Let me start by saying that I strongly dislike the phrase “settling down.” Why settle? Why down?
I prefer “Growing in love”…or something like that. To my friends who have settled down, I think that is incredible. I do not believe there should be an age requirement.
Here are just a few reasons why that process shouldn’t be rushed no matter how old/young you are.
1. Use the time of singleness to develop and increase your “offering.” When you meet the person you want to settle down with, what will you have to offer them? This isn’t necessarily tangible. Develop your patience, fortitude, kindness, etc.
2. Close all of your doors. A former boss once said to me, “before you settle down, make sure all of your doors are closed.” I didn’t ask her what exactly she meant because I immediately settled in my spirit what it meant for me. I interpreted her words to mean that before settling down, you should not have any wide open spaces in your life. What are open doors:
a. Past relationships
b. Travel destinations you’ve always wanted to visit and haven’t yet
c. World records you want to set
d. That property you’ve been meaning to buy and just haven’t gotten around to it yet
e. The book idea you haven’t realized yet
f. The startup/ministry/non-profit you’re waiting for funding for
g. Your desire to go back to school
h. That missionary journey or backpacking adventure you’re planning with your girlfriends
Open doors come in many forms. This doesn’t mean you have to have attained every, single goal you’ve ever dreamt up before you settle down. It does mean that you should put forth some serious effort toward your personal goals so you do not end up resenting your significant other or your future children as the reasons why you’re are not where you thought you would be.
3. Learn how to translate. I didn’t realize people received love differently until fairly recently. I was walking around loving people the way I thought they should be loved, not realizing that what I was doing/saying may or may not translate into love for them. For example, if you tell me you love me, I believe you and take it to the bank! Others may require more action behind the words. I tell my friends 100 times a day that I love them and some of them like it better when I send them a greeting card or when I do something nice out of the blue just to make sure they know I’m thinking about them. You have to translate love so people understand clearly how you feel. Learning someone’s language takes time.
4. Take ownership. As women, we’re so often taught to want marriage and children. But, do you really want them? Take ownership of your womanhood, and learn if you’re meant to be someone’s wife and mother. Don’t pursue them because you think you’re supposed to, you’re getting old, or you think your life will be unfulfilled without them. Prayerfully consider how you are to spend your life before you‘re walking down the aisle wondering how in the world you got there.
5. Are you ready to die? Consider that question before you get settle down. Marriage is a process of constantly dying to your vanity. Every. Single. Day. It’s dying to your ego, your emotions, your selfishness, your pride, and sometimes your desires.
6. Be happy. Marriage isn’t to make you happy. If you’re miserable single, you’re miserable when you settle down… it might even be worse. Marriage is to make you holy. There’s so much beauty in that alone—happiness results from growing in holiness with someone else, every day for the rest of your lives. You can be happy alone. All that requires is a decision on your part. Nothing more.
7. Let go of “normal.” What in the world does normal mean anyway? It doesn’t exist anymore. Don’t be normal. Be who you are called to be. There’s only one person on Earth like you, and that uniqueness is meant to be embraced. Desiring a “normal” upbringing, family, marriage, life will leave you in a perpetual cycle of disappointment because sometimes you just weren’t meant to reach those benchmarks you insist on tying yourself to. Allow room in your life for error, which actually creates a space for you to grow. Though this process never really ends, it should definitely be well underway before you settle down. Oh, and settling down isn’t normal either. If you want the fairytale life you envision in your mind, rent The Princess and the Frog on Redbox. Love isn’t magic; it’s work.
8. Get over yourself. The life of a 20-something is anything, but easy. It’s complicated and messy—which is reflected in most 20-something relationships. We want the cuddle buddy, but not the commitment. We want someone to go on dates with, but not to care for when they’re sick. I’m not judging. I’m selfish too. Don’t be in a rush to settle down when 90% of your thoughts are about you and your wants/needs. Living selflessly takes practice, and practice makes for a perfect (for all intents and purposes) marriage.
9. Enjoy you. I have so much fun when I’m alone. However, I have not yet been able to treat myself to dinner and a movie. I’m just not comfortable sitting in a movie theater alone. Likewise, requesting “a table for one” terrifies me. I am not arguing that there is scientific and historical proof to suggest that these are “settling down indicators.” I am saying that if you’re not comfortable in your own skin, you’re probably not ready. If you can’t walk down the street alone without your cell phone in your hand, you may have dependency issues.
If you’ve never been single more than a couple months, you may be running away from some unresolved issues. My advice is to slow down. Invest in yourself. Track those thoughts you think when your mind is wandering. If you don’t like them, control them. Don’t invite someone else into an unhealthy union with you simply because it distracts from all the things wrong with you. Be a big girl and develop a love and appreciation for who you are. Those flaws you don’t like, either change them or learn to live with them. That way when you’re ready to settle down, you can be honest and vulnerable with your life mate. You can offer him the wholeness of you and say “this is who I am. I’m working of a few particular areas. In the meantime, I’m willing to be open with you about my shortcomings because I trust you with my ugliness.”
10. Take it seriously, but don’t stress over it. We don’t rush when choosing a puppy. Why on Earth do we rush to settle down? Don’t wait for everything to be perfect (that will never happen, but you knew that already). You do want your finances, your emotions and your maturity to be in tact before making a lifelong decision. Conversely, if it’s meant to be it will be. My prayer is that we don’t waste away our lives waiting for someone to rescue us. That is the most certain way to live in the regret of comparison and perpetual disappointment. Instead, let’s spend our energy and emotion on more honorable goals. TD Jakes said “Life is nothing more than one, big university and you have to take the classes whether you want to or not.” Don’t you want to pass a few before you walk across the stage and graduate to the next level?” Personally, there are some tests I’m still studying for.