Am I Crazy?

It is a Monday mid-morning and the coffee shop is bustling. Cafe tables are full, couches are lounged upon and the baristas are quickly grinding, packing, frothing and espresso-ing with job requirement coolness. My friends and I slide into a picnic table on the front walkway braced against the cold air of the shade and rebelliously staking our claim on Summer in Portland despite the fleece and hot beverages that have joined our party.

Being three, single, thirty-something females, the conversation quickly inhabits the realm of confusing relationships, questions about motives, recent revelations and discoveries about the opposite sex (which will quickly be disproved on the next date or in the next conversation) and proclamations of contentedness that teeter on the edge of self-convincing and, well, flat lying. The common mantra of my single female friends is some variation of “What the hell is wrong with these boys?” and that is where the conversation starts again.

tumblr_m2a2y0wpJG1rpbz8oo1_400In the world of single woman there is mass illiteracy on the behaviors and thought processes of the average adult male so the subsequent female responses make them seem crazy. A man’s attention or inattention is constantly throwing us for a loop. Their gentlemanly behavior is mistaken for flirting while their disgusting behavior is mistaken for interest and their interest is put to unwritten test and mysterious scrutiny. If a man’s current process doesn’t seem to fit a long term plan, they can be written off without warning. If their long term plan doesn’t fit a current process, compatibility comes into question and once that happens it is over abruptly. I have listened as my single female friends complained, ranted and raved at the latest misstep of their male interest and I have heard over and over again how confusing it all has become.

The guys navigate to the same sea of confusion. While girls are analyzing and over analyzing, the guys are on and off. Hot and cold. Many are absolutely and resolutely against growing up or growing deep and buckle under any kind of stress or pressure. They refuse to treat women well, act out of extreme selfishness and flee quickly if it looks even slightly like a commitment or relationship could be thrown into the mix.

No wonder there are a lot of unhappy, dissatisfied men and women. I sympathize with these stories and have done my share of contributing to the confusion and the analysis of strange behaviors.

I would say this is all just a learning process and male and female relationships will grow and work themselves out in the long run, but there is a deep, serious issue evolving in many of the hearts I hear from. These questions about love, relationships, the role of singleness in our season, the pressure and questions from society, the pressure and questions from our own minds mixed in with the confusion of today’s accepted behavior creates a terrible recipe that battles against self-acceptance and threatens to tear everyone down. I don’t say that lightly. I sit with women that are amazing, talented, loving, caring women that would make great wives, exciting lovers, award-winning moms and fun spouses and they are battling feeling worthy and valued in a society that looks down on them because they are unmarried and a culture that places blame on them for not being what men are looking for. I sit with men that are intelligent, humorous, intentional and would bring out the very best in a woman and they feel like the battle for relationship is too hard and too uncertain to fully engage. The risk is too great and they can’t move forward.

Something is askew here because the math doesn’t make sense. I have a theories….let me know what you think about these contributing factors to our perpetually single (and perpetually unhappy about it) subculture.

1. Affluence – for the first time in history we are not forced into the job, lifestyle or economy of our parents and grandparents. This doesn’t immediately point towards the single-forever trend, but think about it. We are given whatever we want, for the most part, we work very little for what we have and mostly things are easy, especially in comparison to the recent past or other countries. This life of ease means we expect all things, even relationships to be easy. It also contributes to the always-wanting-more part of our psyche. Never satisfied and wanting everything to come easy is a terrible recipe for long-lasting relationships.

2. Extinct Rites of Passage – We no longer have markers that help us engage with our age and abilities and move us down the trajectory of growing older and wiser. We are stuck in youth and immaturity as we are given all the space in the world to find ourselves or are forced towards aspirations at the expense of relationship and family. We don’t pass from one season of life to another without lots of ambiguity and ambiguity breeds insecurity and a lack of gumption when it comes to super grown-up things like relationships and marriage and kids.

3. Growing up is looked down upon while “freedom” is idolized – I don’t think this one can really be argued against. Our culture is all about idolizing freedom. Get what you want, when you want it, don’t think of repercussions or costs, flee from anything that would tie you down and make all decisions towards the kind of freedom that keeps you out of commitment, away from black and white thinking and free from actually holding any convictions. Please, make everything as wishy washy pie-in-the-sky as possible and, especially, stay out of monogamous relationships in exchange for lots of immature experiences. This basically says that your self-interest, wants, needs and desires trump the needs of others.

