In case you were tuned out completely yesterday, Valentine's Day came to call on everyone's relationship status.
For those partnered, the day might mean celebrating each other, either forced or sincere. For singles, it could mean bitterly recalling past failed relationships or eating discount chocolate in complete apathy.
There has been a shift in recent years, but our culture puts so much emphasis on finding love. Whether it's dating shows or Instagram influencer couples or little old ladies asking when you're going to find the right one.
We are convinced to believe that being in a relationship far surpasses being single. That without a companion, we are lost and hopeless.
Don't get me wrong. The need to be loved and to love in return is natural. And I do believe we all have a soulmate out there somewhere. I'm a happily married woman, after all!
However, as great as romance is, it's not the only real way to find happiness. You and I can count many a relationship which disprove that theory.
We all know someone so in love with love they never stop looking for their next romance. Probably all of us know someone who remain in an unhealthy relationship because they can't stand to be single.
In my experience, whether you're single or taken, contentment is the key and it's a choice from the very beginning, too.
Whether you're single and not in a relationship, dating someone currently and unsure where it's going, or married and facing all the common chaos a union creates, here are some thoughts and encouragement from someone who has lived through each stage.
Before you say, “you’re married, you have no right to talk,” consider that I was 30 when I said “I do.” I did my time. I absolutely know what long-term singleness is like.
I know it feels like you’re being passed up when younger friends find their soulmates and tie the knot. Even though you know nothing is wrong with you, you're still nagged with doubts that you’ve been overlooked. I know the desire to be someone's person, to be a wife, is sometimes overwhelming. I know at times you can't fathom how anyone out there could possibly be the match to your quirks.
But as of today, February 15, I've been married for a year.
Andrew and I have been together for over three. As I've mentioned before, they haven't been easy years, but they've been right.
God knew exactly what He was doing when He put us together. Let me tell you, nothing compares to that feeling. Nothing can beat the contentment in your heart that knows your relationship is God-ordained.
However, my years of singleness were my greatest seasons of growth. I wouldn't change anything.
Despite a heartbreak in my early college years, I was single for the majority of my twenties. And I can honestly say, I made the best of them.
Many memorable Galentine's parties were thrown in my first home. I adopted a dog and took him on road trips. I traveled far and as much as I could afford, with others and alone. I tried new things and taught myself new skills. I threw myself into church and community activities.
Overall, I made a point not to focus on my relationship status during those years. Sure, I was open to something if it felt right, but I wasn't searching. I refused to let lonely moments make me a lonely person.
Society tells us fulfillment can't be found while we are single, but I whole-heartedly disagree.
For the record, I don't pretend to be a relationship expert. But I like to think experience gives me some credibility.
In fact, there are many benefits to being single.
First of all, let’s suggest that singlehood for this context is both unmarried and not in any romantic relationship.
Just for fun, here's 5 reasons why being single, at least for a season, is actually healthy and really important:
1. Only have to worry about paying for yourself.
2. Time is dictated by your own wants and needs.
3. You can focus easily on your personal development and connection with God.
4. Spend more time with those you choose and build lasting friendships.
5. Find out who you really are and what your true purpose is.
What To Do in the Waiting
So, what if you're still single?
First of all, stop focusing on your age. Yeah, I know it's hard.
Besides what our families and cultures already tell us, we ourselves put deadlines on our relationship status, too. We count our little ducks in a row for our 5 year plan, "Education, career, marriage, kids, done." But, how is that fair?
A relationship, being married, and getting older, et cetera, are simply things we cannot control.
Secondly, a happy marriage may be a main goal, but that doesn't justify focusing all efforts on obtaining that status.
While people pine away for a soulmate, swiping right and searching high and low, the world keeps turning.
You can't control when the right person walks into your life. Despite all your manipulations and machinations, you really can't force a relationship to happen.
That old saying, "Good things happen when you least expect it," is a cliche for a reason.
So do it. Get lost in your present purpose, carried away in contentment over what's shaping your life in the here and now.
Maybe you can travel. Maybe you can build a little nest egg and get debt free (what a great gift to bring to a marriage, after all). Maybe you will simply discover a hobby or make amazing friendships.
But, while you wait for Mr. or Mrs. Right to come along, pursue contentment.
So, what can you do right now? What can you achieve or set your mind to in the meantime? If you really don't know, I'll wager your Creator has a pretty good idea if you just ask.
You Have to Know Who You Are Before You Can Love Anyone Else
Sorry not sorry, here's another cliche for you - everything happens for a reason.
