Author’s Note: While this article was written by a young single adult with help from several other young single adults, it is not geared towards young single adults. Nope. This article is for married people. It was not written in the spirit of contention or condemnation. It was written as an attempt to express thoughts and feelings and hopefully increase understanding and narrow the gulf between married and single members of the Church.
The holidays were once again approaching, but for the first time in 28 years I wasn’t going home for Christmas. Upon reaching this realization, I felt the expected twinge of sadness, but also an overwhelming feeling of relief. Now, I come from a wonderful family, both immediate and extended, whom I love very much, so feeling relief that I wouldn’t be spending my favorite time of year with them surprised me. Naturally I turned to my closest friends to determine if I was alone in wanting to avoid familial celebrations, and I found that this was one more thing my girlfriends and I had in common. Despite our differences in geographic locations, backgrounds and family situations, none of us enjoy attending events and functions where we are the odd one out.
The Only Single One.
Coming from a multi-generational Latter-day Saint family, I hold the prestigious peculiarity of being the only woman EVER to reach the advanced age of 28 without being married. In rare moments, I wear this distinction like a badge of honor, (after all, every family needs a black sheep or a maiden aunt, right?) but most of the time I am acutely aware of the awkwardness my single status causes in family oriented situations. My family loves me, of this I have no doubt, and hence would never intentionally exclude or wish to make me uncomfortable, but being the single adult in a room full of couples makes this unavoidable.
When discussing this discomfort with my girlfriends, all of whom are, like me, single and in their late 20’s and early 30’s, I discovered that we all dread a similar situation. When we find ourselves at the teenager’s table instead of with our married younger siblings because that might make the adult table uneven. When we hover at the edges of family photos, without someone else to balance us out. When we are with family, at ward and stake gatherings, or even just with married friends, inevitably the conversation will turn to spouses, children, homes and family concerns and upon realizing that we have little to add to these discussions, it is only a matter of time before someone asks us one of The Questions.
The Questions come in many forms and variations. They are asked out of curiosity, lack of other conversational ideas or, most importantly, love and concern. But the thing that they all have in common is that they have no real answer. Oh, we try to form a response. We attempt politeness, humor, changing the subject and occasionally sarcasm, but never brutal honesty…because honestly? No one likes the actual answers.
So what are these Questions? What are the answers that we never say out loud? With help from my friends, I would like to explore three of The Questions in hopes that understanding our thoughts and feelings, our families, friends and fellow Saints will gain a new perspective into being single women in the Church.
Question #1: Why aren’t you married?
This first one is perhaps our least favorite for one simple reason: there is no real answer! If we knew why, don’t you think we would have found a solution and gotten married already? I promise you that we have thought about this question. We have pondered and prayed, considered and counseled with each other and spent years searching for the answer. We watch friends, sisters, cousins and ward members fall in love, buy white dresses and go to the temple and while we are happy for them, and share in their joy, we always wonder: why not me? When will it be my turn? We are women of faith who trust in the Lord that our time will come, and in the meantime, there is plenty to do.
We have so much in our lives that we would love to talk to you about. Work, school and church callings. New scriptural discoveries and adventures in cooking or sewing or learning to fix our own plumbing. We remind ourselves that we are no less loved by the Lord just because we have to check the “single” box on our taxes, but we don’t have the answer as to why, so please don’t ask.
And please don’t say, “You need to get married”, because trust me; we know this too. We understand just as well as you do the benefits of being married, both temporal and eternal. We long for someone to share our lives with. To plan trips and celebrate holidays; to share the worry and the bills. Someone to help us decide what to cook for dinner and what color to paint the bathroom. We want to be married, we need to be married and we are just hoping it will happen for us someday. Please join us in our hope. Pull for us, pray for us, and when you meet a nice, eligible single guy, please don’t tell us about him and joke about setting us up, actually do it! Help us where and when you can, but please don’t ask us why.
Question #2: Are you being too picky?
First of all, at this point in our lives, being told that we are too picky is akin to saying…lower your standards. Ten years ago, you were urging us to “Find a Good One!” and “Don’t Settle!”, and “You are Worth it!”, and now we are being too picky? I’m sorry, but since when does having a desire to marry someone, who at the very least meets standards endorsed by the Church, fall into the category of being picky? We were taught through years of Young Women’s lessons and Standard’s Nights that we are daughters of God who deserve to be treated with kindness and respect by a worthy priesthood holder who can take us to the Temple. Did we miss something? Did our privilege/right/prerogative to a man who meets our standards expire at 23? If so, I really wish someone had told me sooner. If I’d know that wanting a temple marriage would be considered “picky” somewhere down the road, I would have married my non-member ex, who frankly, treated me with more kindness and respect than the three RMs I’ve dated since.
