(Listen to the audio version of this article here.)
I’d like to tell you about my ex. I mean exes. I’d like to share a poignant account of my time being single, and how I survived a string of unhealthy relationships before resting firmly (and a bit unassured) in the coveted marriage and motherhood status.
I’d like to paint an atrocious picture of love gone wrong, of an incredibly insecure and trauma-ridden little girl who grew up to jump in bed with any old crack pot who wanted to be with her (and there were more than a few—God, I hope my kids never read this).
Maybe I’d weave in some funny stories here and there—like the time I woke up on an Easter morning late for brunch with a blinding hangover, looking around only to discover I was in an apartment plastered in pin-up girl posters from the 1940s with a girl from college algebra drooling on the pillow next to me.
Here we go. In no particular order:
Cadillac, The Narcissist, Bull Rider, Mr. Pushy, DD (Drug Dealer), the Porn/Food/Gambling Addict, Mr. Daddy Issues, Farmer Joe and Mark(s). Just a note that this list may or may not be all inclusive and to any ex reading this: this article is not about you.
Are you ready for the juicy details?
Just a minute.
If I opened a door into that part of my life, that long-winding wretched part of my past, it will be interesting, but I’m not sure it would be funny. Parts of it would never make it to print. The rest would mortify my mother and require a lot of disinfectant and tissues to clean up.
Can you relate?
Why Do I Choose Messy Relationships over Singleness?
For too many of us, these long strings of unhealthy relationships (and perhaps you are still in one of them) are the norm, especially for women like me. Even if you lived a Pollyanna upbringing, there is still so much pressure to do the thing (marriage) that we often end up settling for the worst versions of our fathers (if we look close) or worse, our little brothers.
Long gone are the days of love at first sight or marrying your high school sweetheart as a doe-eyed virgin in a letter jacket. Enter the confusing and subjugating era of Tinder and Instagram and whatever other new app has been created to commodify Insta-relationships and sex.
Now, I say all of this recognizing that I am being a bit hyperbolic here (my husband likes to say I’m fond of hyperbole). If you are like me and have to Google what this even means: hyperbole is (according to the Oxford Dictionary) exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. So, when I tell my husband, “You always wake up cranky” or “You never take out the trash without me harping on you,” this might be hyperbolic.
So, I recognize that this might not be everyone’s experience and maybe you did marry your high school sweetheart. My best friend from kindergarten did. What I am saying is that this has not been my experience. And it isn’t the experience of many women that I’ve come to know intimately. Many of us have wrestled with toxic relationships, wrestled with feeling worthy of love, and wrestled with God. We’ve wrestled to escape from the shackles of our pasts that have dug into our skin and made wounds that won’t stop bleeding. We choose this over singleness.
So, where is the good news, the hope here?
Trust me, it’s coming.
For most of my life, what I longed for in a relationship was always just out of reach—and also 100% unrealistic. I drank in the images from media and romantic comedies that in no way reflect the reality of a true partnership and life-long commitment. My perfect man was always an unattainable one. Think George Clooney in the early days of ER or if you weren’t born in the 80s, Tim Tebow. Not only was I in my own way—even my idea of a healthy relationship was counterfeit.
But don’t fret—this shy girl with horrible taste in men ended up finding love. It walked right through the door and broke my heart open (in a good way). But this didn’t happen overnight. It happened after years of (unwonted) singleness.
I wish I would have treasured the moment a bit more, seen the opportunity in being single. If you are reading this right now and connecting in any way, there is some good news! You have time to walk in this chapter of your life in a way that honors your singleness.
My plea to you right now (in the form of a cutesy list) is this:
1. Enjoy the moment.
This moment in time will never return. Enjoy every second of sleeping without someone stealing the covers or requiring a firmer mattress than you’d like. Savor the moments of eating take-out Chinese food in your underwear and washing clothes when you feel like it. Laugh with your friends and appreciate being able to go out with them whenever.
2. Learn about who you are.
Being single is the perfect opportunity to get to know yourself. What you like, don’t like. What kind of books you like to read, what color hair you like to have and the stuff under the surface, the important stuff, like what kind of relationship you want or what kind of faith you want to grow.
3. Focus on what you can bring to a relationship (not what Tim Tebow can).
Some of the best dating advice I’ve gotten is this: don’t focus on what kind of man you want. Focus on what kind of woman you want to be in a relationship. What can you bring? Work at cultivating those characteristics. Ask God to bring you there.
Over the years, during my single years, I struggle to know that God would pave a way and clear the journey ahead. In Deuteronomy (which is in the Old Testament), one of my favorite all time quotes in Scripture is this:
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” -Deuteronomy 31:8
No matter where you are going or what you are doing or not doing, sweet single ladies, God has a plan. He is paving a way. In the meantime, recognize that you are already on the path that He has prepared for you. Enjoy it.
Our interactions with men while dating can get messy! Ever wonder what the Bible has to say about the nitty gritty things? Find out here: Are There Biblical Guidelines for Sex and Dating? with Kat Harris – 202