Ten years ago this month, I started the day by getting on my face before God and saying, “Lord, I’m getting down on the floor because if I get up, I’m afraid I’ll do something stupid.” I had good reason to be concerned.
My wife and I live in Washington, D.C., a city that’s full of single men who aren’t ready to get married. If they’re anything like I was in my single days, their unwillingness to tie the knot has a lot to do with their unrealistic expectations. Now that I’m seven years into a happy marriage, if I could give some tips to all the single men about adjusting their hopes for life after the wedding, here’s what I would say:
When I first started dating my wife, we were eating dinner one night and she asked a question that I didn’t think was very controversial: “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” In my response, I mentioned that I wanted to return to my home state of Mississippi and run for Attorney General, and I also said I wanted four or five children. She looked at me like she was waiting for me to announce that I was joking. I wasn’t.
Let me share a dirty little secret from the publishing world: There are some people who write endorsements for books without reading them. I am not one of those people.
Whenever I write about the struggles of single adults, there’s one sure-fire way to enrage the men: Hint that they carry any blame for the growing number of unmarried women. I can’t tell you how many single men have earnestly looked at me in frustration and explained that they simply haven’t felt the “spark” with anyone. But none of these guys can seem to articulate what the “spark” is. They just know it isn’t there, and they can’t imagine moving forward without it.
When I was single, I assumed engagement would be one of the easiest and most blissful parts of my relationship with my future spouse. But the day after I asked my fiancée, Raquel, if she would marry me, I discovered how wrong I was.
When I was single, there was this phenomenon with single women that puzzled me. I wouldn’t find them particularly attractive, but after some guy swept them off their feet and married them, they suddenly looked more beautiful. It wasn’t like I was lusting after these married women or anything — I just couldn’t help but notice how marriage was like a makeover, despite the fact that they didn’t change that much about their overall look after they tied the knot.
Although I got a lot of things wrong when I was dating, I had one general policy I still do not regret: I felt it was best to keep my hands off the women I dated.
If there’s one thing that married folks quickly forget after they tie the knot, it’s this: Singleness often hurts. The most frustrating part for a lot of single people who desire marriage is the mounting pressure to get on with it, to find (or be found by) someone now. The unspoken judgment seems to be that the single man or woman would be married if there weren’t something wrong with them.
It was my first year of law school, and I was single. I wanted to be married, but it didn’t matter. I was spending 12 hours a day in class or in the library, so there wasn’t any real chance of my getting to know anyone.
When I was single, I had a number of qualities I was looking for in a prospective wife, and although I could’ve distilled those qualities into about 19 bullet points, it really wasn’t much more than a vague, disjointed wish list inside my head. Some of the things I was hoping for were reasonable and good, like wanting to have a wife who was serious about her faith; others were far less essential, like hoping she could sing.
When I met my wife, I was a serial dater; and by that I mean that I made it my business to go out on dates with a wide range of eligible bachelorettes in hopes that one day I would strike gold and find a wife. One assumption people made about me during that time was that I was some kind of super confident bachelor when it came to dating and women – it couldn’t have been further from the truth.
A few years ago, I had a Mormon friend who invited me to attend a service at his church (also known as a “ward”). I had visited a Mormon church service in high school, so I knew what to expect — or so I thought.
A couple of days ago, I was getting on the Metro when I saw a young woman did something that caught my eye. She noticed that her beau was on our train, and she plowed through the people on the train to get to him.
If you wonder why nobody seems to be the right fit, maybe it’s time to ask what you expect in a spouse and how realistically you’re assessing yourself.