4. We cannot juggle the opposing forces of rigid independence and dying for another person. Face it, dying for someone doesn’t sound very appealing when it is set up against a life of living for oneself and obtaining the ultimate American dream of complete freedom from any responsibilities that would tie you down. The two don’t mesh and if you are (consciously or subconsciously) fighting for your own way, you are sacrificing something. That something might be a person that will love, stand beside you, encourage you, support you, and more.

5. A lot of broken families also contribute. I read an article the other day that said that parents estranged from their children is currently known in some psychological circles as a silent epidemic. So many are walking the hard roads of divorce, estrangement, lies, broken homes, abuse, neglect from within their families, their churches and their communities. I get it. I have been there and am still navigating the broken waters of my past. All these broken relationships don’t really set us up for success in the long-term relationships we desire.

What are we really holding on to here? What are we willing to let go of? I am convinced that a shift in our thinking, an admittance of our faults, some honesty and vulnerability, might just get us on the same page and more open to making lasting relationships work in the face of a lot of brokenness. But, really, I need your input.

What is contributing to perpetual singleness? What advice do you have to give if you are on the other side?

This post is part of the 100 day challenge and covers the topics: 17/100 // Acceptance; 18/100 // Sympathy; 19/100 // Holding

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14 thoughts on “Am I Crazy?

  1. I can understand the frustration. Guys experience it too, and we get hung up on various insecurities that express themselves differently. Just like women, a lot of men don’t feel good enough. We have this idea in our minds that if we don’t make enough money, have the right kind of job, or whatever, a woman will judge and leave. Both men and women can be shallow and both can feel like they’re not good enough.

    If we’re going to be honest here, we need to admit that much of this problem exists in the Christian subcultural. My more secular friends, although they might be frustrated with dating and sex, seem to have a slightly more casual attitude about the whole thing. They have fun, maybe sleep with this person or that, date, not date, etc., and I’m not saying they’re all happy, but I’ve been on some dates with women who were not Christians and often had a really care free time with them.

    In the Christian world, especially in America, there are all these expectations many of us have been taught, such as praying for the ‘right one’ and making sure we have all our ducks in a row, then the good Lord will grant us our wish. But the world doesn’t work like that and frankly, God never promised us a perfect spouse, or even a normal spouse. We think He did, but He didn’t. And this is a lot of stuff from our parents generation that has bled into our modern thinking as well, but a lot of it stems from the concept of the American Dream seeping into our religious experience. Also, we need to try to relax a bit. Christian dating is exhausting and often boring. Many take it way too seriously. We go out on these dates with other believers and within one or two dates there are huge neon signs in the brain asking silently, but maniacally, is the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with? Sheesh. We’re all just people trying to get to know one another. We need to relax.

    In response to your first bullet point 1.) Affluence. The idea that “We are given whatever we want, for the most part, we work very little for what we have and mostly things are easy, especially in comparison to the recent past or other countries. This life of ease means we expect all things, even relationships to be easy. It also contributes to the always-wanting-more part of our psyche. Never satisfied and wanting everything to come easy is a terrible recipe for long-lasting relationships,” isn’t something I can fully get behind.

    Although I agree we have come to expect things to come easily, and being American has many advantages, I don’t see a world where “we work very little for what we have and mostly things are easy.” I see a lot of people working their asses off to try to accomplish their dreams and make their lives into something of value. I see a lot of folks actually getting out there and dating, but I think because of all the possibilities open to us, both men and women are looking for the perfect person, and that person does not exist. We have so much choice, we’ve become overwhelmed with options. And our modern world is filled with so much pop culture romance we have unrealistic expectations, and seem to agree.

    On another note, and I speak only for myself here, but I’m often generally turned off by some of the behavior and judgmental attitudes I see in some of the women in the church. You said it yourself, ” … and their interest is put to unwritten test and mysterious scrutiny.” Women over analyze and judge a guy for even trying and it’s one of the main things many of them claim they want a man to do. The idea of a man going about a church community and dating various women casually and respectfully as he tries to learn about who’s out there while simultaneously learning about himself, is something people talking about as good thing, but gossip about behind closed doors as if that man is a player and Christian men are aware of this fact and it’s a huge turn off. And although men are often insecure about their perceived various shortcomings, when a man is interested in a woman he’ll work up the gumption to ask her out. If he’s super shy and the gal is interested, I can only hope she’ll send him some signals or something. And if a man isn’t asking a particular woman out, he’s just not that into the idea.