If you're still single, unmarried, or really just waiting for whatever your next milestone is in life, consider that perhaps there's a valid reason. And no, it's not because you aren't "pretty enough" or your personality is too strong.
But maybe your character needs to grow. Perhaps there are trials and lessons you need to conquer.
I look back now and see how much confidence I gained flying solo. I see now how much I grew spiritually because I relied on Christ to see me through instead of a romantic partner.
The early heartaches and minor setbacks revealed so much about my character. Each showed me, reminded me, who I am, what I stand for, and what I'm called to do.
In my humblest opinion, the only relationship to change you should be the one you cultivate with Christ.
Relationships aren’t meant to define you. Enrich you, perhaps. Complete you, maybe. But if you claim not to have known who you were before your knight or princess stepped into your life, something is wrong.
You have to know yourself. It isn't selfish to know how you love or what matters to you. This understanding is called maturity, and it will serve you well when you do enter a relationship.
A Love Story Isn't Just Yours to Tell
You know what they say, it takes two to tango. And yes, I'm fully aware that's at least the third cliche I've thrown at you so far.
When single folk imagine a perfect relationship, they don't usually include the other person's potential desires, baggage, or history. For one, they're difficult to anticipate. But also, we are selfish creatures.
Ultimately, you are ready for a relationship when God says so. Furthermore, though, when you realize being in love is less about making you feel cherished and comfortable and more about you being what someone else needs, that's most likely the time your perfect match will pop up.
Unfortunately, most of us go into a relationship thinking "this person will make me happy," instead of the other way around.
News flash: A good relationship match means we fill in each others gaps and balance out weak areas.
Your future, or current, spouse will have goals. They'll have dreams and ideas that (shocker) may not always coincide with yours.
Real love, and a marriage commitment, means compromise. Like, every day.
Yes, maybe it's an old school way of thinking. But if each partner in a relationship doesn't serve the other, giving grace for faults and communicating openly, the relationship will never find contentment.
Think of two people tied at the ankles standing shoulder to shoulder. If they each pull in opposite directions, they will never get anywhere. They will most certainly fall.
Give and take is part of the game. A relationship is never one-sided.
I know it's been said so many times before me, but relationships are hard. Believe me, you don't want to rush into one.
You don't need another person to give you purpose. That's something God gave you the minute you were born.
Don't Forsake Your Single Pals
I’ve known too many friendships to lose steam when one or the other finds a love interest.
Sometimes the now-single friend is the one that creates distance. They assume they are unwanted, or they feel awkward spending time with the couple. This could also mean jealousy or FOMO (fear of missing out), or that they can no longer relate. Most times, the new couple become so invested in each other they forget all about their single friend.
To be honest, I’ve never understood either scenario. In my eyes, if you're my friend once, you will always be my friend.
When Andrew and I started dating, it didn't stop us from including our single friends in regular activities like hiking and game nights. Although Andrew and I were in love, we were friends first, and both realized the other person needed solid friendships apart from each other to remain emotionally healthy.
Yes, a relationship definitely alters your lifestyle. Yes, your interests expand and your time is more consumed. And yes, for your single friends' sakes, you might be sensitive about what you invite them to so as to not make them uncomfortable.
But why should your friendships change?
If the relationship sours, or the infatuation wears off, you’re going to need a steady friendship to balance you back out.
That's a Wrap on Relationships
You should know that it took me far too long to put this entire blog together. I struggled.
I know we all have different stories. Please know I only wanted to share mine for encouragement, not to step on any toes.
For all my friends feeling "too old" or wondering if you'll ever meet someone or you're just waiting for your guy to hurry up and bend his knee already, take a breath right now and count your blessings.
Remind yourself of all you are able to do right now. Make a list of all the reasons in your life to be content.
You are wonderful and worthy, single or taken. Instead of labeling single as "alone" and taken as "fulfilled," remind yourself that without contentment at your core, neither one will satisfy you.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. - 1 Timothy 6:6
Relationships are a blessing when they fit just right. But they are also a lot of work.
When everything falls into place, and I promise, they just do, it's still not happily ever after. That goal is something you work toward, together, every single day.
Today, I'm thankful for my husband. He was absolutely worth the wait.
Happy 1st Anniversary to us!
(PS. If you're celebrating Valentine's Day late this year, or with your gal pals, check out these inexpensive date ideas!)
For more wedding pics, and to see how we pulled off a DIY micro wedding last year, follow this link.