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As I get older and experience more life, I’ve been convicted that there are questions that you shouldn’t ask. Questions that I’ve probably asked lots and lots of times. Questions that I shouldn’t have asked.*

* Now, when I say YOU shouldn’t ask these, I mean that you shouldn’t ask these in general. There are people in your life that you are close enough to ask these questions to – sisters, daughters, best friends, mentors. But my point is that I have asked these questions of people whom I shouldn’t have. Wisdom has taught me to keep my mouth shut.

“When Are You Going to Start Dating?”

This question is asked, to women, in 2 different scenarios:
1) About dating in general and
2) About dating someone specific

It seems to me that this question is most often asked by women to other women and they mean well – they just don’t realize how personal their question is or how painful the answer might be. Course, some are just nosy, but I’d like to think that most mean well.  I’d really like to think that I meant well.

“When are you going to start dating?”

Maybe the woman really wants to be married. And you think she’d make a great wife. And you wonder why she hasn’t started dating Mr. Right yet. But that’s a really hard question for her to answer.

Should she make a joke about it? “Well, I guess I’m not dating anyone because I’m just so great at being single!”

Should she tell you that she fears it’s because she’s too introverted and doesn’t have an easy time talking with others, including men? “Well, I guess it’s because I just start stammering when there are men around and I always embarrass myself.” Now the conversation starts to sound like a counseling session.

Should she tell you that she fears it’s because she’s not the right type, so men aren’t attracted to her? “Well, I guess it’s because I am too tall/short/skinny/heavy/blonde/brunette, so men aren’t interested.” It’s an invitation to either condemn her (“Oh no! There are plenty of 6’8″ tall women who are married! That’s no excuse!  There has to be another reason you’re single.”) or compliment her (“Oh no! You look great as a brunette!”) and she might not really believe your compliments.

Should she tell you that she’s afraid of relationships due to the scars she’s acquired in her childhood?  “Well, I guess it’s because I don’t relate well to people as I grew up in foster care, living in 20 different houses before I ran away at age 15 and the things I’ve seen and experienced are just horrible.  I’m working on trusting people and don’t really feel ready to be in a relationship.”  That’s awkward and deeply personal.

Should she tell you that she’s had lots of first dates, but hardly any second dates? “Well, I guess no one wants to keep dating me because I have this flatulence problem that seems to be scaring all the guys away.” That’s a little embarrassing for her to have to share!

Should she tell you that she doesn’t know why, but she is really worried about it? “Well, I don’t know why I’m still single and I’m really worried about it. It keeps me awake at night. I cry at every wedding, bridal shower, baby shower, Hallmark commercial and church service.” And then she starts tearing up right then and there. A crying, sobbing woman is uncomfortable for both of you (depending on the situation).

Should she tell you that she doesn’t know why, but isn’t too worried about it? “Well, I don’t know why I’m still single. But that’s okay – God knows what He’s doing. I’ll just trust Him!” Chances are, she’s said that before and the other person replies with something like “You know, God only helps those who help themselves.” or “The Bible does say that we’re supposed to do the right things – are you the right person that men would want to date?” OUCH! to both of those.

“When are you going to start dating XXXXX?”

Then there’s the question that some people ask about a specific person, like “When are you and Bob going to start dating?” or “Have you thought about dating Charlie?” In many ways, that’s worse.

If Bob or Charlie hasn’t asked her out or shown interest, then the fact is that she doesn’t know what Bob is thinking. She doesn’t know what Charlie’s plans are. There might be all kinds of reasons that she and Bob or she and Charlie aren’t dating. I’ve addressed this before here.  It can be kind of hurtful to think about a specific guy and why he hasn’t asked her out yet.

If he has asked her out, but she’s not interested, she probably doesn’t want to tell you why“He did ask me out, but I wasn’t interested.” She’s probably anticipating the next question: “How high are your standards anyway that you won’t date a George Clooney-meets-Billy Graham-meets-Chris Tomlin?” Not fun getting into that debate.

