This is Why I’m Single.

This post was featured on Deseret News, Millennial Mormons, and LDS Daily, and has been translated into Spanish and Portuguese. You can also listen to my Mormon Channel interview about it here.

Singlehood in Mormon culture can be a, well, singular experience. As a young adult approaching her mid-twenties a religion that emphasizes marriage and family (and rightly so), sometimes I feel like I’m in this strange in-between place that people don’t talk about much—that post-graduation, before-marriage limbo where I’m trying to figure out what to do next. Not where I expected to be.

I was one of those people who thought I would be married before I finished college, and then I would go with my husband off to grad school and we would start our family and life would be great. I freely admit that I had that expectation, and I don’t really feel bad about it. It wasn’t as if I was sitting on my hope chest waiting for Prince Charming to appear and sweep me off my feet; I was moving forward with my life, working hard for my education, and I just kind of assumed that this next step would happen naturally, just as many of my life milestones had up to that point. It almost did happen, actually, but when it didn’t work out I knew my life would end up looking much different than I expected.

Yeah, being single can be hard, especially when you are nearing the age where culturally (NOT doctrinally—there’s a difference) you “should” be out of that stage. It has been difficult sometimes not to wonder if I’m defective somehow because I’m not married—or even dating anyone—when I see my friends (…and younger friends…and the much-younger siblings of friends…) getting married and having families when there’s no prospects of the same in sight for me. Is it my body shape? My more reserved personality? My at-times-unhealthy obsession with wordplay? I have friends that have more opportunities to date than they know what to do with, and sometimes I feel like I have to bend over backward to get a guy to even look at me. Why doesn’t it seem like people care to get to know me? I’m not saying that’s true, but it’s how I’ve felt sometimes, and I know others have felt the same.

It’s really easy to get discouraged. It’s really easy to become apathetic and fall into a kind of holding pattern, biding time and waiting for the next stage to come.

But you know what I’ve realized? This stage of life is not a placeholder. Neither is it a time to be idle and to waste time pursuing a life of excess, laziness, and apathy. No. This, like all stages of life, is a valuable season of growth, preparation, and change.

I went to a presentation that was part of the Utah Women in Leadership Speaker and Dialogue Series (Utah friends—the next one is coming up November 3 at UVU. Totally free, definitely worth it. Be there), and it was titled “¢ents and $ensibility.” Not only was my English major side completely enamored with the wordsmithing of the title, but I also loved the down-to-earth, practical perspective I heard from four women in a break-out session entitled “A Man is Not a Financial Plan.” One was single, never married; one, divorced; one widowed; and one’s husband had become disabled. Their point was that life is unpredictable, and it is critical for women to have the skills to be self-reliant and be prepared to support themselves and their loved ones.

As I sat in that presentation and listened to those women talk about their life experiences, I had the strongest impression that this is my time to learn. This stage of life, where I am only responsible to take care of myself, is a gift for me to learn important life skills, figure out what I really want, and cultivate my interests. It’s not just about focusing on myself and having a little fun before settling down; it’s about learning critical lessons about myself and about life that will prepare me to have a strong, successful family now and in the future. SO GUESS WHAT. BEING SINGLE IS STILL ALL ABOUT FAMILY. My decisions in this stage of my life will have lasting impact on my present and future family. What I do now will shape the way I view family relationships, family culture, family finances, everything. I’m learning who I am and what’s really important to me, and these decisions will shape the rest of my life.

I love what Jane Clayson Johnson, CBS-foreign-correspondent-turned-wife-and-mother, has to say about this in her book called I Am a Mother. She writes,

There are seasons in life. Don’t ever let anyone deny you the blessings and joy of one season because they believe you should be in—or stay in—another season (Johnson 38, emphasis original).

Just because I love summer mornings doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a walk on a winter evening too. Every stage of life is a season, and with each transition we trade one set of joys and struggles for another. The trick is to develop the habit of choosing happiness—to find purpose and joy and love—in whatever stage of life we’re in, and to have the courage to move on when it’s time for the season to change.

And what if I never marry? Well, that will be hard. And I don’t think I will ever stop wanting it. And I will be lonely sometimes. But I go back to an impression I had years ago that still comes to my mind in times of doubt: “Ariel, you will yet have to do many things on your own. But fear not, for I am with thee.” If God is with me, I may be single, but I’m never alone.

