I had been in the church less than a year when an elder inquired whether I was serious about getting married.
I joined the church five years ago with all the excitement in the world as I sought to learn more about the restored gospel. In those early days, I devoured the scriptures and took part in every activity the church had to offer. The excitement of being a new convert and the gospel was as powerful as any hallucinogenic drug in those times as I sought to show the entire branch how “good” of a convert I could be.
Before joining the church, I had already made up my mind that I didn’t see marriage as some grand pinnacle of happiness in my life. I had been raised partially by a single grandmother who had achieved more than most married women. I had seen the fight and determination of a woman who had stepped into her own power and had charted a path for herself without a man.
As an only child whose parents worked long hours, I was used to being alone with my own company. I was used to the loneliness and craved it as I struggled to make friends. I had seen how much I had grown by just believing in myself without an audience of supporters. And after a string of relationships that lead to more heartbreak than one human should endure in this lifetime or the next, I firmly decided that I would NOT get married.
Instead, I focused on travel. I wanted to visit all the places I had seen on television. I wanted to write in new places and to chart my own path where I could be free to choose the things which made me happiest in life. And at twenty-four years old, I had already inquired about IVF treatment to one day bring life into the world.
I recognized early that my individual path would never mesh with the spiritual one I had undertaken at baptism. There would be no one to cheer me on for being blissfully happy as I enjoyed my singleness and charted my own path in life. As I soon found out, my happiness had to involve a man and 6.5 babies.
I tried to surround myself with service, drowning the loud opinions of my single state from my brain as I poured myself into being more involved. Still, I was often told that I would never be fully happy unless I was married, and the matchmaking efforts began.
Elders began inquiring more about the type of man I would be interested in and before heading on a Young Singles Adult temple trip in 2018, I was instructed that I needed to come home with a husband. I was told that without this, I wouldn’t be a complete person.
It didn’t matter to most that I was still grieving the loss of my grandmother earlier that year. It didn’t matter that I suddenly lost one of the most important people in my life. All that mattered was that I needed to get married…and I needed to get married now.
I returned home without a husband twice that year. Even when I ran away from home to remove myself from thinking about my grandmother’s death and flew to Idaho, I was sent messages from leaders that I needed to work hard to secure time and all eternity.
To them, I was a broken vessel that could only be fixed by running off to the temple to be sealed to a perfect stranger.
Even when I moved to another branch the same pattern continued. I sat in places where I felt uncomfortable as I was taunted for being ugly, for being too loud and too chatty. I was told that nobody would ever want to marry me.
These things replay in my mind even now as I write this as I try my hardest to swat away the tears from falling all over my keyboard. To be told that something is wrong with you for not wanting what people want in the way they have gotten it is a constant scar in my membership.
To be constantly told and to be constantly bullied, and reminded of my singleness continues the dangerous narrative that something must be wrong with me.
In the years since joining the church, my opinions on marriage have changed dramatically. I believe more strongly in love and in the concept of finding my forever person. But for me, it has to be RIGHT. It can’t be convenient or entered just for the sake of keeping up appearances and so I can run off with the first person who says the “l word”.
As someone with a chronic illness, it’s that much harder to find that person. Love will not be enough to secure time and all eternity as anyone entering my life has to deal with the challenges of having an immune-suppressed partner.
I believed that due to my huge baggage meant I had to settle for mediocrity and abuse. At the end of last year and at the beginning of this one, I fell down into a dangerous trap of getting involved with someone who I knew would never bring me happiness in this lifetime or the next. The exchanges were abusive as I paid for a previous partner’s indiscretions. I was told horrible things that stick with me to this day and that ruin my confidence to even get back into the LDS dating pool.
I endured because I figured that was what good LDS women did. They endured. They fought to stick around so they wouldn’t feel so alone. Nobody wants to be returned to the shelf or to be the left-behind woman.
I’ve realized how damaging this is. I’d rather now be alone with a puppy and a goldfish, getting drunk on apple cider in a corner than to believe that love is supposed to be abusive or painful or as some plight of revenge.
Hearing this, most would think I had the male species. I don’t.
I see love for what it is.
I see it as beautiful and sacred.
I see it not to be messed with or uttered carelessly or mindlessly entered into just so one can enjoy the physical perks it brings.
I’m still not sure love is for me. But what I do know is that I won’t be pressured into it or forced into settling for less than what I deserve simply so I will have something in common with my girlfriends. I won’t be pressured into marriage so that my value as a member increases.
For now, it means sitting on the shelf, watching life go by as I recognize my value and the things I deserve.
Love…shmove. Either way, I’m happy just being me.
Ramona, I’m so sorry you’ve dealt with so much marriage pressure from other members. You write poignantly of how much pain that focus can bring members who don’t have or don’t want married life.
Today the Young Women in my ward had a lesson on eternal marriage. I’m glad all over again that I didn’t let my 12 year old daughter go to it.
A focus on how to be one’s best and most Christ-like self would be so much better. I really hope LDS culture shifts away from a pervasive interest in marriage and toward Christ-like principles instead.
What a beautiful and poignant post! I’m so sorry for all the unnecessary pressure to marry, assuming that what was good for one person is best for everyone else, too.
Oh this is so wrong! I believe people says these things with good intentions, but beating the marriage drum as if it’s some magic cure all is a lie. And emotionally abusive. I love your feisty, clever self. Thank you for reminding me how hard we make it for single members.
YOU ARE ENOUGH!! You are articulate, loving (obviously by your connection with your grandmother), empowered, and intelligent. You do NOT need a man/partner to complete you. Believe in yourself. I had a bishop one time tell me that the principles of the Mormon church are great; the people can be a problem. I would counsel you to continue to find what you like about the church and ignore the asinine people you come in contact with in the your association with the church. For me, many of the people interpreting the church principles were what helped my very loose bedrock of my young understanding to lead me to get away from such rot as these people are telling you! A puppy is a great thing! And travel and doing what is best for you!
I am glad you are finding your way on your own and sorry the church and its members make the perfectly normal and acceptable state of singleness feel like some sort of a problem.
I’m so sorry for the pressure you’ve received to get married. It is not okay.
I wish people in the church understood that we’re already whole, divine beings by ourselves. We don’t need to be married to access our heavenly parents, understand our divine nature, make and keep temple covenants, or have the opportunity for exaltation. We are enough as we are, regardless of martial status.
You deserve the best, Ramona! Don’t settle for someone who doesn’t deserve you. You’re worth more than other people’s expectations.