In the wee hours of the morning when most of the world is still asleep, I work in a bakery with a spunky Peruvian woman in her early forties who never hides what she thinks or feels. One day we were talking and she asked me (even though she knew), “How old are you? 20? 23? Oh no, 25!” I smiled, knowing what was coming next. And it came: “You should be married!”
This is nothing new for me, and I’m sure it’s nothing new for thousands of LDS singles above the perfect age of 21. We’ve probably all heard this statement in some variety or have been asked why we’re not married—the setting simply changes. Maybe it’s in a chapel where our loving leaders can’t figure out why we are not married; maybe it’s in the car with a parent who thinks you’re being too picky; or maybe it’s anywhere you see an old friend who genuinely cares for your wellbeing. No matter where it is, the pressure is on.
I think pressure can be a good thing—to a certain extent. Pressure to marry has motivated me to be more social, to take better care of myself, and to try to constantly improve. But, frankly, it also bugs me. I know it irks some of my friends, too; it can make us feel weird and haggard, which I don’t think anyone should have to feel simply because they are single.
I’ve thought a lot about pressure and how much it bothers me, but I’ve finally realized that it won’t ever go away—we can’t send a massive email to the world asking them to please cut us a break. Instead of trying to stop others from pressuring us, maybe we just have to learn how to handle the heat. Here are some things I think could help with the negative effects of pressure.
People don’t know how to handle it when you give an unexpected reply to their well-meaning questions and will often leave you alone if you respond with a joke.
When someone asks you why you aren’t married, say something goofy that will catch the questioner off guard. My roommate and I once made a list of humorous (to us, anyway) answers to this question; we came up with things like, “Well, I’m schizophrenic and that’s a lot for a man to take on,” or “Oh, I’m very happy with my cats right now.” When you joke, this not only can make people forget what they were asking, but it also seems to show them that you’re not bitter about being single, so they’re not quite as worried about you.
Realize You’re Not Weird
I’ve had friends in their late twenties or early thirties whose confidence waxed thin as they got older and remained single. They really thought they were weird just because of that. There have been moments when I’ve felt the same way, but I’ve realized I can’t let my relationship status determine how I feel about myself or my life.
The pool of LDS singles is vast, but even if it weren’t, it wouldn’t make you a weird person (maybe there are other reasons you’re weird, but aren’t we all?). There are thousands of LDS singles out there and no, they’re not all 18-21. Could all of us really be that weird?
Enhance Your Awesome
Obsessing over marriage will only diminish personality. If all you do is think about the “M” word, what will happen when some intriguing man or woman is actually sitting across the table waiting to hear what you have to say? I’ve known people who were extraordinarily sweet and genuine, but mostly just cared about getting married and as a result had practically nothing to say when a member of the opposite sex was around. I’m sure they would make great spouses, or even just boyfriends and girlfriends, but their lack of interest in other subjects seems to hinder romantic success.
Check out this talk about preparing for marriage. Elder Eric Shumway gives some excellent suggestions for improving while we are single, both spiritually and temporally.
Keep Looking for a Person, Not Just a Wedding or Marriage
This line from True to the Faith has shaped my spouse-searching strategy: “Before you marry, be sure you have found someone to whom you can give your entire heart, your entire love, your entire allegiance, your entire loyalty.” Yes, our church leaders want us to get married, but they don’t want us to just get married—they want us in it forever.
Are you still going out with that guy because your parents are dying for more grandkids or because he’s someone you could still love in fifty years? And guys, are you going after that girl because she’s cute and you’re the only one in your family not married or because you think she could make you happy in the long (and I mean really long) run? Sometimes when I’m infatuated with someone, I try to take a step back from my blinded self and ask, “Could I love this person forever?”
When the pressure’s on, it can be tempting to jump into something you’re not really sure about just to get it all over with, but forever’s a long time—is it worth risking?