Category Archives: dating

The Problem with being single : The things people say (and what I did with it)

They said marriage and children are really hard.  No, like really hard… Seriously.  And this is good – honesty is good.  But, if you’re hoping to get married, make sure it is to The Right Person.  And, actually, while you’re at it, make sure you are The Right Person.

They posted endless Facebook articles : 8 ways to find a godly marriage partner, 10 things Christian men should look for in a bride, 15 things godly women need in a husband, 20 characteristics of a God-honouring marriage…

They said to find someone who would lead me spiritually, someone who would encourage me in all my gifts, someone who would push me to be the very I best I could be.

They said that if it were right, I would ‘just know’; that if it were real, it wouldn’t be so hard.

They said to seek out a man of character and to stay away from anyone with ‘issues’.

They said to make sure I was ready; my issues  prayed away, my patience perfected.

Later, they added things like ‘financial security’, ‘more than sexual attraction’, ‘shared values’.  Think about who’ll die first, who might get sick, where you might live, how you’ll spend your money, raise your kids, paint the bathroom, cook your pasta, scratch your… Well. You get the idea.

So, I packed up all these thoughts and questions and traits and hoisted them onto my back.

 I didn’t notice the weight at first, because I wanted marriage, I wanted to choose well, I had to choose well.  And now that I carried this stuff with me, when it came to being in a relationship, I knew what it would look like, how it would feel, what I would do, what he would do, what we would be together : a lean, mean, godly marriage machine. And it would last, I’d be sure it would last.

I, particularly I, would need to be sure it would last.

Then I fell in love.

No-one said I would come face to face with my fears as I accidentally fell for someone so completely unexpected. Someone so completely… Human.

 No-one said (or I didn’t hear it well) that life tends to be a little less tidy than my backpack of relationship expectation.  They didn’t post Facebook articles offering 8 ways to stop being Shit-Scared of marriage when your parents are divorced, 10 ways to loosen your vice-like grip on what you perceive to be control, 20 characteristics of two screwed up human beings trying to build a life together while trusting grace.

So I find myself in a relationship with someone whose complete human-ness is irritatingly out of my control (this is tongue-in-cheek, but – seriously?!? No-one said I would need to surrender control!). But in all his uncontrollable human glory, he is funny and gentle and GOOD. And I love him.

Those things they said I should look for, should do, should be… They haunt me sometimes. Sometimes they haunt me often. There tends to be plinky-plinky Disney-like music and chirupping birds echoing somewhere in the background. There is always fear.

I am not afraid of his imperfection – though sometimes The Lists would have me think so. (Then I can blame it on someone else.) I am not afraid of infidelity and drama. I’m afraid of me.

This is my fearful shame :

After all these years of praying for someone who wouldn’t give up on me, my biggest fear is that it will be me who gives up because marriage and kids is really hard.  No, like really hard… Seriously.  Like, maybe too hard for anyone other than The Right Person.

And if there’s anything I’ve learnt over the past few years, it is that I am not The Right Person.

I am only me.  He is only him.  And that load on my back is only Heavy.

Stuff the lists.

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Filed under dating, fear, heart, love, relationships, risk, singleness

On being not single.

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Ah, Valentine’s Day… The day on which we (I?) make jokes about how difficult it was to open our front door with all the cards and flowers in the way.  Otherwise could be known as “Marmite Day”… You either love it or hate it.

Facebook testifies to this fact.

From schmushy declarations of love, to boastful photographs of “oh-gosh-I’m-sooo-surprised-by-this-bouquet-of-flowers-aren’t-I-sooo-blessed?”, to bible verses about love and to downright “fnuh”, the 14 February has got people status-updating to the max.

*     *     *

One of my life’s most creative and romantic gestures (thus far, I hasten to add!) was to make a handmade story book of high school friends who became college sweethearts.  I poured my heart into it and it took weeks.  After the then-current-day page of our love story, I marked “To be continued…”.  When I gave the gift, my sweetheart thumbed through the pages after “To be continued…”, smiled and said “Oh good, there are lots of pages still to come.”  *Sigh*  Perfect!

Except two months later it was all over.

Love is a risk.

*     *     *

Not so long ago, I lived in a house with two other girls.  A little while after we moved in together, one housemate began a dating relationship.  What struck me about the dynamic of that this time round, was that while we two single housemates were feeling left out of the “couples”, my newly “dating-someone” housemate was feeling left out of being single.