Marriage may come later, or it may not. Or it might, but it may not turn out the way I hoped. But guess what? None of that matters, because I have God’s promise that if I keep my covenants, I will have the blessing of an eternal family. IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT HAPPENS IN THIS LIFE. God’s promises are SURE. Certain. Sealed. Done. I don’t know how, but everything will turn out all right in the end. And, as someone once said, “If it’s not all right, it’s not the end.” And I’m banking on that.

So why am I single? Honestly, I don’t know all the reasons. (It’s the puns, isn’t it? Knew it.) But I don’t feel like I’m just making the best of a bad or less-than-ideal situation. I mean to do all I can to make this opportunity-rich stage of life fulfill the measure of its creation by learning, doing, exploring, growing, loving, laughing, and LIVING, with everything I do now (and in the future) single to the glory of God and the goal of eternal life with Him and the people I love. Because that’s what life is all about, isn’t it?

So there you have it. Marriage will come later, but happiness starts now. So let’s act like it.

37 Comments

  1. I now how this author feels, I didn’t get married until 35 myself, and there was, or at least I felt there was, about why I wasn’t married earlier. But I felt the same, I used my time to prepare and get ready for when I found my wife.

    And as I look back at that time now, I am glad that I had extra time to learn more about the gospel from institute then if I had gotten marred in college. The lessons and experiences I had in my extended singlehood have helped me be a better dad to my kids and helped me teach them more about how to live a gospel.

  2. My son, who just turned 30, feels the same way! He’s a quiet guy but when you get to know him he’s very funny and fun. I wish he could get past that shyness and realize he has a lot to offer.

  3. This is great. “Marriage will come later, but happiness starts now”–I think you can replace “marriage” with just about anything and it still applies. Career, car, house, kids, free time… My parents got married at 29 and 41 and I’m so grateful for the wisdom and maturity they cultivated before raising us.

    I wrote a post recently on my ward’s blog on a similar topic that readers of this post may enjoy. 🙂 http://mormonsontobaccoroad.com/2015/10/16/to-the-childless-6-reasons-the-gospel-of-jesus-christ-is-for-you/

  4. Beautifully written. I am in the exact same stage of my life, and it is hard sometimes. But what has helped me get those tough days is the idea that being single is an opportunity for me to be me without having to worry about anybody else. I like that freedom. I like that I can up and do whatever I want without having to worry about who’s tagging along for the ride.

    I’ve also realized that being in a relationship isn’t something that I can control. You can’t just point at a stranger on the street and marry them. And you can love someone all you want, but you can’t make them love you. So worrying about being in a relationship is wasted energy. All I can focus on is what I can control.

  5. We should totally be friends! It was almost scary to have someone say my thoughts out loud, in almost the exact same way I would have! For a long time I have struggled with the fear of not being married until I was too old to have children. Coupled with the continuing revelation that it was not yet time for me to go through the temple, I often wondered if there was something wrong with me. My little sisters had gone through the temple. They were dating. And although I always knew I had no less value than they do, I wondered if I was doing something wrong. I never stood still either, I followed the Lord’s direction even when it led me to things I didn’t want: leaving a job that I loved, pursuing a career that has nothing to do with my English major 🙂 and which I never would have chosen on my own, more school. But it sometimes made me very discouraged, doing everything I didn’t want to do, and not seeing the rewards I had hoped for.
    This year, after more than five years of asking, the Lord let me know the time was right for me to go through the temple. It was miraculous. I had no idea I had so much room to grow and change, or that it could happen so fast! I can now say without a shred of doubt that the Lord’s timing was perfect. If I had gone when I had wanted to, I would have missed out on some pretty huge blessings. The temple has completely changed my life, with such an amazing contrast that I probably would not have appreciated if I had not passed through such a long dark time without it. I always trusted the Lord’s promises, but I never felt such certainty. Marriage is not a hope for me, it is a foregone conclusion. I will someday be married, and whenever it happens it will be the right place and time. Even if it is not in this life. And I am all right with that, which is something I thought I would never be able to say.

  6. 1) We have matching blog themes. *Stamp of Approval*
    2) We also have matching lives. Please be my new best friend.
    3) Don’t you ever let anyone tell you it’s the puns. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

  7. Try being a never been married LDS guy in your 30s or 40s, it can be an extremely lonely and isolating place to be in the Church.

    Despite the judging from others, I have found serving others especially our fellow singles and Midsingles, helps me to realize I am not alone, and that Heavenly Father is using me as a single guy to help build the Kingdom in ways that perhaps, I could not do as being married.

