I recently went through a pretty significant breakup. Significant because over the course of the relationship, there were several times when I believed this was it—this was the guy, and I was done looking. I am not going to get into the details of our breakup, but I will say it ended mutually and kindly and with plenty of sadness on both of our parts.
For someone like me who has been dating for 20+ years, the idea of coming really close and (yet again) having to start over is exhausting. The first weeks after our breakup, I remember telling several people: “I am done.” The response I got from almost everyone can be summed up like this: “This was an important relationship that you needed to learn from in order to find the right guy.” So in other words: a learning experience.
I am sick of learning experiences. And why do I “need” so many more of them than that engaged 20-year-old over there?
I know people mean well, and they are not exactly wrong. I know there are important things to learn from every relationship that will inform my search for the right spouse. I also believe that one of the advantages to being single later in life is that I have learned more about myself, about men, and about what kind of relationship I want than I would have if I had gotten married younger.
So while I believe I am supposed to learn from experiences AND am grateful for them, I still feel some reticence to the idea that they are required before I am allowed to find the right guy. That there are a number of hoops to go through and challenges I must complete before I can enter the next stage of life.
Back in high school, I failed the first two tests in my 9th-grade algebra class. Because of my poor showing, the teacher asked if I would like to transfer to an algebra “fundamentals” class instead. The course material was the same, but we met more often, and the teacher spent a longer time on each concept. Many students at school had a derogatory name for the class, and there were many times I was embarrassed to be a member of it. But by the time it was over, I was grateful for the slower learning rate because it allowed me to grasp the material more easily. Ultimately, I excelled in algebra and later was asked to be a teacher’s assistant for the class.
So is that the answer? Am I a remedial dater? One who needs a bit more time to grasp the principles of relationships before I can excel at it? Maybe. And when I think about it in the context of my 9th-grade algebra experience, it isn’t quite as humiliating as it sounds. As with most things, however, it is probably not that simple.
I believe God has a plan for me. I believe He knows how my life is going to play out. I also believe my life plan is influenced by many factors: what God needs me to learn, my personal choices, and the free agency of those I interact with. I do not believe God is keeping me away from a righteous desire because I haven’t “earned” it yet.
It is human nature to want to find a reason for everything that happens. We want to ascribe meaning—especially for the hard things—since it makes us feel a bit better and maybe even gives us something to blame. But our ways are not God's ways, and for most things, we don’t really know why they happen. In fact, we can’t know. Faith is too important a principle for us to know the why behind every circumstance.
Knowing why or not doesn’t really change anything, though. My life will move forward regardless of how tired I am or how disappointed I may be. So no matter what the reason, I will welcome more “learning experiences” into my life. Let’s just hope at some point I get to start learning something else.