Wednesday, August 21, 2013

32 and Single: Realistic Expectations?

One of my favorite things about blogging is that it is a big conversation. I recently posted a short commentary entitled 32 and Single: A Response to "How I Know My Wife Married the "Wrong" Person." Many of you responded on Facebook, over email, or in person and I enjoyed hearing your thoughts. Thank you for sharing pieces of yourselves. I am surprised that the most popular topic of conversation has been about doing the work involved in marriage. While I have many thoughts about this, there is one piece of feedback in particular that I keep coming back to. A friend of mine pointed out that it might be unrealistic to look for a man who is ready to do the work of marriage, but instead to look for someone with the character qualities that are the building blocks of this kind of work. At first, I thought she was splitting hairs, but she pointed out that things like admitting you are wrong, apologizing, and being open to confrontation, and even counseling, are things that are much more socially acceptable for women.

I think her point might connect to gender based social norms. Why is it that we praise a man who is going to become a counselor, but catch our breath and pause when a man we know mentions that he is going to counseling for his own benefit? Why is emotional and mental health something that might be more acceptable for women? Is it? Really? Even if that is case, marriage is one of the hardest and best things that I have seen and as such it seems like it is one of those circumstances where it is okay to hold out for this quality. Personal, internal growth is one of my deepest values, and I hope that should be enough reason for me to wait for someone who can meet me in this place.

But is it? Other pressures and voices vie for my allegiance.You are getting older and there will be less opportunities out there. Don't back down from being yourself- you are only going to attract someone who isn't afraid of a strong woman if you are acting like a strong woman. But don't be too intimidating. Don't be too hard, or too soft. What, if anything, about this is available for compromise? Isn't marriage at least partly about compromise? All of those voices feel thin. They don't have the meat of the Spirit.

As deep calls to deep
Now you, who began with the Spirit, how do you think you can continue in your own strength?
Love one another deeply and from the heart
Do not lie to one another... since as member of the same body, you were called to peace

The Spirit challenges me and calls me forth in such a way that I have to be the most full version of myself in order to answer. These voices ask me to leave something substantive behind to "get a man." The voice of the Spirit calls me to bring all of myself and my values and to be transparent and honest with others. Listening to those other voices feels like a lie because they ask me to hide some of my fire, complexity, and fear. I think that I need to hang onto all of those things in order to honor the depth of the Christian life. So, yes, I think I do want to wait for a man who is capable of doing the work of marriage. And I think there is merit to the idea that the work of marriage-things like apologizing, owning and working through one's dysfunction, challenging others to be the best version of themselves- is more socially acceptable in women. What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Being teachable and willing to own and work on things and communicate through conflict is probably my biggest value I am looking for at this point. I don't expect you to not have any issues or struggles, I expect you to be able to own them, not hide from them and want to grow and mature. Know what it takes to become a better person, even if that means asking someone for help if you don't actually know! I don't care what's "socially acceptable" I want a man who is becoming a better man, and is humble enough to admit it. It takes great strength and courage to admit fault, weakness and get help and mature, and to work through conflict. There are a lot of other "socially acceptable" things I really have no interest in, so I'm not worried about whether or not a man trying to become a better man through counseling mentoring or whatever else is "acceptable" to anybody else.