I’ll admit it; two of my largest life struggles are loneliness and jealousy.
Everyday, I wake up in the morning thinking, well so what, I’m still here. Then I look at my phone, computer or out the window and all I see is couples as far as the eye can see. And I’m still single. So begins the tune of my day.
Single is a dirty word in our culture. How can one word, two syllables, six letters strike so much fear in our collective hearts? Surely there are worse things than singleness. Like poverty, torture, persecution or the worst of all, divorce. I think the reason so many marriages are ending badly is because we’re rushing into them before the onslaught of loneliness and jealousy turns us to bitterness. The only problem is, we’re taking this bitterness to our marriages and causing premature decay from within. As Joshua Harris says, we need to carefully consider whether we’re truly ready for the sacrifice or just for the sack. In my case, I’ll admit, I see marriage as the answer to my longing to feel physical connectivity and intimacy but I wouldn’t say I’m emotionally ready to give up as much as I get.
Nevertheless, for me, singleness is my biggest heartache. Shows how fortunate I really am I guess. Since hitting my twenties, I’ve found myself moving from wedding to wedding, congregating with other single ladies as we nurse our wounds from past relationships, laugh about the horrendous dates we’ve been on and speculate on whether the handsome groomsman looking our way is seeing someone special. It’s a club and all you married people are excluded. We even have a signature ‘singles nod’ we give each other as if to say ‘still haven’t found anyone yet? The night’s still young.’ It’s more of an eye-roll I guess.
Everyone has an opinion on singleness. And everyone in a relationship is immediately made an expert in the field, equipped with advice and well-wishes for their single friends. I feel the communal sigh of disapproval as my coupled friends try to empathise with my plight “I’m sorry Emma, but you’ll find someone someday.” My personal favourite of course is the “there is a man who’s just waiting to make you his wife” card. What both of these reactions have in common is they see singleness as akin to brokenness or at the very least, incompleteness. For those of you who have said these things to me, I have one thing to say to you: if you truly believe that I am lacking something because I am unmarried, then how about you commit yourself to prayer alongside me so that I might one day join you in your wedded bliss? Seriously, I need a miracle to find a man.
But it’s difficult not to question in the depths of loneliness when we see our friends walking the aisle to their happy-ever-afters, when do I get a turn? I love all of my married friends a lot but when you walk down the aisle as a picture of white perfection, I find myself whispering ‘it could have been me’.
At the moment, I’m watching my brother organise his quickly approaching special day. He’s getting married and I’m so happy for him because I love him and my future sister-in-law so much! I wish them all the happiness in the world and I cannot wait to witness their nuptials. I’ll probably cry when they say ‘I do’. But I’m crazy jealous of them both. When I met my sister-in-law, she was nineteen. I’m now approaching my 21st and there’s not a man in sight. I pore over bridal magazines with her, feigning happiness in place of the crushing envy I actually feel. I hear my parents joyously announcing their engagement to everyone and I feel like the lesser sibling. I lie awake at night playing Brooke Fraser’s ‘Love Is Waiting’ to remind me that I’m just not ready for that sort of commitment yet. Maybe one day I’ll believe it too. Well it’s easy for you to say Brooke, you’re already married.
I think the fact that my brother is getting married exasperates my loneliness just a little. Well, it’s definitely made it more topical at least. Soon, I’ll be the only unmarried member of my home church. In preparation for my brother’s wedding, everyone’s gone insane on marriage courses and homemaking advice which leaves me feeling lost and uncomfortable, wondering if they even remember I’m still in the room. But worst still, it’s leading to the inevitable question of when I’m going to find someone. The other day, my mum and I were watching a television show about nuns and she told me that I would look nice as a nun. I’m not even going to pretend I know what she means by that…
But I want to propose something here (no, not that sort of proposal). What if we should rejoice in seasons of singleness? What if Adele got it wrong and that “someone like you” is not just around the corner? What if we should stop listening to Taylor Swift and start listening to the still small voice in our hearts that’s telling us to enjoy this season? One thing I’ve noticed in my singleness is that I have a lot of free time. What if we use this time not to wallow in the loneliness but to prepare ourselves for marriage? Joshua Harris calls this the ‘hustle while you wait’ attitude. Ladies, can you cook your man a good baked dinner? Gentlemen, do you know how to have a conversation with a girl? I’m not trying to stereotype here, I’m just trying to consider whether we should stop re-writing our ideal husband lists (we all have one) and instead look at ourselves and what we need to improve. As singles, this should be our first priority, in place of pursuing short term dating scenes that turn us into a museum of broken relationships.
It’s true, ‘single’ does start with ‘sin’ but it is not necessarily a bad thing. I know, crazy isn’t it? Some of us may have even chosen this! Even though I struggle with the bouts of loneliness that accompany singleness, I did just that – I chose to be single. I made a conscious decision to remain single for a year. It was not a New Year’s Resolution style promise that I happened to make on a whim during a dating-down time in the hope that my dashingly handsome prince was just waiting to steal me away from my promise. It was a commitment I made before God, my family and friends, to devote my singleness to falling deeply in love with the only One who can love me like I need to be loved. It is a time for me to explore and rely on God. I know cliché right? But maybe, just maybe, it’s cliché for a reason.
Even still, I look around at the men in my life and find myself lamenting ‘all the good ones are taken!’ as if the male species were a brand of toothpaste. I want to let God write my love story. I profess that I believe that He knows what’s best for me, but truth is I’m really, really afraid that God’s going to choose someone for me who I’m not attracted to. Or, I’m worried that God in all His infinite busyness has forgotten that little detail on my life’s calendar. I have a preconceived idea about when I’m meant to be married and I see that day fast approaching and so I turn to God and say ‘well, you’re very busy and I guess you may have just overlooked the fact that this guy over here is clearly my destiny!’ Strike while the iron is hot! Otherwise, be content to watch him walk away. But then reluctantly, I hand back my calendar and resolve myself to the truth I profess to know. God knows that what I want and what I need are not always mutually exclusive. All in due time.
I blame my parents (for most things really). It’s a lot of pressure to have a fairytale marriage when you’re named after Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse. Not many have the rugged elegance of Mr. George Knightly. But I’ve realised something. If my expectation of men is framed through the lens of an unmarried Victorian peasant girl, then of course I will always be disappointed. So this is my formal apology to men for my high expectations.
Too often I think we single ladies are not living in today. We are pushing away now for the promise of tomorrow when all of our dreams come true. We spend our lives thinking, life would be so much better if I had a husband/children/wedding photos to post on Facebook and make all those singles jealous (since when was ‘single’ a noun anyway?!) Marriage is not the answer to our problems, in fact it’s more likely to exasperate them. Of course, how would I know? I’m not married right? But I’ve watched my married friends and it seems to me like marriage is just God holding a mirror to our faults and making us uncomfortably aware of our failures. You can’t hide your shortcomings in a marriage. Just bare that in mind. I mean YOLO right? Live in the now. Tomorrow will worry about itself.
My challenge to you, dear reader is this: you’re evidently not content to be single, that’s why you’re reading this. Instead of cursing God for having forgotten about your imminent wedding day, instead of making lists about what he or she needs to be, make a list of what you’d lack in a relationship situation. Now go and learn everything on your list!
All the single ladies, put your hands up and be proud of this season you’re in!
Yours in the harsh truths of life and loneliness,