This topic has been sitting in my drafts for months, maybe a year. I didn’t think in a million years I would ever post this to the public, and as I type these words, I keep thinking to myself “are you sure about this, Mykel?”
But then I remember the girls that feel the same way. I think of the DM’s, I think of the conversations I have had in the last year with women who feel the same way, both within the LDS culture, and outside of it. I believe so much of it is the same, religion or not. There were so many nights that I would google or go to websites to read stories of girls like me who struggled with relationships, and I could never find them. I was desperate to find someone that related to me. So, I want to be that person. For young girls, for women of all ages, and men too if you are here (thanks for stopping by)
I want you to know you have a friend. I want you to know I understand how you feel. I want to share this small portion of my life with you in hopes that I can be that person for you, that you will find this and feel like “yes, she gets it.” and while our situations may be so different, I understand and feel so many of the same things.
disclaimer on this post, I have written and re written this so many times. I have taken things out, added things, I realize that it may be a ramble of thoughts, authentic and raw. My articulation always seems to run dry when talking about these topics, so forgive me for that.
A little background on me:
The topic of relationships usually makes me want to vomit. Did I say that out loud? By nature, dating is really hard for me. It always has been. I think it is hard for everyone at some time in their lives, but I don’t know why it has always felt especially hard for me. My friends always got into relationships quickly, it was natural for them, and I never felt comfortable dating. I open up to few people as it is, and the concept of opening up to a relative stranger always terrified me. It was just always… hard for me. I never felt like I could be myself, I never felt comfortable. I have been on countless dates, and I consider myself a very social person. I have been told before it was just relationship anxiety, and while I most definitely have that I have spent the last two years working really really hard on opening up to the people in my life, but mostly in relationships. I was never one of the girls that was always with the guys, I usually avoided them. I had no idea how to flirt (still don’t) and conversations with guys usually ended on me talking about the benefits of small manufacturing in the fashion industry, or the time I had a turtle farm and that I have read every single book that exists on reptiles, or that time I brought a black light on a night hike date to look for scorpions and he never spoke to me again (which, I actually feel like is hilarious) my point is, I have no idea how to go on dates, and I was never the flirty girl who knew how to talk to guys. I have always felt that guys pursued me because they thought I was this blogger dream girl (yuck, I can’t believe I just typed that) but then they realized quickly that I wasn’t. I was much more opinionated, career driven, or passionate about things than maybe the other LDS girls they were going out with, I don’t know that for sure, but it sure felt like the narrative for a long time in my life. The stereotyping I have received in my life because of my type of work is kind of insane and used to really depress me. That in combination with my inability to open up, it has always kind of been a dating recipe for disaster. And it is. And it has been.
My family joked that my fearlessness stops at relationships. I would rather give a talk to two million people than go on a date. I have had business centered conversations with CEO’s of billion-dollar companies and was relatively unphased, but telling a guy how I feel, well I would simply rather die.
I also never cared very much about it, because never one day in my life put my value in my relationship status, and I never felt like I needed one to be happy. I genuinely liked being alone. I was always comfortable by myself.
However, growing up in the LDS church, and to say the concept of marriage and family is a huge focus is an understatement. I grew up with this fairytale that one day, I would meet this amazing, wonderful man and we would have a family and live happily ever after and that should be a focus in my life.
And I believed and hoped for that that for so many years of my life… But then, as I got older, it didn’t happen. I do not disagree with the teachings of family centered life, not one bit. But it was something that I felt like I failed at, despite my efforts. Like I didn’t measure up, especially when everyone around me seemed to be getting married and having babies like it was simple. Meanwhile, I struggled and struggled for years to even enjoy going on dates.
Within the LDS church there is a cultural timeline, and if you’re a part of it, you know exactly what I am talking about, if you’re not let me break it down for you:
Married between the ages of 18-23 (past 24 you are considered “older”) and to have children shortly after. I don’t even know where this concept comes from, or if it’s just the general majority so it starts to feel like the standard, but what if you aren’t the standard it can start to affect you negatively. Nothing within the religion teaches this. Besides the few comments made from leaders to not waste time, and to focus on finding a family, there is no actual doctrine or gospel teaching that says anything about age standards, marriage or children timeline, yet the cultural notion is so strong that it stands to feel that this is the way it is “supposed to be.”
I have never been one to wait around. I continued to pursue my career ambitions. I will admit career focus did at some points take over my desire to get married, because doors were opening in that direction, but never in marriage or relationships, despite my efforts. So I went through the doors available to me.
And I felt really guilty for a long time. That I had done something wrong, or that I didn’t fit the mold in some way because of my career ambitions. That if I prayed harder or tried harder, it would happen for me. If I were less focused on my career, I would be married by now. I remember one time talking to this guy, and we were talking about jobs and things, and I shared what I did for work. I will never forget him saying:
“So will your career take priority over your children and husband?”
I felt frustrated.