    We all have our own timetables, and if I do my part, then I can only trust in the Lord, that He will provide the blessings of marriage for me in this life or the next.

  8. Tuck this post away with your patriarchal blessing and read it often. I am in my 40s, never married, RM, 2 masters degrees and a home owner – I.e. I have my act together…my comment is this: get ready because it gets harder. Feeling this way in your 20s doesn’t compare to feeling it in your 30s and then in your 40s.

    In your 20s, you still have (conceivably) 20 years to get married and have children – so while you may be off living your life (which is a very good thing), there is still the possibility. But what happens when you’re 40, can no longer bear children, and your dating options consist of divorcees (sometimes more than once), men who are grandparents when you haven’t even been a mother and you watch your friends enter into their second marriage and you’ve not had your first.

    So yes – you will NEED this conviction and faith in the future – you will need the life skills and education and resilience because if you do get married later in life – you will need to be prepared to be a step-mom, to co-parent, to work with an ex-wife who may have left the church, etc. etc. etc.

    It’s been a VERY hard year for me. *I’m* going to read this several times because I need some of your convictions- mine have gone a little dim.

    The hope that I cling to is the atonement. You may be called into a family in your 40s to replace a woman who has abandoned her family and the church. That man and those kids will need you and you will need them….(I personally know 3 men who’s temple marriages failed after the wives apostatized).

    So yes – prepare now – get in as much as you can so that when its your turn for family life you’re ready – whether it’s 5, 20 or 100 years from now.

    Regards,
    tb
    P.s. Apologies if my grammar and punctuation aren’t perfect – I know how that irks an English major! Haha

    1. Tonya, thank you for your perspective, and I promise I’m not judging your spelling and grammar! 🙂

      You’re so right that it’s the Atonement that gets us through, and we build up spiritual endurance over years by consistently acting on the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was so moved by your comments because I am so grateful for the example of covenant keepers like you who help those of us who aren’t as far down the road to know that it’s possible to keep your covenants no matter what life throws your way. So thank you, my friend. We’ve helped each other. 🙂

  9. Hi 🙂
    I would just like to thank you for writing about this. It’s because of people like you, that share their feelings and give them a voice, that people that find themselves in the same situation can look at things with a more positive perspective.

    One time, a person even said that if i don’t see marriage and family has a priority in my life it’s because i don’t fully understand the gospel. I found this to be unfair, like you said i can’t just randomly choose someone and sometimes life/studies get in the way.

    I’m portuguese student in my last year of college, i’m about to start my life and discover what it is that i really want to do, what specialization i want to pursuit. I would like to have the experience of being in love, but right now it seems like my life will be building my career.

    Again, thanks for your words, i will do my best to remember them when i’m feeling like there’s somethig wrong with me or that i’ll never have someone to share my life with.

    Best Regards from Portugal 🙂

  10. Thanks so much for writing this Ariel! I’m in the exact same spot! I feel like until now my life has been following a very specific schedule. Graduate High School, go to college, go on a mission, graduate college. I always thought that marriage would happen very conveniently after mission but before graduating college. I love what you said about finding happiness in the season of life you’re in because I’ve been struggling with the fact that my schedule seems to skewed. I’m going to try harder to experience happiness and growth outside of “the next step.”

    Love this article keep speaking for the silent!

  11. Reading this was uncanny and took me by suprize. It was like I had written it. It feels good to have people out there who are in a similar situation and ask themselves the same questions. I also love that it sounds like I am not the only “pun”isher out there. 😉

    Ever played bananagrams?

  12. Alright, ready for a little weirdness? Great! I hope you enjoy the weird. I opened up my email today and I had a email from my Dad, here is the exact subject line “Find this girl!!!! You have the same interests, and she would understand my humor!!”… I am not joking about this. He then sent me this article and I am really impressed! You seem like a amazing person and I am going to trust my Dad’s advice on this one. I am trying to think of a clever pun but they all seem a bit out of date. I am a Salt Lake Native at BYUI, want to go on a date some time?

    1. Well, writing that took guts, and I can respect that. 🙂 Sure, it would be fun to go out sometime. I like meeting new people. Add me on Facebook and let me know what works for you.

  13. Love the last paragraph. Insert anything else you’re putting your life on hold for in place of the word “marriage” and everyone can relate. It made me think, what am *I* holding out for? What mental block is keeping me from happiness and from really living?

    Thanks for your perspective.

