I thought I would never get married. I began my twenties expecting to quickly find that extroverted, hilarious, intelligent, ambitious, romantic, party-animal man who was willing to settle down. It wasn’t long before I was disappointed, and then bitter against all men. I was using men and romance as a means to please my ego and fill the bottomless hole of my emotional needs.
I started on the path of introspection
After a particularly regretful infatuation, I started on the path of introspection. It was a difficult road to take, but I started to see that the problem I had with men was me. My behaviour towards men was poor and my expectations unrealistic.
I started pursuing my own interests, being more involved in the Catholic community. I developed a devotion to Our Lady and a regular prayer life, and invested in my health and fitness, finding my personal style, and in time became more confident. I gradually learnt how men worked and to treat them respectfully.
This took a great deal of effort and a few mistakes, as I was struggling to break free from the cultural message we are marinated in – that women are equivalent to goddesses and deserve the best. I think Eve thought much the same as she reached for the apple.
By the time I hit my late twenties, it still hadn’t worked out. During a night uni class, my sister called. Mum had died. It came as a shock, but my grief for Mum was not clear-cut as our relationship was strained to say the least. Dad was my rock through that storm really. He had experienced so much grief in his own life that he knew exactly what to say and do.
Life continued on and I began to mature.
I realised how short life was and nothing makes you grow up faster than burying your mother. A few months later I tried a relationship with a non-Catholic. When marriage came up, he respectfully and honestly told me he wasn’t ready, so we broke it off. Not a month after, I was on the phone to the police trying to confirm the worst. Due to a terrible mix up, I had received word over social media that Dad had died, rather than through the usual visit from authorities.
As his eldest child, I had to identify him. Seeing him laid out was one of the most painful moments of my life. There is nothing stranger than the lifeless face of someone you have loved and known your entire life. For one last time, my heart rending with grief, I held Dad’s big manly hand, now unnaturally cold, and said goodbye.
I had every reason to indulge in self-pity and return to my bitterness, but, through grace, I clung to Him instead. On my heart were Peter’s great words of faith; “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Thankfully the Cross is the tree of life, and mine flowered soon after.
Less than a week after Dad’s death I met the man who was to be my future husband, a man who didn’t quite fit my ‘list’, but who – I would soon find – was better than my list. He had also reached a point where he thought he’d never be married. Now, a couple of years later, the first fruit of our love is snoozing in the next room – well, at least sometimes. My husband is amusingly different to what I expected. Retiring, well-spoken and understated, he often has to ask me not to overbook our weekends with social events. We rarely make each other belly laugh, but when we do, it’s pretty magical.
I hope my story offers some hope. The issue of the ‘man drought’ and kissing before marriage really does have a simple answer; build virtue in your life and embrace the Cross – in all it’s rawness – as more than an abstract idea. This is complex in practice and will take a lifetime; there are no quick fixes in a rich and authentic life.
God’s plan is shocking at times and you will need to submit to it wholeheartedly and without reserve.
This way you will be ready for the hard work of marriage and that great climb to Heaven. Our Lord didn’t promise an easy life (just look at the lives of His beloved Apostles) but He promised us “living water” and “refreshment”. Drink of this first, and then, living a fruitful marriage, or a rich and joyful single life, you will become a new wellspring for all around you.