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36 and Single … What If I’m the Problem?

a broken down old car sits in a garage
Even if you think you're "single for a reason" versus "single for a season," God's still on His throne, and your desire for marriage does not go unnoticed.

Last month I reconnected with a friend from high school. We reminisced about choir, laughed over an old road trip quote book and asked “what happened to so-and-so?” During our conversation, he casually mentioned we’re only two years out from our 20-year high school reunion. Wow. Already?

The next day I developed a mild case of the “what ifs?” regarding the reunion. What if I’m still single? What if I don’t even have a date?  And then, of all things: What if I end up dating (and marrying) someone from high school?!? Nah, I thought, anyone who’s still single is probably weird anyways. Then it hit me: I’m 36 years old and still single. Am I weird?

Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics recently published a post by Anna Broadway called “How to Date When You’re Almost Middle-Aged.” She recalls a conversation she had with a then-single cousin who reminded her, essentially, that “the older you get, the weirder your prospects for marriage become.” Broadway writes “our odd quirks and habits become more prominent as time passes, and our rough spots get rougher without enough close human friction to sand-smooth them down.”

It’s true. For many Christians, we enter adulthood with the assumption that we’ll marry, have children and build a life together with our spouse in our twenties, not merge two more fully-developed lives in our thirties, forties or beyond. The years turn into decades, and now we’re deeply entrenched in habits (the good, the bad and the ugly) that hadn’t yet been formed in our younger years.

Broadway reminds singles as we inch closer to middle-age to adjust our expectations in seeking and building romantic relationships. After all, half of our lives have been lived post-high school.  That’s a lot of years of making important decisions, and managing the daily grind of work, family, friends, church, finances and home life without a spouse by our side. That’s also a lot of years of living alone and eating makeshift meals on the couch while watching Seinfeld re-runs … well, at least for me.

Even though we know it’s necessary and good to release our preferences, open ourselves up to different dating approaches or tactics, surrender our extra-biblical dating beliefs, put to death our fear of “better options” (FOBO) or squash our meet-cute dreams, that doesn’t make it easy. Broadway writes,

When you’ve spent the bulk of your life expecting a different plot and cast, it can take some adjusting to the lines you’re actually given and the losses that may come with them. Sure, the story I thought my life would follow first came to me in second grade – not quite my sagest season in life – but it’s still hard to quit assumptions that I’ve held for almost three decades.

Let’s get a few things straight before any of us sink into a puddle of discouragement: single or married, young or old, we all have quirks, we’re all a work in progress and we’re all dearly loved by our Abba Father. We have much in life to celebrate and enjoy with gratitude! We’re also doing the best we can, as we yield to the Holy Spirit every day, asking Him to smooth out the rough edges and help us break the bad habits we’ve developed over the years.  Furthermore, God’s not wringing His holy hands over our love lives (or lack thereof). He sees our efforts and knows our heart’s desires. And hey, get this, weird people get married every day!

As we near middle-age we ought to feel more settled and have a deeper understanding about who we are, what we’re about and what we’re looking for in a potential spouse – expectations adjusted, of course. Let’s “just keep swimming” in the dating pool we’ve been given and walk with confidence into our high school reunions, with or without a weird spouse by our sides.

What has dating in the “almost middle-aged” years taught you? Where have you made adjustments, and what have you kept as non-negotiables?

Lindsay Blackburn is an ordinary Montana girl who loves life and its many wild and crazy adventures. She works full time as the women’s and children’s ministry assistant at her church and enjoys hosting parties and teaching crafts as a side job. She has a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s degree in education. In addition to being an occasional writer, she’s a bookworm, fitness junkie, traveler, foodie, and theology nerd. You can follow her on twitter @ellesbee.

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