I’m having a difficult time since two of my good friends got engaged recently. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for them, but I can’t even seem to find a decent date, and it’s hard not to feel some jealousy. I’ve been asked to be in both weddings and a part of me is dreading it. I’m also beginning to wonder if something is wrong with me. Why does it seem like everyone else is moving to the next stage of life and I’m stuck here?
— Always a Bridesmaid
You are brave for being honest about having conflicting feelings: happiness for the joy your friends are experiencing, and jealousy that you don’t have that same joy for yourself. A lot of people would deny feelings of jealousy because we believe any negative feeling is “wrong.” While acting on your feelings or becoming envious would be harmful to both you and your relationships, simply admitting that you are struggling is a step toward maturity and healing.
It’s hard not to compare ourselves, especially when we are so close to a couple. It’s hard to see someone else find her husband when you so much want the same thing for yourself. We can’t always control our emotions; it’s what we do with those feelings that counts.
So, what can you do? You can start by giving yourself the space and grace to grieve the fact that you have not found someone yet. This is something you can do in private, or with a trusted mentor or counselor. Most importantly, you can bring this longing into your prayer life. Christ knows the desires of your heart; He put them there. The desire to be partnered and start your own family is one of the most natural drives we are given. In fact, it was one of God’s first commandments!
At the same time, a constant feeling of resentment toward your friends’ engagements is going to harm you and your relationships. I’m hearing you describe jealousy. The danger is allowing yourself to move into envy, where you covet what they have or desire harm towards them. If this is happening, it may be time to look at your own sense of pride. Do you believe you deserve to find a partner more than your friends? Are you struggling with a sense of self-righteousness? Are you having trouble trusting that God does have a partner for you?
Jealousy may be a way to defend against the pain of being single which you are feeling. It is hard to be alone when we want to give our heart to a life-long partner. That is why recognizing, acknowledging and accepting this loss you are experiencing is the best way to work through your feelings. You wanted to be the girl squealing with delight at the sight of an engagement ring. You wanted to be the girl planning the summer wedding. It’s OK to want these things for yourself; just don’t lose sight of what is truly important. Paul tells us that God allows us to struggle in order to build our perseverance, character and hope in Him.
I don’t know why God asks us to wait, but I do know that God’s ways are sovereign. Being single can be a time of growth and discovery. If you believe you are starting to experience envy, then bringing your heart into the sacrament of reconciliation is a very good first step. Consider spending more time in prayer, scripture study, adoration, or with others in ministry. Allow yourself to believe that God is preparing you, and your future spouse, at this very moment. A masterpiece would be ruined if it were rushed into completion too soon. If your heart desires a healthy, blessed and peaceful marriage, then allow God to do His work in you. If you simply want to be married, then it is likely you will not end up happy with the result.
When I was in my 20s, my best friend from college, my sister and my closest sorority sister all got engaged within six months. I was in each of their weddings. Not only was I a bridesmaid, I was a bridesmaid (and maid of honor for two of them) without a date. I struggled with being jealous, and with my own sadness. It was many years after that I finally met my husband. I can assure you that if you commit yourself to spiritual and emotional growth, God saves the best for last. I am grateful I didn’t marry sooner because at the time I was not fully prepared for being a wife. I needed to grow in humility and charity. I needed to mature emotionally and strengthen my relationship with God.
As a side note, 10 years later, two of those marriages have ended in divorce. I was busy projecting my own hopes and dreams onto those relationships; the reality was that they were not meant to be the lifelong commitment that I had so desperately desired. I learned there is always enough time to wait for the right person.
Michele Fleming, M.A.