You always know when the next one is upon you. You log into Facebook
and your newsfeed displays a picture of somebody’s hand on her
boyfriend’s chest. Otherwise known to single people as the Hand of
Death. You don’t have to read the caption. You don’t need to see the
“Congratulations!” posts. You know what this hand means.
these people you know or sorta-know are engaged, and your typical
post-engagement behaviors start to kick in. Zooming in on the picture,
checking out the ring, texting your friends, resisting the temptation to
leave a comment that says, “So you agree, you think you’re really
pretty?”, making a list of the reasons why you’ll be forever alone, etc
But when you think about it, you can’t really remember when you
decided that marriage was something you wanted. There was no day where
you just magically knew that an engagement should be the next step on
your path to adulthood.
Rather, a switch flipped at one point and suddenly everybody was
pairing off, getting engaged, planning weddings, and then actually
having them. What was once an insane and unbelievable thing – “What?
They’re engaged?! How? We’re all so young!” – has suddenly become
the standard thing amongst people your age, because you’re not
twenty-two anymore and this is just what happens.
You don’t feel like that much time has passed since the start of all
this, since the first peers, that you knew personally, got engaged. But
now everybody’s doing it. In your childhood, it was all about
Tomagotchi’s. In your teens, your life was about braces and
uncomfortable group dates to see Pirates of the Caribbean.
But now, in your twenties, the focus has shifted to finding a partner
with whom you can make a serious, lifelong commitment. It sounds
romantic, but if you’re alone, sometimes you’d rather still be an
awkward teenager, sitting in that movie theater while the kid with the
spiked hair tries to touch your non-existent boobs.
an overwhelming thing to experience – everybody rushing to pair off and
start a life together – and it often makes you feel like that’s what
you need to do next. You don’t even have time to think about whether or
not it’s what you want right now, because the feelings of urgency and panic have erased any sense of logical thinking in your mind.
Often, the only thought you’re left with is This happening for everybody else, except me. I’m screwed.
It’s hard not to be consumed by it – by the never-ending what-if’s
and the worry that you’re going to end up alone. You forget to live and
instead start revolving your life around the happenings of other
people. You feel hopeless, lost, listless. You feel like you no longer
have a chance at happiness in this game.
But here’s the thing: this is not a game.
Nobody is going to win. Nobody is better than you for getting married. And you’re not better than anybody else for not getting
married. Marriage doesn’t make you needy and dependent, and being
single doesn’t make you independent. Measuring your life up against
anybody else is a waste of time because you will never be them and they
will never be you.
It will be tempting to try to find something that makes you feel superior to others. You’ll want to label people. They got married too young or That couple will be divorced in less than ten years or Well they’re married, but I’m out living it up or At least I’m having fun.
You’re allowed to feel weird about the fact that it feels like
everyone else is getting married except for you. But you’re not allowed
to use another person’s situation as the bar against which you should
measure yourself and your life.
Marriage changes a lot of things, but it also doesn’t change
anything. It doesn’t validate your existence. It doesn’t officially make
you an adult. It doesn’t mean you’re successful. But it also doesn’t
mean you’ve succumbed to society’s norms, or you’ve given up your
independence, or you’ve decided to to become boring.
Marriage is a beautiful thing, but it will not complete you, and it
will not fix you. Right now, it seems like all these newly engaged and
newly married people are oozing with happiness, and they probably are.
But just like all other adult things, marriage is hard. Marriage is
work. The rosy glow will fade into something that – while still special
and sacred – eventually just becomes part of everyday life.
Accept that sometimes you’ll feel weird, or uncomfortable, or uneasy.
Accept that this is a hard time for you. And then move on. Because it’s
not like all the single people are on one side of the fence, unhappy
and depressed and worthless, and all the married people are on the other
side of the fence, blissful and free of worry and completely at peace.
Married or not, everybody has issues, everyone has worries, everybody
has things that keep them up at night. Marriage, for the most part,
will provide you with a partner that can support you, but it will not
fix your problems. It will not validate your life and your purpose. It
will not give you meaning.
You must find that meaning in yourself. You must learn to love your
own company, learn to appreciate the simple joy of existing, learn that
you have dignity that exists with or without another person’s love.
Learn to love yourself. Learn to love existing. Watch how much joy
will come into your life the minute you stop trying to copy someone
else’s life path. Perhaps, when you do this, love will come. Perhaps
not. But either way, the minute you learn to stop measuring your life up
against ridiculous and pointless standards, happiness will show up.
Maybe not in the form you expected. But it will be there.