Thursday, May 14, 2015

Give It a Go...Or Throw in the Towel?

Lately, among my friends and other people I know, it seems that love is in the air.  Relationships have started; people have gotten engaged and/or married; even friends who have been married for quite a while have had serious landmark moments, such as their first kid or a big anniversary.  All the while, I'm sitting here with no ring on my finger and no one to call my sweetheart.

At this point in my life--remember, I'm twenty-seven years old, and have never even been on a date--I'm wondering if a relationship will ever be in my future; part of me hopes for it, but another part of me seriously doubts it.  It's one thing when some teenager laments that she is doomed to remain single, even though she isn't even old enough to get married, but, in my case, I think I have a valid point.  Since I graduated from high school, I have been bombarded with news of engagements and weddings from not only longtime friends, but also friends of friends and former friends.  It's true that I do know some single adults, but, the number is lessening all the time.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Just like pretty much anything, marriage isn't for everyone.  Some people go into a relationship, only to end up regretting it and/or paying for it the rest of their lives.  You've heard the stories of the various married couples I've known who have ended up divorcing, including some within my church.  Though we can't be sure exactly what happened, I wonder if, in some cases, said people were just incompatible; not with each other, but with marriage in general.  Despite what the media would have you believe, marriage isn't some fairy tale; it takes serious work, and some people just aren't up to it...but they don't know it until it's too late.

You've probably heard or seen me talk about the relationship issue; most of my recent posts on the topic have been saying why I'm not really interested in being in one.  I have to admit that it's not really that I have no desire to get married; it's that I've just accepted that it most likely isn't in my future.  Sure, well-meaning people have told me that I will find a wife one day, and, while I don't doubt their intentions, sometimes I wonder if they just don't want to see me go through life without a mate.  It's sort of like the driving issue: Yes, it's tough not having your own transportation, especially around here...but, that doesn't change the fact that some people just weren't meant to be drivers.  With my current relationship status, I kind of feel like the only kid in the class who isn't allowed to watch the new, popular TV show that all his classmates are raving about.  It seems like nothing I do will bring about a relationship; then again, it's been ages since I last asked a girl out.  My lack of a significant other often makes it hard to hang around my coeval fellow church members, as pretty much all of them are in committed relationships; they're either already married, or will be soon.  That's why I tend to gravitate towards the folks that are at least old enough to be my parents; even if they're married, they tend to see me as one of their kids, not a third wheel.

Still another part of me, however, believes that I really do need to get married.  I mean that in the most literal sense; sometimes it feels like I just won't make it on my own.  That may sound like a cry of desperation, but, think about it: If you're married--and most of you reading this are--would you be where you are today if you'd never said, "I do"? However, that part of me is warring against the other part that is shouting, "Absolutely not!" It's an internal conflict that I can't, maybe you can for me.

Why do I feel I need to get married? Here's one reason: The thought of being alone scares me.  I'm not talking about being left alone for a few hours; even at work, though there are other people around, I spend much of my time doing my job solo.  It's actually nice to have some time alone; I think you'd agree with me on that.  My fear is of being completely alone: no friends and no family; at least, none that care about me.  Right now, I've got parents and other family members, as well as many friends, who have gone above the call of duty to help me out...but, some friends who have done just that are gone from my life, probably for good, because I didn't treat them like I should have.  It's probably partly a product of my biological father walking out on me at a young age; still, I know my true family--which isn't entirely biological--and real friends would never do that.  It's also partly because of the issue of me talking out loud to myself, which has always existed, but was made worse by being left alone or essentially alone constantly during my preteen and teenage years.  Still, I take every unfriending on Facebook seriously for that and other reasons; every friend I lose is one step closer to being alone.

Here's another reason: I'm pretty sure I'll need someone to look after me.  Before you get all up in arms, I'm not looking for a babysitter or a nanny or even another mother; in a way, I kind of already have more than one mom.  Still, God said after creating Adam, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him," and proceeded to make Eve.  I have known some single guys, but, I honestly wonder how they do it, even without kids.  If it weren't for the women in my life--my mom, my sister, my late grandmother, and my numerous female friends--I don't know what I'd do.  Sure, I do what I can, but nobody can do it all, as much as they try to.  I hate it when people think they can do everything by themselves, and refuse to let anyone help them; seriously, if you need the assistance, why not take it?

When this issue comes up, I'm reminded of the scene in Aladdin where the Sultan tells his daughter, Princess Jasmine, "I'm not going to be around forever, and I just want to make sure you're taken care of; provided for." I think my parents feel the same way; they're not getting any younger, and I think they want to make sure I'm good to go after they leave this earth for good.  Both of my siblings are already secured; one is already in heaven, and the other has been married for nearly two decades.  I'm the only one left for them to worry about...but I don't want them to worry about me.  Though I know I can handle some things alone--I kind of already have--without a mate, being on my own could be a difficult road to travel.  Still, the pickings are slim, as many of my female friends that I'd considered asking out either despise me or are already spoken for, if not both.  It may sound like desperation, but, seriously: Who wants to face life alone?