Over the next months, she and her boyfriend went through millions of ups and downs and ins and outs on the journey of working out if they could build a life together.  They eventually tied the knot and are now facing the rest of life’s challenging adventures together as husband and wife.  We got to be part of that as the three of us housemates honestly walked the path of our changing circumstances together.

Love is a risk.

*     *     *

I never thought I’d be one to advocate for the American way of things, but if my friend and colleague is a good example of the American take on all this, then do it their way…

She made “Valentines” for the members of her choir : little red boxes containing lots of little items each related to some aspect of love.  I can’t remember exactly, but like “a poem, to read and share”, “a piece of ribbon to bring together the ones you love”, “a plaster, to remind you that broken hearts heal” things like that.  She’s determined to help them think differently about Valentine’s Day today.

She also invited me around to share in their new family tradition of Valentine’s Chocolate Fondue complete with red napkins and heart-embellished fondue forks.  When its shared with family and friends, there’s no need to be single when you can be together.

*     *     *

Love is a risk and if Valentine’s Day can be a way to celebrate the fact that the risk is worth taking and that we are not alone in any part of that, then I’m up for that.

And chocolate fondue.

But perhaps there’s no need to boast about your PERFECT life on Facebook…??

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The problem with being single 3: Shame

Its been just over four years since I last had the guts to write anything about this.  I’m still not married. I just turned 30, so, you know… tick tock, tick tock…

As you may have picked up or know, my small corner has gone from being in Norn Iron to being en France.  Maybe I should change it to my “slightly larger” corner.  Not quite the same ring.  But anyway.  I’m procrastinating.

Having been through the ravages of culture shock (she said, as if its all done and dusted), when a young homeland lady on a semester abroad here got in touch with my mission asking to meet someone here in France, I took pity and went to meet her for an hour for drinkypoos.  I was careful to order nothing alcoholic, especially since even having a coffee in this country requires that one enter a “den of iniquity”.

If you’re not from Northern Ireland, you’re not going to understand that.  But its funny, I swear.

So we chatted and I graciously bestowed every bit of my vast wisdom about all things surviving cross-culturally.  Then our drinks arrived.  Hmmm… what now? So we chatted more generally about life and family and all sorts of inane things that came to my feeling-slightly-awkward-trying-to-make-conversation brain.  Its was fine, we’re meeting again in a couple of weeks so I can introduce her to someone else at the Language Café.

But as I walked away from the meeting, one point of our conversation came back to my mind.  She had asked me about my family and I’d told her about my two sisters.  She asked if they were married and I said yes.  Normal, huh?  Except as I pottered back to my car I replayed my inner workings to that question… I was very careful to mention that my sisters were 4 and 6 years older than me and that they were only very recently married and that therefore means in the natural order of things I have at least 4-6 years before the world needs to start worrying about my naked fingers and half-empty bed.

As a single woman, I dread pity.  I dread comments like “Och sure, plenty of time yet” and “How come a lovely girl like you isn’t married yet?”  I have deep feelings of irritation (slash burningly sinful hatred) when my Uncle ticks my sisters off his fingers and then asks whether or not he should buy himself a hat any time soon.

If you didn’t spend Saturday Nights with our Cilla, you’re not going to understand that.  But its not funny anyway.

You see, the thing is, I want to be married and somehow connected with that desire and the fact it is unfulfilled I have a sense of shame.  How come a “lovely girl” like me isn’t married??  (That’s a rhetorical question.  Just so you know.  Try to answer and I may kill you.)

Through various internet linkage this morning (you know how it goes, you’re looking for the conversion of oz into gms for your pancake batter then suddenly you’re reading an article about the astrophysics of gophers in the Sahara), I ended up watching this 10 minute video about the definition of shame.  She says shame is “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance or belonging.”

The reason I feel shame about being unmarried (still being unmarried? I’m not sure this is all that new…) even though I want to be is because there is a voice which tells me I am “flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance or belonging”.

So why am I exposing my bits on my blog?  Because shame is a lie we all believe.  It may have nothing to do with your marital status or unfulfilled desires, but it might show up there for you too.  You know that voice, right?  The one that says “How come God doesn’t give me what I want and really desperately hope for or need?  What have I done wrong…?  What’s wrong with me…?”

Romans 8:1-2 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

Romans 10:9-11 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.

