I am nearly 26 and pursuing an exciting career — but one that I would be willing to put aside to get married and start a family. It is my ultimate goal to bring God glory whether married or single, and since I am single right now, I am enjoying pursuing a professional goal.
However, at times I am suspicious that my current career focus may be getting in the way of being able to realize my marriage-and-family dream. Since I've embarked on my professional journey, I have been asked out much less, and my interactions with guys have turned much more professional. I find that the young men in my life show a high respect for me and give me support and affirmation in my professional journey (which I'm thankful for) but not much romantic interest.
How can I balance professional goals but also tactfully make it known that I want to be married?
Thank you for writing to ask about how your professional life may be affecting your love life. The desire to let eligible men know you're interested in marriage without sounding desperate has long been a dance between grace and wit, but lately, it's gotten even trickier.
In earlier times, marriage was the hope and goal of most women. It was the cornerstone for men and women, the foundation upon which adulthood was built. Increasingly though, marriage researchers say it's the capstone, the final flourish added to the already completed structure. Many in our culture, while not happy about this trend, are willingly following the script that makes it so. Women are excelling in college and grad school, out-earning their male peers, and delaying marriage. The more they're cheered for doing so, the harder it is to prioritize marriage.
But it's not impossible.
Recently a friend from church was telling my husband and me about his budding interest in a woman in our church. While he was asking us what we thought about their potential as a couple, I asked him why he was drawn to her. His response may help answer your question.
"We were at some friends' house for dinner," he said, "talking and getting to know each other better. Over dessert, one of the married guys asked, 'What do each of you see yourselves doing five years from now?' We all went around the table, taking turns answering his soul-searching question. When it got to Cindy*, she said, 'I hope I'll be married with children. I really want to be a wife and a mom.'"
This caught his attention. It was vulnerable and bold because Cindy is midway through a rigorous master's degree program. Most women in her position would focus on the professional goals they're aiming at. But she chose a different tack. Everyone at dinner already knew she was a student. They could intuit what her career prospects would be. Instead of affirming their assumptions, however, she surprised them. She didn't deny that she has professional goals; she just didn't spotlight them. Instead she drew attention to something they may not have known: She wants to get married and have children.
There are several lessons in Cindy's story. For starters, she was spending her free time getting to know fellow church members. Around the table that night was a mix of married couples and singles of various ages. She was growing in friendship with other believers, and that was her aim. Rather than limiting her social circle to peers and potential boyfriends, Cindy was embracing the people God has placed in her life.
Second, she answered honestly, but without sarcasm. Her admission wasn't ironic. She didn't make a joke about wanting to get married but wondering if her knight in shining armor was lost in the woods somewhere. Absent was any sense of anger that it hasn't happened yet or frustration aimed at the men in her life.
I know Cindy, and I can imagine she said this sincerely, with a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face. She is a bright and capable woman who is doing well in her studies and has professional experience in her past. But what marks her most clearly is her faith in the all-powerful, sovereign God who holds her life in His hands. She is confident that His design for marriage is good, and she trusts that He is able to bring it about for her.
Her candor at the dinner table had another added benefit: Stating her interest in getting married prompted our friend to consider pursuing her. Without ever picking up the phone to ask him on a date, without signaling that she's interested in him, she gave him reason to think that were he to ask her out, she'd prayerfully consider him and likely say yes.
Cindy faithfully pursues her God-given responsibilities and learning opportunities. She's a disciplined student and active member in our church. She's also continuing to hope and pray for marriage. Good stewardship in the present need not dampen your hope for the future.
It sounds like you have similar success in your profession, and it's right to steward those opportunities with excellence for God's glory. But that shouldn't limit what you can talk about. You're not restricted to focusing only on your profession.
When you're with friends, what are your go-to topics of conversation? They'll follow your cues, including men who may be potential mates. Do they seem stuck on work-related themes? It may be that you bring up work when you're not sure what else to talk about. That's a natural thing to do, especially with new people or with a man you may be interested in. But if you find yourself stuck on work conversations, change the subject. You can do this graciously by asking questions that broaden the conversation. "What are you reading?" "What is God teaching you through His Word?" "Who are your role models?" "What did you do last weekend?" The list is endless.
You mention that you're getting asked out a lot less. That is likely the result of moving from a campus environment where you were surrounded by a lot of eligible peers. Post college and grad school, you have to be more intentional to be around potential mates.
Where are you spending your free time? Going where you're more likely to meet like-minded believers is important if you're hoping to marry a Christian. The best place to do this, at least initially, is church. (To see why church is better than bars for meeting men, see this older Q&A.) What if there aren't many eligible men at your church? I've answered that question here. Additionally, church is where you can seek the input and help of older, married believers.
Keep being faithful in your work, even as you branch out in your friendships and conversations. I pray the Lord will give you wisdom.
*Not her real name.
Copyright 2015 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.