A Desire as Old as Eden: Wrestling with Singleness

Yesterday’s post was actually composed months ago, I just rediscovered it in my drafts recently. Though I’m not quite in the same place lately, dating and relationships are never far from my mind. No matter how in love I am with God, nor how contented I am with my life otherwise, my desire for a lasting male companion and lover persists.

The reason I didn’t say “my desire for a husband persists” is because I think that phrasing can give people the wrong idea. It makes people think of that starry-eyed girl who goes off to college, fingers crossed to get her ring before spring and settle down in her house, with its white picket fence, to start popping out babies. I don’t want to dis on these girls but that’s not me. That was never me even at my most starry-eyed.

For those women, being a wife and mother is the vocation they feel called to. I think it’s an honorable vocation, just not mine. Thinker, writer, artist – these are the vocations I feel called and drawn to. What I’ve always wanted is someone to share in my work with me. Not necessarily to do the same thing as me (I’d prefer he not since I’m kind of competitive) but who will be as jazzed about my work as I am about his.

I didn’t say I want a husband because it’s usually interpreted as a sex-less desire. As a longing for social status, emotional support, and financial security, only secondarily or incidentally for a lover. There are some women, especially in Christian circles, for whom the act of marriage is hardly a primary consideration. I’m not one of those women. I long to love and be love with my whole being and whole body.

It wasn’t until I read Atlas Shrugged that I saw my desire articulated almost perfectly in a piece of literature through a female character. While the protagonist Dagny and I have many difference, our desire for sex is for so much more than the simple act itself. It’s a desire to, “in answer to the highest of one’s values, in an admiration not to be expressed by any other form of tribute, allow one’s spirit to make one’s body become the tribute, recasting it – as proof, as sanction, as reward.”

There is an evening when she is working late and overcome with a deep sense of loneliness and longing. She realizes that she’s felt this her entire life. What she’s lonely for is “a man who exists only in her knowledge of her capacity for an emotion she had never felt, but would have given her life to experience.” She feels that “there is some unbreakable link between her love for her work and the desire of her body; as if one gives her the right to the other, the right and the meaning; as if one were the completion of the other – and the desire would never be satisfied except by a being of equal greatness.”

I’ve felt the same way my entire life, even before I could articulate it. I’ve been waiting for a similar person, a similar relationship.

Many Christians might say this is a longing for God that I’m confusing with a longing for a person. That I need to let God be all I need and not try to make a man my god. While there have been times I have let men (or the idea I have of a certain man) become my god, overall, I think these people are wrong.

Adam longed for Eve even before she existed. Though he lived in the center of a perfect world, in complete harmony with God and the animal kingdom, he was still lonely for someone with whom he could share his life and body. God doesn’t scold him for this desire, He doesn’t tell him that his love is clearly imperfect, instead He gives him Eve.

In college, I was told by a Hebrew scholar that the word used to describe Eve, when God says He will create a help-mate for Adam, means someone with whom he will see eye-to-eye, in a physical sense. It implies that she was made as his equal. I don’t believe that her coming out of him has anything to do with subjugation but that it is instead about the intimacy of connection between men and women. Adam says that she’s flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. To me, this implies that to wound her would be to wound him and that to wound him would be to wound her.

What I take from this story is that my desire is as old as Eden, and as holy as Adam’s.

The hardest part for me is not patiently waiting for my equal to come along. These dry spells when I have no leading man in my life or only a pleasantly and perfectly platonic man are definitely a little boring and unsatisfactory. The hardest part for me is when I have a leading man in my life who wants part of me intensely but not all of me. Who may be my equal but evidently isn’t my match.

Over and over, I wrestle with this desire. I want to want less so I’ll be less likely to be disappointed and less capable of getting my heartbroken. But I can’t want less. I just discover I’m lying to myself and get hurt more. I’ve lost weight so that I’ll have less of an obstacle in my way to romantic desire. But I still attract men who want me mentally and emotionally but not physically or vice versa.

I struggle with an overpowering anger and feeling of incomprehension when I meet men who choose women who aren’t their equals (I know, I shouldn’t judge but it’s sure hard not to) and every time I discover that yet another leading man in my life has been working for a prize he won’t claim.* Most of all, I cannot comprehend and find it incredibly painful that men can get so close to me and want so much of me and yet, always, in the end, so little.

I’ve realized that all I can do is say, ‘It is what it is.’ My desire is what it is. These men want what they want. God will give me my match in His timing. Not mine. I’ve realized that stressing myself out with a million questions about what I’m ‘doing wrong’ or what’s ‘wrong with me’ or with men isn’t helpful or constructive.

All the best dating advice I’ve read never really helps with my particular problem. (Though I always make it sound like there are no men in my life, this isn’t actually true. On a day to day basis, when I’m not cooped up at home writing, I talk to more men than women. A fair share are attracted to me in some way but the only men whoever pursue me are always the same: they can sure look like a man in love, but they’re sure convinced that’s not what they are.)

Instead of stressing myself out, I think the best option is to focus on living my life, loving God, and making the most of this time single, when I don’t have to worry about the potential interruption of a child into my life (that is one definite perk). I’m much more interested in tending to the garden I’ve been given, waiting until I’m granted a help-mate to join me, than in spending time hunting for one–not that I don’t keep my eyes open.

No amount of enjoyment or contentment with my life ever erases the desire. God helps this loneliness and longing to be diminished, He helps me to make peace with it, but He doesn’t take it away. Instead, He uses it to draw me closer to Him and teach me valuable lessons through others in the meantime.

Recently, He’s reminded me that He is also a witness to my life, who cares to share in my passions and pursuits. He’s pushed me towards my wonderful female friends, reminding me I can rely on them as well. Plus, He’s kindly given me minor men to ease some of that boredom and loneliness. I’m overwhelmingly grateful for how He uses this desire to bless me, even when He isn’t allowing it to be entirely satisfied.

 

*As a sidenote – I disagree with the idea that it’s necessarily degrading to be seen as a prize worthy of fighting for. It’s only degrading if the man imagines you’re some sort of silent, statuesque trophy to be placed on a shelf afterward. If he is not motivated by love or you don’t return that love. But if you, in all your loud, lively and imperfect splendor, are what he’s fighting for so that he can not only possess you but share a life with you, and your feelings mirror his own, that’s the highest honor.

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