“What husband and what children are you referring to?” I asked him.
While I understood his question, it felt insulting given that the narrative from a lot of people in my life was that I had “chosen” a career over family, because of the magnitude of my career: I never actively made that decision. I moved forward with what options available to me. Relationships were not one of those options.
Slowly, all my friends got married and moved on in that way in their lives. And then there was me. The countless wedding receptions I would leave, happy for my friends and siblings but this slight pit in my stomach. Maybe it was loneliness, maybe it was the ALL TOO HUMAN feeling of being left behind.
Everyone but me, was the narrative playing in my mind.
And for a long time that is how I felt, left behind. And slowly, as the years passed, I started to feel like nobody could relate to me. And as I got older (in the LDS church culture this age is usually 24) my prospects felt like they became fewer and fewer… well, it got hard. And I started to feel kind of alone. And for the first time, I started to let it affect how I felt about myself.
It probably didn’t help that I have been given all the advice. I cannot tell you the lectures I have sat through from people around me trying to help and offer encouragement. But it always felt dismissive of my feelings or struggles.
You’re too picky
You need to get out more.
You’re too intimidating.
Don’t think about it, it happens when you don’t think about it
Be more flirty
ENJOY being single, marriage is hard.
Or the countless comments every Holiday or Wedding or Birthday that passes.
“When are you going to settle down?” (as if this was a career vs. family dilemma, that I had chosen one over the other, not that one was not available to me)
“Clock is ticking” is my personal favorite.
Meanwhile, I was trying. I was trying really hard and maybe they didn’t see that, but I was pushing myself in new ways, going on dates… I even had downloaded a dating app (mistake, by the way) and was working on opening up.
My point is, it started to consume me at one point in my life: guilt, and frustration mostly. Frustration with myself because opening up was so chronically difficult for me, and guilt because I started to feel like maybe I had done something wrong. That it was because of me. That it was my fault. Or that time was passing me by, or that I was missing out on the most wonderful blessing because I had not been focused enough on it.
And I knew that dating was hard for me, that it always had been, so I thought one time that if I could just “get over it” and “take the leap” and find a nice guy to commit to, it would fix me, or my challenges in opening up. I got so sick of being so afraid to commit, that I decided to “just got for it” and made a commitment to somebody I absolutely should not have committed to, even on the smallest of scales, and it ended up being a big mistake on my part because I was doing it for the sake of doing it, not because I felt that person was right for me. But I was trying.
And it was because this mindset that I wasn’t trying hard enough that started to settle in, and it was so unhealthy. And that mindset turned into a cancer, and thoughts started to stick that if I was “more of this” or “less of this” it would have happened for me. I would have found someone. If I was less weird, or talked less, or was prettier, I would have found someone. The list went on and on and on. And looking back, it breaks my heart that I even allowed those thoughts to enter my mind or heart for one second, let alone consume me. I remember months I would cry myself to sleep because I felt like I wasn’t enough, that I didn’t fit the mold, and that the right person for me just didn’t exist.
It has taken me a year to start to unlearn these concepts. That I can be a part of a religion that teaches the focus of families and marriage, but to also know that I am the exception, right now.
I want to talk about what has helped me. I want to talk about how I started to change my thoughts; how I shifted my paradigm. Whether you’re single because of your own choice, not your choice, divorce, never married, never dated… I hope this helps you.
I realized that I had done everything I could, and that was all I could do.
This helped me so much. I felt a huge relief when I realized that I had done everything I could do, that I was trying. That I was working towards opening up, doing things I hadn’t ever done before. I was trying really hard to have more open conversations with guys, and I was even getting better at explaining how I did, or did not feel when it came to feelings. I started therapy to work on my inability to let people in, and did a lot of work on understanding why that was. So much of it stemmed from the toxic aspects of the industries I worked in, and where my lack of trust because of intense unconstructive criticism, in combination with my natural ability to not trust or open up or feel comfortable around people that I haven’t known my whole life.
It was bad for a long time, and I look back and see my efforts, and see that on the outside it may have looked like I was not committing, or trying hard enough, or giving guys a chance, but I was actually doing everything I could have been doing. And it was personal. So much of the work was happening within my own heart and mind, and none of my friends or family members would be able to see that. And that was okay that they didn’t think I was trying hard enough.
PLEASE don’t be so hard on yourself. There is nothing “wrong” with you. Do what you can, and leave the rest up to God, the universe, or whatever it is you believe in.
God has a timeline for me (and you)
I am religious, and I really believe that God is in the details of our lives. I believe that things happen in the time that they need to happen. It gives me so much comfort and most days I feel at peace because I know that things come to us in the time they are supposed to. That the right people come into our lives when they should.
