Dear single friend,
I’ve found that when I’m the only single person in my friend groups I get to sit back and soak in the overall perspective of the dating game (& some days I am soaking up my tears wondering when I’ll find great love but we’ll get to that). Since I am not invested in my own romance I take a look at others. Not judgmentally, but truly for the sake of seeing how and where a good romantic story inspires me and gives me hope. I get to see things like; couples make it through 5+ years of each other’s company, how fast honeymoon phases end when hits the fan, how much people only “love” each other for ulterior reasons, and even the celebration of their goal; a wedding.
A lot of recent articles and studies are talking about the “slow road to love” that millennial’s are taking. The fifties are gone and people are rarely married at ages like 22, 23, even 26. Not only that, but millennial’s are going on fewer dates and not committing to romance on intentional levels. According to the United States Census, the median age for approaching marriage in 2018 was around 30. Putting the stats aside I write to express some thoughts and impatient feelings that erupt when I read this, and not only read it but see it and experience it, too. I would have never guessed I would have to wait until then.
At 16, little ole’ me would have choked if someone told me I’d get married at 30 (assuming that’s when I will). That younger me envisioned how easy it would be to cross the threshold of 21 because it would mean marriage would be at greater reach. Slowly, that girl has also grown up, went on a few dates of her own, and see’s things differently.
Especially that life is not a timeline of sequential events.
My 23 year-old-self now thinks, “I genuinely am okay — more than okay — to think I won’t have a solid, committal relationship until an age like 28.” My 23 year-old brain and heart can laugh thinking it gets easier but the stats are right and the eligible bachelors and I are not on the same page when it comes to things to agree on, even chemistry and attraction. Therefore; truly, “don’t hate the player, hate the game.”
As the player, I don’t ever hate myself for craving intimacy. I don’t ever hate myself for wanting to be married and find a cute love like Jim and Pam from The Office, or Marshall and Lilly from How I Met Your Mother. That said, I do hate the dating game for one reason… the way people find dating successful only if you find someone and keep them around and prove fidelity for a long period of time.
*Stop right here. Finding someone and being faithful IS the goal, and the beauty of love*
but how about the fact that this “game” of putting myself out there, going on dates, trying to date guys and so much more has given me more of an identity than a relationship of X amount of years. How being on my own and making decisions for myself has made me confident and committed to things that are not a relationship. The heartache, yearning, distance [with some], and trying has led me into my own identity and closer to the heart of God. It is has drawn out the nitty-gritty details of my identity (how I overreact, whine, and isolate myself in hard times). It has shown me that I can fall to pieces at the sound of harsh and inappropriate words being said to me by a “boyfriend” and stand my ground when it comes to my own standards. It has allowed me to intimately feel and watch the almighty and gentle hand of a loving Father lift me back up 10x stronger than I ever was.
What’s the goal of dating? To find someone and be okay with him/her forever? Yeah that is the goal, but to lose yourself — your truest self — for the sake of having someone present is not really loving or relational at all. A lot of relationships suffer from a self-identity crisis where the whole time you’re dating you forget to follow your own dreams and embark on your own path. Comfort checks in and motivations runs dry. I even struggled with telling one guy what I hope to accomplish in 10 years at the fear of his response (I know, big red flag).
All the people wondering things like, “I just don’t get how you’re not on a date every weekend” or the laments I share with my BFF about the lack of luck we have during a night out have a time and place to exhaust myself (even if it’s every weekend) but maybe the direction this generation is going in is showing us that the slow road to love has given us the ability to see the beauty of a gradual way to fall in love, value love, and ultimately reach the goal: to stay in love. Maybe it’s all God’s way of healing and counteracting the ways we have all witnessed and experienced the social effects of generations that kept on divorcing.
Craving this intimacy amidst utter loneliness can lead everyone in different directions. Some find somebody, keep them around and that’s that — never thinking their own eternal path to happiness is an option. Some find some literal BODY, keep them around, and that’s that. Some people (like me) throw up at the thought of settling and recoil at the thought of meaningless dating. Others just find someone right and quick and it works GREAT (hey now, hey now, this is what dreams are made of).
Here is what I am saying.
The most fundamental and necessary truth is that the human person thrives and survives on being loved and being known [through relationship]. Marriage is the height of that desire and there is credit to other friendships that help us grow and evolve and reduce our own personal loneliness crisis. Marriage is also a sacrament though. It’s a divine establishment because two people are doing the best for the other while spending the rest of their life uncovering the identity of their beloved while learning the depths of their own while at the same time sacrificing a lot of what they could be doing. Which aids in the process of sainthood….
This embrace is worthy of sacramental graces because it calls spouses to depths of sanctity and holiness that God is known for doing. Intimacy is a physical and emotional desire, but it thrives in greater physical and emotional ways by being honest, real, authentic, vulnerable and ultimately broken to pieces (not to be hurt and abused, but to be rebuilt into something beautiful — reaching a state of pure happiness with yourself).