It’s also embarrassing if he asked her out, but it didn’t work out. “We did go out on a date, but he just kept talking about his mother all the time, while holding onto a blue blankie and I just didn’t think he was ready to be in a relationship.” She doesn’t want to rat him out!

So, as hard as it is sometimes, I have to hold my tongue and not ask “When Are You Going to Start Dating?”

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My love story

I have a great love story.  Really, I do.  You know why?  Cause it’s mine.  So, to me, it’s great.  To other people, they might not think it’s so great. Cause it’s kind of plain jane.  There weren’t any great “I’m breaking up with you.  Wait, no I’m not.  Well, yes I am.  Okay, I’m not.” drama-filled moments.  There hasn’t been any “Let’s move to Costa Rica and have an adventure!” moments either.  To some, it isn’t great because we dated for 11 whole months and were engaged for 9 whole months.  Maybe they think couples should date for a much shorter amount of time.  Others would say longer.

Some would say that it isn’t great because we didn’t get married til our 30s.  Great love stories happen to those in college.  Or just out of college.  Or in high school even.  And yet others would say that truly great love stories happen to the 80-year-old woman who finally marries her high school sweetheart after being seperated for 60+ years. (Okay, I concede, that is a great story!)  But you know what?  I’m pretty fond of my love story.

My sister and I were doing a Bible study (last year!) and one of the questions was along the lines of “List a miracle that you have seen God do in your life.”  My answer: My marriage.  Not in a “It was a really bad marriage, but God helped us turn it around” kind of way or even “I have the best marriage in the world!” kind of way either.  But in a “I think it’s a miracle that I am actually married!” kind of way.

I was talking with a friend the other day who was recounting a date that she recently had been on.  It was a first date and in her mind, the guy did every.single.thing wrong.

  • He texted other people during dinner.
  • He didn’t talk much to her dad when he came to pick her up.
  • He talked on the phone with his mom when he was driving her home.
  • He didn’t open her car door.
  • The meal wasn’t enough food, but he didn’t address the issue by ordering more.

But she still felt like she should go on a second date with him.  The reason why is the weird part to me.  She wasn’t interested in him, but her reason for going on a second date is that she wants to get married.  To get married, you need to be around marry-able men.  So she felt that she had to continue on with the relationship, not because she was interested or because she was willing to give a second chance, but because no dates = no marriage.

To be fair to the gentleman, she also admitted:

  • She didn’t tell him that he was picking her up at her parent’s house.  He knows that she lives with a female roommate and that’s the address he thought he was going to. When her dad answered the door, ir really threw him off.
  • She didn’t ask him to open her car door.  She just stood outside her side of the car until he got the hint, got out of the car and then opened her door.

At any rate, it wasn’t a good first date.  I’m guessing neither one of them left thinking “Wow, that went well!”  (To be honest, I do think there’s a time and a place to give a relationship a second chance (or even a long first chance), but I also don’t think you have to go on a second date when you don’t really like the guy and he doesn’t really appear to be that into you either.)

She wished that she could have a simple love story like I did.  What she doesn’t know is that while my love story is pretty simple, it still had awkwardness.  It still had weird moments and uncomfortable conversations.  It’s a relationship – that happens. 

I’ve written far more today than I’ve meant to — I really just meant to say: Relationships have wacky moments.  All of them do.  (Well, assuming you’re closer than near strangers to each other.)  Over the next while (days?  weeks?  months?), I’ll share some of my love story and show you the wackiness.  Simply because knowing what one other couple went through can help you with your story.  Not because your story will look like mine, but because you should know that we’re normal.  I don’t have them all written or anything, so don’t expect them all this week — this will be an “As I get time” kind of thing.

But I’m excited to start this endeavor!

