Married Guilt: On Leaving the Single Life

A "happily ever after" sign
My aching for my friends to have what I’ve been given freely has taught me more about the heart of God, who aches for us.

In my twenties, I formed a sisterhood stronger than almost any other I’ve ever experienced. I met a group of girls who I lived my life with, in its entirety. We laughed together, we cried together, we shopped together, we worshipped together, and mostly we were single together. These were my roommates, my best friends, my confidents — my family. We were inseparable.

But, slowly, the inevitable happened. Some of those friends started falling in love and getting married. When they did, everything about our relationship shifted, including our texting.

Me: “What are you up to this weekend?”

Wedded Friend: “Well, I haven’t seen Jack all week so we’re going to just hang out and spend the weekend together.”

Me: “Ah.”

About this time in the conversation, I’d grab my keys and head to buy another pint of ice cream and brainstorms which movies to Netflix for 48 hours, because I was alone. So alone.

It was hard — almost impossible — not to resent these friends. Girls who I talked to every day started to disappear for more time with their “hubbies,” and what this silently said was, I live with Jack, I’m married to Jack, I see Jack every single flipping day, but I would still rather see him than come out and meet you girls for brunch or dinner on Friday or craft night.

Ugh.

How, I would rage, does this happen to all my married friends? I will never be like this.  

And yet, replace “Jack” with “Kevin,” and you’re now reading a text I’ve probably sent in the time it’s taken you to get to this paragraph. I’ve sent it twice if you’re a slow reader.

Yep. I’m that girl. I got married. I drank the Kool-Aid. I’m all about nights in with my husband in sweatpants (still with ice cream). The idea of a weekend with no plans aside from hanging out together and visiting the farmer’s market and walking the dogs and maybe doing some laundry and drinking coffee makes me want to do a full-on Simone Biles floor routine. (Do y’all miss the Olympics yet? Because I do.)

And it’s not out of laziness, either. Marriage takes a surprising amount of time and work. The thing is, if you don’t give it the time it requires, you don’t have a happy marriage. These nights in are filled with precious moments, and we need them desperately. I want to maintain a happy, healthy marriage, but I hate that it requires so much sacrifice in other areas.

Still, I do feel like a traitor.

Making Peace with the Aching

And to make it more polarizing, I have a few (incredible, beautiful, godly, amazing) girlfriends who’ve had the absolute worst luck with dating — for years. While they go on yet another random date with some guy they met on the internet who turns out to a) creepy or b) creepy, my husband and I are moving forward, talking about starting a family or where we want to go on our next vacation together. And I feel so guilty.

I’m not alone. I have other newly married girlfriends who also feel guilty for enjoying their new life and wanting time alone with their husbands. It truly is a cultural (or marital?) phenomenon I don’t fully understand.

Now two years out from the wedding, and I’m getting better. I’m actually up for group things. Sometimes I even leave my house on purpose after six on a weeknight. I’m finding natural ways to see my girlfriends again, but I have new patterns and habits. The flow of my life is different now.

It’s getting harder in other ways, too. For my single girlfriends, dating scenarios that were somewhat discouraging when we were 25 have become completely disheartening at 31. I have friends who are starting to wonder if they’ll ever be mothers or wives — if they’ll ever have their own families. I feel this loss with them and for them, and because of this, I don’t always know how to share about my own life without feeling I’m another knife stabbing them in the side. I deeply long for us all to be in the exact same place — just like we used to be.

With each new step I take with my husband, I feel a loss because I want those friends to be taking those same steps. I don’t want to move into new territory without them. It’s scary, and I don’t like it.

I want them there with me.

While driving with one of my best friends last summer who was struggling with a horrible breakup with a guy who did not deserve her (you know who you are), I confessed something that feels super weird: I told her I feel her longing for marriage so intensely I almost feel like my own marriage picture is not yet complete and won’t be until I know she’s found the relationship she deserves. (I have no idea if this is healthy. Probably not. #boundariesarehard.)

The theological concept of “already” and “not yet,” initially proposed by Gerhardus Vos, was a term to discuss the Kingdom of God, but I’m realizing as Christians we can feel this for each other in so many ways, in terms of the gifts of God we’ve received while others have not. I feel that being given a gift only enables one to mourn more with those who don’t have it.

My aching for my friends to have what I’ve been given freely has taught me more about the heart of God, who aches for us as we continue to trudge through our lives. When Christ left us to return to heaven, I wonder if He wept over not being able to bring the disciples with Him. Having a Savior who hurts when we hurt — who works only for our good — I finally have a small picture of that kind of great love.

And so I walk in this tension — the “already” and the “not yet.” I am slowly allowing myself to enjoy my marriage guilt-free, but I still let myself have moments, on a date or on a trip, when I feel a pang of sadness for a friend. Yes, I have a great marriage (though not perfect), and no, marriage doesn’t complete a woman. But that won’t stop me from feeling like I’m not quite where I want to be.

Ashley Emmert is a proposal writer, freelance writer and concerned mom of  multiple small dogs. She lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her very Southern husband. If you need her, she’ll be watching the new season of Gilmore Girls for the next two years on repeat. Find her at ashleygraceemmert.blogspot.com or on Twitter @ashgemmert.

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