Two years ago, at the age of thirty, I decided I was tired of waiting for the right guy to come along and made what some people think is a radical choice. Instead of getting on the fast track and jumping onto the speed dating circuit like many of my friends, I did the complete opposite. I made a conscious decision to stop dating. Call me crazy but for the first time, I realized that being single is more than just waiting to get married.
When I finally came to this decision, I didn’t really see it as “giving up dating” as much as I was giving myself over to the things I’m most passionate about in life. It’s a commitment to live my single years with purpose and intentionality.
Long term and Long Distance
In the past, most of my relationships with men have always been simply as friends or … friends with privileges. During college, I had a couple of long-term but also long-distance relationships. While I enjoyed the friendship and emotional intimacy, the geographical separation usually became too much. During my 20’s, I moved on to a series of short-term relationships. I met people everywhere from bible study to the bars, and I had an off-and-on relationship with a guy at work.
I remember breaking up with an old boyfriend once who told me “Beth, you have such a passion for people.” I thought this was his nice way of acknowledging that I had put forth much more effort into our relationship than he had. Looking back, he had a very prophetic insight. He named a gift – a passion for people – that is at the heart of my vocation in life.
My choice to be single for the moment is not a choice to avoid relationships. In some ways, I’m actually choosing to be in deeper relationships with others. As single people, we often look for love and affection from people of the opposite sex. When I stopped looking for dating relationships I found better girl friends, better guy friends, and greater fulfillment in my ministry work.
I’m committed to having authentic relationships with those around me including family, friends, and co-workers. I’m committed to strengthening and deepening my relationship with God through prayer and spiritual direction. I’m committed to being faithful to where the Spirit leads me to use my gifts.
Ironically, I also realized that the decision to be intentionally single doesn’t make the desire for physical intimacy go away. I am still very attracted to people of the opposite sex. This is a good thing, because part of a healthy sexuality is the desire to connect with other people. The challenge is to find honest and life-giving ways to express that attraction.
As I’ve embraced this decision, I have experienced a sense of freedom that I haven’t known in quite some time. I’m free to enter into friendships without the awkwardness of dating. I have experienced a new sense of intimacy and honesty with my family, and a renewed sense of intimacy and honesty with God.
People assume that because I’m not dating, I want to become a nun. The truth is that I haven’t ruled out religious life, but I’m really not convinced that’s where God is calling me. I haven’t ruled out marriage either, but I don’t really see that happening any time soon. Whether it becomes a permanent state in life or not, I’m choosing to live my single years as a vocation.
Who and How vs. What
Discovering one’s vocation is more than deciding what to do for a living. It’s a way of being in the world. Finding your vocation in life answers the questions, “who do you want to be with?” and “how do you want to be with them?”
I want to be with people in such a way that I can share my passion for God and live a life of service to others. This is something I’ve known for a very long time. It’s who I am. For now, the best way to do this is as a committed single person.
My siblings who are married tell me that you will “just know” when it’s right. I have to say that this idea of being intentionally single feels much different than being on the dating scene … but for now, I just know, it feels right.