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Dating in my head

I was listening to a Revive Our Hearts webcast on Singleness featuring Carolyn McCulley the other day. She’s a single woman and was talking about “Dating in Your Head” – the concept that you, as a woman, can have an entire relationship with someone and it’d be just in your head.  He never asked you if you wanted to be in a relationship with him.  He never even indicated that he MIGHT be interested.  But, in your head, you’ve imagined this whole dating relationship – thinking that it just hasn’t started yet.  But it will.

I did that several times when I was single.  It goes something like this:

Meet a guy.

My thoughts “Hey, you’re cute. And nice. And Jesus-loving. And job-having.  And nice.  And you speak to me.  And funny.  And nice.  If you asked me out, I’d say yes.”

Him: “Yes, I do think that the world will end just as it says in Revelation.”

My thoughts: “Oh!  A scholar.  That’s great.  When we start dating, we’ll study the Bible together!”.

Him: “My mom makes the best apple pies…that’s kind of her specialty. She brings it to all the church potlucks.”

My thoughts: “I’ll have to ask his mom to teach me when I met her for the first time.  I’m so glad that he’s dedicated to the church.  We can attend both of our churches on Sunday mornings while we’re dating, but when we get engaged, we should probably pick just one.”

Him: “When Sally and I started dating, we really determined to honor God in our relationship.”

My thoughts: “What!?!?  You’re dating Sally?!  But we were going to start dating.  Any minute now.  Arg!”

How crushing that is when it doesn’t play out as we had planned?!  He didn’t do anything wrong.  And yet, we feel hurt by him.  I probably gave up other opportunities (events or ministries or even people) because I was so concentrated on him.  I didn’t enjoy the “now” because I was focused on the “then” – when we would actually start dating.

I could start talking about how wise it is to guard our hearts and to watch our thoughts, but what really struck me is how I’m STILL doing this.  Not about dating.  I’m not dating someone in my head.  I’m fully and 100% in love with my husband!

But I do this with life.  In my head, I’ve already popped out our 5 boys, we’ve moved to the next house where I’ve decorated bedrooms with bunk beds, and Phinehas is starting kindergarten (having just turned 6 a few months ago).  I’ve got it all pictured in my head.  And none of it has come to pass.  We would like to have more children, but that day isn’t today.  I don’t know that I’ll have 5 boys.  Jeff and I would like to buy a new house someday, but that day isn’t soon.  We don’t know when it will be, we don’t know which house it will be, we don’t know what neighborhood it will be.  We don’t know how we’ll school our kids (homeschooling now being tossed around as a possibility thanks to Dr. Dobson’s Bringing Up Boys book).

It’s not time for me to start picturing these things in my head.  But there I go…dreaming dreams that aren’t here yet.  I used to “Date in My Head”, but now I “Live in My Head”.  And just like before, I’m not fully enjoying the now.  Save money for the next house, sure, but enjoy what I got.  Cause I got alot!

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The great divide

There exists a great divide, I once thought, is between marrieds and singles.

When single, I often vacillated between thinking that there was hardly any difference at all between single women and married women and thinking that there was a world of difference between the two groups.  Sometimes, I couldn’t even begin to relate to married women.  Other times, I saw their lives being so much like mind – they just had a husband and probably children and I didn’t.

Then I got married.  And then I believed that there was a HUGE difference between singleness and marriedness.  I believed that for a while.  And it’s true – the things that I was worried about and the way I structured my day were different from when I was single. When I was single, I didn’t meal plan.  I didn’t check my schedule against another’s all that often.  I spent my money as I wished.  I didn’t have a cleaning plan.  I didn’t even have a bedtime!  I got married and that changed.  I planned meals.  I developed a cleaning schedule.  My schedule was always checked against Jeff’s schedule and desires.  I had a set bedtime.  It seemed SOOO different.

Then I had a baby.  And a weird thing happened – instead of thinking of how even more different my life is now compared to when I was single, my life is starting to seem more the same.  Granted, my day-to-day life is radically different from when I was single – even more different from when I was just married, but no kids.  But I don’t see those outward things like activities as much as I used to.  I see the internal things more.

