Sunday, February 16, 2014

Why Knowing Yourself Makes Dating Hard, or Why You Should Get Married When You're Young and Stupid

I’d like to interrupt my blogging hiatus to comment on the difficulty of dating in your thirties.

I’d like to start by saying to all the single thirty-something men who have a clue: Ahem, where are you? Seriously. Where?

With that said, I’d like to mention that I’ve dated a handful of great guys in their 30s (and one little baby guy in his 20s) over the past many years, and the problem seems to be, over and over, that I know what I want.

This is the problem of dating in your thirties. If I had dated these guys in my early twenties, they might have done very well for me. But not so now.

For the most part at this point in your life, you are a whole person, established in a career, paying bills, enjoying your friends, you know what you like and what you want. Or at least you have a better sense of who you are. Now some would say that’s an advantage of dating in your thirties, but I say no. No, it is not.

When you’re in college, in your early twenties, you have your whole big wide open life ahead of you. Who knows where it will take you? Sure, you’ve got ideas, but love trumps all and finding someone to journey with is exciting and beautiful. So what if he doesn’t have a job—no one does! So what if he doesn’t know what he wants in life—who does?! So what if he doesn’t know who he is really—I’ll help him figure it out! It doesn’t matter that he lies all the time—he’ll change! All we need is love.

When you fall in love and date and get married young, you sort of grow up together. You learn to pay bills and be responsible adults together. You deal with your ugly character issues together. You learn who you are together. For some that means you figure out you are different people who don’t really get along that well. But you’re in, you’ve chosen. So it’s one more thing to figure out together, how to make it work. It works for some, not so much for others. But the dating, the selection, the pairing up was easier (even if the growing up wasn’t).

But when you do all that growing up apart and then start looking for “the one,” it’s not at all like it used to be. I mean it might start the same—ooh, good looking guy, similar interests, we’re going somewhere with this… but then, bam! You find out he goes to a mega-church and lives in the burbs. He’s out. Or bam! He wears white sneakers and listens to metal music. Out! He doesn’t have a job. What? No! He’s a picky eater and doesn’t like trying new things. Forget about it! He’s never even heard of Tim Keller. Seriously? Or worse, he just didn’t ever grow up.

Would I have cared about any of this in my 20’s? I don’t think so. But now the pool just seems so much smaller. Maybe it’s not. Maybe I just know myself so much better. I’ve got a much longer list of deal-breakers now. Or preferences, anyway.

The idea that there are plenty of fish in the sea may be true when you’re 18, but in your 30’s it seems the fish are few and far. I’ve been fishing for years and nothing has stayed on the hook. And when you add in the desire for a godly man who loves Jesus and understands the Gospel story, it’s even more limiting. Then finding someone who is just as interested in you as you are in him? Impossible.

This seems impossible.

And that’s why it’s so easy to lose hope of marriage or children in your 30’s. This can be a disheartening thing, making you question whether pursuing career will make you miss out on a family, or if you should just settle for someone who is tolerable so you can get started with a family before it’s too late. These are things you usually don’t have to consider in your twenties.

Some have given me a hard time about being picky. I give myself a hard time about it. It’s just that I have such a distinct idea of the kind of man I’d like to be with, and now I’m beginning to believe he doesn’t exist. Maybe those white sneakers aren’t so bad after all? I don’t know.

I don’t know.

Maybe preferences are a luxury I can’t afford anymore?  If I’m actually going to get anywhere with anyone, maybe I need to keep my preferences peripheral (I’m looking at you, manly facial hair and tattoos) and recognize the things that are actual deal-breakers.

I have a date Saturday. He’s the whole reason for this rant.

I really like him. It’s terrifying to think about how that might change my whole world. I like my world, even though I really want to have a family. My world is comfortable and familiar and independent. He could change that. There’s more at stake now. Dates weren’t this scary at 20. They were just fun.

So maybe those picky preferences are actually sneaky little saboteurs that help keep my world comfortable and not so scary? And that, ladies and gentlemen, takes me full circle back to the conclusion that dating in your thirties is difficult.

Sometimes I really miss being dumb and young and naive. 

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