Here’s something they don’t tell you when you get to be almost forty and are still single-never-married:
If the opportunity arises to change your status, you may suddenly find you don’t want to take it. Or at least that you’re very unsure about it.
No, I’m not engaged, nor have I been quite asked the question which would lead to my giving an answer which would lead to my getting engaged. But the fact is, it turns out marriage may not be entirely out of the realm of possibility for me after all. Because of this, I’m finding out that feelings about “tying the knot” may vary depending on how likely the prospect is. Also that men are not the only ones with commitment issues.
As a young teenager, I wanted to get married, but I’m not really sure what I thought that was all about, because I was pretty much afraid of boys for a long time. I liked them, I just didn’t know what to do about them. It didn’t get much better in college, although I had many more male friends. As I’ve previously mentioned, I didn’t manage to have a significant relationship until I was 36, and while I deeply loved the Milk Guy and our relationship lasted two years and I desperately wanted to marry him, I suspect some of the desperation was because deep down, I knew what he knew, which was that there were too many differences and obstacles between us to have a successful rest-of-our-lives relationship. So (although it was really exhausting and I would have done better to have chilled out about it) there was something almost “safe” about the anxiety and desperation, because chances were pretty good we never were going to marry, though, and so we’d never actually have to try to make it work.
Before that I had gone through other incarnations of desperate longing, but I didn’t even get to the point of dating any of those guys, so again . . . no need to actually process what marriage to any of them (or marriage of any of them to me) might have meant. And since then I’ve dated around, and while I can’t say I’m good at it or that it’s really a preference of mine, I do kind of enjoy meeting new people and at least for a while there, there was this feeling like, What if I pick the wrong guy?
But this time? It’s . . . different. And let’s just say I’m processing. I keep thinking about how I used to want to be a missionary overseas for the rest of my life, and now that I’m dating a guy who doesn’t feel any sort of calling like that (yet!), I think to myself, What if I’m called to go back overseas or something? But the fact is, I’m not overseas right now, and I haven’t been in some years, and I’m pretty sure such ideas at this point are just escape routes because I’m finding I’m afraid of commitment.
It’s one thing to like the idea of companionship and lifelong friendship and, heck, sex . . . but it’s something else to face the other side of that coin which is that one’s formerly self-absorbed lifestyle is going to have to undergo some serious adjustment. I think I knew I was selfish, but you don’t really know how selfish you are, do you, until another person enters the mix? Now I’m having to revisit my calling, and reconsider my education (if I got a full-ride scholarship to Princeton, say–unlikely, but just rhetorical–and the Boyfriend decided to propose or something . . . well, should I stay and get married, or leave and get extra educated?), and come to terms with the fact that I’d have to get rid of an awful lot of stuff. I always prided myself on not putting too much stock in stuff, but honestly, I also have prided myself on how I only own things with stories behind them, which means that getting rid of any of it is . . . not easy. It turns out, I’m finding, despite all my years of moaning about it, that there are some things about singleness that I really like. Staying up and writing this blogpost, for example, without worrying about keeping anybody up except Oscar, who sleeps all day anyway.
I was talking to Starbecca about this about a week ago, and she (being a single-never-married thirty-something Christian woman as well) said, “Um . . . you might want to rethink that.” We agreed that if I took a poll regarding whether I should marry someone I loved if I had the opportunity, or chase a career, most people we know in the secular world would counsel me not to let a man define me or let one hold me back from my “full potential,” whatever that may be. But I think that most Christians I know (many of them not being sold on the ordination of women in the first place) would counsel marriage just because the Church by and large is so uncomfortable with the presence of singles.
Then there’s ninja-bathroom-Patrick who said, when I mentioned my decision about transferring to Princeton might be somewhat dependent on how things went with my Boyfriend, “LDR! Long-distance relationship! Or break up with him. My mom says you could work on Wall Street or live in a cardboard box and you can always find someone to date you.” I didn’t bother telling him, 23-year-old that he is, that this is not always true and that even when it is, you can’t count on “someone to date you” being someone of character with whom you just might want to spend the rest of your life and who it would be a mistake to pass up.
None of this feedback answers the question of what God would want me to do, given certain choice options. Nor do they address the fact that I really enjoyed traipsing around Princeton by myself. Or the fact that I think I would have enjoyed it even more, had the Boyfriend been there.