Why You’re Still Single

Maybe You're Shallow

Oh, the single years.


I remember the single years very well, those times when every gathering provided an opportunity to scope out possible dating prospects.


Oh, the single years.


From the ripe, knowledgable perspective of almost eight years of marriage, my attitude toward the single years has changed. I look back now and wonder why I agonized over men who wouldn’t commit, first dates, and flirting games.


(Flirting games are kind of like the Hunger Games, but they typically involve much less dirt or need to pee in the wilderness.)


Recently I read an article by Tracy McMillan, Why You’re Not Married. It hit home because I saw the single, lonely, miserable, and confused version of myself in many of her points. (If you’re easily offended by blunt language, this may not be the article for you to click through and read.)


I loved her second explanation for why you aren’t married: Because You’re Shallow!


“When it comes to choosing a husband, only one thing really, truly matters: character. So it stands to reason that a man’s character should be at the top of the list of things you are looking for, right? But if you’re not married, I already know it isn’t. Because if you were looking for a man of character, you would have found one by now. Men of character are, by definition, willing to commit.

Instead, you are looking for someone tall. Or rich. Or someone who knows what an Eames chair is. Unfortunately, this is not the thinking of a wife. This is the thinking of a teenaged girl. And men of character do not want to marry teenaged girls. Because teenage girls are never happy. And they never feel like cooking, either.”


Why do I love her words so much? Because I am an advocate of The List. And, valuable as the list can be, it can also lead us into shallow thinking.


If you’ve ever attended church camp, you’ve heard about The List. “Write down a list of all the things that are important to you to have in a spouse – before you are in relationship with anyone – and then when you meet that person, you’ll have a guide to know if they’re… (whisper of daring hope) the one.”


As a single I wrote my list. Oh, my, did I write my list! I re-copied that list in every journal I kept from the ages of 15-to-28. The List grew longer and longer as I aged.


By the time I met Lizard, I had 32 items on The List. Some of them were significant — “A man who loves God more than he loves me,” “Someone who speaks about me with respect whether I’m in the room or not and welcomes people into our home,” “Intelligent and considerate” — those were all qualities I stand by today (and my husband possesses).


But then there were the… other… items. Things like, “Must be 6′ or taller,” “Likes to drive trucks,” “Can fix things.” There’s nothing wrong with these qualities… yet they aren’t true indicators of a possible pornography addiction, someone who will give the romantic once-over to anyone they see, or a refusal to prioritize free time with an orientation toward children who may or may not expel body fluids on them without a moment’s notice.


The List doesn’t always deal with character traits.


Shallow thinking toward a potential spouse is easy to spot after the fact, but hard to notice in the moment when you’re more interested in chemistry, creating romantic memories, and The Future.


Many a smoldering, athletic body has given away to pudge or injury as time marches on… yet a person’s character acquires a beauty over the course of a lifetime.


I have met many elderly couples whose obvious love makes me clear my throat and furiously blink tears away. Yet at no point have their wrinkles, polyester-dominant fashion sense, and smelliness made me envious. (Not to be rude… but older people do tend to smell. The smells put me off nursing homes completely after a bad Christmas caroling experience as a child.)


Liver spots don’t make a young single’s heart go pitter-patter. But… a handsome character (combined with liver spots) equals a love worth pursuing for a lifetime.


My main point: if you’re shallow, snap out of it! You’re not going to end up happy.


And if you are in a marriage founded on shallowness… well, “rent a backhoe” and get to work deepening your character. It’ll take effort, but it’s worth it in the long run.


If you’re married, what is the most important quality you’d tell a single to look for in their spouse? If you’re single, what quality do you imagine will be most significant in your marriage?


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7 thoughts on “Why You’re Still Single

  • May 7, 2012 at 6:56 am

    I’m single, by choice. I love having a boyfriend, and I love it when he goes home. There is no single quality that I require in a partner. I do think it’s important that we both be people who respect each other and ourselves. The reality, though, is that marriage is not for everybody, and people need to make peace with that idea, as well.

    Every woman may not get a husband, but every woman deserves a great life. My book, The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Childfree (www.amazon.com/The-Spinsterlicious-Life-Lessons-Child-free/dp/1469968525/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331781179&sr=8-1) is for the woman who is single –now or forever– and wants to ensure a sense of fulfillment.

  • May 7, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    Okay, I’ve thought about it all day, and I’m finally ready to say what bugs me about this.