    There are a lot of fallacies men and women believe about the world when it comes to dating and love, and I might sound cynical, but don’t think I am here. We haven’t been promised all our prayers will come true. We’d like to believe there is someone out there for everyone, but truthfully, there isn’t. Some of us will end up alone. Some of us, out of desperation or horniness, or a ticking clock, will marry someone who isn’t all that great and possibly get divorced, or the best case scenario is that we fall in love with someone, but have a long road ahead with much difficultly, hard work, good times and bad, etc. What do we do with the realization that we’re born alone and we die alone, but we live in the world with others, and even if married, we are still single individuals on a fundamental level.

    This overwhelmingly persistent attitude of singleness being a negative thing is starting to annoy me. I know singleness looks different for men and women, but for all the freedom we have in this modern world and all the things we could be doing in our individual lives, there are a lot of people sitting around waiting for something to fall right in their lap. A perfect partner wasn’t promised to you, and time is wasted moping. If someone doesn’t want to be single, they can seek and the Lord says they will find. I’m not saying you’re moping by writing your blog, but there is a lot of complaining on both sides. We have more power and freedom than many of us are comfortable with and we often forget that we can go out and make change happen. Many of us are wasting a lot of time.

    If you(and by ‘you’ I mean anyone) don’t like something, start doing something about it, and I might get some flack for the following statement, but I think it’s true. More women need to ask men out on dates. This isn’t the simple solution to a complicated problem, but I do think it would help with some perspective. I think more connections would be made. And ladies, the idea that the man always has to pursue the woman first, is lazy. If a gal likes a dude, and he’s oblivious or not doing anything about it, then ask him out. I think most guys are pleasantly surprised by that sort of thing and it doesn’t make the woman some harlot for doing so.

    Ultimately though, my basic response to your question of What is contributing to perpetual singleness? . . . My question is, Why don’t we start viewing singleness as a blessing instead of a curse?

    • Thank you! I am incredibly glad to have some honest male perspective in here.

      Two thoughts:
      1. I absolutely agree with the soulmate fallacy and actually can’t believe it didn’t make my top five. Totally worthy point.

      2. A story: A couple of years ago I was interested in a man and eventually worked up the courage to ask him out. It was great! We dated for a bit and it went really well, but, when it ended I was actually told that it probably would have worked out if I had just waited for him to ask me out instead. Somehow it was seen as a faulty foundation that I started the conversation and demise was imminent. Oy vay. I wish there was more freedom for woman in that. I don’t see it as lazy, necessarily, because I know most women are really spinning their wheels when they want I guy to be interested, but I do see your point.

      Lastly, I will go on record and admit to mass generalizations in this blog post. Mostly I am writing in reference to the Christian sub-culture that is unhappy with singleness and confused by the fact that they are still single. Not everyone fits into that category, I know, and not everyone is complaining about singleness, I know. But a lot of people are and the complaining isn’t helping so maybe some questions and thoughts about what is influencing us might help.

      • I hear you. But when it comes to the idea that your relationship failed because you asked the guy out and it wasn’t the other way around, is completely ridiculous. I don’t know who told you that, but I believe the views of that person to be myopic and ignorant. My theory is that it didn’t work out because the two of you weren’t compatible in some way, but I could very possibly be totally wrong. I just find the thinking process of many Christians to be laughable sometimes. Did that reason come directly from the guy you dated or some peripheral person?

        Overall, I’m glad you posted this. A conversation is a good thing. I hope I didn’t come across as ‘complaining,’ they were just my honest views.

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  3. This post really resonated with me. As an ambitious 20-something, I have been told on several occasions that I’m “intimidating” and that my drive to better myself is seen as a threat–I’m just “so wonderful” and guys think that I’ll get bored or leave them for someone better. I feel like the perpetual scapegoat for men’s insecurities…so I generally tend to avoid dating and relationships.

    You make some really great points. The younger generations feel entitled to get what they want without my effort, they see broken homes as normal and acceptable, they desire “freedom” over commitment and stability. Yet, on the end of the spectrum, there are those who want to plow forward and live life to its fullest without being held back. I think that’s why I’m single. I want to be loved and supported, but I refuse to sacrifice my own dreams and ambitions to allay my partner’s fears. I think that’s where the vulnerability and trust you mention come into play…we need to be our authentic selves without holding back or hiding, and we need to accept one another’s true selves. We need to be selfless and sincerely want what’s best for the other person, and be willing to accept that we might not always be #1.

