Wednesday, April 30, 2008

forever and ever ... holy crap

This picture was featured in an article I read recently called "Where Have All the Men Gone?" Funny? Many single women might beg to differ ...

This image perfectly describes the way that many single women who want to get married feel in a society where single men seem to be complacent, at best, toward the idea of marriage. Granted, we're not actually wearing wedding dresses and chasing available men down the street, but in our hearts we might as well be. And the fact that there is only one man in the picture, and he's running for his life, gives testament to the reason we feel the way we do. Where have all the men gone? A single woman mentions she wants to get married and have children ... all single men flee. A single man mentions he wants to get married and have children (which seems like a myth) ... single women flock. Where is the break down here?

We breached this topic last night in my community group. I brought it up, emailing out articles that I have been discussing for a couple of weeks with some other single women, hoping to get some good perspectives from the range of experience represented in our group - young marrieds, young marrieds with children, older singles, younger singles. It was an interesting conversation, for sure - but I'm not sure that I walked away feeling any differently than I do, despite some of the encouraging informational nuggets that I gleaned from the discussion.

It all spawned, in part, from an article in the Atlantic about settling. How settling for Mr. Good Enough is better than years of loneliness while holding out for Mr. Right. The author states:

"Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling 'Bravo!' in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year."

Admittedly, after reading this article I couldn't help but think, "Should I marry that one guy in my life who really likes me, even if I'm not sure if he would be a spiritual leader for our family? Even if I'm not interested in him romantically?" And on and on it spiraled, until I had a grim picture of my future married to Billy Bob Burps-a-Lot who only wants to use me to make him sandwiches, bring him Natty Lights from the fridge, and pop out babies he can't afford and doesn't intend to help raise.

Of course, this dismal view of my future was untrue and fueled by the rantings of a single woman who decided to have a child by sperm donor, and now wishes that she would've married "Mr. Good Enough." Thank God for a voice of reason - this article, written from a Christian woman's perspective, argues that there are, in fact, certain non-negotiables for a Christian when considering marriage. She says this:

"If you're holding out for perfection, or have a long list of must-haves, it's possible you're overlooking some good men who are already in your life. Knowing what about a potential mate is worth appreciating and what's just eye candy has everything to do with when you should 'settle.'"

Ah, Sanity - so good to see you again. She goes on to say that the things that must be present in a potential mate are ...

A man must be a believer.
He must be able and willing to provide for his family.
He must love sacrificially.
He must be honest, have a good reputation and strive for the qualities of a spiritual leader.

That's no easy list to measure a man by. But, she also urges the reader to consider "his aptitude for growing into full maturity in those areas." In other words, he's in progress just like you are. He won't be perfect, but God has promised to complete the work He started in him. If the beginnings of those things are in place, that's a start.

But still, the question remains - Why is the guy running? What is it about marriage that scares single men half to death? Is marriage even on their radar? The answer is still unclear for me, and is why I was slightly dissatisfied with the outcome of our discussion. According to the author of this article, who is male and urges Christian men to seek a wife, this is the thinking of the typical single Christian male:

"I'm a Christian. I love God. I currently don't have a wife. If God wants me to marry someone, He'll make that explicitly clear. For me to get proactive in the process is to imply that I don't trust God to make it happen. And seeking a wife seems less spiritual than taking on another ministry responsibility. After all, I'm single. I really should commit all my time to God, and not be distracted with thinking about girls."

He goes on to say that, "The problem with this line of thinking is that not every man who has the status of singleness is gifted for singleness." This is true. But is this really their thought process? After further discussion, I don't think it's the case across the board.

The encouraging thing is, yes - it is on their radar (ladies, wipe the beads of sweat from your worried brows). And I think, from what I've observed and heard from the fellas, the reason why they aren't getting married isn't because they think they have the "gift of singleness." It's that pesky number two on the list - being able to provide for a wife and family. And I have to understand that. If the tables were turned, I would be freaking out, too. If it were me trying to provide for a family, we'd be in the poor house in two weeks or less.

But where is faith in that? If God leads you to marriage, won't he also then provide for your needs? Would He rather you be out there "burning with passion" and having no godly outlet for that desire, and living a financially comfortable single life? I don't think so. How do you marry the two (forgive the pun) - the need and desire for marriage and the faith that God will provide - and go about your life with faith and confidence that you will be able to feed your children, put them in diapers, and eventually though school?

It is scary. The weight of adulthood is enough to quickly crush the free spirits of many of today's young singles. But it has been done for centuries, and God hasn't failed us yet. Why would he start now?


sh said...

You, my friend, are an incredibly talented writer and thinker.
Excellent. I can't wait to discuss further over.

Principessa said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this blog, as I do pretty much all your blogs. But, this one, I agree whole heartedly with.

Elisa M said...

