“Don’t look at him!”
My friend squealed and pinched my arm. We were just little girls breaking off pieces of wood chips on the playground. She had an older sister and knew all the cool tricks to get a boy to like you. Apparently if you had a crush on a boy you were to avoid eye contact and avoid him at all costs. That’s the only way he would know you liked him, obviously.
“Whatever you do don’t look at him.”
A different friend hissed and firmly grabbed my arm. We were much older, surely not any wiser, and instead of ripping wood chips we shredded a bar napkin nervously. It was a different playground, a bar to be precise, but the same rules applied.
Apparently if you want something then don’t actually want it.
Which is a pretty horrible way to view relationships. I can’t even begin to imagine the mixed signals we’ve been sending men since our playground days. Yes means no, no means yes, if you don’t want it you do, if you do want it then you’re desperate. I would like to go off on a rabbit trail on how this probably factors into rape culture but I’ll resist…for now.
We’ve grown up under the assumption that in order to get what you want you simply can’t want it, especially when it comes to relationships.
And I can’t help but wonder how much this affects the rest of our lives? We operate as though if we don’t care about the promotion then we’ll magically get a raise. If we act cool around our crush he’ll suddenly realize he’s in love with us. If we don’t dream and save our money we’ll still miraculously take the trip abroad.
It's a logic riddled with fear but we've convinced ourselves it will keep us safe.
This rings loud and true for the southern evangelical Christians among us, as though we didn’t already have enough guilt and shame to last us a lifetime. Wanting things for yourself was considered selfish ambition. It was too self-centered and the only way to truly get the desires of your heart was to surrender them completely.
I combined both my cultural understanding of relationships and my twisted theology of selflessness to create the perfect cocktail when it came to my desires for marriage.
Because for the longest time I was convinced that if I didn’t want a husband then I would finally get one.
But I would like to come out of my marriage closet and finally confess something deemed so taboo that, alas, my dreams might not ever come true.
I would like to get married.
There, I said it.
And now I know I’ve totally jinxed myself forever. I’ll start to assemble my small squadron of cats to keep me company on the long cold winter nights.
In all seriousness I really would like to be married one day and I’m not going to continue to pretend otherwise out of some weird manipulative power play. For starters I am not cool girl. I care very much about my relationships and investing in them. If I continue to act apathetic and disinterested in my romantic pursuits then I would venture to say any boyfriend would take a well-deserved hint and dump my ass.
No guy wants to continue to date a girl who doesn’t give him the time of day.
And I’ve learned that people don’t just magically find themselves at the altar one day. It takes time, conversations, planning and a lot of work to actually move towards marriage. You can’t avoid tough conversations yet carry the heavy expectation that you’ll end up together forever. It just doesn’t work that way.
If you want to be married then you actually have to want it.
And it’s okay to want it.
For the longest time I was waiting for someone to give me permission to be honest and vulnerable and say what I actually want. I want to be married, not right now, but eventually. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Desiring marriage does not speak to a neither a lack of my character nor a lack of my faith. It simply speaks to a willingness to be vulnerable with the community around me and honestly express my hopes, dreams, desires and expectations.
Because at the end of the day God is not the guy at the bar. He’s not waiting for me to stop caring or stop wanting in a vain effort to convince him I’m somehow otherwise deserving. I cannot manipulate Him into giving me what I want by feigning disinterest. I cannot lie to him anymore than I can lie to myself, at least not for long.
It’s a twisted way to view the world and an especially cruel way to see God. I can’t earn his gifts or devotion by either working for them or avoiding them. I won’t be made more spiritual by lying to myself, to Him or to the people around me.
I really hope we can learn to be brave and be vulnerable first and foremost with a God who knows us inside and out. If we can’t learn intimacy with God then we will continually struggle in our efforts to do so with the people around us, especially with our potential spouses.
But if you’re not into the whole God thing then I would encourage us to do the even harder work and the braver work of being vulnerable with the people around us. Of letting them in and allowing them to know the deepest desires of our hearts. Allowing people take a long hard look at what we actually want in life, whether that be marriage, a career, a family, could be it’s own unique gift unto itself.
If you’re looking for permission to want something, namely marriage, then know that the permission was granted a long time ago. Get that shame and shit out of here.
It’s okay to want to be married. It’s okay to not.
You're okay right where you are with what you have and with what you want.