Written by Mackenzie King, Australia
I was four years old when I told my mum that I’d like to get married when I’m older. “Because,” I told my mum excitedly, “I’d like to wear a white dress—just like Cinderella!”
I’m now in my 30s, and have witnessed many of my friends and, recently, my sister don the white dress and walk down the aisle. Yet I am nowhere near purchasing a wedding gown and declaring to everyone that I have found the dress for the big day.
I’ve been single for about a decade now. In my early 20s, I had a few disappointing relationships—mismatched partners, unsuitable matches, and being two-timed—which made me decide I should give dating a rest for a while. So, a lot of my 20s was dedicated to growing my career, friendships, hobbies, and church.
As time marched on, pictures of graduation ceremonies and overseas working holidays on my social media feed were replaced by photos of engagements, weddings, and sonograms.
And where I was once on par with my friends in life as measured by society (graduation, tick; overseas working holiday, tick), I had suddenly fallen behind the ranks—no ring, no husband in sight.
“Right,” I thought, “I should be more intentional and serious in searching for a potential spouse.” So, when a guy started messaging me daily for seven months, I assumed that he liked me and wanted to get to know me better. Alas, the relationship didn’t materialise. I had also tried asking another guy I fancied out on a date, but unfortunately, he didn’t “feel that way” about me.
As wounds healed, I thought I had made peace with my single status. But when a friend told me she had started seeing someone, all my insecurities, longings, and desires for a partner immediately rose to the fore.
I could feel negative thoughts such as, “I’m going to die old and get eaten by cats”, “The last two guys friend zoned you—maybe you’re destined to be seen as ‘just a friend’”, and the slight panic of, “Will I be able to find anyone at all?” rising within me.
I had unknowingly fallen into the unhealthy trap of thinking marriage was the answer, or at the very least, to safeguard my future against dying alone, forgotten by society.
And then there’s that desire to wear a beautiful gown and to walk down the aisle scattered with flowers and my dad next to me . . .
A desire to be decked in a beautiful gown and waltz into a fairy-tale ending . . .
Having attended numerous weddings and watched the bride dazzle her way down the aisle, the groom gazing dotingly at her as they exchange their vows, has at times gotten me misty-eyed, wondering if I’d ever be able to experience this. I’d also wistfully scroll through the wedding photos of the happy couple, wishing I had my own to share.
Too often, singles aren’t told what the other side of marriage looks like. So, we end up focusing on the celebration side of things—the romantic proposals, the fairy-tale weddings.
On my more rational days, I know that marriage is more than a wedding dress, staring into each other’s eyes, and exchanging vows in a perfect, dream-like setting. The wedding day is just the one day, and the vows made on that dreamy, perfect day will test us through the next 40 or 50 years of our lives. In every marriage, there’ll be days filled with sick spouses and children, sleep-deprived nights, and worries of making ends meet.
I have also heard stories of marriage breakdowns, of untimely deaths and young widows/widowers, and of the ones who trudge on in a loveless marriage. Even the happy marriages out there aren’t without squabbles and disagreements. When two humans of different personalities and backgrounds are joined together to eke out a lifelong commitment, friction is bound to happen.
Just as earthly marriage doesn’t signify perfection and wholeness, singlehood doesn’t imply lack. In her book, The Heart of Singleness, Andrea Trevanna, wrote: “Single Christians are not incomplete without “The One”. In fact, we already have the ultimate One. No, the “relationship status” that defines us and dominates our affections as part of His people is not “single” but “married to Christ”.
A desire for companionship . . . and for someone to save me a table at the food court
Then again, having a human companion is totally different, isn’t it? And marriage is often presented as the key to having that ultimate human companion.
In recent months, I decided to unpack this desire—of wanting a spouse—with my psychologist. Between that session and my own reflections through prayer, it was revealed what I really crave and yearn for is social connectedness.
Social connectivity, my psychologist explained, is something people of every status in life yearn for. It’s about having people who are on the same wavelength, and also those who will readily show up outside of brunch, who can come help me in my need.
The big reason I yearn for a spouse is because, I believe, if I have someone, then I won’t be lonely. On a more practical level, I’ll have someone to book me a table when I’m at the food court, saving me the awkwardness of navigating the busy area with a loaded food tray.
But deep down, I know that spouse or not, no one can wholly shield me from loneliness and unhappiness. When I feel threatened by loneliness, I can know Jesus not only understands it, but has also felt it too (Isaiah 53:3). When I feel like I need someone to make me happy, I can know that happiness is fleeting, but I find deep eternal joy in Christ (Romans 15:13). When I feel like I am left behind and forgotten, I know that God hasn’t forgotten about me, and He has me inscribed on the palm of His hands (Isaiah 49:16).
Aside from Jesus Himself being my constant companion, I know God has placed (or will place) the people and communities I need, whom I can text to say, “Hey, would you like to meet up?” And if they aren’t free to hang out, there are other activities I can do to keep myself occupied. I could write to my penpal, start on my scrapbook project, or make my way through my ever growing to-be-read pile of books.
As for having someone to book a table for me at a busy food court? I am sure God will send a kind soul who will offer me their table once they are done.
I don’t know what lies ahead of me. I may not end up tying the knot, walking down the aisle, exchanging doe-eyed stares with my husband as we say our vows. And perhaps, marriage isn’t God’s best for me.
But I do know this—I have been chosen by God before He created the earth (Ephesians 1:4), and He’s called me by my name (Isaiah 43:1). I may not have an earthly groom, but I’m married to Christ. He’s the perfect Husband who loved me so much He died for me (John 3:16), and He’ll be with me “for better, for worse, for poorer, in sickness and in health” until the end of the day and into eternity.