The grass is not always greener: There were times that I felt resentful of my married friends because, in my eyes, they had so much more than I did. I would constantly compare the things that they had their spouses do. I remember one time my friend was scared of a spider and her husband came to the rescue and killed it. I had the thought “I would just have to kill it myself, there’s nobody to do it for me.” and that list goes on. It seems so silly, but I was so aware of all of the things my married friends had. And sometimes I resented that because I had to do it all on my own. And I thought how nice it would be to be able to have someone to help me with things. I realize I have a TON of help from my friends, family, former roommates, etc. But I remember telling my friends in frustration “it would just be nice to have someone to HELP me with stuff. To be there. So that I didn’t do everything by myself.”
And at times it would feel like I had the shorter end of the stick. But, with relationships come so much more responsibility, and having a family is hard. Being single is hard. It’s all hard.
I heard someone once say that if you can’t be happy being single, you won’t be happy in a relationship. I really liked that, and I remind myself of that. I have focused on having joy on this side of the fence.
Being single can be a blessing:
I learned that it is okay to take pride in being single, while hoping for a family one day. I felt some guilt before, like if I focused on the blessing of being single that meant that I was not “focused on the right things” I do not know if that makes sense, but it is how I felt.
I don’t believe that. I believe we should find pride and joy where we are. And that is OKAY. It doesn’t mean that’s not the goal; it doesn’t mean we aren’t trying. It means were choosing to be happy where we are. It is a matter of gratitude, in all circumstances.
I now choose to focus on the wonderful blessings of being single. Because there are so many. I am grateful for my independence, because I feel like that is a valuable trait I have. And with that independence, I can go where I want to go, move where I want to move, travel the world, and I think that’s really cool, too. I used to feel selfish for thinking that, but now I realize that it comes with being grateful in all circumstances and to see the good, and that is part of it.
I realize that another blessing is how it has helped me in my relationships with my family. There are so many things I can do because I am single. When my grandpa had back surgery a few weeks ago, I was able to go and stay with him and my grandma, because I didn’t have any family obligations. I can fly places and stay with my friends who are struggling, I can spend more time with my niece, and I can strengthen the relationships with the family members I do have. I can be of help to them, I can be there in ways that maybe my married sisters can’t. I am the only single one in my family, and I try to take a sense of responsibility in that. And to see what a blessing that is.
I had to stop telling myself I will “be happy when…”
I really believe that you can find joy in any circumstances. I have been able to find so much joy in my life. I have been able to find so much joy in every day. I decided a year ago I never wanted what I didn’t have to cast a shadow on what I DO have. Because I have so so so much to be grateful for.
My life is so full of amazing, wonderful and beautiful people, moments, memories and that exists without having a family of my own. I have experiences I would not trade for the world. My life may lack certain experiences, but that does not in any way take away from the experiences I have had, and some of those I wouldn’t have it I had gotten married young, or even within the last five years.
I believe God has a plan for us. I believe he has purpose, and I have learned to lean on him, to trust him. To trust his timing, to trust his love, and to trust his direction.
I focused on the family that I have:
My grandma once said to me: “you have so many people in your family that love you so much, and that are so excited when you come home, don’t focus on what you don’t have. Focus on the people that love you now.”
And I do.
I moved home late last year because I needed to reset, because I was on a career path that I felt like was starting to make me lose myself, I realized that I was lost in so many things and my focus in life was not where it needed to be. So I came home, and I spent mornings with my mom, or late evenings talking with my dad, and I watched my niece and spend every moment I can with her. I worked with my sister at her business, and I was able to go with my baby sister to pick out her wedding dress. I did crafts with my sisters, and I spent many weekends watching Christmas movies with my grandma. For the first time, I was able to actually answer the phone when my cousins called.
I was able to be there.
I filled my life with moments with people that love me. My 1% people, I call them. And I stopped focusing on what I didn’t have. And I learned that you can be full and happy on your own, while still hoping for a family of your own one day.
And I stopped asking myself what was wrong with me. I stopped feeling guilty for something out of my control, I filled my life with so many beautiful things. I trust God. I became whole without a “partner”
I found that I had everything I needed to be happy.
I found so much Joy.
I do not mean in any way to undermine the struggles that come from being alone, especially in a church where marriage and family is the topic at every meeting, and in almost every conversation.I do not mean to give the impression that loneliness, the anxiety of being alone, or desires of the heart not working out is not hard. Trust me, I have had many evenings feeling hopeless, exhausted, frustrated, heartbroken, disappointed, and let down. I know what rejection feels like. I know what rejecting feels like. I know what feeling completely and entirely by yourself feels like. I know these feelings all too well. But I draw on God for strength… and I move forward with Hope. I do the things that I love. I fill my life with wonderful and good things… things that make me feel complete, things that make me feel alive.
I hope I was able to translate how I felt, and how I have been feeling lately. It’s messy, it’s confusing, but just know that I know how it feels. These are some of my unfiltered thoughtsb on the matter, I hope this post helped you in some way, even if it’s just that I understand the ups and downs and the roller coaster of living life single. I have been there, I get it.
I’m here with you.