I recently read the series of ‘man drought’ articles that have appeared over the last year in The Catholic Weekly.
All were excellent, reflect the individual writer’s personal experience or those of their friends and represent a number of different perspectives. Whilst I found myself agreeing with so many points, I would like – for completeness – to add another perspective.
I am a single, professional woman, over 35, committed to the Catholic faith, who still hopes to marry and have a kid, but who accepts that this may not happen.
Happily, I don’t feel cheated because although I feel a strong pull towards it, I do not think marriage is the ultimate goal in life.
Happiness on this earth is not getting what we want, but wanting what God wants for us at the time He determines is best for us.
We are living in a remarkable time in history and sacrifices may have to be made that include your timetable for marriage and family and what you think you deserve.
The culture is pretty ‘sick’ and it affects both men and women. A significant threat to the common good is the feminist ideology that promises women equality but delivers this through attacking marriage and the family and emasculating men.
It encourages women to enter the workforce, gain positions of power, and then hold in contempt the traditional role of wife and mother.
When it has convinced a woman that career is everything, it’s easy to believe you have a right to a rewarding job in the eyes of the world, and marriage and family if and when you choose it.
Contraception and abortion can be justified by elevating material wellbeing ahead of spiritual wellbeing.
Some single Catholic women have bought this lie and now regret choices they have made. Others who are well-formed can survive this world by carefully navigating these pervasive views.
In fact, because of the times we live in, some may be specifically called by God to use their gifts and talents to do certain work and be a sign of contradiction to non-believers. In either case, marriage may be delayed for her.
Some marriage-minded women may actively avoid the heady heights of power, with its sly mantra that what you do is more important than who you are, and interact within Catholic communities which support women who choose employment options that are more family-friendly.
However, it would seem that these communities cannot ensure that marriage will occur in a timely fashion. I sympathise with women in either situation, trying to live a virtuous, counter-cultural life, who are confused about not being married by a particular age.
At the very least, it provides an opportunity to seriously reflect on whether you want marriage for the right reasons.
If the pull remains, I would counsel you not to give up hope, but acknowledge reality, don’t focus overly on what is wrong with men, address personal shortcomings, and make strategic decisions about your life so that your feminine need to care for others has a tangible outlet, and you have dignified work that can sustain you financially.
I heard an interesting narrative on a Catholic podcast recently, which was that all unmarried professional women over 35 put their career first, have unreasonable demands for a spouse, and are generally horrible, unfeminine and un-marriageable.
I don’t think I am any of these things. Instead God presented me with certain opportunities which I had the courage to accept, that led me to be a lawyer in a high-end job.
I was not motivated by financial gain or social status and I did not choose career over marriage. Rather, I did what was asked of me.
I believe God wanted me to be a lawyer, to live in the secular world and outside the Catholic bubble and learn my craft. I know that for many of those with whom I interacted, I was the only practising Catholic they knew.
I did not lose my faith doing this; in fact, it only made it stronger and whilst I did not realise it at the time, I realise now that I could not have made my small, ongoing contribution to the abortion debate if I did not come to it with the skill set I earned through years of professional work.
If I had married during this time, I would have put family first and let the law go. That disclosure may come as a surprise to some, but it shouldn’t as I am pretty sure I am not the only woman in this boat.
Whilst I accept that getting married in one’s 20’s is preferable, I reject the view that only women in their 20’s are marriageable.
Marriage in later life is still a path to sanctification even if despite being open to life, children do not come to that couple. Such a couple can be a great blessing to a community, having the ability and time to make many worthwhile contributions.
My only comments to sincere Catholic men who are of similar age and marriage minded are: don’t make negative assumptions about accomplished, professional Catholic women.
Treat them like you would any other woman and get to know their story. On the flip side, professional women should anticipate the intimidation factor, continue to comport themselves in a feminine way, and exude confidence without humiliating or manipulating men. In addition, they should clarify that they have not chosen the single life and, finally, be radiant!
Spiritually, I recommend women intertwine their human will with the Divine Will and entrust all vocational decisions to Our Lord; whether that is to be a religious, to be married (and if so to whom) and what to do for an everyday job.
I used to worry that exercising my free will in these important areas of life would lead to a disaster. As it turns out, all is how it should be and I continue to pray and hope for a future spouse.
In doing this, I am not trying to impose my will on God. Rather, I am trying to subjugate my will to the Divine Will. It is not inconsistent to continue to hope that a man intelligent enough to understand history, and the remarkable times we are living in, will enter my orbit so that marriage will occur.
At the same time, I am prepared if it doesn’t happen because I am vocationally, economically, mentally and spiritually well-equipped to live alone if needs be. I agree marriage is not necessary for sanctification but for those who want it in the right way, it is hard to be single for a long time.
But suffering is a part of life and married women suffer too, sometimes enormously.
So, whilst it’s challenging to be over 35, Catholic and single, you should trust God and His purpose for you, which may include spending some time (or a lifetime) being single.
But try to remember that being happy is actually quite easy.