The voice that tells us we are “unworthy of acceptance or belonging” is lying.  Part of breaking shame is naming shame, bringing it into the light.  So that’s why I’m exposing my bits on my blog, because I choose to walk into the light of God’s incredible love and acceptance of me and thought you might like to come with me.

I also found this sermon on shame worth a listen : click here

 

 

 

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French Kissing and other cultural reflections on love.

French kissing.  I’ve done it a lot.  Its very nice and I have to say I like it.  But, it can get a little awkward…  Turning this way and that, bumping glasses, not knowing what is acceptable to do with your hands, wondering if I have to kiss EVERY person in the room even though it takes an awful long time to get around everyone.  It gets tiring, all this kissing.

For those of you who aren’t sure what I’m talking about, here’s a little instructional video…

See?

I think even the French get confused.

In other cultural reflection news… I’ve been thinking about how the presence of or lack of words to describe a concept in a certain language has a profound affect on a culture.  The French word/concept that I’ve been thinking about is ‘love’.  Another slightly awkward one for an anglophone.

So, you make a new friend of the opposite sex.  You don’t fancy them, but you do greatly appreciate their friendship and would like to communicate this.  Problem : the verb you would most likely use (‘aimer’) means both like and love.  Awkward.

Or, you make a new friend of the opposite sex.  You are attracted to them and would like to communicate this.  Problem : the verb you would most likely use does not exist.  Your only option is to use ‘aimer’ – I love you.  Immediately you find yourself confessing to be in love with this person.  Awkward?

Now, for an anglophone (at least in my culture), the phrase ‘I love you’ takes a relationship to a whoooooooole other level – think how many films/tv series include that awkward moment where one person says ‘I love you’ and the other person freaks out because they’re not ready to say it so says something silly like ‘thank you’ and so ensues a whole episode of angst until the second person plucks up the courage and decides its okay to say it but now the other person doesn’t want to hear it etc etc etc.  Awkward.

But anyway.  I digress.

Now imagine yourself French (no rude comments, please).  This is how it works as far as I can tell… You meet someone of the opposite sex and start going out.  How do you express the fact that you like that?  Je t’aime.  I love you.  But that’s okay, because you’re French and you speak French, and that’s what you say.

Incroyable.

It puts such an interesting spin on it all because ‘I love you’ is therefore a somewhat smaller thing to say because it is employed from a very early period in defining a relationship.  It is made even smaller, then, when you break up with someone after a few weeks because you don’t feel like its working – the words ‘Je t’aime’ are therefore as easily revoked as they are employed.  Do you see what I mean?  The words somehow don’t have the same binding power…

But whilst it is a smaller thing to say, it can also be a majassive thing to say, you know?  For example, in the French Christian world, love is, on principal, not bandied around (which is a Good Thing), but at the same time the amount of pressure that is put on a couple to Know from the beginning is huge.  Like, where is that period between friendship and ‘in love’?  Surely that’s an important stage to pass through before committing yourself for a lifetime to a person?  Its sort of an all-or-nothing situation.

Hmmm…. Makes for a more dramatic life I guess.  Perhaps Alicia was in France when she wrote this

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The problem with being single – 2.5: Sometimes you lose your voice

The ole stats have been low of late ( 😉 ), so thought I’d post something to make you sit up and pay attention…!  Couldn’t quite decide if this was number 3 of this series as technically the first one I called ‘Mark II ‘ was a cop out, then secondly I posted an edited version of  the original post so anyway… 2.5…

Was chatting to a married friend recently who was articulating some of the things I have long felt niggling at the back of my mind about Christian men.  It was a breath of fresh air to hear her talk so freely about some of the wrong attitudes men appear to have when it comes to dating because you see, the problem with being single is that sometimes you lose your voice.

It was okay for her to comment on the tendancy of Christian men to choose partners first (if not wholly) on consideration of physical attractiveness before going on to consider character; it was okay for her to comment on how often Christian men shy away from any woman who could hold her own in a debate (theological or otherwise), build her own flat-pack furniture or earn a greater salary than he.  It was okay for her because its clear that she’s speaking up for others as she herself is happily married.

Somehow it doesn’t feel okay for me to say those things.  Somehow it sounds self-serving and bitter and sad.  In my worse moments, perhaps it is self-serving and bitter, but in the depths of my gut I truly long for men and women to know and love each other as God has made them.  Too often women feel the need to lose weight, buy clothes, shut up, dumb down in order to be considered as dateable never mind marriagable.  Too often we’re compelled to be someone other than our true selves.