However, the counterpoint is just as convincing.  You probably already know about issues such as demanding respect yet not showing it, being stuck in the fifth grade mentally, and others that I've talked about at length fairly recently.  Here's a point you probably don't know: I have a tendency to drive people crazy.  I've always had friends, but, there's always been someone--maybe more than one person--who complained about me being annoying.  You may think such a person is just being a jerk, but, honestly, Facebook would prove them right.  I've been a fan of comic strips for quite a while, and they still continue to be popular, they also have gotten a drubbing from various critics, especially when it comes to the longtime mainstays.  A random online commentator derided Garfield by saying, "How many jokes about lasagna can you make?" A Daily Press reader also dissed The Family Circus in a comics survey, saying, "How many times do we have to see Billy walking home from school in circuitous fashion?" Much like sitcoms, comic strips tend to be repetitive...yet they also tend to go on for decades.  I tend to be repetitive as well, and that's the thing that has most likely led to all my unfriendings that were for unspecified reasons.  People just got tired of hearing about the Disney Channel, celebrity crushes, bargain hunting, my entertainment history, Apple technology, my lack of a relationship, etc., day in and day, they decided to jump ship completely, probably because they felt they had no choice.

What does that have to do with relationships? Easy: If you think being my Facebook friend is hard...try living with me! I'm reminded of the scene in an episode of Monk where police chief Stottlemeyer ends up staying with the defective detective after getting into a marital spat...but Monk's OCD habits drive him so crazy, he ends up saying, "First thing tomorrow, I am calling the Vatican, and I am nominating your late wife, Trudy, for sainthood, because you are impossible! [...] You know what you are? Do you know what you are? You're the world's best marriage counselor! You could save every marriage in California! All people would have to do is live with you for two days--two days!--and they'd never complain about their spouse again!" I've always identified with the character of Monk, because he and I have similar habits...which could drive anyone bonkers.

As a Christian, I don't believe in engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage, which also means I would never "shack up" with someone.  However, I've heard advocates of such a practice defend it by saying that you can't know what it's like to live under the same roof with someone unless you actually do it.  I once saw an e-mail from Focus on the Family that talked about one of the hard truths of marriage: once the honeymoon is over, reality sets in.  I know many of you reading this think I'm great, and you love talking to me at church or wherever else...but have you actually tried living with me? If you did, you'd probably change your tune; my habits have driven my entire immediate family, including even our pets, crazy, and it did the same to others as well.  If my habits drove my wife crazy, she could walk out on me and never come back.  I know some of you would say that a Christian woman would never do that, but, Christians do the wrong thing all the time and think nothing of it.

Here's another similar issue: I have a tendency to get historical.  If you go to my church, you probably know this joke, but, I'll post it for those who don't:
Two guys at a convention with their wives. They were long lost friends. They sat in the lobby all night talking. They knew they would be in trouble with their wives. They went back to their rooms. The next day they happened to see each other.
"What did your wife think?"
"I walked in the door and my wife got historical."
"Don’t you mean hysterical?"
"No, historical. She told me everything I ever did wrong."
Some years ago, my mom heard of a mother who had just lost a child; my mother had suffered the same loss already, so, she told a brother of the deceased, "That pain never goes away."  I've never lost a child, but I have suffered loss...but, with any bad memory, the pain never goes away.  Incidents involving people I haven't seen or places I haven't set foot into in years still plague me left and right, especially when I'm trying to sleep.  It also makes me start to feel disdain for the people responsible, some of whom are still my friends and would be rather offended if I lobbied such accusations at them.  Not only that, but, some of the people who did me wrong also did me right, but, my mind focuses on what they did wrong.  For some reason, I find it easy to be a jerk; you all already know the story of how I treated my dog like dirt for the entire four years we had him, and was overjoyed when my mistreatment of him led to him being taken back to the SPCA.  People criticized me for doing that, saying, "That dog never did anything to you!" I knew that...but I didn't care; I simply didn't want a canine companion, only because I didn't want the responsibility of looking after one.  It's also shocking how quickly I went from singing the praises of my friends to dissing them; one supposed misstep, and I used them as target practice for my angry words.  In those and other cases, it just came naturally; still, Jesus commands us to go beyond human nature.  I now realize my mistake on that front...but that realization came much too late.

If you're married, your spouse has probably done you wrong at some point; when you're dealing with family, you get to see them both at their best and at their worst.  There's been times when my mom was very proud of me...and there were also times when she was rather upset with me.  You would probably never use a family member's past mistakes against him/her unless you were really upset with him/her...but, I tend to do it all the time, without even realizing it.  I know I shouldn't keep a record of wrongs, but, that's just the way my mind has always worked.  Rarely a day goes by when I don't bring up a past incident of some sort.