But I didn’t marry the great guy who loved me and wanted me to be happy. I walked away and broke both our hearts so that I could have a Temple marriage. I have dated guys who fulfilled the first three requirements: Member of the Church…but couldn’t carry on an intelligent conversation. Active Priesthood Holder…but tried to push physical boundaries. Temple Worthy…but considered watching the game with the guys more important than watching General Conference. Am I asking too much? Have I wasted my 20’s hoping for something that I am now being “too picky” to deserve?
Before you write me off as ranting or cynical or not giving anyone a chance, please stop and think about who you are married to. Were you picky about him or her? Did you want your spouse to love and respect you but put the Lord before everything including you? Well, we do too. And if that is being “too picky”, so be it.
Question #3: Have you tried…?
No matter how you chose to end this sentence, I can almost guarantee you that yes, we have tried. Please don’t assume that since we are still single we have been sitting around on our hope chests, waiting for the phone to ring. We work and go to school, develop skills and hobbies and attempt to make ourselves more interesting. We stay active in our YSA wards, hold callings and attend FHE with RM’s and college freshman and pretend we belong. We go to activities, conferences, Institutes, Linger-Longers, Mix-n-Mingles and dances that blend together into a blur of line dances and awkward slow songs. We meet new people, participate in small talk and feel like high school will never end. We try new clothes, new haircuts, and new make-up, we lose weight and give up annoying habits and personality traits; and yes, we have tried the internet dating route. When we have done all that with no results, we sit back and wonder…what is wrong with me?
Occasionally we blame the guys, or lack thereof. Sometimes we blame the younger, smarter, cuter, skinnier girls and then finally, we blame ourselves. We look in the mirror and think, “Look at me. No one will ever love me enough to want to spend eternity with me.” And we think about giving up.
But then we pick up our scriptures. We get on our knees. We drive hours to the Temple. We call our girlfriends who are going through the same torture we are, and we find a way to make it through one more day. We try. Sometimes we fail and sometimes we succeed, but please never accuse us of not trying. Because at the end of the day, that is really all we have left. The hope and faith and trust in the Lord to try again. One more FHE. One more dance. One more week in our ward or branch. We try and keep trying to be the person we want to be, the women God knows we can be. And we keep trying to believe that if we keep on trying, somewhere, someday, somehow, we will find the man who will love us enough to step up, hold our hand, and help us not have to try quite so hard.
So there you have it. The Questions that haunt us and taunt us and turn our stomachs to lead. Our reality and your conversation piece.
Unless you have been a single woman in her late 20’s or early 30’s in the Church, then please don’t tell us that you understand how we feel or what we are going through because you don’t. You can’t. Just like we can’t understand the difficulties of marriage or the challenges and joys of being a parent, you can’t understand the loneliness, the heartache and the feelings of failure and inadequacy we often experience with each passing year that we remain single. We don’t expect you to understand, to sympathize or empathize us in our singlehood, just to remember that we are more than that. Just as you are individual men and women who also happen to be married, we are individuals who happen to be single.
Please think before you judge us or our marital status. You have no idea how we feel when you make our singleness our defining feature, or how it breaks our hearts not to be able to show up at a family dinner and finally say, “Yes! I’m getting married!” We are all on our own journeys. Perhaps your journey led you to a temple marriage at 19 or 20, but ours is a more circuitous route. We understand your love and concern and how much you wish with us for the righteous desires of our hearts, but we also know that the Lord will take care of us in His own way and in His timing.
If there is one blessing to being single, it is that knowledge. We often don’t have anyone else to lean on other than the Lord. When we come home to our homes and apartments, there isn’t anyone else there to listen to our concerns and conquests, the ups and downs of our lives. But we are blessed to find out for ourselves that the Lord is always there for us. He will always listen to us and help us along our journey, because He knows us better than anyone, even better than we know ourselves. Please remember this about us. Remember that “We are Daughters of a Heavenly Father, who loves us and we love Him” and that “We will “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” including marriage! (Young Women Theme)
Please respect us and our circumstances when you talk to us, and please reflect before you are tempted to ask us The Questions. We love our married friends and family, and don’t want to feel separated or isolated from you. We are all children of God, eternally connected and irrevocably linked. Let’s not let differences of marital status separate us in any way. Let’s find joy and harmony in our mutual understanding of the Gospel and the plan the Lord has for each of us.
Thanks to Wendy, Lindsay, Jamie, Ariel, Kelly and Morgan for sharing your thoughts, your feelings, and for your friendship.