Its no secret that I am a woman in my mid thirties, never married. Fortunately, the people who are closest to me have never put pressure on me to move in a direction before I was ready. My parents are not eager for their oldest daughter to give them grandchildren. None of the men I have ever dated have been eager to get married. In fact, I’ve never even been engaged. I used to resent my singlehood. Over the last ten months, I have gradually come to accept that I am just not ready to commit to anyone else. I still have a lot of work to do.
Most of my closest friends are not married, either. Some of them are divorced. Some of them have never been married. Those who are married after twenty or thirty years agree that marriage is difficult sometimes. While it might be true, sometimes, it has become discouraging to hear this all of the time, especially from people who have never been married. It is even more discouraging to hear jokes about marriage that compare it to crucifixion, and backhanded comments about the stereotypes of women or men.
If relationships are so difficult, why is it that so many people choose to get married? Why do we still commemorate the beginning of marriage with a big, expensive celebration? Why do we mourn when a marriage ends? Although Eastern Rite and Protestant churches are experiencing the same clerical shortage as Catholics, how come Catholics continue to fallaciously cite celibacy as the underlying reason for the shortage of Roman Catholic priests? If relationships are so difficult, how come we don’t have more adults signing up for a life of celibacy? How come celibacy is such a controversial, and almost impolite word?
I have no answers. I only have polite requests.
First, do not presume that I know more or less because I am unmarried. Do not presume that when I am married, I will understand any more than I know now. Being single is not easy. In a town where there are very few single people, most housing is designed for a couple or a small family. Housing is priced on two incomes, so I pay twice as much rent for twice as much space as I need. I know about paying bills. Coming home to an empty house is not always fun. There are nights when I want to talk about something that is locked up in my heart. I can call one of my girlfriends, but at this stage in my life, those topics are best reserved for therapy or for a spouse. I know isolation. I miss having a friend to curl up next to and talk about our day together. I also know that I am not married because I am earnestly not yet 100% comfortable with the way I attach myself to others. How many people can admit that? How many of us are even aware of our self-comfort level? What do I know? I know enough of myself to know I don’t know enough of myself to have a successful relationship just yet.
Second, reserve your judgement. Maybe I’m not going on dates because I have given up on dating. Maybe I’m not putting myself out there because I am not over my last relationship. I don’t want to meet someone online. I don’t want to try speed-dating. Sure, I need to be open, and I’m open to the fact that God has an amazing plan for me.
Third, stop complaining about your relationship! I grew up amidst dysfunction: my parents were not planning to be parents. My parents parted ways. When my mom remarried, it seems like there was little emotional preparation on either side. The marriage didn’t end well. Keep your jokes about the quirks of marriage, or about male and female stereotypes between you and your spouse! Even if there is a grain of truth to these comments, the humor erodes at the dignity of men and a women.
Finally, speak with affirmation of your husband, your wife, your children, but most importantly, your own self. You chose your partner for a reason. Speak of them with admiration and gratitude. A wise friend once told me that the way I speak of my past relationships is a reflection on myself. If I bash my exes, I really bash my own ability to choose partners, and it signals to anyone new that eventually, they will be part of the relationship graveyard. I don’t know about you, but I want to walk in the land of the living.