To invite someone into my life romantically isn’t just going to fill the missing void of physical and emotional love that might be absent… it goes further than that. And it’s the reason I sometimes run away from romance and hide instead. The few times I let vulnerability in with someone it would slingshot me into the most uncomfortable thing I have ever experienced; pouring out my heart and risking to see if the other persons trust will be strong, loving, and gentle enough to come through for me.
Sure, I can find a man who will care enough about me and be able to share life with me (which are so super important) but unless his own life, own beauty/attraction, own identity rooted in God will compliment, challenge, and do whatever he can to keep me the most beautiful person I have ever committed to being, than I don’t need the companionship.
I, and many others, find myself at the heart of God, at the foot of His cross, at the adventurous life He blesses me with and the invitation I’ve accepted to follow Him and live with Him. That pursuit doesn’t stop at marriage, it only increases because when it happens someone is a part of influencing the overall person I become. That commitment, that total gift of self to God, is vastly more crucial to my life than deciding to date someone for the long run because “it’s the thing to do.” Finding someone to date and eventually marry IS easy today. I could ask any of my cool guy friends to start dating. It’s so easy to pick someone up and find and create meaning (or lack of, and just live in mediocrity) and repress the loneliness and solitude we inevitably experience. Many people say you end up marrying someone who is in your life at the time you start to think you’re running out of time to get married.
Michael: You know what, Pam? If in ten years, I haven’t had a baby, and you haven’t had a baby…
Pam: No, Michael.
Michael: Twenty years.
Pam: No, Michael.
Michael: It’s a deal.
What the hardest task of all (and ironically the most rewarding) is living a life with God in a world that doesn’t believe He exists.
“What people don’t realize is how much Religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket. When of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you fell you can’t believe, you must as least do this; keep an open mind, keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it,
and leave the rest to God.” -Flannery O’Connor
Secular media, the culture, the argument that “it’s all a result of those phones,” and endless articles are right to some degree. In the next couple years they are going to keep printing and talking about the studies done on dating behavior changes but here’s where I found peace and where I think many millennial’s are also seeing things differently; the ability to fall in love with life on ones own, ultimately with God (since there’s also a rise on young people being utterly in love with God, see here) is the driving force to find a happy and loving relationship. Whereas the opposite side thinks: relationships and marriages are the driving force to fall in love with life and oneself.
I know for my own millennial self I have one foot in a door that says, “the meaning of your life will intensify and grow the minute you fall in love!” and my other foot in a door that says, “Your life is actually amazing right now and falling in love would just be the cherry on top of an already delicious sundae!” So I’m assuming if you’re a millennial it’s the same feeling for you, too. Because a lot of people I know (including myself) have bravely witnessed to the world that sheer happiness began the moment romance was taken away from them. Does it mean the desire for it went away? Absolutely not. It’s a matter of where they turned to feed their hungry hearts… more like, *hangry hearts.
If you think soulmates exist you can read my letter on that here.
In the end, no one really has access to your solitude. They can comfort and be present, but they touch the surface. Loneliness doesn’t go away at another hook-up, hit of a blunt, or drink, or act of sex. Only God can enter the depths of our being and by His own individualization and grace consciously be and reveal the presence of truth, awareness, and change that comes from this personal and solitary experience you have with Him.
I have met many people who have become their best self through a relationship, and I have met people who have become their worst self through a relationship. Both were an attempt for love, to turn back to the “you” you know and want to be. Which is the reason a lot of romantic flings flopped in my life because none of them served greater than the growth and confidence and love I experience on my own.
Friends, the slow road to love comes with taking a step back and realizing growth and personal freedom are the essential goals of life which is truly the way of becoming a great Saint. When someone comes along as a romantic partner they will, for the rest of your life, compliment that ongoing growth and love you remain committed to by your own solitude. It blows my mind to think people don’t consider this.
Most couples who don’t have this general plan or foundation for their life are falling out of love because of it. To reference back to Jim and Pam, season nine of The Office exploded on their relationship because of Jim’s small decisions to be someone he felt called to be (through a career change without telling his wife). The couple fought for nearly the whole season because of his personal growth, but that moment when the scene clips back to their wedding day and the priest is reading 1 Corinthians 13:7 you see how their love (the kind that hurts) leads to a path of healing, maturity, and growth they both needed than the days they shenanigan’ed in the office.
I realize that the choice of spouse will be the most important decision I make in life, and yours too. He/she will be the primary witness to your life, the primary allegiance to your days conversation, and the one you turn to for everything. He/she will be the most comfortably uncomfortable person to ever walk into your life and stay.
So, millennial’s (and beyond), and my friends seeking out marriage with me, no, we cannot live without romance–we will die. We cannot live without love, so fall into the heart of a God who is Love and see where the heck He takes us and who He introduces us to along the way.
What a thrilling reality.