I had an interesting phone conversation the other night with one of my single girlfriends about the challenges of dating as an older single woman in our modern day culture. It reminded me all too well of the experiences, thoughts, and feelings I had when I was still in the dating scene. There were several times before I met my boyfriend, when I would question if I would just have to settle when it came to dating and eventually finding the man that I would spend my life with. I had been through several dating relationships that never worked out for one reason or another. On paper, the men that I dated were great, but it just never felt like the right fit. There was always this sense that if we were to move forward, one or both of us would be settling in one area or another. So I eventually developed this assumption that I couldn’t have my cake and eat it too…ie that I wouldn’t be able to find a man who intrigued me, inspired me, and attracted me all at the same time, and for whom I did the same. Really, it was a fear. I can laugh about it now, but in the moment, it felt very real. After some conversations with other single women my age, including the one I had with my friend on the phone the other night, I realized that I wasn’t alone. I realized that this is a common fear among older single women (and men).
So, I am writing to challenge this mind set and to encourage those of you out there who are older, single, and possibly a bit jaded when it comes to your love story. Although I am not yet married, I am in a serious and committed dating relationship with a man who far exceeds my expectations and who put to rest a lot of my fears and questions regarding this issue. Experiencing such a healthy, loving, and joyful relationship has given me so much hope to remind any of you singles out there to never settle when it comes to your dating relationships and the person you will ultimately end up with.
Let’s just admit it, humans are complex beings, and finding a relationship that is healthy, mature, honoring, and rooted ultimately in selfless love and deep friendship is no small task. Let’s stop pretending like it is. You are not alone if you are feeling this way. But at the same time, I don’t think we are to live our lives discouraged and in longing. Nor are we to waste our single years on relationships that leave us feeling broken, less-than, or unworthy of love, simply out of fear of being alone.
The truth is, God loves us, and wants the best for us, even though it might not seem like that sometimes. I’m not saying that He promises marriage and an incredible relationship to everyone, but I am saying that if He has willed that into your life story, and if you are open and patient enough to wait for the right one, you won’t have to settle. It, however, might look different than you always expected it to. I think as singles, a lot of us have this picture of the perfect partner in our mind, and anytime someone comes along who doesn’t quite fit that perfect picture, we disqualify them immediately. I think it’s good to have our standards and desires, but I also think it’s good to always be ready for them to be challenged. Then there are those of you who, if you’re honest with yourself, aren’t really opened to the idea of a serious relationship anytime in the near future. In fact, when my boyfriend and I met, that was us. We were introduced to each other by a mutual friend. At the time, my boyfriend was in the middle of building a business and spending long hours, even over the weekends, working. Let’s just say he wasn’t exactly looking for a relationship to come along and disrupt his momentum. I, on the other hand had just come out of a relationship, one week before I met him. And for the first three months that we were hanging out, also had two other men pursuing me, all the while feeling like I didn’t want any of it. I just wanted to be single. I think I just wanted my independence back and space to work towards some of my career goals. BUT clearly God had different plans. Though it took a while for us to figure things out, it ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to either of us. A couple of months ago he introduced me to this song by the band Amber Run called I Found… I guess you could say it has now become “our song”. The chorus lyric says, “I found love where it wasn’t supposed to be, right in front of me.” That is our story to a tee. And my guess is that this is the way it is for many others...love often finds you when you least expect it.
Looking back now, I am so grateful that I never settled or rushed into marriage based out of fear of being alone or pressure from society. I can say now with absolute certainty, at thirty two years old that it was well worth the wait. Hebrews 11:1 says “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance in what we do not see.” I’ve learned that faith and trust in God’s plan often is the hardest part, but it is always worth it. There was a time when I really struggled to simply trust God with my story and with my single hood. But what He always reminded me of is the fact that He is God, and I am not. That might not be the most comforting thing to hear, but it is true. If we were to have all of the answers for every question we have in this life and were never forced to exercise our faith, that would take the deity out of God, and the beautiful mystery out of the story that He is writing over our lives. I can say now that His story is immensely more beautiful and powerful than anything I could have dreamed up.
Some of my friends have asked me what set my current relationship apart from all of the others, and this is what I have said. It is the first relationship in which I didn’t experience fear… there were no red flags and it was/is marked by an overarching sense of joy and peace. Of course it isn’t perfect. Relationships never are and they shouldn’t be, because we are all imperfect humans. But believe me when I say that true soul compatibility is a thing. Finding a man who pursues you, loves you, and values you, is a thing. Living life along side your best friend is a thing. It’s not easy to find, but it exists. And I want to encourage any of you single ladies (and men) out there reading this, with that. My prayer for each of you is that you will have strength and hope in the space between almost, but not yet. That you will trust that God has your best in mind even in the moments when it doesn’t seem like it. And that you will be ready to find love in the most unlikely of places. I promise you, whether it ends up looking like you always thought it would or not, when it’s right, you won’t have to settle.