During my years of extended singleness, there were a number of things I did willingly or unwillingly to either cope with the pain of unwanted singleness or attempt to rid myself of the status.
Some of those things—hypersensitivity to people’s off-handed comments, elaborate pity parties, comfort food, sarcasm, tears… may not have been the most edifying choices. But in post-wedding/baby hindsight, some of the things I did to cope with my unwanted singleness were the things that best prepared me for marriage.
One disclaimer before you read on. At the time, I did not choose to do these things out of great wisdom or faith that they might prepare me for a life with the husband I was choosing to believe God for. No. I struggled (mostly unsuccessfully) every day to choose to hope for a husband while facing the reality that God is good, but His plan for me may not include a husband.
The following strategies evolved from desperation. But, at my core, I wanted that desperation to be productive, life-giving to myself and others, and, above all things, one that didn’t end in bitterness. I wanted to learn to hope in God and not just for a husband. In other words, I wanted to hope in truth—not circumstances, but alas, I still struggle with this.
Here are some of the things I might have done right that have, in the end, greatly prepared me for marriage:
#1: I invested in friendships with women: At the time, it seemed that there were no men, so what choice did I have, right?! Not every girls-night out was fun, and it got old to hang out with women seemingly all the time. But, I have great friends, and I have needed these friends in new and different ways to be a good wife. I miss these friends and the time to process and emote with sympathetic ears. It turned out also to be a good investment to have maintained friendships with married friends while I was single. Many of these friendships have been critical sources of encouragement and wisdom as we grow our marriage and family.
#2: I made the most of my freedom: It sounds clichéd, but I did travel the world, embraced professional challenges, ate at great restaurants, slept in, worked out when I wanted, splurged on vacations, took photography and creative writing classes, visited family, bought fun clothes, went to grad school, rented an amazing house in Georgetown, hosted elaborate dinner parties, got a dog, binge read books, spent lazy days at museums, took a 6 month sabbatical that included volunteering at a vineyard and learning to knit!
I generally followed my curiosity where it led. The lump in my throat and pit in my stomach of wanting to be married did all these things with me, but now that that longing has been satisfied (and replaced with others), I still did all those things, treasure the memories, retain the confidence, and have no regrets that I got a chance to explore and get to know myself in ways that it’s harder to do while married.
#3: I became more teachable: Some who know me might challenge this statement, but I will say that dating—especially during the years I was fasting and praying—made me much more teachable. I took to heart the third prong of our prayers for God to show me where I needed to change. Just that prayer softened my spirit and opened my ears to what friends might have to teach me about my personality and preferences.
I also became much more open to whom God might have as my partner as opposed to the fantasy-man I continued to enhance in my mind and the image of him to whom I continued to enslave myself. I did not settle for the man who rescued me from my fantasy; I got way more than I even asked or imagined in him. But, I would not have been open to him without the many years of singleness that felt like they were breaking me but pushed me towards a teachable spirit.
#4: I cried out to God: I discovered intimacy with Jesus from of the pain I felt as a single person. I wanted a man to share life with, but by sharing my sorrow with Jesus, I learned that God was crazy-in-love with me, despite the things I didn’t like about myself.
I felt alone, but I learned that I was not. Now that I do share life with a wonderful man and a precious son, I still feel alone sometimes. But, I don’t expect my husband to meet all my needs—or even to understand them all. And, my toddler has his own needs that sublimate most of mine. I practiced the presence of God when I was single out desperation, and it is the presence that tethers me now. I cried out to Jesus in my singleness, and He showed up and will continue to do so.
My intended and unintended strategies have worked out for God’s glory and my good. I am stronger, and my marriage is stronger as a result.