By: Ramona Morris
As I near my thirtieth year of life, life seems to remind me that I’m getting older.
In a church where marriage is at the forefront of membership, I am past my prime. At 29 years old, I’ve recognized that silent ageism exists within church walls.
Growing up, I referred to myself a ‘realist’. I experienced the highs of marriage and the crushing lows from the examples around me. I valued love for what it truly was and not for the fairytale many claimed it would be.
At my age, I should be married with at least 2.5 kids to sweeten the deal. In the eyes of many, I’m simply a lost cause due to my belief that I shouldn’t settle for convenient love. I’ve been told that I will never get married and that I’m too ugly for any man to find me attractive by leadership over the years.
Once upon a time these words seemed tattooed to my skin as I adjusted my morals to accept the bare minimum from potential suitors. What followed was heartbreak after heartbreak which I tried my best to endure for the sake of being sealed for time and all eternity.
I’d like to think that if I married young, I would’ve been divorced a long time ago. The men dated in my early twenties taught lessons on finding resilience and inner strength but left me with emotional scars that still run deep.
In time, I learned to value family and to sacrifice for those you loved. Instead of focusing on my dating life, I dedicated my twenties to my grandmother’s care. This caused tensions with my boyfriend at the time and eventually caused the relationship to come to a screeching halt.
A few years later, I joined the church. By now, I had fallen into the cozy comfort of singleness. I took no pleasure in hurrying love or keeping up with the marriage-hungry missionaries who got married 2.5 seconds after returning from their mission.
As time passed, more pressure than ever was placed on securing time and all eternity…even at the risk of my happiness and mental health.
I began to feel lost, broken and less valuable if I wasn’t married. I started to express my disdain for the practice of “marriage for the sake of marriage”, fighting against the controlling culture surrounding young single adults to seek an eternal partner.It didn’t matter that I spent most of 2021 trying to fix my mental health and fighting against the daily suicidal feelings related to my post-covid after-symptoms. All that mattered was that I was single and needed to be “FIXED”.
I started to value friendships over love connections and to carefully pray during the dating process. Most of all, I learned my limits, boundaries, and possible red flags that I had been immune to in the past.
I began traveling more, visiting places I had only seen in postcards. I became the captain of the “Catch Flights Not Feelings” club, determined to take life at my own pace.
I was expected to date conveniently simply because someone was in my proximity and not because I could see them as a good fit in my life. I was accused of being cold, snarky, and even love avoidant when I marched to the beat of my own drum and even “walling” myself up to avoid being hurt.
I was expected to rush love connections and to see everyone with marriage in mind…even from the first meeting. I was expected to take up the heavy lifting of fixing someone in my role of “priesthood support”.
Eventually, weddings stopped sparking joy within me. I began to feel numb when engagements were announced and felt less excitement during virtual weddings. Something within me during the years had broken, seemingly dislodged by the silent pressure of being single in a family-oriented church. Marriage seemed more predictable in my eyes as I could often gauge how long it would take someone to get engaged once they started dating.
Most would probably think this means that I hate love. I don’t. I understand that love is pure and magical when experienced with the right person. I recognized that love in its purest most beautiful form isn’t convenient, isn’t showy or performative or even in competition with others.
Love is beautiful and sacred. It takes no prisoners, yet it claims no ransom. It pulls, tugs and hits hard without aggression. And like many, I crave it… yet I am waiting for a love that is sure and can stand the test of time instead of having something in comparison with my friends.
In the process of dating and failing, I’ve recognized the things I deserve. The things that speak to my heart and rebuild it brick by brick after every disappointment.
I learned what I did and did not deserve and stuck by my guns calling off potentially abusive relationships.
I owe it to myself to determine what I want…when I want it and who I choose to share my future with.
I owe it to myself to choose my timing and to determine the moment I begin and end
I owe it to myself to choose for myself…not to choose someone for the sake of being removed from the shelf like a precious china doll.
I owe it to myself to choose carefully and to be cautious yet receptive to love
Love is patient… it can’t be rushed.
In a church that favors marriage, I can acknowledge that even when the music stops, and I am standing alone that I feel comfort in knowing that my love has no timeline other than what I set for it. I can know that I validate myself instead of feeling represented by a band of gold.
And I’m fine either way my life swings.