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{Single Saints} Taking Heat off the Marriage Pressure Cooker

Mandy Slack - February 23, 2012


"You should be married!" is a fairly regular refrain for anyone who has remained single past the early 20s – including me. But a few of these strategies have kept me from getting down when the questions start getting old.

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?

© LDS Living, 2012.
Comments 4 comments

macho_mz said...

05:11 AM
on Feb 23, 2012

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I have heard those “well-meaning” questions more than I can count! I try to remember that for most people asking about your single status, they are well-meaning. While there is the occasional snippy comment (usually from someone who has been married about five minutes!), most of these people are just happy in their own marriages and want you to be happy too. I agree that it can motivate you to improve and be social, but it is so important not to define yourself by your single status. Improve your mind and spirit, start new hobbies, sharpen job skills- in short, use this time to be a better, more interesting and capable you! I have seen so many friends from my Young Women or early YSA days get married only to be divorced a few years later. Elder Faust wrote a great article in the Aug 2007 Ensign called Welcome Every Single One, telling all singles not to get discouraged, to work on our spiritual progression regardless of our marital status, and to use our time well. I can’t wait to get married and have a family, but I know that if I can’t be happy as me, marriage won’t fix that.

motherof3 said...

08:48 AM
on Feb 23, 2012

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my son is in that situation. he is desiring an eternal sweetheart but the young women in his area are focusing on school and career ... seeking 'mr perfection' ... the pressure cooker really isn't as frustrating IF the young adults look at dating as fun and seeking but not chasing around like a crazed person looking for an eternal companion. there is a middle area that is comfortable. to many high expectations. many are also needing that 'motivational push' to date so many 'hanging out'. i say to my son 'get your backside out of the guy syndrome'.

commonsense said...

10:28 PM
on Mar 01, 2012

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While it may difficult, the questions of why one is not married can pose an important evaluation for singles. If you are not married and you are past the desired age for marriage, what has led up to this point? While this may be painful, it can be beneficial to appropriately evaluate the past, make course changes in the present, and thereby potentially improve the future? As I have seen friends go through the LDS dating scene, I have observed that in many cases singles from both genders can suffer from what I call the “Perfection Myopia.” They believe somehow, Mr. Right will be riding on a White Horse and Angels will herald is very coming, he will be a doctor, lawyer, or a dentist, and they will live comfortably in a upscale home and can spend their productive years without having to scratch nail by doing any hard physical labor. Men seek this super model quality girl with a spirituality of a Sister Hinckley, and have emotions without being too emotional. The problem: both dreams are clearly beyond reality. Singles, must find a delicate balance of finding what is sufficient and good for them as opposed to their unrealistic dreams. Another problem is the judgment that goes on in the LDS single world by both genders. It is not uncommon for girls not to return phone calls or send a thank-you text or phone call to a date they have no interest. They give the guy one date and then if they are not interested they totally blow him off. If they find anything wrong with them, they immediately cast judgment. After all, they argue, “eternity is a long-time.” Men can be shallow and evaluate how girls look the night of the date as opposed to the whole package; they too can give only one date concluding she is not the one. The problem: everyone thinks they can tell by a one date or couple whether the person is for eternity or not. Further, they think that they are wise in their 20s to somehow know what they want when they are 65, 75, or 85. Question: How do you know what you will be in fifty years let alone what you will want in a spouse in 50 years? My suggestion for LDS Living: Have the writer of this article write an article about dating etiquette before, during, and after a date. Frankly, the stories I have heard from single friends from both genders leads me to strongly believe “all is not well” when it comes to etiquette in dating. I believe this is an area where too many LDS singles are frankly inept. Etiquette practiced by both genders can better enhance the dating experience and thereby increase their chances of marriage.

motherof3 said...

05:45 PM
on Mar 07, 2012

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commonsense...your comment is wonderful. my son is dealing with 'your not rich, popular nor will you be rich after graduation'. one of my daughters has a friend whom said to me 'i expect handsome, wealthy, popular, expensive car, his own home, travels'...never did she mention on her list 'honorable priesthood holder, loving, kind, active in the church, loves life and to serve our Savior'. this i have also heard from others which saddens me. i didn't look for Mr Perfection i prayed for an honorable man whom honors his priesthood, respects me, loves me, helps me, teaches me, active, etc...
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