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What I Wish I Would’ve Known: Thoughts On Singleness from A Marriage Therapist

My husband and I didn’t get married until I was 28 years old. To some single folks, that probably sounds young. To others, 28 may sound old! What’s true is that I had a solid 10 years of living out from under my parents’ roof and “adulting” under my belt before marriage.

As someone who spends much of her time with couples in crisis, you might assume that I’d be a little gun-shy about love and marriage. But…you’d be wrong. I love love! I wish that everybody (who wants to) would find an awesome person with whom to share his or her life. I don’t think marriage is the biggest deal in life, but if it’s something that you desire, I desire it for you, too. Lots of clients have come to me over the years for help with issues pertaining to singleness and truthfully it’s one of my favorite topics to discuss. Some feel unsure about what to do with their time while they’re waiting and others are confused as to how to transition from singleness to marriage. Being a Christian and single has its own complicating factors, so “theology of dating” often an aspect of counseling as well.

Listen, I am the first to say that I don’t have all the answers, and everyone’s story is vastly different. But as for me, the following is a list of some of the things I wish I would have understood about love and marriage when I was single.

  1. Live your life. As mentioned above, I didn’t get married until I was a few months shy of 29. One thing I felt like I handled pretty well when I was single is that I didn’t live as if my life was waiting to happen when I met the right person. I picked a profession and pursued it. I served on mission trips. I found out things I was good at and things I was less-than-awesome at. I laughed and learned and talked out the finer points of life and theology with dear friends like Christian women tend to do. I bought a house. I wish I would have traveled more. One thing I did not do: wait for a spouse to kick start my adult life. Bonus: having a full and fun life is an attractive trait.
  2. Own your desire to be in a relationship. If you have a desire for something that is upheld as good and beautiful all throughout scripture…own it. God is into marriage. Don’t feel ashamed about wanting to be married! Own it. Make yourself available to it. Let other people know that you’re interested in being in a relationship. Something currently happening in Christian culture that I don’t understand is how some people think the right move is to try to convince yourself (and others) that you don’t want to get married…that you’re “totally satisfied with God alone” and only when all your satisfaction is in Him will God bring you someone to marry. (Aside: Some people are totally satisfied without a romantic relationship, And they’re called to celibacy and special service! If this is you, more power to you. There’s literally nothing wrong with that,but this blog post is not geared towards you,) I could unpack this a ton more, but the short version is that Adam hooked up with Eve before the Fall, and that need for a partner wasn’t looked down on by God. It was His idea! Lots of people think or say they’re open to a relationship, but they truly come from a place of “no” and a posture that comes across like defensiveness when it comes to dating out of fear of devastation, fear of how other’s perceive them, or elevated expectations. Love is risk and you can’t get around that. But there’s a far cry between desiring something and being perceived as “desperate.”
  3. Consider your logistics. I’ve often heard it said that if you are following God, you will basically trip over your soon-to-be spouse. While I don’t disagree with that sentiment entirely (and it totally happens for some people), I don’t think it’s ungodly to make changes in your life to position yourself better to “increase your odds.” Certainly, there are a lot of factors in finding someone with whom to spend your life. One component that I think is overlooked often because it’s not inherently spiritual is this concept of “odds.” You’ve gotta put yourself in a position to where you’re meeting new people so that you can increase your odds of finding your partner. If you don’t put gas in your car, it won’t start. If you don’t send out resumes and go to job interviews, you’re probably not going to get a new job. Why would we expect finding a spouse to work completely differently? To this end, I support making changes in your life to increase the odds of meeting someone who seems like a God-given right fit for you. Change your routine, change where you hang out, change your gym…do what you can do to widen the list of prospects. (Yes this may include online dating. Why are people so hung up about that? Talk to me about your reasons not to.)
  4. It’s not you…it’s them. Some mildly humorous person somewhere coined the phrase, “Are you single for a season or single for a reason?” But I fully believe that sometimes the reason you’re single is because you haven’t met the right person at the right time. It may have been the right person, but not the right time. Or maybe it was the right time but the wrong person. Either way, hearing a “no” from God or circumstance can be really clarifying, so appreciate the shut door, don’t over-analyze it, and move on. Don’t get too much in your own head about it. Keep being awesome. It’ll come.
  5. Well…actually, it might be you…a little bit. “I just haven’t found the right person yet.” You’re right. It might be everyone else as to the reason you’re still single. But let’s be honest: it might be you.
    One time, after listening to yet another story of me giving some poor guy a hard time (communicating like a dude to dudes…not my best tactic), my dad suggested, “you know Allison…you might think about being a little bit nicer to some of these guys.” I quickly shot down his suggestion, insisting that “the guy who is right for me will be man enough to take it.” Ok. Maybe. But also…why should he have to? And would he actually want to? Cousins with this idea is the line of “I don’t need to take care of myself physically/wear make up/wash my clothes. The person I’m supposed to be with will love me for me!” I’m all about unconditional love and support. But I also fully support putting your best foot forward in every way so as to let your inward awesomeness be reflected on the outside.
    Now hear me on this: the last thing I want for you is to be paranoid about this point. Continue pray and ask God for a sanctifying work in your life as it pertains to your relationships with the opposite sex. Listen for feedback about how you interact with females/males from people who love you and know you well. If you think you consistently fall into the same traps, it would be worth it to pursue some short term counseling to gain some perspective leading to transformation.
  6. “There’s nothing going on until it comes out of his mouth.” We’ve all been in the “grey zone” of confusion where you’re unsure if you’re just hanging out or dating. Especially when opposite sex friendships are so prevalent (and can be totally great and healthy in some instances…when neither is attracted towards the other), things can get confusing. The best thing to do here is to address the topic directly. If neither of you have brought it up, be the first to ask a brief, clarifying question. If the interest isn’t reciprocated, and you think you can maintain the friendship, go for it. If you can’t maintain the friendship without holding out hope for more, it’s time to implement some boundaries. If you’re interested in getting married, there’s no need to put a lot of time and emotional energy into a relationship where it has been clearly stated that there’s no interest. A clear “no” is a gift, if given enough time.
  7. Don’t be too narrow in what you’re looking for. “I’m just super picky.” The type of man I was looking for when I was single is not the type of man I ended up marrying. And, for this grace, I am eternally thankful. I didn’t know what I truly needed, I just knew what sounded good to me, and what cool Christians I respected talked about wanting or having. But neither of those viewpoints accurately reflected what was God’s best for me. And I’m very glad I allowed myself the space and time necessary to “test the waters” with my now husband, and determine that what he brought to the table was what I truly needed to balance me out and walk the path of sanctification. You don’t marry an idea…you marry a person. So leave room for the possibility that you may not know exactly what’s best for you. It could be the best thing you were ever wrong about!

I started off this post by stating “if you desire to be married, then I desire it for you, too.” This is honestly one of my favorite topics to address in counseling because it is one of those issues where so much improvement is available when it’s brought to the light of day. The topic of singleness/marriage is often wrought with thoughts and feelings about yourself, with God or with the opposite sex that, when examined with a therapist or other trusted person, finally have the chance to get healthy and balanced, and can lead you to a place of abundance and freedom.

God wants to use everything in our lives to reveal us more and more clearly as being made in His image. I don’t have it all figured out but I’d love to join you as you press into how this issue works for you. 

If you’re in Baton Rouge, Denham Springs, or Walker, Louisiana and want to discuss this topic or another, I’m easy to reach!