“Why are you still single?” I hate that question.
To me, it’s code for “What’s wrong with you?” I feel like I have to defend myself. I start to replay every decision I’ve ever made trying to come up with a good answer. Here’s the thing: I didn’t plan to be single. I always thought I’d be married. It just hasn’t worked out that way.
When I was in my 20’s, I still had a lot of growing up to do. I was all about adventure, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I just knew that I wanted to have fun, travel, and experience everything I could before I settled down. My life became about the next party, the next trip, and my next self-indulgent decision. Marriage was something I’d do someday.
As I approached 30, I began to feel like I wanted something more in life. I wanted a life with meaning. I wanted to know my purpose. I decided that the best way to find my purpose was to go back to church. This was kind of scary because I was pretty sure that God wasn’t pleased with my party girl lifestyle and the choices I’d made. I ended up at a church called Crossroads and something connected for me. Instead of pursuing adventure and the next party, I started pursuing God.
One weekend, Crossroads was talking about sex. I wasn’t really interested in what God had to say about sex because that horse had already left the barn. In fact, at the time, I was hanging out with this really cute guy who lived across the street. And there were great benefits. But something in the message clicked for me, and I began to think that dating my way wasn’t working out very well. Maybe instead of just learning more about God, I should try doing what He says. So I went home and told the cute neighbor guy that there would be no more benefits. He literally thought I was crazy. But, I felt bold in this decision, and I was confident that it would pay off for me. In fact, I was so confident that I decided to quit dating for a while. I believed that before I could get married, I needed to be a good partner. And I thought the best way to do that was to become the woman God created me to be.
I put in my time. I grew in my faith, and I felt like God and I were good. I had a great community of friends, and I liked the woman I’d become. Mission accomplished. I was ready to get married. As it turns out, there wasn’t a line of men outside my door just waiting for me to become marriage material. So, I expectantly entered the world of online dating. It was working for a lot of my friends, but I was not prepared for what was in store for me.
Online dating is a lot of work. It feels like a stressful second job. Let’s start with the photos. I am not photogenic, and I haven’t mastered the art of taking a selfie. The pressure to post the perfect profile pic made me want to quit this stupid second job. But, I persevered. I moved on to writing my profile, answering questions, and then I hit the “send me matches” button with gleeful anticipation.
One dating service has you answer five questions from your matches before any other communication can begin. I took my time and provided what I believed to be witty answers. I didn’t hear back from one person. I didn’t go on one date. Eventually, I received a message stating that they had to expand my search area because, apparently, no one within a 50-mile radius wanted to date me.
I tried other services that don’t require as much up-front work. People lie. One guy spent an entire evening trying to convince me that being separated is the same thing as being divorced. No, it’s not! You are still married. What I thought was going to be a date ended up being more like a counseling session with me trying to convince the guy that perhaps he should fight for his marriage.
Side note: Can we chat about set-ups? Sometimes I felt like my friends just didn’t know me. Pro tip: Just because two people are single does not mean that they are a perfect match.
It wasn’t all terrible. I did have some great first dates that turned into more dates. But, men in their 40’s can still have kids. It turns out that a lot of them aren’t interested in marrying a woman who has passed her childbearing years. They want to marry a woman in her early 30’s who can still have kids. This was a tough pill to swallow. I’d been doing things God’s way, and it wasn’t panning out for me. Meanwhile, I had friends who were living with people, and they got married. I had friends having sex outside of marriage, and they end up married. Why them and not me? It just didn’t seem fair. I quit—no more dating for me.
Then I was sitting in service one weekend, and the senior pastor, Brian Tome, was giving another message on marriage and sex. What? Hello! Bitter party of one here. The last thing I want to do is hear about happily married people having great sex.
And then Brian said something that would change my life. It felt like he was speaking directly to me when he said, “I’m sorry to say this, but God doesn’t promise us that we get to experience everything there is to experience here on earth. Some people are born without eyesight and don’t get to see. Some people can’t hear. Some people can’t walk. And some people won’t get married.”
Bam. I hadn’t really thought of marriage as just one of the millions of things we might experience in life. I began to think about my own life and everything that I’d experienced. Starting with the fact that I grew up in a loving family with two parents. Sadly, not everyone has a happy childhood. And then there were things like going to summer camp, piano lessons, playing sports, and going to college. I once lived on a resort island, and I spent a summer backpacking through Europe. And then there were crazy things like filling in as guest co-host on a popular morning radio show, helping to build houses in New Orleans, and I spent ten years with the best job ever as a publicist for touring Broadway shows. And you know what? I didn’t deserve any of it. So to sit and dwell on the fact that I’m not married, just felt like I was insulting God and the amazing life He’s given me.
Here’s the thing. I don’t believe that God is cruel. So, I asked him to remove the desire to get married if it wasn’t in the cards for me. The desire didn’t go away completely, but I began to worry less about being alone. Finding the right guy no longer consumed my thoughts. I was able to be present and enjoy my life.
I can’t wrap this up in a tidy bow for you. I can’t say that being single feels like a gift. We live in a broken world, and we don’t always get what we want. But there is good news. We have a good Father. And God hasn’t left me hanging. I have a great life, and there’s more to come. I’m healthy. I have a family, I have friends, I have a good job, I have a really cool dog, and I’m happy. I’m just not married. And you know what? If not getting married is the worst thing that happens in my life, then I think I’m pretty lucky.
What strikes you most about Nancy’s story? Why?
What does being single feel like for you? Share with friends or write as many descriptors as you can.
Then look over your list and ask: did these come from God or culture? Are they real? If they’re real emotions or reflective of God, embrace them. If they’re fears or lies you’ve picked up, let them go
Regardless of whether marriage is on the horizon or not, what’s a way you can live more fully right now?
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