“Oh, I’m not interested in dating. Hopefully, I’ll date someone at some point, but it will just be to confirm that marriage isn’t for me.” I answered her question quickly and easily, sounding so confident in my disinterest in dating and marriage.
Truth be told though, most of that “disinterest” was just my fear and insecurity rather than a deliberate choice. I didn’t think anyone would want to date me, and I definitely did not want to have to try and then fail in a relationship. Having to be vulnerable scared me, the “otherness” of guys scared me, having to navigate the give and take of a relationship scared me.
There wasn’t a lot of hope that I would overcome those fears because I wouldn’t have admitted these insecurities to anyone. I barely allowed myself to realize them. It just seemed easier to eschew the whole process and focus on other things in my life.
So with all of that baggage, how did I end up married in my early twenties?
God’s grace intervened. But it also turns out that the insecurities and fears you have while dating (or not dating, as the case may be) don’t magically go away once you’re in a committed relationship. As I look back, I can see that those unresolved issues I had contributed to a lot of the problems came up right away in our marriage.
It’s all working out well, though, despite my failures and all the hiccups along the way. I’m incredibly grateful for my husband and for our marriage—it has helped me grow in a way nothing else ever has. I wish I could go back in time and give myself a few tips for smoother sailing though.
Here are a few things I could have done to get myself better prepared for a relationship. If you’re still in the dating world, tackle these insecurities now and you will not only set yourself up for a better dating experience, but you’ll set yourself up for a better marriage once you find the right person.
The only way to get past your fear of vulnerability is to … be vulnerable. That doesn’t mean spilling your guts at the drop of a hat with perfect strangers, but it does mean taking the risk and sharing something more of yourself with someone you want to know better.
Being in a relationship requires a certain amount of consideration for someone else and a willingness to communicate and over-communicate plans, thoughts, preferences, and the like. These things are easy to do in one-off situations, but the nitty-gritty practice of doing this day in and day out when married is challenging, as it is to a lesser degree when in a dating relationship.
So, start now. Practice the habit of sacrifice by choosing the harder option when you’re with family and friends. That might mean choosing to help someone move on your day off when you’d rather relax. That might mean staying in a conversation and listening a little longer than you would like to someone who bores you. That might mean offering to babysit for a friend even though their kids annoy you.
If you are happy and content with who you are, it will be easier to discern who you should marry, and will lead to a better marital relationship all around.
To grow in confidence and contentedness, spend time with people who build you up. If you always feel inadequate and a little used when hanging out with your friends, seek out new people. Pray for the grace to meet them quickly.
Find activities you enjoy and are good at and invest time in those things. Recognize any negative self-talk you engage in and stop it. Replace it with a positive loop. Look for a good counselor and set up an appointment (try looking at Catholic Charities in your area for recommendations for counselors).
Holy Family, pray for us, and help us learn to love like you!