I grew up assuming that I would get married and have a lot of kids, because that’s what you DO in my family (my dad is one of eight and two of those uncles have six kids each). I took it for granted that I would eventually meet someone smart and funny and Catholic that also wanted a lot of kids, and that we would spend our thirties and forties going to swim meets and dance recitals and piano lessons and they would go to the same Catholic schools that I went to and everything would be perfect.
By 2007, I was 35 and still unmarried and I was starting to think that the husband/kids thing wasn’t going to happen for me. I had tried endless dating web sites, speed dating, set-ups, etc. and all were unsuccessful. That Fall, both of my sisters and my sister-in-law were all pregnant at the same time, which was a really bad situation for me in my depressed state. Every time we would have a family gathering, the three of them would take a picture with their pregnant bellies and I would pretend like I was happy for them and hide the fact that what I really wanted to do was to go home and cry under the covers.
That same Christmas, 2007, I got the best advice I ever got, although I didn’t know it at the time. My mom and I took my grandmother to see post-Katrina New Orleans over the Christmas holiday, and we met up with my great aunt and uncle. While we were at their house, it somehow came up that I was single and my great aunt told me, “If God doesn’t want you to be married, then nothing you can do is going to find you a husband, and if God wants you to be married, you won’t be able to do a thing to stop it.” Those words really bothered me when she said them – usually people would optimistically insist that I would find someone, I just had to keep looking. To actually put it out there that GOD MIGHT NOT WANT ME TO GET MARRIED seemed like the most horrible thing anyone ever could have said to me.
At the time, I wasn’t going to Mass and had never considered the idea that maybe God could help me find a husband, but I sure did latch onto the idea that maybe He was somehow KEEPING ME from finding a husband. I filed the comment away in the back of my brain and chalked the entire experience up to the fact that 90+ year olds say the darndest things. I struggled a little bit with whether or not God would maybe “let” me get married if I would go back to Mass, but somehow came to the decision that God really had nothing to do with it.
The summer I turned 37, a friend put the idea in my head that if I wasn’t married by 40, I probably wasn’t going to be able to have kids. As horrifying as that idea seemed at first (no one likes to hear that they only have three years left to find the husband they’ve been looking for their entire adult life), I gradually started to realize that my life wasn’t nearly as empty as I thought it was. I had a family that I mostly loved, four wonderful nieces and nephews (now six with one more on the way!), a job that was challenging and fulfilling, and a new house. I suddenly realized that maybe there could be more to life than having a husband and kids, and that maybe God really did intend for me to be single.
What’s difficult about being single is that everyone assumes that you want to be married, and most of them are on a mission to help you find a husband (and assure you that you’re not too old to have kids, lots of people have kids in their forties!). Once I decided that maybe I was okay staying single, I was hyper-aware of how much pressure that I had always put on myself to find a husband and how many years I had wasted being unhappy.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to find like-minded single people. My single friends all want to get married . Most of the web sites out there when you search “Catholic and single” are either dating web sites or blogs encouraging you to hang in there until you find the right person. What about someone like me that genuinely decides that maybe I’m called to be single? I haven’t ruled out getting married, because I finally believe that if God wants me to be married, I won’t be able to do a thing to stop it. And that’s just fine by me.