No young girl wants to be labeled an "old maid." Perhaps that's why we have become so desperate to have a man in our lives, regardless of whether he is "the one." I have to admit that I was in the boat with all the other optimistic, naive young women who entered college with the thought "I'll be getting married when I graduate." That wasn't in God's plan for me, at least not yet. It's been a long road, and a difficult one, but I'm at last beginning to be content with my singlehood (even rejoicing in it occasionally.) I'd like to take a few moments to pass on my experience and thoughts on the subject to all you readers out there who may be going through this or know somebody going through it.
I've decided that there are a few steps to be taken when one looks at one's future, especially regarding the vocation of marriage. I would like to outline them for you in the hope that together we can determine some of the cause behind womankind's inevitable tendency towards romantic illusions and heartbreak.
Step 1: Discerning your vocation. This does not mean figuring out where you want to work after graduation. A vocation is your life's work, your calling, what God intended you for. The most common distinction within vocations is that between the religious life and the married life, both of which are amazing vocations. But your vocation could also be to the single life. The process of discernment can take many years, even decades, and it won't work unless you are completely open to every possibility. Too many people (myself included) spend their lives searching for something to complete them, but they search on their own and refuse to let God take control and show them their path. It is a scary thing to offer all your hopes and dreams to God and place all your trust in Him. And it's incredibly difficult, but once you do, everything will fall into place as He reveals His wondrous plans for your life.
Step 2: Where to look? For the sake of this post, I'm going to focus on those who are called to the married life. I currently believe that is my vocation, although I'm still working at the complete discernment. In the meantime, what should you do? Suppose you don't have a boyfriend (or any possible prospects). Does this mean that you will end an old maid? NO! As a dear friend recently said, "If you're not ready, and he is, God won't bring you together. If you're ready, and he is not, God won't bring you together. Only when God knows you are both ready will you be brought together." While you are single, your sole purpose is to draw closer to God and develop your own spiritual life. The vocation of all people is to strive for sainthood. As a single person, you have advantages that married people do not. You can spend more time in prayer and meditation than a mother with seven children or a working father. Use this time to become the best person you can be. For in order to give yourself to someone else completely, you must first know who you are. And that is no easy task.
Step 3: Don't despair! Too many young women fall into the depths of despair when they aren't married by age 23. Believe me, I was in that boat once too. It seems that everyone around you is happily in love, and you are left out in the cold. What is it that those girls have that you don't? Are you ugly? Boring? Unlovable? I've asked myself all these questions at one time or other, but thankfully with the help of God and my closest friends, I have determined that the answer to all those questions is an emphatic NO. Just because you don't have someone yet, doesn't mean that you won't in the future. Focusing on what we don't have causes us to lose sight of all that we do possess. If you spend too much time daydreaming about Mr. Right, you will miss spectacular opportunities in your daily life. He'll come when he's supposed to (or near enough). Don't spend your life wishing upon a fairy tale.
Step 4: Stop looking. I'm sure you've all had the trouble of something bordering on a pathological search for a guy. Or close enough. The checking of left hands for rings. The glances to see if he's got a girlfriend with him. The subconscious appraisal of his potential. All of this simply works negatively. A) You're automatically classifying every guy you see, making snap judgments. B) You set yourself up for heartache because inevitably all of the guys are taken or whatever. You have to stop thinking "Is he the one?" every time you see a guy. And this goes double when you make friends with a guy. There is nothing worse than analyzing a new acquaintance for his marriageable potential. Treat him as a friend, nothing more and nothing less. If something is meant to happen, let it blossom out of the friendship. Don't try to force love to grow in a hothouse rather than using the clean air of nature. If you can stop thinking about every guy as a potential boyfriend, and instead think of them just as potential friends, your life (and your heart) will be a lot easier.
Step 5: Guard your heart. Don't leap at the first opportunity just because you've been waiting for so long. Don't allow yourself to enter a relationship which is detrimental to your health, whether it be your spiritual, your physical, your emotional, or your mental health. We've all seen the movies with love at first sight, but I've come to believe that such a thing does not exist. Not true love anyways. Like at first sight I can do. But true love must come from a deep understanding of the other person, which understanding only comes about through true friendship. By staying away from bad relationships, you protect your heart for your future spouse. I was once told that every time you break up with someone, your heart rips in two. If you go through relationship after relationship, by the time you finally find your spouse, your heart is missing large portions. Be cautious (but not afraid). Love is about taking chances and risking everything, but generally when a person takes life-changing chances, they weigh a few of the potential pros and cons. Don't let your passion drown out your reason. Passion and reason should work harmoniously together. Believe me, your heart will thank you in the long run if you let reason take the precedence.
I could go on, but I believe that these are the most important things to remember. Above all, do not lose hope. God has a calling for everyone, and if your vocation is marriage, He will not let you die without fulfilling it. Keep your mind and heart open to His will. Strive towards sainthood. Keep your eyes open to the world around you. Cherish and care for your friendships. And eventually, probably when you least expect it, you'll find that the love of your life has appeared before you, creeping on soft and slow through the guise of friendship blossoming to true love.