Why The Competition?

Life has not been good to me on this young single adult journey.

In the Latter-Day Saint world, as I coast closer to the big “3-0” I am reminded of my impending status of becoming one of the creepy older single adults desperate for marriage.

Its five years since stepping into the baptismal font and I’ve had more dating horror stories than most, as I set out on my journey to find “my person”.

A few days ago, I endured my latest heartbreak. Once again, I had tried and failed in my pursuit of an “honest” love. No sooner than this possible love story had begun, it became dishonest and filled with lies from someone who wasn’t quite ready to undertake a new relationship and by omission toyed viciously with an already battered heart.

The sting endures even now the barb has been removed as I once again take a break from dating. I know that my eyes won’t always be as swollen as they are as I type this and that eventually my heart will heal.

Around me, my friends all seemed to be figuring it out. In the past year, five of my girlfriends have gotten engaged or married. Another has had a baby. The others have juggled new career opportunities and budding relationships.

As these unions grow and develop, I’m faced with the realities of being the last one on the shelf. I see the reality of my singleness in an LDS space. I recognize that being happy in our circles is tied heavily to one’s marital status.

Like a game of musical chairs, everyone around has magically found a seat as I stand alone in the silence.

Once upon a time, this never made me unhappy. As of now it does…

Even If most wouldn’t dare to admit it, competition runs amok within church spaces. Time and time again, members silently compete to be seen as perfect examples of living the latter-day life, placing themselves in marathon events to prove their own worthiness.

The highest level of worthiness in most eyes within these sacred halls is to secure our time and all eternity.  It is drilled into our heads that we should get married and the pressure is applied until we do.

And for those that don’t, we are seen as the awkward pariah of loneliness and jealously for not having what most people have.

Those who know me best know jealously is not one of my personality traits. In the years since friends have slowly graduated to being a Mrs. instead of a Missus, the word has often been thrown around in my direction like a hot potato seeking to cause collateral damage.

I often am asked if my views on love are rooted in jealously even if my intentions are pure.

A few days on a Facebook post for my degree program, the conversation of the right amount of time to date before marriage was discussed. As a Marriage and Family Studies student, I’m used to reading posts about how the courses bless marriages. As the only single student in most of my classes I often reserve a small space of kindness for myself which allows me to share my own perspective of how marriage should be.

I expected civility but instead as I stated my opinions, I was told by another student that my views stemmed from my singleness and instead her opinion was right because she was married while I was not.

It didn’t matter that I was a member of the church in that moment.

It didn’t matter that I knew what I did not deserve.

It didn’t matter that I knew I deserved good love and was content to wait for it instead of forcing a convenient love to be accepted by church members.

While I wish this was an isolated event, over the past year, I’ve seen how married members are treated with much more respect while those who are single are looked upon with pity and concern. Even now that hurts worse than any insult flung my way as people reduce my membership to whether there is a ring on my finger or not.

I recognize that competition plays such a huge role in how we see ourselves and how we contribute to the dialogues in our church spaces.

Without time and all eternity, our voices are drowned out by the need to compete.

I’d be happier in this gospel without being trapped in the jaws of competition.

Still, I recognize that it is my reality…even if my body, heart and mind are already so fatigued.

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8 Responses

  1. nicolesbitani says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m married and found my husband before joining the church, but we looked on in horror at the dating experiences of so many women in my YSA ward, including a number of my roommates, who were pressured to settle and marry and rush into relationships. (We said it was like watching Animal Planet because none of the normal rules of dating outside the church seemed to apply.)

    I’m grateful you named the competition and exclusion dimensions here, because everything you said is true. I’m sorry you’ve been treated that way in the church, but I have so much respect and admiration for your choice to resist the ridicule and the pressure to do something you know isn’t right by getting married for the sake of marriage. It sounds like you would be a wonderful marriage and family therapist!

  2. Beth Young says:

    Ugh! This church and it’s Boxes That Must Be Checked! Your sharing these experiences shines a bright light on one of the darkest, ugliest parts of the church; the idea that we are not enough, on our own, to go to Heaven. Christ didn’t teach that. That is the teaching of men who are able to stay in power because they claim they are closer to God than the rest of us and that what they teach is what God wants for us, and then we go along with it. Whether taught on the local level or higher up the hierarchy, they are wrong, manipulative, and self-serving. Any expectation of playing small or being hurried has been manufactured. It’s so painful for you, and I’m so sorry that you and other young men and women are subjected to this. I well remember experiencing it as a 20 year old convert, but that was decades ago, I would’ve hoped that we’d moved past that ultraconservative non-sense. We really do know better now and it’s high time we DO better. No one will ever regret taking their time about marriage. Christ (and Mr. Rogers!) love us just the way we are. Marital status is NOT a prerequisite for fullness of relationship with the Lord.

  3. Arganoil says:

    There are lovely men to be found outside mormonism. Don’t waste your life away fishing in a tiny pond.

  4. Linda Furness says:

    When my husband was a YSA bishop he told the sisters to look for a good man wherever he could be found, whether in the church or outside

    • Beth Young says:

      And avoid seeing the non-member dating partner as a missionary project, expecting them to change to suit what you’ve been told you need.

  5. CS Eric says:

    My situation is different from yours, since my singleness as an adult in the church came from being widowed, but I want to share my perspective.

    It took six years to remarry. I probably could have remarried sooner, but I both believed and lived the idea that it is better to be alone than to be with the wrong person. Many people will say that, but most don’t really believe it.

  6. Linda L. Bateman says:

    From the perspective of 73 years, you are very mature in your thinking and in recognizing the immaturity in othes’ judgements and misguided advise. Comparison and pretending righteousness is a very blind eye in this culture. Hang in there and focus on Light and Growth in that Light. Besides ,marriage has huge challenges.

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