It goes beyond just that, though.  Some of you reading this may have gone through emotional heartbreak when it comes to romance.  Maybe your first spouse died; maybe you went through a terrible divorce; maybe you were engaged and hoped to be married, only for the wedding to be called off.  If that was a long time ago, you've probably moved on with your life and have found a new mate.  That's great for you...but that would never happen to me.  In the classic Dickens novel Great Expectations, there's a character named Miss Havisham, who, as SparkNotes puts it, "She is manic and often seems insane, flitting around her house in a faded wedding dress, keeping a decaying feast on her table, and surrounding herself with clocks stopped at twenty minutes to nine. As a young woman, Miss Havisham was jilted by her fianc√© minutes before her wedding, and now she has a vendetta against all men." If I went through a bad romance, then, that would be me.

You have no idea how bad experiences have made me hesitant to do certain things.  When I was in Cub Scouting, we visited a Boy Scout meeting, and they played a game that I decided to join...only for things to get so rough that I ended up getting physically hurt.  The injury wasn't that bad--all I did was skin my elbows--but, it made me never want to join in on the games again, even after joining that troop.  A Scout leader was very upset with me for refusing to participate, and told me I had to do the after-meeting cleanup even though my patrol wasn't assigned to do it...and I would have taken the punishment if he hadn't later come up to me and said, "I was wrong." To some, that would sound ridiculous; why would I want to clean up? Just play the game! Still, I just wanted to avoid it after that traumatic experience.  So, if I went through a similar time with romance...I would never recover.

I recently watched the last of two seasons of Sonny With a Chance, a Disney Channel sitcom starring Demi Lovato.  Though it's usual happy, cutesy Mouse network fare, it actually ends on a depressing note.  In the penultimate episode, Sonny (Lovato) has broken up with her actor boyfriend Chad after an awards show fiasco; when her show beats his at the Tween Choice Awards, he just can't handle, he asks for a recount, which shows that his show won after all.  Sonny hands him the award, but is heartbroken by his actions; she tells him, "I can't be in a relationship with someone who always puts himself first. [...] The only us there is now is between you and this award. I hope you two will be very happy together." In the show's final episode, they still don't get back together, which makes it all the more depressing.  It actually wasn't supposed to end that way--it got canceled prematurely because of Demi Lovato's health issues--but it still makes a good point, especially for my situation.  Part of why certain former friends have left me is because I didn't respect them; I held my favorite celebrities--people I'll probably never meet--in much higher regard than those who actually cared about me.  One actually said, "That's just great! Some actress you're never going to meet gets more respect than a real life friend! Yes, I'm being sarcastic!" I'd much rather have the friendship than the celebrity crushes, but I ignored an age-old truth: In order to have a friend, you must be a friend.

Here's my conclusion: Can you see why I can't decide whether or not a relationship is for me? It seems that, either way, I'm doomed; I either suffer due to being alone, or end up breaking someone's heart inadvertently.  That just leaves me not knowing what to do...which drives me crazy.

1 comment:

Hannah K said...

A couple years after I graduated high school, God convicted me that I was spending too much time worrying about whether or not I was going to get married. He told me if I couldn't be happy without a relationship, I'd never be happy at all. It was a sobering thought, and I decided to stop waiting and hoping and just live like I knew I was going to be single forever.

What followed were some of the most awesome years of my life. I focused my time on 1) trying big new dramatic things like working intensely for a year with a traveling drama group, 2) building strong friendships and relationships with people I had no romantic interest in, and 3) becoming a better, more interesting person because if I was going to be "alone forever," I was at least going to be happy with myself!

This did a couple things. First of all, it took my mind off constantly worrying whether or not I'd find someone. I was too busy *doing* things (sometimes scary things, but all things I was glad I did in hindsight -- knowing that I faced a fear or did something unpleasant and survived gave me great stories to tell and made me feel way more confident the next time something came up).

Secondly, it prepared me for the possibility of being alone. I built strong friendships and learned how to be a better friend to others. I learned how to do things on my own. I figured out a plan for my life and started going after it.

Third, it actually ended up preparing me for my eventual marriage too. By the time I found someone and did end up getting married, I was very comfortable with myself and my abilities. I had worked on a lot of my own issues because I wanted to get them taken care of for *me*, but it ended up working out for us too. I knew what I wanted out of a relationship and what my weaknesses would be. I felt like because I spent so much time focusing on me and God rather than on a relationship, I had it a little easier than people who had to figure out themselves and a relationship at the same time.

That comment may be longer than your blog, haha, but all that is to say -- I highly recommend that. If God brings you someone, he'll bring you someone, but in the meantime, figure out who *you* want to be and what *you'd* need to do if marriage didn't happen, at least for awhile. It'll help you become someone who knows they can make it on their own if they need to, AND it'll help you become someone who is ready to be part of a relationship if that day comes. Self-improvement is just good all round. :-)