I’m 36. I did everything I was supposed to. And still I have no husband. Help?

[It's the best of Ask Mormon Girl this week, folks.  Enjoy one of my favorites.]

Dear Ask Mormon Girl:

I’m a 36 year-old single Mormon woman facing a real struggle. Basically, I’ve spent my whole life checking things off the list: graduate Primary, Personal Progress, graduate Seminary, go to BYU, go on a mission, fulfill callings, pay tithing, and so on thinking that doing all of that would yield what I wanted most: a family. God provides husbands to the good people: I don’t have one, so I must not be good. I recognize that this is incredibly flawed logic, but it’s how I feel. What makes matters worse is that my ward isn’t a great place for women like me. I’m not invited to get-togethers, not included in conversations. My bishop admitted the ward didn’t really know “how to deal with me,” since I am single and have no kids. Lately, it’s been all I can do to drag myself to Church, and sometimes I just want to take a hiatus. Help?

RJ


Dear RJ:

In total sincerity and with great warmth, let me be among the first to welcome you to the great spiritual sisterhood and brotherhood of Mormons who dutifully completed our checklists and discovered that things didn’t turn out the way we planned.

Some of us get here sooner. Some of us later. We arrive proud and broken. We arrive by our own conscious choices, or by the choices of others, or by historical calamities, or by illness, or by total accident. As the Grateful Dead sang in their epic “Terrapin Station,” “Some rise. / Some fall. / Some climb to get to Terrapin.”

When we unclutch our checklists, toss them into the campfire, unpack our bundles, and stay up late comparing notes, we discover that in any great spiritual quest there is disappointment. Risk. Heartbreak. Suffering. Failure. Paradox. And grace.

Grace, grace, grace, grace—such a beautiful word. A word too neglected in our very worksy, very checklisty (and, yes, marriage-fixated) LDS culture.

In a theological frame, grace means that you thought you had it right but you got it all wrong—how could you not get it all wrong, being human after all—and still thanks to the great love that is God, all will be well. Better than well. Everything is going to be gorgeous.

Grace also means walking with beauty, power, and dignity through struggle. So as one fellow traveler to another, I’m encouraging you to do what you need to, RJ, to keep your dignity about you. Take a break. Open your heart to God. Pour out that anger and sorrow. Smash some plates. Soak in a hot bath. And tuck yourself into bed. Get a good night’s sleep.

Then, when you’re ready, wake up, and let grace write the first chapter of the story of your life after you burned the checklist.

And let it be a big life, a big story. You’re 36 years old. The game ain’t nearly over yet. This world is a place of great need, beauty, joy, adventure, opportunity, holiness, friendship, and, yes, love of all kinds. Go get yours.

Readers, that’s my best shot at help. Let’s not give RJ the misimpression that there are only a few of us around the great campfire of burned checklists. What words of warmth and encouragement do you have?

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “I’m 36. I did everything I was supposed to. And still I have no husband. Help?

  1. TaterTot

    I love your advice Sis. Brooks. I too was a very check-list oriented person through all my growing-up years. I too find myself in a situation that was not what I had planned and at times, it is very, very frustrating. I love the advice that, “and still thanks to the great love that is God, all will be well. Better than well. Everything is going to be gorgeous.” I believe in grace.

  2. BG

    I always find it unfortunate that beautiful, intelligent, successful women feel like a failure in this church because they don’t have a husband. I know that those feelings do not come from the Lord – they come from the cultural norm that pervades LDS life. I hope that you can look outside of the church for a moment and see that being 36 and single is normal, healthy, and in no way does it reflect poorly on you or your spiritual strength. You are not being punished. The advice I want to give you is to seek for friendships outside of the church and your ward, to look for people who are living young adulthood to its fullest. I would hope that this would normalize your situation for you, and you will feel at peace in your own skin.

  3. April

    Letting go of the checklist, I’m pretty sure, saved my sanity. Once I let go life started to sail much smoother… I started to find joy in places I didn’t think could have joy…
    Don’t beat yourself up for the life that you were dealt, it’s not for you to choose the life you live, but to choose how to handle what you have gotten and to do your best to see the good things within it. There will be days of self-pity, and crying is okay, but once the tears have fallen be sure to pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and look for something bright and cheerful to remind yourself that though life isn’t what it was “supposed” to be… it’s still pretty darned great!

  4. I too was very dutiful, and also found myself at a point where I didn’t know what to do with the church, and church leaders certainly didn’t know what to do with me. So my suggestion for you is:

    Take that hiatus you want. You’ve earned it. It won’t be the end of the world, or the end of your membership, or even the end of your belief. But it might be the beginning of a perspective that lets you see some things differently. Use it to rest, to heal–and to meet some new people! Mormons are often reluctant to socialize with non-members, for so many reasons: social awkwardness, lack of opportunity, or years of being told not to date non-Mormons. But you just might meet someone who brings you opportunities you’ll cherish that aren’t on your checklist.

