It had to happen sooner or later…
In less than five days I will put off my singleness for the foreseeable future and join the ranks of the “married.” I will finally be checking the box “Married” on all those stupid legal documents and survey profiles. I will henceforth be never more known as “Single, Never Married”.
While this new marital state will certainly bring me just as much fodder for blog material (Celebrating Marriedness anyone?), I feel like I should at least give a little effort to polish off the blog series “Celebrating Singleness” with a few parting thoughts from my time I spent as a single man and single Mormon.
The Dangerous Spiral
Looking back on my singleness, and the singleness of others, success was measured more by direction than speed. In other words, which way you are spiraling? I have personally experienced times in both life and love when I was spiraling upward – with things going well and falling into place, but have also had those times when things violently spiral out of control and down the tubes.
Your attitude on love and the possibility of a future relationship is the most dangerous downward spiral. You can go quickly from hopeful to expectant, expectant to entitled, entitled to impatient, impatient to cynical, cynical to jaded, jaded to bitter. Before you know it, you’ve turned into an angry, bitter person who no one wants to be around because all you do is poo poo life because of your perceived injustice.
I’ll Be Ready When I’m Ready
There’s no use taking the food out of the oven early when it’s just not ready. You can’t make the food cook faster, and you can’t force someone to be ready by an arbitrary deadline to take a spouse.
I went through several times in my life where a relationship just wasn’t an option. I wasn’t equipped for it. It wasn’t on my radar, and it wasn’t a priority. I shudder to think now what kind of relationship decisions I might have made then, and where I’d be now if I had.
Life is a long, grueling process of personal refinement. Some people just get to do more of that while they’re single than while they’re married.
Everything Works Out In The End
If I could go back five, two, or even one year ago and give myself some advice, it would be this: “Stop thinking about it, worrying about it, and just get in the game.”
You can’t make anything happen from the sidelines, and even though the game can get dirty and people can get their eyes poked out, it’s how singleness is done. I’ve never had a quality, meaningful relationship which fell right into my lap.
I’d tell myself, “just date to have fun and have friends.” Don’t look at every first date as an audition for a spouse. Date to find someone you really, really like. Then comes the hard part, give them some room to decide if they like you. Give them space to decide that, and don’t rush them. Play the field while they do. Invariably, your pursuing or being pursued by others will give them more incentive to decide.
In the meantime, work on yourself. Make yourself a person that you would like. Actually become that person (don’t just pretend you are that person), and then be comfortable with who you are rather than focusing on what you’re not.
True Friends are True Always
Because of the dirty, messy, violent nature of the game, things can get uncomfortable at times. You are going to go through some difficult times, and at times it seems like the whole world is against you. In this situation, you need true friends – teammates – people who will be true to you through thick and thin and in you darkest times.
Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics
I’ve seen a few people, men and women, fall victim to the falsehood that being a little less active in their religion will somehow increase their dating chances, success, or ‘hotness’ of their spouse. Quite to the contrary, dangling off the edge of religous activity will almost surely guarantee that they’ll find someone as lukewarm as they are, and then you’ll both be in for a rude surprise when you expect from them a full commitment to your religion and values.
Look for someone who’s fully committed to something. Avoid those who can’t commit to anything.
It’s Not All About You
During my single life, I had the most joy when I was actively outside of myself, serving others and making a difference in the world. Certainly, there were times when I needed to hole up and take care of myself, but they were the exception rather than the rule. If you’re unhappy, serve. If you’re lonely, serve. Volunteer. Do something. And look for someone who is doing the same. There’s nothing more draining on a giver than being in a relationship with a taker, and there’s nothing more miserable than being in a relationship with two takers.
You’ll Just Know
I dont’ believe that there is a one soul-mate destined for each person. I do believe, however, that there are right relationships and wrong relationships, and only you will know it.
It took me a while to figure this out, though. I am one who likes to be prepared by learning from others’ experiences. I would ask, “How will I know when I’ve met the person I will marry?” Many people said, “You just know.” I hated this answer, but it was right. I knew it was right because I found myself using that exact phrase to describe how I knew it was right to proceed with my current relationship. I just knew. I just felt that it was right at every turn, and felt like I should proceed as we made it to each relationship milestone.
Being the Decider
Everyone will give you advice about your relationship, but no one knows the inside of a relationship other than the two people. So you can listen to others, but recognize that no one will ever have enough information or detail to tell you exactly what you should do.
You alone can decide.
This is one of those times where it doesn’t help to have any outside opinions or expertise. When you can’t learn from anyone else’s experience. It happens to every person differently, and you will have a totally unique story of how you met, fell in love with, and ultimately decided to make an ultimate commitment to your spouse.
My single life has been great and terrible! I’ve been through heaven and hell. I have enjoyed incredible opportunities, unique challenges, and life altering experiences. I have had regrets. I have wanted do-overs. I’ve been lonely, and I’ve been swarmed with friends. I’ve bemoaned my existence, and been on top of the world. I’ve felt accomplished, and I’ve felt like the bottom of the barrel.
Joy is derived from life by experiencing the contrasts and opposites. The whole point of this series, though, has been to point out that “single” and “married” are not opposite ends of the happiness/misery scale. One can be single or married and find joy in life. Joy can be found in either relationship state, and life can be lived fully and vibrantly no matter which bubble you fill in on line 1 of your 1040…
So go ahead… Keep celebrating your singleness!