When I broke up with my then-fiancée, it was for two main reasons: No. 1, The relationship needed to end, plain and simple — for her sake as well as mine. Reason no. 2, of course, was the fact that I still very much wanted to get married. And if it wasn’t working with her, I needed to find someone new.
It’s interesting to look back on that time and to imagine how long I was expecting to have to look for that someone new. I was probably thinking it would take a year, maybe two. After all, it took me only about four months after graduating from college to start dating this woman who would become my (ex-)fiancée.
Instead, it’s been not one year, not two years, not three years…well, you get the point. Suffice it to say, I thought I’d have met my life-long match by now. Maybe twice over.
And not for lack of trying, believe me. No, I’ve very much been looking for someone who would make a good wife, and have certainly found frustration after swinging and missing repeatedly. And perhaps more frustrating yet, I’ve definitely gone through extended stretches of time when I haven’t even seen a good pitch worth swinging at.
But a funny thing has happened along the way: I’ve actually really enjoyed being single. Sure, I’d happily trade away my bachelorhood for the right person. But in the meantime, I’m enjoying myself quite well, thank you very much.
But I also know that’s easier said than done, and it certainly doesn’t happen automatically. So if you find yourself wanting to get married but not quite there yet, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way to better enjoy the ride.
1. Love Thy Self. And Treat Thy Self.
The first key to enjoying your single years is realizing that relationships don’t necessarily buy happiness, and that marriage is not a cure-all for discontentment. So first and foremost — whether you’re going to get married in a month or a year or a decade — it’s important to find happiness independent of a significant other.
In doing so, you’ll spare your future spouse the burden of having to make a miserable person happy — and you’ll have the benefit of actually enjoying your life!
My sister, for example, recognized in herself that she may have been over-romanticizing marriage, and set out to correct that. She identified a few desires of hers that she thought would be fulfilled when she finally met that special someone: heading to an exotic honeymoon destination, styling a home together with all the bells and whistles, and having a soulmate who she could tell everything to, among other things.
Instead of waiting for marriage to enjoy all of those things, however, she made a point of enjoying them in the meantime. She rented the sort of apartment she’d always wanted in the perfect neighborhood and furnished it thoughtfully and stylishly. She invited a half-dozen girls among family and friends to join her in Miami for her golden birthday bash. And she started going out of her way to more intentionally set up “dates” with her siblings, friends, and even her nephew to invest in their relationships.
Sure, marriage is great, and it’s still the goal — but that doesn’t mean life has to be on hold in the meantime. Think about what you might be putting on hold, if you will, and consider ways to treat yourself — you deserve it.
2. Pursue Your Passion(s)
Whenever I find myself getting particularly down about being single, it’s typically because I’m either thinking too much about it, spending too much time on the dating apps, or both. Dating apps are great, don’t get me wrong. But they play into my self-diagnosed OCD a little bit, and particularly the part of me that knows there’s always more girls out there waiting to be swiped right on. But if you take that mentality, of course, it can literally consume your time — not to mention your mind and heart.
It helps me, during these times, to remember that I’ve got a bunch of cool stuff I like doing and want to do more of. I love the opportunity to write because it forces me to think critically, reflect on my life, and share my experiences and insights with others. I love learning new things in the kitchen, cooking yes but especially cocktail-making. I love learning from expert bartenders how they make certain drinks and why they use certain ingredients, and then I go and experiment on my roommates (and enjoy the “leftovers”). And I love traveling, both to the popular tourist destinations but also to random small towns or unheralded neighborhoods to really get a sense for the culture of diverse places and of the unique individuals who bring them to life.
Yes, these passions of mine can be welcome diversions from my sometimes-obsessive pursuit of that special someone. But more importantly, they form me into a better, more interesting, skilled, and well-rounded person. And when you do what you love, it’s hard not to become happy in the process.
As an added bonus, it can actually help in the search. The most compelling women I’ve met are not those who have toiled away to build the greatest online dating profile. No, they’re the ones who have passions they’re pursuing and virtues they’re honing and skills they’re acquiring. They’re about something. Which makes me want to be a part of that.
But don’t just take my word for it, listen to Kanye: If you want to live a dope life, you gotta do dope shit. What were your wildest dreams growing up? What’s your dream job? What have you always wanted to learn? Then think to yourself, what am I waiting for? It’s very possible now’s the time to quit waiting.
3. Die to Yourself and Live for Others.
It’s true: I do kind of love being a bachelor, with the freedoms and the comforts and the excitement of having my whole life still very much ahead of me. And did I mention the freedoms?
But by far the most satisfying part about this time in my life is the good work I can do for others. In particular, I’ve been involved with the leadership of a young professionals event at my parish church over the past six years. Besides planning and emceeing, my main contribution is directing a bar program that includes the best local craft beer money can buy, sensible wines, and of course, some choice craft cocktails imagined by yours truly.
It’s a lot of fun. But it’s also a lot of work. And while I personally benefit from it a great deal, there are plenty of times when it becomes clear that I’m putting more time, effort, and energy into it than I’m getting out of it.
But, in a strange way, that’s part of why I keep doing it. In a small way, it’s preparing me for marriage, which is pretty much constantly demanding of your time, effort, and energy in a way that’s foreign to 99% of bachelorhood.
I’m also convinced that God hasn’t put me — or any of us — on this earth so we can just have as much fun as possible, or to avoid suffering. And I’m also convinced that the life he is calling me to live doesn’t begin only if and when I marry somebody.
No, God has a plan for me right here and now — even in these years when I thought I’d already be married and raising kids by now. It’s mysterious, and it’s certainly not as straight-forward as the married vocation can be, but it’s no less real and no less capable of achieving his divine ends.
And for me, it’s doing my best to do his work — which involves dying to myself and serving others, more often than not — that brings me the greatest satisfaction and happiness during these not-yet-married years.
Who can you serve? It might be as close to home as your roommates or your parents. How can you serve? It might be as simple as putting your passions to the service of others (cocktails, anyone?). But whatever you do, find a way to give more than you get out of it. It’s humbling, for sure, and that’s the point.