As part of my research for today’s article, “Trading in Your Fairy Tale,” I interviewed married couples and singles. The perspectives of those two groups came back very different. For those already married, hindsight seemed to be 20/20, and they could see how their spouse may have not fulfilled the fairy tale image they had while single but was somehow better — and ultimately God’s best for them.
Singles, however, seemed to have fewer resources for rejecting “the fairy tale” with nothing tangible to replace it. As a single, when you think about trading in the fairy tale, you may imagine marrying someone who you find boring, unattractive or inferior. One single woman asked, “Do you think married people who gave up the fairy tale just feel obligated to ‘be happy’ with what they ended up with?” While that may be true in some cases (even if you made an unwise choice in marriage, that is now the person with whom you have a lifelong covenant before God) more commonly I observe that the person couldn’t envision what kind of individual would make a good spouse for them until God provided that person. Then it became clear.
If you’re waiting for a spouse and wondering how to adopt a wise and balanced perspective in the meantime, consider these three practical suggestions:
Keep dreaming. A woman in her late-20s recently confessed to me that she will no longer be able to wear her dream wedding dress when she marries because her body isn’t as svelte as it once was. While that may be partially true, some parts of the fairy tale are worth continuing to dream about (and work toward), such as the type of wedding you might want or (if you’re a woman) the type of dress you might want to wear.
At 31 I was able to have the beautiful wedding of my dreams. I was in shape from regular running and found a dress I loved (though maybe not the one I would have chosen 10 years earlier). In addition, my many years in the workforce provided me with some savings to spend a little more on my wedding than would have been possible in my 20s. When people ask me about the benefits of marrying later, I tell them (half-jokingly) “digital pictures.” My pictures are magazine quality while some of my friends who married in college are stuck with dated prints. You may have to give up a few of your dreams, but you may discover other benefits you didn’t see coming.
Adjust your expectations and embrace growth. While it’s healthy to keep hoping for the deep desires God has placed in your heart, it’s also important to be willing to grow beyond your expectations. Allyson says her mom married at 19, and Allyson “imagined a marriage with Mr. Right — ‘the one’ out there for me. He would sweep me off my feet, and our relationship would be just like my parents’ marriage. He would listen to me, care about me, serve me, and be a great husband, father, and provider.”
Allyson says as she’s remained single past college and grad school, God has used that time to shift her focus. “I found myself consuming the wisdom of marriage and family experts,” she says. “And I began making decisions about how I wanted to serve my husband and children. After hearing so many helpful accounts of challenges in marriage and how to deal with them, I started tucking these ideas and strategies away into my mental marriage arsenal. I have learned so much that has totally changed my views of marriage and my expectations for a husband. Yes, some of the ideas (i.e., fantasies) I leave behind make me a little sad, but I am so thankful for my future husband’s sake that he hasn’t come along any sooner.”
Patiently wait for “better things.” The Bible tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord (James 1:17). This was a concept that sustained me during my single years. As I sought to be obedient to the Lord, I believed that if marriage was a gift He wished to bestow on me, that He would do it in His timing and it would be the person of His choosing.
Melissa, who is in her mid-30s and hopes to be married someday, says she’s comforted by this Corrie Ten Boom quote: “Hold everything in your hands lightly; otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”
“I think we often blame God,” Melissa says, “thinking, Why didn’t You do this on my schedule? Why didn’t You bring this person when I thought You should? Why did You bless that person before me? We get mad at God for prying our fingers open, when, in reality, the problem is we refuse to let go of things God wants to work on and replace with better things.”
While waiting on the “better” is not license to be impossibly picky, God promises to keep in perfect peace the one whose mind is steadfast on Him (Isaiah 26:3). And that peace applies to seeking and settling upon a spouse who will go beyond the fairy tale.