    I think the problem comes down to attitude and mindset–sometimes girls feel hopeless and cynical, sometimes guys choose easy over amazingly well-rounded. We sell ourselves short by believing that our “ideal” is too much to ask for. I guess the good news there is that we can work to change our mindsets…

    Thanks for this wonderful, thought-provoking post.

  4. I think another contributor to singleness is the mindset of perpetually being dissatisfied with where you are in life. I can’t tell you how many girls I have talked to that if they are single they want to be dating, if they are dating they want to be engaged, engaged- married, married- kids, etc. I feel like God has really been working on me the last 6 years that I really need to enjoy the process. And not just enjoy part of it, but enjoy it to the fullest! You will only be single once, so live it up. It isn’t a bad thing and everyone goes through it. I feel like many people treat singleness like a plague that you are ostracized if you have it. (Even though everyone has been single in their lives at one point.) But if you are constantly focused on the fact that you are single and you may not want to be it tends to breed insecurities, faith/ trust issues with God in wondering if He really does love you and want the best for you, and it makes you not as effective in the place that you currently are in.

    Great post and very well written 🙂 ❤

    • Allie,
      I really like your comment. I think this is huge! Honestly, I am really not okay with the “What’s wrong with being single?” argument, because it doesn’t help anyone and feels judgmental to me (or at least feels like it attempts to right off a person’s feelings and desires about wanting to be married), but I am very behind the “Are you content?” question. You are right on when you say that trust and faith issues are bred, insecurities are fed, and the focus comes off the time you are in and all that could hold if you are not embracing where you are at fully.
      Excellent point and some good food for thought!

      • Darcy,
        I really hope you didn’t take my ‘What’s wrong with being single?” argument as an offense. I understand that people deeply desire companionship with someone and have every right to desire such a life, but there are a lot of people missing out on Today because they’re too hung up on finding the right one. I hope that came through in my initial post. Also, I wrote that in the middle of the night, so there were some typos and things I have worded ever so slightly different.

        Also, I especially appreciated what Erin had to say. The idea that someone else can share a life with you, vice versa, but still be very focused on their creative goals with the realization there may be some time spend apart, or is a desirable way to look at it, especially with people who tend to live in a more creative headspace, etc. But that’s a whole other conversation.

        Personally, I just think people in the Christian community seem to have a very strict view on what marriage is and what is should look like, and so there are these tight parameters we perceive as being the ‘right’ way to go about finding a spouse. It seems to breed a certain amount of unnecessary frustration.

        If one can’t be content and happy with the things they alright have in life and happy with who they are, or are at least working towards living a well rounded life, no person, no matter how perfect, is going to take away that underlying sense of being incomplete. The main contention I have with this subject as a whole, is the idea that getting married is going to make you happy and feel complete, and generally both sexes are guilty of having unrealistic expectations.

        Thoughts?

  5. JVP,
    I totally agree. Looking towards marriage as a fulfillment or cure is probably going to lead to disappointment. At least that is what I hear from married people 🙂

    When I wrote this post I was looking at the reasons that relationships might not be working out for some of us, and with that some of the cultural themes that could be contributing to the way people view dating, the expectations they hold and where they start making assumptions. The last thing I wanted to do was make it seem like being single was wrong in some way. Obviously, I am single and really don’t feel wrong about it. I think it is easy when it comes to talking about dating to reduce everything to “what is wrong with being single?” and not talk about the mindset, decisions, choices, fears, assumptions, expectations, that could be contributing to that singleness and might just be a bit off base. It is one thing to not be content as a single person and have that be your issue, but it is another thing to not be content and be making really…interesting…decisions about your dating life, which is what I am trying to get at here. (And which is also what I am guilty of, so hopefully it doesn’t sound like I am blaming others.)

    I am no way offended by your post or anything you said in it, at all, whatsoever. Actually, I really appreciate your thoughts and what you said from a man’s point of view. Thank you for bringing so much to the discussion.

  6. Darcy,
    I think your five points are well written. I wanted to add a quote that caught my eye: “If a man’s current process doesn’t seem to fit a long term plan, they can be written off without warning. If their long term plan doesn’t fit a current process, compatibility comes into question and once that happens it is over abruptly”. I think this is an astute observation from a feminine perspective, and is something women may not articulate to a man as often as they should.