I KNOW. I mean, you can't even say "I would like to get married and maybe have babies" without feeling like you have just said "I see the souls of my unborn children in your eyes" to a guy. I feel like I have to say that I am fine in my singleness, but that is a big fat lie. Plus, men do have to be proactive in my opinion. You have to do something, not always wait on it to be done. Sometimes acting is more of a leap of faith than not. This line: If God wants me to marry someone, He'll make that explicitly clear, is a slippery slope. i can't think of much in my life that has been explicitly clear. I think that many single men wait for the 'sign' that they are supposed to marry a certain woman, and when it doesn't come, they don't act. who is to say what that sign is?
I have a lot of thoughts on this as you can tell. One too many near trips down the aisle...
I'm hopeful, but frustrated.

amy :) said...

well-written, my friend.

i know. i mean, i felt the same way as a single. don't scoff at the married lady who still remembers that heartache so well. in fact, after being the woman in the wedding dress chasing that man down the street for so many years, i got completely clothes-lined. and...i don't really know what happened in the meantime. but then IT happened. i don't know what i'm saying other than there IS hope for the desires he give you. There ARE men that will jump out of woodwork and take you down, lady. i certainly don't understand it any more now than i did then, but i think i actually got to see God's faithfulness to provide in ways i wasn't so sure he would. i think i still doubted all the way down the aisle. actually, i know i did. and i think i 'got' God a little more than i had which only amplifies how much i still doubt him and still have so little faith in living day to day. like now i think, "he's going to take him away from me..."


would love to be having this discussion at the urban standard with you.

susan said...

Um, I'm just wondering, do the guys who think they have the "gift of singleness" realize that this means "NO sex." NO sex. Not even accident almost-sex with the girls in the singles group? Not even eye-sex with the teenagers walking past the coffee shop in their tank tops?

Truly, truly, I say unto thee, the only men I've ever met with the "gift of singleness" had the gift of really really hoping their girlfriend would sprout a penis.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a fantastic post. You have summed up so much about what is difficult being a single, Christian woman.

You know, I felt pretty comfortable in my singleness until just over a year ago when I was 29 1/2, when I think God actually made me realise that I was quite closed down to meeting someone and He transitioned me into a new season in life.

In a book "Marriable" by a couple with the surname DiMarco they talk about the whole not getting out and looking thing (because of course God will just drop the right guy on your doorstep) and saying that we wouldn't approach job hunting in that way so we do we do it with dating?

I sort of agree to an extent. You do need to put yourself out there just a little, but I think for me that there was a time and season for this.

As an aside, I have just started seeing someone whom I met buying a train ticket, so you never know... maybe God just does drop people into your life at the right time! And luckily he wants marriage and kids far more than I do right now.

Jason Harmon said...

I wrote a longer comment then decided against posting... but I'll add this and take responsibility for sounding like / being an ass.

This blog ended with a comment about adulthood being scary and some thoughts on faith.

Well as a single guy whats scary to me is what seems to be this conception that being married will be the end all be all fix all for unsatisfied ladies. I'd heard someone say that expectations are the killers of all joy and I think in a round about way it applies here. I know that if some lady has the expectation that marrying me will cure what ails her... she's going to be disappointed and frustrated and quite likely more unhappy that she was single.

And lastly whats more important... a relationship (i.e. marriage) or the people involved in it? I kinda got the feeling from some of what was said that people are saying thats its a good idea to go on and marry someone thats willing even if there's little interest there. Doesn't that elevate the idea of a relationship above the connection between two people? Who cares about marriage if there's no connection between the people?? It just seems to belittle all that I'd like to experience in a relationship. Maybe Im missing the point.

And as for the picture... so the guy is running away from all these wonderful women who'd love to be with him.... or wait... maybe they just want to be married and he's actually inconsequential. Again a scary thought.

amanda hannah said...

jason -

thanks for the comment, but i don't think you read this post, nor do you know what it's like to be a single, Chiristian woman who wants to get married - for love and companionship, not convenience - while single, Christian men sit around with their thumbs up their asses.

shanabanana said...

amanda....i have missed your blogging and your sheer honesty...kudos to your comment to jason - hysterical.


Anonymous said...

this picture is from the movie the bachelor with chris o'donnell. it's not a very good movie, but your post is. thanks for brining this issues to light, and introducing so pretty good discussions.

Anonymous said...

I too have felt the pressure to get married. I say pressured, instead of desire, because at once while I might have had a desire to get married, at this moment in my life I don't want to get married. Even when I was with this amazing guy recently, but I didn't want to marry him. I mean, I could have married him maybe one day, but not in the near future. Maybe that will change when I meet the right guy. But right now, even the idea of a boyfriend freaks me out a little bit. I like where I am right now (not saying that someone desiring a relationship is unsatisfied with themselves).

I think I felt this pressure ease up when I moved away from the southeast. I live in a bigger city now where there is more single people in their 20s and 30s then any other age demographic. the pickings are huge so the pressure is off because you don't feel like the world is running out of single men or you're the only single girl out there. its okay to be single and 32 here. i go out with many of my girlfriends and none of us are dating anybody and are perfectly fine with it. it's a different world.

Natalie_S said...

Going back, reading some of your posts. I think one point that some people miss is that God actually established marriage and decided that it was a good idea. God didn't establish youth extreme hiking discipleship groups or these guys I play basketball with accountability groups or even knitting blankets for cold Christian street cats. I mean a lot of this ministry stuff is really good, but the plain fact is that one of the very first things God did was to put Eve in the garden with Adam. Guys, marriage isn't one of those "God hit me with a lightning bolt if it's for me thing." They should start out assuming it's God's plan until He makes it very clear it's not. That simple.