When I turned 30, I thought I was finally spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually ready to find my "Mr. Right." I'd read numerous self-help books that had enabled me to "fix" myself so I could attract a man—and then fulfill my destiny to live happily ever after.
My church singles' group was a single woman's paradise: filled with lots of single, professional, attractive men. I thought, With this pool of men, finding a husband's going to be easy!
Sure enough, within a few weeks of my new quest, I met John. We started talking to each other frequently after church and at social activities, and for months I enjoyed the attention he showed me. I just knew John was the man for me.
So you can imagine my surprise when, a few months later, John asked out my friend Mary. I couldn't believe it! I felt so stupid.
But since I'm a survivor, I moved on and met Tom, whom I found charming, intelligent, attractive, and attentive. Frequently our eyes met across the room, and he'd smile and wink. But after months of flirting and getting my hopes up, Tom still hadn't asked me out—and I started to resent him.
My patience was wearing thin, and to top it off, my friend Sara told me she was interested in Tom. I didn't want to feel jealous if Tom asked out Sara instead of me, so I decided to ask Tom how he felt about me. My great expectations were shattered when Tom told me, "I think of you as a friend."
I was ready to give up the whole scene. But when I cooled off enough to listen to God, I was able to identify my four struggles with living single—and even learn to appreciate its advantages.
Struggle #1: Jealousy toward other women
It's easy for me to be jealous of women who are dating or married to wonderful men. When I focus on these women's lives, I start to believe I'm getting a raw deal.
I've discovered a lot of women—single and married—struggle with jealousy. Imagine my surprise when my married friends tell me they envy me sometimes because, as one friend says, "It must be nice to have time to yourself." The reality is, most married women spend much of their time doing for others. They usually cook dinner, solve disputes between their kids, wash clothes for their whole family, entertain their children and husband, pack lunches, and the list goes on. Although these women love their families, they sometimes get discouraged by the seemingly endless sacrifices they make.
When I think of my life as a single woman, I realize I've made few sacrifices for others. I've worked hard to complete my education and start a career, but the sacrifices I've made have been for the sake of my own aspirations. Most married women sacrifice some of their own dreams to give their time and energy to help others reach their goals.
I'm sure there'll always be days when I struggle with jealousy toward other women because they have a companion, and I don't. But if I keep myself busy pursuing goals besides marriage, such as traveling and learning to play the guitar, then I'll spend more days feeling thankful for my independence than being jealous that other women have a mate.
Struggle #2: Resentment toward single guys
Most single women resent men who seem to have "commitment-phobia." For years I wondered why some men take weeks, months, even years, to ask out a woman to whom they're attracted.
I found the answer in Why Christian Men Don't Date by Otto Haugland. In it, Otto says some men are afraid of rejection. Others are afraid they don't make enough money to support a wife. And some men simply can't decide when it's the right time to ask out a woman.
Over the past several years, I've discovered men exist for purposes other than to satisfy my need for romantic fulfillment. When I stopped viewing men as potential prospects for romantic relationships, a whole new world of friendship opened to me. And when I started valuing men for the platonic companionship they're willing to give, I started feeling a lot less resentful toward the male species.
Struggle #3: Anger toward God
Instead of being thankful for everything God's given me—his love, my salvation, a college education, a profession in teaching and writing, a good church that provides biblical teaching and fellowship, an apartment in a safe area, a dependable car—I've focused my thoughts on what I lack: a husband.
After all, "The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him'" (Genesis 2:18). This fits into what I was told when I was growing up—that one day I'd meet someone, fall in love, and live happily ever after. As a result, I grew up believing I was entitled to romantic love and couldn't be truly happy without it. When I remained single year after year, I believed I was being denied the happiness that comes from romantic love. So I grew angry at God, since he's the One who could do something about this "problem."
I've found the only way to overcome my anger is to remember God's promises: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'" (Jeremiah 29:11). As much as I'd like to interpret this verse to mean God's going to give me a future that includes a husband, that's not what he's promised.
Yet I'm a bride in God's eyes, according to Hosea 2:19—"I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion." Knowing I'm a bride of Jesus Christ doesn't always take away my de-sire for a relationship, but I feel secure knowing Jesus loves me more than I can fathom. This kind of love and faithfulness surpasses what earthly companions offer, because men aren't saviors, and romantic love isn't the only way to obtain happiness, as some romantic novels and movies would have me believe.
Struggle #4: Self-pity
I've found jealousy, resentment, and anger ultimately lead to self-pity. And self-pity usually comes from feeling powerless. I can't control God's or men's actions; therefore, I don't have complete control over my dating life.
When I start to feel sorry for myself about this lack of control, I welcome the advice, "It's the 21st century. If you like a man, ask him out." This appears to be good advice because it puts me in a more powerful position than just waiting for "divine Providence."
But when I ask men in my singles' group what they think about women asking them out, they say they aren't too keen on it. In their minds, when a woman pursues a man, he doesn't feel a responsibility toward the relationship, so it's easier to break it off or never to make a genuine commitment. This doesn't sound fair because it places men in the one-up position. But if this is the way men think, then I need to appreciate their honesty and take it as advice.
It took me a long time to appreciate the advantages to being single, such as having time to myself. With this time I've been able to complete my Master's degree, travel, and enjoy many nights of relaxation when I haven't had to worry about meeting the needs of a husband or children. Most days I'm thankful for these blessings.
I still desire male companionship, but I'm single and surviving. As a matter of fact, most days I'm really happy—even though my dating stories probably won't receive any awards in the genre of romantic literature.
Elizabeth Powell, a college English instructor, lives in Michigan.
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