    And I think this has a lot to do with what Erin wrote: “I’m “intimidating” and that my drive to better myself is seen as a threat–I’m just “so wonderful” and guys think that I’ll get bored or leave them for someone better”. I never see ‘bettering oneself’ as a threat from a partner, I see it as a virtue; but what women may need to understand is that they do not have a monopoly on how to ‘better oneself’. If I want to be a better father, professor, or jogger, am I not ‘bettering myself’? I tend to think that women who want to ‘better themselves’ place the exact same expectation upon the man they date/marry/etc. and in the exact same way, i.e. I want a phd, what is he doing with his life? I also think women of this ilk tend to make constant comparisons between their life and their partner’s life, and this has very, very little to do with a man’s insecurity; rather, it has to do with the women’s sense of security.

    Great post, Darcy. Thanks for the thoughts and discussion.

    • I have been wondering about the “intimidating’ argument/reason/excuse for a while now. I am glad Erin mentioned it and have been wondering what guys thought of it. Can a girl really be too intimidating because she knows what she wants to do with her life, has aspirations and really looks like she is going places? Is it bad to have your shit together?

      I can see how ambition can play in to the over-analyses of trajectory of life, too. It is a strange balance to know who you are and what you want to do and be wondering where another person fits, especially if your identity and dreams are wrapped up in those aspirations. It would be hard to be in a relationship with someone if it begins to feel like those things would be questioned, risked, or flat denied. Or if they just don’t seem to be on the same page. We probably don’t always get that balance right when we make decisions about who we spend time with and start to analyze in light of the future we are working towards and that does boil down to a security issue. At least it boils down to an issue of willingness to put those things that have brought us joy and security on the table to perhaps exchange for a new version of joy and security that is highly unknown, much less out of our control and reliant at least party on another person. Sometimes giving it up takes more courage than following through with the big dreams and sometimes courage fails so we fall into what we know instead of the unknown.

      • An absolutely wonderful reply, Darcy. To which I will add the mention of this highly contentious article to the comments: “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/.

        I don’t think that having “your shit together” is a bad thing at all. I don’t find it intimidating, but I–and I am def not speaking for all the males out there–find it challenging and frustrating; I’ll explain.

        Entering into a marriage and having a strong, successful life together are both about compromise (perhaps I am wrong?) and figuring out how you as a couple will function. Meeting someone who is obstinate about their personal goals to the point where they run at the first sign of weakness or a defect in their plan because of the perceived flaws in their partner is a person immature and not worthy of a marriage. Perhaps that is bitterness speaking, but I strongly admire a woman who is goal oriented and a progressive thinker.

        On the other hand, I cannot endure a woman who does not allow for the beauty and surprises of life to catch them unprepared and deal with them in a calm and understanding manner. (My reigning example at the moment is a friend who swears she will–at 27–“never” have children. As a man, and a father, I do not find that to be a conviction, but rather a stubborn unwillingness to consider all of what life has to offer. But, perhaps I’m wrong).

        Personally, I love the unknown. It’s beautiful. It is the soul and essence of life. Some people do not. It scares the hell out of some individuals. But what is love but that first moment of plunging into an unknown? And what is true love but making sense of that initial moment?

  7. eatingthepages –
    I was the woman you speak of. I think that is (at least part) of why I am single right now. I am sure there are all sorts of reasons and I am not going to make it sound too simplistic, but I, 100% of the time spent my 20s just trying to make sure no one told me ‘No’. I had a friend during that time that was interested in a relationship and I, literally, said no because I thought at some unforseen time in the future he would eventually tell me I couldn’t do something I wanted to do. His reasons would be completely logical, but I didn’t want to have to deal with that. I missed out.

    I was talking to a friend recently that is in her first year of marriage and she told me that has been one of her biggest struggles – where her identity fits into their relationship. I think there is a lot of pressure to be an individual and not a lot of understanding about laying down your individualness for a joint identity within your relationship. It isn’t necessarily about avoiding the surprise or refusing to plunge into the unknown, at least not for me it wasn’t. It was about that core piece of me, a priority I held, or an ideal that I refused to let go of because I didn’t fully understand the beauty of building something together. I still don’t understand, but I think I am starting to catch glimpses here and there.

    Thanks for sharing the link. It was a good read and interesting to ponder the conundrum – work, homelife, roles, priorities – and how we have to be willing to ride with the the ebb and flow of life no matter what the outside is saying about it.

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