So far, in the first half of 2014, I'm in two weddings and have been invited to two weddings and four destination bachelorette parties. Essentially, January to June of next year is wedding season. Plus one baby shower I'm hosting.
And I'm pumped about this. It's going to be one fun spring. I cannot wait to watch my friends marry the men of their dreams; begin to build their families and futures.
But, as a single girl, something I've both watched happen and experienced myself is the feeling that there is a club to which I've not been invited. Somehow, my friends keep getting invitations from the future - husbands, registries, honeymoons and babies. And for some reason, I just can't swing an invite.
As I've watched my friends get engaged, I've seen a very real and obvious transition in their demeanor. They have immediately shifted from an attitude of "it's just us single girls" to "it's just you single girls." And I want to be very clear here: this is not wrong. Heck no! In fact, I think almost any girl in her 20s that is ready to get married would gladly swap that us for a you.
But, the truth is, when you're left in the single pile, as your friends slowly get chosen, it can get lonely. You begin to wonder why your friends are finding really great guys and you somehow keep going on dates where the guy is suggesting tequila shots on a Tuesday and stopping for chewing tobacco on the drive home (true story).
You begin to wonder: is it me? Am I talking too much? Wearing the wrong thing? Not playing hard to get? Playing too hard to get?
I've hesitated to write this post for a while because I'm still single and I feared people would consider my advice irrelevant because of that. But then I realized that it is inevitable: once I get engaged, things will change for me, too. I will stop thinking about these things. I will inevitably stop feeling single.
So, these are the things I wish someone had told me before I'd met my husband. Or rather, before I even ventured into the 20-something dating scene.
1. When you meet your husband, you won't worry about messing it up. I've dated guys that I've been constantly worried about messing it up with: I worried about what I said. Was I too loud? Did I talk to much? Does he like the restaurant I picked? Does he really want to go to this wedding with me, or does he feel obligated? And I've dated guys around whom I've felt completely myself: messy hair, talkative, with my real emotions just pouring out.
And you know what? Even though I am still single, I know the latter is where I'm supposed to land. I don't want to live a life of performing, where I'm constantly looking and acting perfect for my husband. Do I want to please him, for him to find me attractive and amazing? Of course. But I want a real life, where he finds me attractive even when I have on leggings and glasses and no makeup, not just when I have on date attire. I know the freedom I find when being my honest self is the freedom I want in my marriage.
2. Marry a nice guy. I freaking love players. There. I said it. UGH. It's a disease, you know? I have dated players and meanies and looked deep into their eyes and thought: oh I could love you. I could be the one you turn nice for. I know you've hurt girls before, but when you see how great I am, I think you'll want to put a ring on it and mellow out.
First of all: this is really rare. I have seen this happen (a) in movies and (b) for a few of my friends, but these instances are the exception to the rule. It's very rare that a guy who has serious issues (that need therapy) will meet you and suddenly all of those self-worth issues will be resolved. People change, yes, yes yes. BUT it is not your job to change someone. So please, my friends, give the nice guys a chance.
When I was in Africa, I was watching Bob Goff play a game with the kids and I had this moment of clarity. I thought: that's a nice guy. And if you marry a nice guy, you get a future with a nice man.
3. Don't pursue guys. If a guy is interested, he will find a way to talk to you. I once had a guy text me about his hemorrhoid. Not kidding. If a guy wants to talk to you, he will find a way to do it. Just sit back and enjoy the show, my friends.
4. Don't play games. You know what else I used to love? Games. They made me feel like I was in control; like I was handling the situation, the relationship. But if you're super gamey up front, when you stop playing the games in the middle, you'll quickly find the end. Just be yourself. I used to wait exactly ten minutes longer than the guy did to reply to a text. But, who was I fooling? We all have our phones on us all the dang time.
5. Slow down, enjoy dating. When you go from dating to married, things obviously change. And one thing that will happen is that him taking you on a nice date won't quite be the same. Your money will be shared. Your calendars will be shared. Enjoy the fact that a guy is making time on your calendar to take you on a date.
6. Don't lose yourself. In friendships. In new relationships. In work. There are a lot of things in our 20s that will offer - if not threaten - to define us. Don't become any one thing. Just become yourself. And when you meet your husband, he will fully embrace it.
7. Don't confuse criticism with a lack of love. I'm a recovering (and sometimes still struggling) perfectionist. One of the hardest things for me to learn has been that just because someone doesn't like an idea I have, or what I choose to do, doesn't mean they don't love me. Does it mean they're right? Not necessarily. But being willing to look outside of our ideas and opinions makes us stronger individuals, and will make us stronger in our future relationships.
8. When you're dating the right person, you will have peace. You won't constantly worry about whether or not it's right. If you're consumed by wondering if you should end it - but are afraid to - you should probably end it.
9. Listen to the people that love you. Listen to your gut, of course. But also, if everyone that loves you doesn't love him, there's probably more to it. My siblings and my parents are my litmus test, hands down. They've seen me through it all and if they say there's smoke, I know I need to check for fire.
10. If there are really, really big differences in dating, don't ignore them. I know I have to marry a Christian - and he has to lead me. I know this isn't everyone's priority, but figure out what are your priorities, and don't settle. I don't give two hoots about politics (seriously - I had no idea it was a big voting day in GA last week), but I care about other things very deeply. I know that. And I won't forget about them.
11. (Bonus!) He makes sure you know you're enough. Dressed up. In sweatpants. Hyper. Sleepy. Hangry. Giddy. From head to know. You are enough. Don't forget it.