    And even if none of that happens, then at the very least you’ll feel pleased and refreshed when you return to church and realize it’s where you want to be.

  5. Oh, my — you need to be harder on yourself. Have you thought of wearing some kind of horsehair scarf?

  6. Cristina

    I am a living testimony that the checklist doesn’t work even when you do get married and have children. I have a wonderful husband and kids but have often come up short when it comes to happiness because the “checklist” never ends. When living life off of a checklist you miss out on what might be even better. Because it never ends there is no arrival point of happiness. for you, marriage seems like the arrival point but it isn’t. I had to let go of my checklist after this realization and start living by the guidance of my heart. My heart finds the joy in life no matter where you are. Now I am directed by something much more fulfilling and I deliberately do things that my heart loves. Many of those things include being with my family and husband but some of them don’t. Since the spirit and heart are closely connected I feel much more fulfilled and grounded this way. the opinions of others don’t matter as much and I have found i can even build better friendships when based on my heart. Good luck in your journey to discover what your heart is telling you. God knows you. You (and your heart) have a divine purpose.

  7. Jamie

    Hi! I am 24 and have struggled with the same thing. Granted, people will say “You’re young” and such but it has been a very hard thing for me. I just want my husband and family. But I also know that God has great things planned for you. Whether or not a person gets married in this life, Heavenly Father has worked it out perfectly. Find what makes you feel needed, what you feel is fulfilling to you. Not everyone gets married and has children and that is ok. You are needed, though. Heavenly Father has something so important for you to do and He loves you. He knows what is going on and He aches with you.

    I learned something recently. We often use check boxes (scriptures, check; prayer, check) when we should not use them. I am saying this because it has changed my perspective. When we stop checking boxes and allow the gospel to become simply a part of who we are, it makes it a lot easier. That does not mean it isn’t a part of you, but check boxes drive a person batty. There is a talk I love called The Uses of Adversity by Carlfred Broderick. It may help you, it may not. Anyway, I hope something in this helps you and makes sense. Good luck. Know you are loved and cherished.

  8. Pedro A. Olavarria

    Lorenzo Snow once said: “We are here that we may be educated in a school of suffering and of fiery trails, which school was necessary for Jesus our Elder Brother, who, the Scriptures tell us, was made perfect through suffering. It is necessary we suffer in all things, that we may be qualified and worthy to rule and govern all things, even as our father in heaven and his Eldest Son Jesus”(Words To Live By: Life Strategies of The Latter-Day Prophets).

    Even though I’m an “old bachelore” myself, I can’t pretend to understand your predicament. But if there is one thing I do understand it is this: life is a hard, painful, tiring test. It’s also an exhilariting adventure full of learning, joy and growth.

    Before we came here, we saw our Heavenly Parents and we saw the happiness They enjoyed. We wanted that for ourselves and so a plan was revealed, where, if followed, we could eventually enjoy the same kind of life They have and be the same kind of Beings They are.

    We knew hardships and pain would be part of mortality, and we were all for it. We had that vision and we wanted this period of testing and learning more than anything, so much so that when the foundations of the earth were set, we shouted for joy(Job 7:38).

    If we are obedient and faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, every pain and trail we have in this life will become a blessing in disguise. Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers; all we have to do is trust Him.

  9. Thank you for the honesty of your question! I could have written the exact same thing for most of my twenties. It was my 30th birthday that I decided that I would now date people who were spiritual and see where it went from there. I didn’t draw the line at LDS only men anymore. That might be a step you are not willing to make, but for me, I have had four beautiful relationships with men who have loved me, taught me, made me laugh, helped me to grow, and whom I still have solid relationships with. They didn’t come to be with any set checklist (does she read her scriptures, is she praying morning and night, is she worthy to be R.S. president, how faithful is she). I didn’t come to them with any checklists. I have discovered that one’s faith ebbs and flows and dating (and marrying) someone based solely on a religious (not spiritual) checklist has turned out to be detrimental for many who do it.

    Expand. Breathe. Live. Love.

  10. Jim Wilt

    RJ, What is the saying? “Lifes what happens while you’re busy making other plans”. It sounds as though you have lived and accomplished a number of great things in your own right. My calling at the present time is Ward Single Leader and in that capacity am involved also at the Stake level planning and helping to carry out various activities. This was a tortuous calling until recently based on, what I thought to be, everyone else’s expectations. My single status is not based on falure, but reality. I have always been a gay man and as a member was passively so. However, after our last General Conference I went to my Bishop and opened up about my status and am actually enjoying my calling as an openly gay active Latter Day Saint. No longer feeling the pressure at single adult dances, I am able to enjoy them. The point here is not about me and not to project that onto you. Simply count your blessings and be involved to your best ability. Someone told me recently that our Savior said it may not be easy but it will be worth it.

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