    First and foremost: Tracy McMilan has been in three marriages. Three failed marriages. Three MISERABLY failed marriages, from what five minutes of Google-stalking can tell me. She now writes books about how to be married but guess what? She STILL isn’t married. So far she has not succeeded in this area. Not once. Trust me. If I really just wanted to be married, all I would have to do is fly to Vegas and get some desperate guy drunk enough to hit up some wedding chapel. Trust me, I have womanly wiles. I could use them. But I don’t. Not for this. Because I don’t just want wedding. I want a marriage that lasts. When I say “Forever,” I will mean forever. So the last thing I’m going to do it listen to advice from someone who has such a horrible track record.

    Second; this article, and so many like it are only telling women that they aren’t good enough, that once again, they fail miserably. Once again, men aren’t the problem, you, the woman, are. Sure, she tells ladies that they are good enough, but only after she flat-out calls them shallow slutty, lying, bitches. Forgive me, but to me, that’s along the same lines of hypocrisy as if I were to punch someone in the face and follow up by saying, “I still love you.” Aren’t buying it? Me neither.

    Third, McMilan commits a fatal error that so many married men and women commit. They give advice as though they have it all figured out. They assume that single people are single because of some big huge failing and if they would only do these three things, life would be bliss. Marriage does not mean you know my problems. It does not mean that you understand what I am going through. It does not mean you understand my choices. I’m tired of hearing advice from married people, because all they do is turn their situation into advice. “Well, I asked my husband on a date, because he never would have.” “Don’t ever ask a guy out, let him make the first move or he’ll resent you.” Confused yet? Welcome to about 1% of the contradictory advice I’ve received.

    It’s not that I completely disagree with what she says. I’ve been guilty of every single one of those things. But so has every married woman I’ve ever known. No, what I condemn in this article is her condemnation. Her superiority. Her presumption that she is better than all of us lowly single people. I condemn the moral high ground that she claims to have, when she doesn’t, not at all.

  • May 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Oh, and congrats on your ability to cause me to stop lurking. Bravo! Beautifully done.

    • May 7, 2012 at 6:47 pm

      Love your response! I’m so glad it struck a chord and it’s challenged me about whether I’m insulting single people with my own take on marriage (and accompanying advice). If I have… I’m sorry.

      I will say, I believe I looked for a spouse using both solid and shallow reasoning. It worked much better when I put the solid stuff in order first and ended in heartbreak after heartbreak when I was more concerned with how he looked or what career he would be practicing!

      One thing I didn’t really mention, which Spinsterlicious mentions, is that marriage isn’t the be all end all of life. There are a lot of people who don’t need to be (or frankly shouldn’t be!). Making “getting married” the sole ambition of life is, in my opinion, selling yourself short and setting you up for unrealistic expectations of marriage.

      Whew! Thanks for stopping the lurking! I suspected you were there, but wasn’t sure, so I’m glad for the confirmation!

  • May 8, 2012 at 10:00 am

    You’ve sparked another firestorm! Ha! 🙂

    As I’ve said before, in our previous conversations, I think that my “list” would be a lot shorter (and more sober-minded) if I ever had to do it again. I’m thankful that I am married to a man of good character.

    I think these single ladies have a point though. There are many reasons why someone is not married, and being too idealistic is only one of them. What Chelsea said is true, too often we offer advice from our experiences, not considering that those were our experiences and not applicable to everyone. However, one cannot be married without having first been single, so I do think that a married person has every right to share their “single” experiences, even if they weren’t single for the same reasons or length of time as someone else. We just need to be mindful and approach the subject with humility and sincerity.

    That said, I would venture to guess that your writing today was not meant to be a specific attack on anyone. Your blog is about relationships and today’s post is speaking to just one facet of them.

    Thanks for being willing to dialog about awkward subjects!

  • May 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    What is it about Christian churches that want their single’s ministries to write lists??? We (hubs and I) SO did. We also had a Expectations List for our pre-martial counseling…what a joke! We like to randomly say things like (this is 14 years later, BTW),
    “You didn’t have a Quiet Time with God this morning??? You are SO not The One for me.”

    Hee hee, funny stuff.

    • May 10, 2012 at 2:23 pm

      I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s a combination between genuinely wanting people to THINK about what QUALITIES they want in a spouse… and needing to fill up a slot in the summer camp schedule with *something*. (Is that too cynical???)


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