I’m 23 years old and I’ve never been in a relationship. Reread that sentence if you need to; most people need to be retold, or convinced, or something. That’s fine; I know it’s rare. I usually get the once over look and then, “Really?” Yes; yes really. All of this is before they realize that I’ve also never been kissed. Still, none of it tops the reaction I get from my doctor when he asks if there’s any chance I could be pregnant.
“Are you sure?”
“Well, some people don’t realize they can get pregnant doing what they’re doing.”
“I know how it works; and I’m still a virgin.”
I smile politely during the typical quick glance over my figure.
“Oh… Really? You’re sure?”
Trying not to chuckle, I wonder how we could still be having this conversation. A little while later the nurse returns with my lab results, and the doctor nearly congratulates me, “Well, you’re not pregnant!” I give up.
I don’t mind being honest with people. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve never considered any of this to be something I didn’t want people to find out about me. It’s not a disorder, it’s not a curse, and it’s definitely not a problem.
Now, there are a lot of misconceptions that come with the territory of being unattached as long as I have: 1) I’m afraid of commitment, 2) I have unrealistic expectations, and 3) I want to be a nun.
Let me just offer a blanket “No” to all of that. People want to make it more complicated than it is, trying to figure me out and uncover what’s really behind all of this. It’s not like that. For me it’s common sense:
I will not be in a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship.
That won’t get you any closer to finding love. I’m not “missing out on valuable experience.” I’m not living less of a life. I’m avoiding heartbreak with good people that I don’t love. I don’t see people as mere “experience” to benefit from, I see them as individuals, seeking love, same as I.
I’ve seen what happens to people who rush in and out of love, who compromise themselves in the hopes that they can pick up the slack later on. Why shoot for the sand instead of the stars? There’s always the risk that it won’t work out, even when you move slowly, but what makes you think rushing or compromising will help the relationship? Some people stubbornly ignore the dissonance in the relationship because they desperately want each other, against all odds, against all reason. “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” Okay, Rod, so does that somehow gloss over the incompatibility and skip right to happiness? Good luck with that.
We just want to be “happy”. The common hope is that we will find someone who will make our loneliness go away, but that’s not how all of this works. That should not be the goal. A relationship should be based on love, not avoidance of feelings we don’t want to feel. Being single is not the same as being alone. I know people in relationships who feel alone. Loneliness is an accessory quality that exists independent of our relationship status. We need to be careful not to use someone we care about as an excuse to avoid the source of our loneliness. Why do we feel empty? Why is it we don’t feel whole? What are we missing? It’s not romance, I’ll tell you that; it’s definitely something else. Relationships are beautiful and good, but when we use them to avoid confronting ourselves and our issues, it’s only a temporary fix. It may distract us for a little while, but the feeling of belonging won’t last (even if the relationship does) until you can address the source of the problem. But I don’t have to convince you of this; that resurfacing heartache will speak for itself.
I’ve seen what happens to relationships that build their foundation on the pursuit of happiness instead of the pursuit of God. There’s a lot of confusion when times get hard. What if you’re not happy anymore? What happens then? Well, if love is all about achieving some sense of happiness, I suppose you would leave that relationship to pursue it elsewhere. But it would help you to learn, sooner rather than later, that happiness isn’t guaranteed us; and, this doesn’t make life automatically miserable, it just makes life real. You can jump from person to person, through fleeting moments of pleasure, and find you’re no closer to achieving happiness than you were before. You will never find a relationship devoid of trials, worry, or frustration; all of that comes with loving someone, but all of that is more than bearable if you share a mutual love and respect for one another.
If you build your relationships on the pursuit of happiness, and you consider happiness to be the absence of all dissatisfaction; I’ll accept your definition. You’re looking for someone to please you, to flatter you, to offer you only good feelings, on your terms, with no problems, no issues, no drama. Minimal effort involved for you. You want it to be easy. You want it to be pleasurable, uncomplicated. You want it to be everything you want, all the time. That’s not love, that’s not even a relationship, that’s pornography. Love takes more than that. Love requires a real relationship, within the messy and imperfect beauty of reality.
Love begins in a real relationship with a person who you are willing to sacrifice yourself for. In love, though there be trials, frustrations, and anxieties, there is an abiding joy that supersedes the current circumstance, because you love.
When you love someone, you are affected by what they do and by what happens to them. It is a sacrifice to feel for someone, to remain vulnerable in your concern for all that regards them, but this sacrifice is more than endurable, because you love.
So don’t rush in. They say that’s what fools do. It takes time to know who someone really is, and to know who you become when you’re with them. It takes time to discover who you should spend the rest of your life with. If you’re single, be single; in time, you won’t be anymore. There’s no need to explain. It’s fine and it’s good. Instead of being preoccupied with all the worries of searching for love, focus on surrounding yourself with good people; the rest will figure itself out.