  • When I was single, I desired to be married.  I never knew if or when I would.  Now? I desire more kids, but I don’t know if or when I will.
  • When I was single, I wished I had more money to spend.  Now? I still wish I had more money to spend. 
  • When I was single, I wanted to be friends with the cool kids.  Now? I still want to be friends with them.
  • When I was single, I had moments of such loneliness.  Now? I still have moments like that at times.  Being married to someone doesn’t automatically make you not lonely.
  • When I was single, I wanted everyone to think that I had it all together. Now?  I still want that.
  • When I was single, I had moments where I felt forgotten by God.  Now?  I have moments where I feel forgotten by God.

Kids. Money.  Friends. Loneliness. I still have those same concerns, feelings and desires – but the nuances surrounding them is just slightly different.  If I had more money, I’d probably spend it differently than I would have when I was single.  My loneliness looks slightly different.  I still want to impress people – I now have marriage and parenting to add to the arenas in which I want to impress them.

Single Jayme and Married Jayme aren’t so different.

 

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A gal whom I don’t even know wrote a blog post about things that people say to single women that can be hurtful.  Please go read that post!

The gist of it is that I think married people (and sometimes other single people) want to be helpful and encouraging, but they say things that aren’t at all helpful and encouraging – without even realizing it.  I made a couple of comments on her blog, but I’ll re-iterate them here.

It’s kind of like a woman who is battling infertility.  I’ve never been through infertility, but I think the situations are similiar.  In both cases, women are longing for something that is good and right and normal to want.  In both cases, action is needed on the part of the woman (no one accidentally gets married or pregnant), but in both cases, it’s not 100% in their control.

When women are battling infertility, they sometimes want people to give them advice on why or what they can do to get out of the battle and into pregnancy.  But chances are that they don’t want that advice from you.  They want that advice from their doctor or their best-friend-forever or from the-gal-who-has-been-there-and-come-out-okay-on-the-other-side.

Same for single women.  They sometimes want advice on why they are single or how they can increase their odds of getting married.  But, again, chances are that they don’t want that advice from you.  They want it from their mentor or their best-friend-forever or from the recently-married-lady-who-has-married-well-and-knows-a-bit-about-their-life-and-can-give-valid-feedback.

What women usually want from other people is acknowledgement that it must be hard, not pithy answers like:

  • “God will give you a husband/baby when you’re not looking/trying.”
  • “I don’t know why you don’t have a husband/baby when you’re so cute/would be a good mom.”
  • “You don’t need a husband/baby to be happy.”
  • “God will give you a husband/baby eventually since you desire it.”

As much as people probably/hopefully mean well, those words can sting.  Far better to just say “That really must hurt.  How would you like me to pray for you?” And then actually pray for them!

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A bunch of women were interviewed to find out the characteristics of the perfect man.  Among his qualities, this ‘perfect man':

  • calls his mom
  • has a driver’s license
  • wants a family
  • is educated to a degree level
  • earns more than his partner
  • in fact, he earns $77,000 year

These are good.  I agree that women do want a man who stays in touch with his family, can support the family of his own that he wants, and has the education and skills to do so (one of which being driving a car!).  I can totally see that.

But, the ‘perfect man’ also has these qualities:

  • drinks beer
  • drives an Audi
  • can swim
  • can get ready in 17 minutes, but likes shopping
  • admits it when he looks at other women
  • watches soaps

Check out the full list – some of them are quite ridiculous.  When I was looking for a husband, I couldn’t have cared less if he swam.  I wasn’t looking for a man with a certain type of car.  Or who spent ‘x’ number of minutes getting ready.  And I certainly didn’t want a man who ‘admitted that he looks at other women’…I wanted a man who didn’t look at other women!  And I never specified that he had to wear smart jeans or a v-neck jumper.  What are smart jeans anyway?  And I don’t usually like the look of men in a v-neck.