  14. Your article really moved me. You have expressed so elequently the dilemma that is so prevelant in your age group. I have tried to identify what the common thread is, and I am left baffled.
    Your prescription for moving forward is the right vision to have.
    All who read your blog and article need to also remember… You have families who know, adore, and love you. They know how awesome, wonderful and great you are.
    There were five single women in my stake while I was growing up who were pillars to me. They changed the lives of hundreds of young women. Their lives were significant to me as a young woman. I never saw them as anything but hero’s. They were talented, strong, and faithful. They mothered so many of us.
    Keep on keeping on!

  15. Hello
    You know its not just young unmarrieds that fall into the square peg in the round holes of our Morman lives.I am 67 and soon to be divorced. Feeling unfulfilled when everyone talks of thier loving husbands and family caused me to go through all three hours at church in tears. I was kissed and hugged and told that I will not be alone in heaven but it didnt help very much with my empty arms now. I keep trying to keep in mind that our heavenly father has a plan for us and none of them is the same.I will pray for you and be glad for your prayers in return.
    Frances

  16. From my BYU health professor, circa 1976:

    “Don’t look at for the right person, be the right person, and everyone will be looking for you.”

    Love your writing AND your practical optimism!

  17. Loved, loved, LOVED your post published in the D News. I got married at 32 (okay, 32 years and 11 months) and I used to joke I was 65 in SMY’s (Single Mormon Years). But in those 32 years I made amazing friends, had great jobs, bought my own house, learned to negotiate on car prices, and enjoyed a host of other great opportunities. While it was hard to see everyone get married and have babies, I look back now and think that I should have been even more grateful for the growing time I got to have before I married. The one regret I had was not traveling more or having more “adventures” at a time when I could have done almost anything I wanted. I hope you enjoy your single time, and if the right guy comes along, I hope you enjoy marriage just as much. In the meantime, I will also now tune in for your future posts here on your site.

  18. Loved this article! It was refreshing to read my own thoughts coming from someone else who was an English major like me. Thank you.

  19. Hi Arial, I’m from Brazil and a LDS member and I also have a blog!
    I saw you post today on Deseret news website and I loved it!
    I’m also a single adult and I completely agree with all your points,so I would like to know if could translate your post to Portuguese to share on my Blog. Of cours, I’m going to give you all the credits, I just want to translate it. Is that possible? my blog is http://onmyownwaybackhome.blogspot.com.br/
    Please, let me know about it!
    Karyny

  20. I loved your post, love how you focused on the faithfulness of God, whom we can trust to keep His promises. I think when the things we want don’t happen according to our desired timetable, it’s easy to focus on ourselves, instead of the big picture. Many thanks and wishing you great success.

  21. I wish I’d been able to read this in the years I was working so hard for my “MRS” degree! Your wisdom inspires me. If/when you become a wife and mother, you *will* be prepare for more than you even realize now. Thank you for sharing this.

  22. Ariel, I too walked the long and lonely road between college and marriage. It was a difficult journey and I wondered if it would ever end. After much soul-searching, I realized that had been focusing the things I’d been denied: a loving companion, motherhood. Instead, I began to focus on the things that I *could* do because I was single. I could go to the temple often; I could work on family history; I could spend hours studying the scriptures; I could serve others. My perspective changed, and my joy in life grew. I did eventually marry–at 33. Suddenly, my time was no longer my own. Marriage has brought its own joys and challenges, but one thing is certain: my time is no longer my own. I’m grateful for the spiritual growth that my extended single-hood afforded me. Life continues to unfold in unexpected (and sometimes unwelcome) ways and so, my journey is a continual labor to focus on the joy available in each day. No matter how difficult life’s tasks, God offers small beauties I can enjoy daily: the blooming of Spring’s first flower, the majesty of a thrilling sunset, the laughter of a small child. Thank you for sharing your experience; it is a beacon to many of our fellow hikers on the sometimes lonely road of single-hood.

  23. Thank you so much for everything you have said, in this post and past posts. I found you first on lds.org ( the amazing post about losing your mother) and then I found this while researching your name, hoping to find more (blog). I love everything you write. I didn’t know how to express my feelings but the words you wrote helps me realize that I am who I am mean to be and Heavenly Father is on my side o matter what may or may not happen to me. I am so beyond grateful for you and your courage to write your feelings. Thank you again. You have no idea how much that helped me!

    1. Thanks so much, Annie! I know I could write more regularly, but it’s good to know that what I have written helped someone. 🙂 Keep keeping the faith!

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