s thought-provoking book Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul they including the following timely quote: “We think you’ll find that every woman in her heart of hearts longs for three things: to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to unveil beauty. That’s what makes a woman come alive.”
I have found in my own journey that human beings long for relationships. From the time we are children, most of us crave friendships, and as we get older that friendship often turns into a longing for intimacy. Yet, it is important to note that intimacy does not always start and stop with the sexual. I do believe that God designed sex as the fullest culmination of human joy and delight, but intimacy also means so much more. When I am having a deep conversation with a close friend and beginning to experience her life as if I were momentarily inside her own skin, I share in a non-sexual intimate moment. When I bathe someone with a developmental disability and they allow me, ever so briefly, into their world, their struggles, and their vulnerability, I have once again entered into a time of intimacy. When I am so drenched in prayer that my soul cries out for the needs of this world, I am joining in profound intimacy with Christ. All of these experiences show that it is entirely possible for a single person who has never entered into a sexual encounter of any kind (and perhaps who never will) to have moments of deep trust and intimacy. You see, singleness does not make you any less of a person… in fact, in some ways it may even make you more.
Being single is hard, especially because our culture is so romance and sex obsessed. Through media and conversations, it almost makes it appears as if someone who is not in a relationship has something wrong with them. But this is not the case. Over and over again I have read countless blogs by women who were married in their late teens and early 20s offering some form of “wisdom” about singleness. They often start off by saying something along the lines of “I have no idea what it’s like to be 30 and single, I was married at 18” (you got that right), “but I still feel I can tell you how amazing being single is.” Wait a minute: why are you telling me how amazing it is to be single when you have spent every waking moment of your adult life in someone’s arms? Do you truly know the ache and loneliness of spending Valentine’s day alone, going home to an empty apartment, or sitting down to an empty dinner table day in and day out? If not, then I don’t think you are a good authority on this topic.
Lately, I have been reflecting on singleness a lot in my own life. I have heard some of the following time and time again, but today I would like to offer it to you. I’m not saying it as a way to judge you. I’m not saying it as a 30 year old woman who is happily married with 3 kids and a 4th on the way. And I’m not saying it as someone who has taken some religious vow to life-long celibacy. Instead, I am sharing it as a co-journeyer. I am sharing it as someone who is walking the same path as you and who has experienced many of the same doubts, frustrations, and poor self-image. I therefore share these thoughts in hopes that they may also encourage you, just as they have encouraged me.
#1: It’s Not All About You
There is an inherent desire inside most of us to “fix” things. Often when our hearts perceive a problem, our minds immediately fire off suggestions for how to make it better. But this is not always realistic, nor is it healthy. That’s because not everything is a “problem” and not everything needs to be “fixed.”
In my very first L’Arche house, there was a female core member who often assumed that if we were talking about anyone or anything we were talking about her. Sometimes the best way to make it clear to her that she was not the focus, was to politely say something (in the nicest) way along the lines of “not everything is about you.” That’s the same when it comes to singleness.
You’re not the only single girl out there. There are plenty of others. Yes, some are younger than you, but many others are your age or even older. Never had a boyfriend? I know people in their 30s who have never been on a date.
The reason you haven’t been asked out, haven’t been asked out as much as you would like, or you haven’t been asked out by the right type of guys is not necessarily because you’re chubby, there’s something wrong with your hair, you don’t look good, or you don’t have a good personality. I know girls worry about these things, but time and again I have been with extremely gorgeous girls who have such a big heart and a big passion for life who have never dated. So clearly it’s not all about them. Don’t let the Devil fill your heart with these lies of self-pity or poor self-image. If you do, that is only going to compound the problem ahead of you.
#2: It’s Not All About Him
This part could be divided into both a and b.
A) Quit making your future husband fill the role in your life that only God is intended to fill. If you think you will only be happy when you are holding someone’s hand, then think again. Marriage is not a cure for loneliness, boredom, or lack of adventure. Yes, it is awesome to have someone to spend your time with. Yes, it is fantastic to come home to a pre-cooked dinner. Yes, if marriage is done correctly it can be a wonderful adventure…but there will also be many other days when you will be at each other’s throats and want to throw the towel in. Marriage is a commitment and commitments aren’t easy. You know how you tried to go on that diet last year? Well, marriage is even harder than that. Quit placing so much pressure on your future husband to be this knight-in-shining-armour and to fill each and every emotional need you may have – that’s what your girlfriends are there for!
B) If you have had 3 or 4 boyfriends in the last year, it’s time to consider your role in this. It’s not all about him. Yes, it takes two to tango. He may have made mistakes and really messed up. He may have hurt you in the process. He may have not been who he said he was. And don’t get me wrong that bites. BUT you’re not perfect either. If you are the type of girl always flitting around from one short term relationship to the other, I think you need to pause and consider why this is and how you can change it.
#3: Keep Being Who You Are
So many girls place way too emphasis on a man’s role in their life to the point of being willing to give up their own passions and dreams just in case something might work out with their new beau. To me this is foolishness of the highest order.
In marriage there will be plenty of times to sacrifice. Anytime you live with others there will have to be compromises. I have never been married but I have lived in a L’Arche community for two years and had countless roomates in university. I can tell you that although I wasn’t sexually invested into any of them nor did I have to discuss private matters like my finances with them, there are still moments when to keep the peace in the house or dorm room you will have to give up something important to you out of common courtesy and respect for those around you. In marriage, sacrifice is even more important, however, I think that to say sacrifice is the whole point of a marriage is to get it completely wrong.
To me, the point of marriage is to help each other more fully live into your dreams. I dream about getting a PhD. If I met a man who said that if we get married I have to stay at home and raise five children, I would know he was not the person for me. That’s not loving and it doesn’t fulfil my needs. Likewise, if I met a man who dreamed of having children and I didn’t want any, and yet I denied him the chance to even have one child I would know that I am not the woman for him. That would be unfair to him. I shouldn’t have to sacrifice everything for him and he shouldn’t have to sacrifice everything for me.
Unfortunately in Christian culture, I have seen time and again that it is usually the woman who ends up sacrificing way more. If you have decided that it’s okay with you to stay at home with the kids and be a homemaker then that is your decision and it should be honoured and respected. Your husband should work hard to fulfill your financial needs and to give you necessary breaks and time away from the house to pursue other interests and hobbies. But if you husband has told you that you MUST stay home with the kids and not given you any other option, then I cannot see how this is a loving partnership.
In the end of the day, being single is difficult. You may try to console yourself by thinking of all the positives such as increased independence, greater mobility, and a self-designed life, but this may not take away from your aching desire for intimate and passionate love. Through it all, God speaks to us and calls us into Himself. He reminds us of how much we are loved. We are loved regardless of our marital status. We are designed for relationships and we can experience deep friendship regardless of if we have a partner or not. It won’t always be easy, but by switching our focus away from ourselves and our future partner and on to God, I believe that we will truly experience so much more than we have ever thought of, asked for, or imagined.