My best guess is that in order to come up with a list like that, the coversation went something like this:

Interviewer:  “Imagine you married the perfect man and you’re at the ceach.  Imagine your 4-year-old goes into the ocean too far and starts to drown.  Does the perfect man go in after her?”

Lady: “Yes, of course!” 

Interviewer: “Okay, next question…does the perfect man know how to drive a car or is it okay that his mom gives him a lift where ever he needs to go?”

Lady: “He should know how to drive a car!”

Interviewer: “Thank you.  Now what kind of car does he drive – a smart car or an Audi?”

Lady: “Well, an Audi sounds nice.”

Interviewer: “It is very nice.  Good choice.  Now imagine it’s the Super Bowl and the perfect man is going with his buddies to the pub to watch the game (you know, so you don’t have to sit through a dumb game).  What kind of beverage does the perfect man order at the pub?”

Lady: “Umm…a beer?”

Interviewer: “Very refreshing.  Now let’s pretend that you and the perfect man overslept in the morning and you have 17 minutes to get ready to leave.  How many minutes should it take the perfect man to get ready?” 

Lady: “No more than 17 minutes.”

Interviewer: “Makes sense.  So your perfect man must drive an Audi, drink beer, get ready in 17 minutes and must be able to swim.”

Lady: “I guess so.”

Otherwise, I just don’t know how an individual woman can come up with a list that specific.  So, ladies when you’re putting together a list of qualities you want in a husband, don’t use their list.

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It’s still another tale as old as time.  Boy likes girl.  Boy pursues girl.  Boy proposes to girl. Girl says yet.  Boy wonders ‘Now what?’

Here’s the 5th and final part of advice from women for men – this time on getting engaged.  See part 1 for advice on how to get to know us without scaring us off, part 2 for advice on asking us out, part 3 for what we find important in relationships, and part 4 on learning from past relationships.

Here’s what you ladies said:

If seriously dating or engaged, what did you expect to change in your relationship as you transition to the next stage?

  • Making adjustments in time for each other. I didn’t think it was soo important but it is!
  • If we get engaged, we can talk more specifically about the next steps in our future – where we would live, what our wedding would be like, how to spend our money, etc.
  • Engagement would give me even more security in our relationship.  His promise to marry me and love me forever would mean the world to me.
  • I would expect that the “finding out more about the other person” stage of conversation and activities would tone down a little, as you’ve basically decided that the person and yourself are compatible, and suitably matched.
  • I guess I’d expect more specific planning and logistics to be taking place (thinking about the future / wedding / where to live etc.) and also that each person would be able to relax with the other, and just be themselves, completely.
  • More talking!
  • I was semi-engaged once because I thought engagement would fix our problems and give me more peace about the relationship.  I was wrong.
  • I guess I would hope for peace and security, knowing I was with someone who wouldn’t leave me.
  • I expect that I have trusted this guy to the point of becoming my best friend as I should be his.  I hope that he is the one I talk to first about life-changing decisions as he should with me.
  • I would expect that I have enough respect for him to follow his lead as our family starts to develop.
  • I would expect we enough about each other’s dirty laundry (emotionally speaking) that we can understand each other.  I also expect that the connection between us is strong enough for us to live together for a life time.
  • We went ‘facebook official’.
  • We started calling each other boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • We expressed that we were in a relationship to see if it would be wise and God-honoring for us to get married.
  • Not much from dating->engaged other than we started marriage counseling and planned a wedding.  We did talk about more personal things – WHEN will we plan to have children, how will we avoid having children right away, what should our budget look like, what will daily life look like, how often do you think you’ll want to be intimate.  Some of that we kind of, sort of, maybe talked about before engagement, but it was really general – yes, we’d like children someday, but not a honeymoon baby, it’s important to tithe and we like life insurance and vacations, we both work 9-to-5 jobs and don’t like to be out every night of the week.  But when you get engaged, you can start making real decisions.

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