“Will I get married, Siri?”
I was in my mid-30s, still waiting for my man to materialize. College and grad school? Check. God, apparently, was in no hurry to marry me off, so more check marks followed: finishing postdoc; getting licensed; starting my practice.
Meanwhile, grad school friends had taken the same amount of time not just to get their degree, but also get married, buy a house, and, ahem, procreate. Some went ahead to then hit the reset button, get divorced, and marry spouse #2.
Marrying twice? I couldn’t even snag spouse #1!
Marriage eluded me for almost a decade past the age I planned to be a Mrs. It meant getting used to seeing peers pair off, spending weekends solo, asking guy friends to change my insanely awkward water filter system, undergoing painful introspections and dodging relatives’ questions.
“When will you marry?”
I aimed the same inquiry at the Lord every time discouragement set in. Like a strict parent, He informed me that marriage wasn’t happening until after grad school.
Well, that was 6 years and thousands of dollars in student loans ago. Time kept ticking, though, so to lighten my mood I decided to ask Siri. Perhaps my smart phone could enlighten my quest.
“Maybe you’re looking for love in all the wrong places,” came her wisecrack answer.
Sigh to you, Siri.
But as it turns out, I would have qualified to participate in a study about singlehood.
Data from such a study show that waiting for marriage can be hazardous . The researcher compared the never-marrieds’ emotional well-being to that of their married counterparts. The study’s result was, well, depressing: Those who were still waiting to end singleness had more depressive symptoms.
Why, you ask? According to the researcher, the never-married participants in the study felt burdened by singleness. The burden manifested as depression.
But singleness doesn’t have to be a burden. One way to avoid the stress is by enjoying singleness. I know, I know — easier said than done, speak for yourself and all that.
But there is more to life than marriage, while there isn’t more to marriage past this life (Mark 12:25, AMPC). Why let depression drag your world down for nothing more than a seasonal event?
Late as he was, my Prince Charming eventually whisked me off to Marriageville. May your waiting end with an “I do,” too, if marriage is on your bucket list. But for now, let’s focus on what you can do to keep the waiting from withering you.
1. Consider your current circumstances.
See your life through the eyes of potential romantic partners. Is an upgrade necessary? Inspect every part of your life: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social and financial. Do you need to scrub any bad habits?
Better yet, quiz your closest friends and family members on it.
Before you balk, let me tell you about a birthday party I once attended. The birthday boy asked us to list his areas of growth. Out. Loud.
The amount of squirming that resulted rivaled a team of tweens at the school dance.
Spare your party guests the strain, but please practice the daring idea. Think about the benefits: First, it shows you have close friends with whom to consider sensitive matters. Great! You must’ve possessed good enough relational skills to develop such trusty confidantes. (Which, by the way, tells you that you know how to develop an intimate relationship with a romantic interest too. The skillset is practically identical.) Quite an uplifting find, don’t you think?
Giving loved ones the permission to speak into your life will give you insider information on blind spots you can now fix.
2. Develop conflict resolution skills.
Say you attempted the exercise and your girlfriend lost no time in touting, “You need to grow a thick skin.” Which, naturally, hurts. But do you know how to resolve this conflict? Relationships and conflicts are like cake and calories — they travel together. Storing up hard feelings and exploding in anger are equally destructive to intimate relationships. So do the hard work now. Learn to work through conflicts and let go of offenses.
3. Carve meaning into your life.
Whether it’s learning a new language, volunteering your time or improving your marketable skills, use this period of time to enrich your life. There will be little room left for depression if you keep your plate stuffed with wholesome activities.
4. Clean up old hurt.
Have you resolved resentment, hurt and regrets from the past? Sorting out leftover emotional baggage frees up mental space to accommodate the new. This step makes it more possible for a romantic relationship to take root.
5. Cling to Jesus.
My pastor’s wife taught that single women have it better than wives because their Husband is perfect. Being single does afford you more time to dig into the letters the Lover of your soul left for you. The by-product of such a love affair is a shored-up spiritual tank, which will come in handy when the waiting gets tough. After all, a strong spirit can take on any suffering (Proverbs 18:14, Aramaic Bible in Plain English).
Will you get married? Neither I nor Siri have the answer. But so what? You’re not here to wait for singleness to wrap up anyway.
Here’s to a life brimming with meaning. It thrives with — or without — marriage.
Dr. Audrey Davidheiser is a licensed psychologist, writer and word lover. She has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, an M.A. in theology, and a B.S. in neither (It’s in biochemistry). She supervises predoctoral graduate students at The Dream Center counseling center and sees clients at her private practice. She likes to work with trauma survivors, single adults and graduate students, but not necessarily in that order. Visit her writing space at DrAudreyD.com.