“So how come you’re not married?”
On the list of my top ten pet peeves, that question is a
serious contender for the #1 spot. (It’s right up there with tailgaters
and people who talk about themselves for 45 minutes straight without
ever taking a breath.) Variations on the question include “I can’t
believe you’re not married – what’s wrong with all of those guys out
there?”, or for the divorced “Why aren’t you remarried yet?” I just
don’t know what kind of answer they could probably be looking for. “I
have hideous personality flaws, but I hide them well.” “I’m terribly
selfish and don’t like to share.” Or perhaps “Gee, I don’t know. What
do you think?”
I think what bugs me most is the implicit assumption that
if “if you’re not married, it must mean no one has asked.” (At least,
that’s the assumption if you’re female. I suppose the male equivalent
would be that you’ve never met anyone who would be willing to say “yes”
if you did ask.) I know this is not the case for most of the singles
I’ve known – and I’ve known a whole lot of singles. Maybe some have
never reached the point in a relationship where there was an actual
proposal (because they were smart enough and kind enough to end it when
they realized they didn’t want to marry the person). But, for most of
us, there have been – or could have been — plenty of opportunities.
So why aren’t you married?
I figured, since you’ve probably all been asked the same
question, maybe we should take a column or two to explore some of the
answers, and to see which ones we actually have any control over.
Let’s get the “garden variety” answers out of the way first.
“I just haven’t found the right person.” For most of us,
that’s the short answer. I’ve written before – but it bears repeating –
that Catholic singles who are serious about their faith are at a real
disadvantage when it comes to finding a mate in today’s world. To find
someone who shares that faith, to paraphrase Ann Coulter, is sort of
like a woman trying to find a boyfriend in a room full of
Okay, here’s another pet peeve: people who say “Why don’t
you marry (pointing to some poor random victim) him? He’s Catholic.” Of
course! What with that being my only criterion and all! Seriously, once
we get through the Catholic thing, then we have to start on all of the
compatibility issues. Do I have fun with this person? Do I like this
person? Is this person mature? Emotionally healthy? Am I attracted to
Another phrase in my long list of pet peeves is “I bet
you’re too picky.” I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It’s
good to be picky about the things that matter. Faith, emotional
maturity, attraction – these and any other factors that make up the
foundation of a marriage are non-negotiable.
But I do think there’s a further level of “picky” can be
problematic. Remember the Seinfeld episode where Jerry dumped his
girlfriend because she had “man hands”? That’s the kind of picky I’m
talking about now. And I think a lot of singles consciously or
unconsciously hide behind it. Look, marriage can be scary. For those of
us who have never married, the longer we remain unmarried, the more set
in our ways we become, the scarier it is. After all, marriage is so
permanent. Our lives may be a little quiet or a little lonely right
now, but at least they’re familiar and they’re under our control. And
for those who have been married before and lost it through death or
divorce – well, I can see where the prospect of going back and trying
again would be danged scary as well.
So a new person coming along can feel a little bit
threatening. What if this person wants more than I do? What if we fall
in love and then I get hurt? What if we get married and he doesn’t like
my furniture? Do I have to give up my sofa? I love my sofa! Our brains
tend to get a little ahead of ourselves. Sometimes our brains think all
of this so quietly that we don’t really hear it. We just get the vague
feeling that maybe it’d be easier to get out of this thing before it
starts. So we start looking for traits we can object to. “Man hands,”
“big head” – anything will work.
After all, if we’re picky enough, nobody will qualify and we’ll never have to take the risk and get married.
I think it pays for all of us to take an honest look at
ourselves every once in a while. I can’t repeat too often the need to
be picky about the things that matter. But are you identifying things
that don’t matter, and using them to distance yourself from someone who
might make a wonderful spouse? You can’t, in the end, pretend things
that are important to you really aren’t. But something that looms large
(like hands or a head) in the beginning might be something you don’t
even notice, or actually come to like, as you get to know the person.
Sometimes we’re to close to the situation to really see it. Which makes
it a very good question to take to prayer. Ask Him for the strength to
be open to the people He wants in your life for whatever reason. Ask
Him for the ability to discern healthy selectiveness from obsessive
pickiness. And if there’s one particular person you’re on the fence
about, ask Him for an up or down vote.
After all, I have it on pretty good authority that He’s picky about the things that count.