If you’re anything like me then you’ve probably asked yourself the ‘am I too old to be single‘ question. It’s a question that comes up in those quiet moments, those moments when our minds wander and our hearts question what could be.
The funny thing is that this question is relative, it’s a question that single people ask whether they are in their 20’s, 30’s 40’s and even 50’s.
I remember reading a post by a Christian blogger who mentioned that she had asked herself a similar question at 22. I was quite surprised and thought she was being unfair to herself. But this was because of where I was coming from.
At 22, marriage was the farthest thing from my mind. I had only started dating so was not in the marriage place yet. I don’t even think my parents would have been pleased to give away their daughter at what they would consider a young age.
My early 20’s were free from expectations of marriage, which meant this question didn’t come up. I think the first time I asked myself this question was when I was about 29 and heading into my 30’s.
The story of the ‘am I too old to be single‘ question
The question came up again recently while I was speaking to a lady I met at a conference. I had been drawn to this lady because of her baby (I love babies), who was probably the youngest attendee and definitely the cutest.
(Okay, back to our conversation)
This lovely lady was telling me how she had really wanted to attend the conference and had realised her son would have to come with her as he was still breastfeeding. I was impressed especially as she said she had three other kids at home.
At some point in our conversation, she asks me how I knew some other lady I had been speaking with and tells me I seemed older, she softened this by saying I was very elegant and sophisticated (was that an insult and a compliment?). She then tells me that she’s 35 and asks for my age, I tell her I’m 31.
Are you imagining how I must have felt at this point? I was actually perplexed and probably had a small smile on my face (more like a grimace).
I can only imagine that we both did a quick calculation. Here is a 35-year-old married woman with 4 kids, the eldest was 8 or so (yes, she mentioned this) and me, the 31year old who was devoid of a husband and, of kids.
She might not have realised what her seemingly innocent question led to or that it would give me yet another reason to think about this marriage thing.
Have you ever had one of those incidents that take you down memory lane and to all those uncomfortable truths? You probably have.
Why we ask the ‘am I too old to be single’ question
So, why do we ask this dreaded question? Here are a few reasons why we might ask this question:
I believe this is probably the most common reason for asking this question but it’s usually ignored because the impact of our environment is so deeply ingrained that it affects how we act and what we believe without our even realising it.
If you grew up in a place where people got married very early, you are more likely to want the same without thinking too much of it. It would just be what you do.
Case in point, the lady I mentioned earlier, she grew up in the south of the United States and I recently found out that many Christian women living in the South-eastern parts (also called the Bible Belt) get married earlier than their counterparts in the East.
This is similar to what pertains in Nigeria where women living in the Northern parts of the country marry earlier than those in the South and more so those living in villages and rural areas than those in the cities.
Our goals and expectations
Dreams can come true, right? You probably have a few dreams and goals for life and getting married is one of those..
I know I had certain expectations about my life and what I would have achieved at each juncture. For one thing, I assumed that I would have been married by 27 but then, life happens.
After a pretty bad break up when I was in my early 20’s, I more or less avoided relationships which meant there was almost no way I would have been married by 27 though it still didn’t stop me from expecting this.
In reality, I wasn’t ready for marriage yet I wanted to be married. Were you in a similar boat, where you believed you should have been married (at a certain age) because that was what you wanted or expected even though you weren’t doing anything more to make it happen?
Perhaps, that’s a question you need to consider and some food for thought.
It’s interesting that of these three reasons, this is the one that we are usually aware of and the one we think does the most harm. After all, it’s more obvious and a vocal onslaught on our emotions.
Everyone and ‘their mother’ wants us married. These external pressures could be from our families, friends, church members and even colleagues. It could even be wider than that, from the media and society at large.
I want to particularly focus on the role religion plays. As a Christian blogger, I have had to consider some of the stereotypes commonly associated with Christian women and women generally.
In some ways, the church has placed this burden of marriage on women. It’s usually indirect but ever present. This idea that the essence of us, as women, is marriage and child-rearing.
The references to God’s direction to Eve and even Bible passages on the kind of woman we should be. Proverbs 31, right?
But then again, is that the whole story? Is it possible that the church and we as Christians are missing some integral parts?
The dangers of asking this question
Asking the ‘am I too old to be single’ question is a case of looking at the ‘symptoms, not the problem’. I believe it is the wrong question to ask as it is likely to be answered in the negative. Something must have led to asking such a question and I can almost guess that it wasn’t good.
By the time we get to asking ourselves the ‘am I too old to be single‘ question, I think we already feel we are too old. So, we have already answered this question, internalised it before we even voice it. That’s scary but true in most cases.
Asking the question also points to an inner struggle. One of worthiness and vulnerability. It raises the concern and fear that we may have missed an important and defining step to a well rounded and fulfilling life.
This is a tough place to be and when we don’t know how to manage the place of vulnerability and fear, we may find ourselves spiralling down a dark hole of loneliness.
It may mean that somehow, we are now ‘less’ than we could have been because of our marital status. You may think that I’m being a tad bit melodramatic, maybe I am but thinking through this question raised other questions that I hadn’t really considered.
So, what should we be focusing on?
I believe that instead of asking if we are too old to be single, we should rather be asking why we are still single and why that matters.
Marriage enthusiasts (yes, I believe this group of people exist), will tell you we all have to be married, which by the way I don’t believe. Marriage is a decision, not a command. But more than that, we have been made to believe by society and the church that marriage is a pinnacle to aspire to especially for women.
We are constantly reminded of God’s direction to man to be fruitful and multiply and the fact that ‘it is not good for man to be alone’. Genesis 1-2
This is true and good though it is not the full story. The Bible also reminds us to seek ye first the kingdom of God and it’s righteousness and all other things shall be added unto us. See Matthew 6:33.
What things, you may ask? Well, all that you need for a wonderful life in God.
We are also told to love the Lord with all our heart, mind and might and to have no other gods before him. See Exodus 20, Matthew 22:37
As a young child, I thought the reference to gods meant the spirits traditionalists worshipped, Buddha and a few shiny figurines. Thank God I corrected this as I grew older. I realised that almost anything can be an idol if we make them the most important thing in our lives and if they take centre stage in our decisions and our actions.
Which also means that there is a real and probable risk of making marriage our idol. Where we are so consumed with our marital status that whether we’re eating, sleeping or working, our thoughts are never too far from the elusive ring.
The way forward
Perhaps you now agree that the ‘am I too old’ question is not one we should be asking and where we find that our thoughts and emotions are heading towards the self-pity zone we need to arrest these thoughts and redirect the question.
How? By taking captive of every thought and making it subject to Christ.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:5
We have to intentionally swap our negative and harmful thoughts with positive and edifying thoughts.
No, it wouldn’t be easy and may take a while to get a hang of it. Right now, I’m still learning and believing that each positive step will take me away from the denigrating place of succumbing to pressure and living a life of ‘less’ because of unfounded lies.
Dear Sis, let us reframe our minds and focus on the one who made marriage and who loves us with an everlasting love. He knows the best path for each one of us and we only need to strive daily to put our trust in him as he will never disappoint or forsake us.
You are dearly loved, never forget that.