What taking a year off dating taught me

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I never realized the impact the ‘No Guys in 2018’ commitment I made would have on my life. There is something liberating about going against the grain. While most single females in their early thirties are focusing on the fact that their biological clocks are ticking, it’s not exactly the norm to quietly exit the dating scene. But I did. And I can say quite confidently, it has been one of the best decisions of my life.

It forced me to spend time on what I really wanted. What’s really important to me as an individual, by myself. Instead of going out with multiple guys in case he was “the one,” the commitment gave me the confidence to say no to the guys I already wanted to say no to. Guys I would have been afraid to say no to in the past. I wish I could say it was courage, but I’m not sure I can call it that when I was somewhat hiding behind a wall of “I’m taking a year off of dating” rather than simply saying “I’m not interested at this time.” It’s as if we feel we owe people an explanation of why we aren’t interested. But do we? Can’t we just say we aren’t interested without opening up insecurities and self-doubt? I wish we could. But I think we feel guilty for saying no. We don’t want the other person to feel less than so we attempt to justify. Instead of realizing someone may simply not be the one person we are supposed to marry, we equate it to something being wrong with us- not good enough, smart enough, funny enough, attractive enough. So we either make excuses for rejecting them or we go out with them “just in case.” The latter is how I spent my 20’s. Trusting that God would do his part. But adamant that I had to do my part.

If I were to remain single, at least I could say I tried.

For the longest time I tried to fix my behavior. Questioning something must be wrong with me if I’m not married yet while so many of my friends were celebrating anniversaries. I didn’t see singleness as a punishment, but more so a training ground to prepare me for who I was to be with. And it frustrated me thinking I was still perhaps not good enough or that I was simply too picky. It had to be one or the other.

But I think it had more to do with me, independent of any relationship. My identity. Ensuring my identity was in Christ alone, separate from an identity tied to a relationship, especially when two are supposed to become one. I have always longed for completeness that was independent from anything in this world. To be not only content, but joyful regardless of my circumstances, whatever season of life I was in. Complete in Christ. But how can that occur fully if so much of my energy centered on inviting another in in an attempt to feel whole? To say that I have achieved the next milestone? That I’m not behind and my timeline aligns with societal norms?

It took me a few months after the year was over to realize and understand just how much I had changed. How much I had grown. I’ve always had high standards when it came to relationships. Convictions that led most of my decisions. Relationships surfacing if marriage seemed like a possibility. Dating was the necessary means to that end- the end being marriage. So while my standards were high for relationships, my standards for dating were significantly less. Dating “just in case” is what I focused on while in my 20’s. My time, energy, conversations, thoughts revolved around my dating life. Dating occurring with not only guys I was simply attracted to, but guys I wasn’t attracted to “just in case” they had good hearts. This resulted in dating numerous guys and few actual relationships. On the surface this sounds normal. Expected. But I was dating potential. Not dating intentionally, decisively, or wisely.

I was living in the hopes of what if rather than in the reality of what is.

I’ve come to realize what making the most of your single life really means when not lived out intentionally. When lived with no concern for the future, and perhaps, most importantly, with no concern for others. We call these years the sowing of wild oats. Living without real responsibility yet. Shying away from commitments. A revolving door of who can feed my ego the most next. But what has really taught us?

We become dependent. We believe any man is better than no man. We can say we disagree with that statement but our actions often show otherwise. Compromising. Justifying. Believing any man is actually better than no man to pacify the fear of being alone. 
This behavior causing us to settle when we decide we are ready to actually settle down now. Oh, the irony. I’ve learned that how you spend your single years, has a direct impact on how much you are willing to settle.

The level of desire determines how far you are willing to compromise.

If you plan your life, career, education, community involvement around a potential family, discontentment will fester until you satisfy what you’ve laid the foundation for. If you live based on what you’ve been given and pursue dreams outside of a potential family, it’s easier to stay true to standards you’ve set for yourself. It’s as if some of us feel we can’t truly start our lives until our spouse enters the picture. And as a result, we miss out on some of the best years of our life.

As my time was spent more on knowing myself, more on knowing God, God Himself began to fill that void in a way I hadn’t known before. God has always been in my heart since I was little and first got saved but I wouldn’t say He completely filled it. I think when He does our desires go from “God and…” to simply “God.” I think it is then when we reach a deeper level of intimacy. Marriage and family so easily viewed as our purpose rather than as a complement to it. Those desires so strong, you know God wouldn’t deprive you. But over time, feeding those desires until they become an idol rather than giving them back to God and allowing Him to fulfill the true desires of our heart once we surrender.

To those married, embrace the beauty in two becoming one as you both fulfill your God-given purpose here on earth. For those still single, wait until you meet someone who will complement your God-given purpose. Be equally yoked. Keep your high standards and know what you want. If you lower your standards, compromise on what you want, you will no longer be single but you won’t have peace either. You’ll live in inner turmoil, conflicted over what to do, what to say, and how to live the rest of your life. Wait until you love your single life. It is then when you will marry out of love rather than desperation.

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