Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thoughts on Singleness

I am single. I mean, genuinely single, not the "I'm in a serious relationship but not yet engaged/ married" kind of single. I am not dating anyone. I don't even anticipate dating for awhile yet. If the right person comes along, that's great . . . and if not, that's fine too.

Our culture has 2 key expectations of single people, and honestly, I think they're really troubling. First, as a general observation, single people are expected to enter into relationships as soon as possible. Secondly, if you are single, you are not expected to like it. Or to phrase that perhaps more accurately, you ARE expected NOT to like it. We don't really have any notions in our society of finding a time of singleness deeply satisfying and enjoyable, or being a valuable opportunity to learn and grow. Singleness is typically considered to be an inferior condition that any sensible person would want to remedy just as soon as possible. Sometimes I think people forget that it takes two people to get married or to form a relationship. That sounds so obvious, but think about what that really means. I can't just wake up one morning and write in my planner, "Find a man and start a relationship today." I can't do it because it doesn't just depend on me! There is always going to be another person involved. If I am supposed to be in a relationship with someone, they have to be open to being in that relationship with me and our lives have to cross paths in such a way that we meet and get to know each other. I can't make a "goal" to not be single anymore because that's not something I can accomplish myself. It always requires another person, and the right timing.

I sometimes get asked variations on this question: "Why are you still single?" On the surface, it may seem like a fairly innocuous inquiry, and granted, most of the people who ask the question really do mean well and care about me (and I don't make these comments to tear them down, but rather to shed some light on how these questions actually feel to people who are single). Most of the people who ask this question are either in committed relationships of their own or married. I have some married friends who I love and whose friendships I really value, and I would never turn to them or to any other married person and ask them, "Why are you still married?" I bet you wouldn't even think of asking that, either. To me, the "why are you still single?" question is incredibly analogous. We single people struggle to come up with a socially acceptable response to that question, and I often end up saying something like, "Well, I'm just too busy with school/ work/ etc. to be in a relationship right now." What I really want to say is either "God has not brought the right person into my life yet, and I won't settle for less than His best just because I'm expected to "cure" my singleness as if it were something wrong with me" or, more simply, "I'm single because right now, I want to be and I enjoy it." It's true--right now, God has called me to be single. I am very satisfied with where I am in my life, and I'm not rushing out to try to change my relationship status on Facebook. This is the first time in my life I have ever lived fully on my own, without family or roommates, and I have learned so much about myself and about my relationship with God as a result. I don't want to be rushing into relationships just because I feel pressured to do so.

As a woman, I react strongly to the idea that I cannot reach my full potential without a man. To the idea that I am "incomplete" without a relationship with a guy. That idea throbs through our culture, and every single woman is acutely aware of it. People say things like, "It won't be long now before you're bringing a guy home to meet your parents." I would like to say, but what if it is? Or what if that never happens? Will I have somehow disappointed you? I understand that this is rarely the intention behind the words, but as a woman, what I hear when people continually ask me if I've met a guy yet is, "You are not good enough on your own. You must rely on a man to do what God wants you to do. You need a man to give you a voice, because as a woman, you don't really have one just on your own."

If you enter a relationship with the expectation that the other person will magically "complete" you, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. People can complement each other, push each other to be better, challenge each other, love each other . . . but they can't complete each other.

I am already complete. I am whole. I am not a fractional part just sitting around waiting for my better half to come along. I will not wait to start my life, pursue my dreams, or achieve my ambitions until I am in a relationship. I will not waste my singleness in passivity and discontentment. Instead, I will enjoy and value it for what it is worth.

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