I don’t just long for that for women, this is not just a ‘women’s issue’.  I also long that men would so set aside their own fear of not matching up to the world’s standards in their relationships and achievements that they could truly begin to live in love and partnership with women.

But I’d never say that without great fear and trepidation because the problem with being single is that sometimes you lose your voice.

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I told you so!

I don’t read much about the news, but my friend soapbox does, and he discovered an article on the BBC website which claims to have evidence that rom-coms and Hollywood mush seriously affects how we think about relationships.

What can I say – I’m a genius.  Read me.

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Filed under dating, love, modern life, perfect love, random, relationships

Feminism and Flat-pack Furniture

While she was building a flat-pack chair, my friend once commented “Does this mean I’m an Independent Woman now? I’m worried that means I don’t need a husband.”

Now, there are several things about that statement that worry me. Apologies to said friend if ever she should read this. It is not criticism of her nor her plight, but it was the perfect example with which to write a blog that has been brewing for a few days. PLUS it gave the perfect alliterative title!

These are only preliminary thoughts which I hope to develop over time. How many of them I publish here depends on my waxing and waning concerns over how I am perceived and judged by any readership that should stumble across my small corner.

Okay, here goes … in no particular order…

1. Inherent is a picture of a God who gives women certain skills so they can cope when he makes them live as old spinsters.

Women I know (in this context of the single variety) often think about whether or not God is ‘calling’ them to be single til the grave (I imagine men also think about this but with perhaps less urgency…). It’s a big thing. Perhaps it’s the bio-clock a-ticking (of which we’re aware in one way or another from a ridiculously young age), perhaps it’s the importance and honour which the media and culture place on couples/romance or perhaps – and I think that often – it is rooted in a tragic sense of ‘What if…?’ What if I’m not attractive enough? What if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t deserve it? What if God doesn’t love me enough to give me what I most desperately want? Relationship. Connection. Community. What if God is giving me practice at building flat-pack furniture so I can look after myself when all my friends get married and I’m alone?’

Is this really the provision of which ‘Jehovah-Jireh’ speaks?

2. Negative connotations of being independent – as if its not a feminine quality.

Now, I know Beyoncé and the girls coined this idea of an Independent Woman – and let’s face it, if we could wave a wand and be like Beyoncé I’m not too sure how many of us would decline the offer (the Spice Girls’ ‘Girl Power’ might be somewhat less tempting…) – but, actually in reality, culture (at least N.I Christian culture) seems to consider independence in a woman isn’t ‘all that’.

I’m in great danger here of stealing another blogger’s soapbox and start ranting, but I’ll curtail it for now as this, I hope, is just the introduction to a series of posts on these things.

Suffice to say (for now) that, whether explicitly or otherwise, culture says that ‘real’ women are pink and fluffy. Which leads to my third preliminary observation…

3. Desire to be seen as ‘feminine’ in ‘masculine’ eyes.

Again, the fear that we don’t match up to what we’re ‘supposed’ to be. Most women (we cannot be completely free from generalisations here…) are greatly concerned with relationships and connections with people – its what we love, its our frame of reference for our identity. It is both a blessing and a curse. The curse being that we want others to think well of us and thus the concern to be desirable to the opposite sex in the hope of finding that one relationship that will remain til death do us part. So we fuss about our hair, our weight, our clothes; as students we cook for the boys’ house down the road, we do their dishes to ‘serve’ them ‘like Jesus would’, we talk about relationships to show we’re interested,  but not too much in case we look desperate… We want to be the ‘feminine’ friends our ‘masculine’ friends feel safe with, always fearing that if we get it wrong we’ll soon be spinsters with nothing but feline friends to inhabit our flat-pack furniture filled flats… FOREVER.

Perhaps this all sounds very negative and pessimistic, but it is sometimes necessary to talk in extremes in order to illustrate the issues. My intention is NOT to enforce flat-pack furniture lessons and burping contests on girls from the age of three, neither is it to criticise nor diminish the incredibly important, demanding and beautiful work that mothers and homemakers do every day. Nor is my intention to incite hatred towards men – their struggles are as big as our own (I just don’t have the same kind of insight into them.) and we must learn to love each other well as people made in the image of God. Rather, my desire is to become, and help others become, who God has designed us to be rather than what society would tell us to be.

I also will NOT be burning any bras…

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