It's not always the case, but I've noticed people in small towns tend to settle down and marry earlier. It seems the options are limited and so sweethearts from high school actually stay together.
Bigger cities, full of young people with bigger egos and bigger dreams to succeed in their chosen careers (and again I'm over generalising here), tend to remain single/still looking for a lot longer. They say 30 is the new 20! Probably because 'they' are all single and 30, and still happy to flip through the many options.
The more options we have the harder it is to choose! The bigger the menu, the more chances we'll try a little bit of everything.
Why so picky?
Since the turn of the 20th century, we humans started to question our sense of worth and entitlement, and independence and authentic living was affirmed, and our modern world of 'me first' and 'personal satisfaction' was born.
'If it feels good for you, it's authentic for you, and therefore no one else can argue'—has become the slogan of the Western World. Marriage went from being a means to an end, to an end in itself.
Marriage used to be a sacred and safe place for sex and childrearing, and it used to happen in your late teens or early twenties. The family unit was a core part of society, the fabric of which families could contribute to culture as a whole.
Relationships are now built up to be the mecca of all our journeys. The entertainment industry expounds the benefits of true love in songs, movies, and books, and it's filtered into our consciousness.
Relationships are about personal fulfilment. We ask: 'Is this person The One?' 'Is he or she going to right for me, are they a good fit for me, do they complete me?' 'Will I be forever happy with this person in my life?' If not, I'll keep looking ...
The L word
Porn has become so rampant that Playboy magazine just announced they're going to start clothing their models again because nudity is no longer selling.
The lust for more is so ingrained in our modern psyche. The L word masquerades as love, but lust is far more accurate on many accounts. Lust is defined as a wanting or a longing for, but I've heard it said lust cannot be quenched.
We'll always want more, we'll keep looking, and when the feeling of brief satisfaction fades and the one we're with starts to bore us—bring on the next date.
Finding 'The One' at church
This dissatisfaction has surely filtered into the Church. Divorce is still a pervasive problem and our thinking has been warped by culture's quest for love and happiness—we've woven these ideas into our theology.
We believe God will provide 'The One'.
But, if there is only 'One' girl for me, then that's a lot of pressure to make sure she's the right One. What if I choose the wrong One, and steal someone else's One? Is she still my One?
If God has 'The One' for us, then why look? Surely he or she will arrive on cue? If we're all waiting, then no one is dating! When we believe 'The One' is going to fulfil us, then changing and working on ourselves will not be a priority. If fantasy and romantic comedies are our idea of love then no one will live up to our expectations.
Created for so much more
We must take a step back and put all the pining in its place.
I recently attended my Great Uncle's funeral, a remarkable man who died at the age of 89. He was an intellect and an extraordinary family man. He was a talented singer and musician, he learnt four languages, and he was a skilled craftsman making all sorts of furniture and machines from scratch.
He left three kids and 11 grandchildren, along with a bulging workshop of tools and machines, and he'll be missed as a true fount of knowledge that remained as sharp as a tack until his last days.
Sadly, he lost his wife when she was 56, and spent the last 30 years of his life as a widower. His wife was a huge part of his life, but after hearing his eulogy, I learnt his life was not defined by his loss.
This is not cause to treat relationships lightly. No one should be flippant about lifelong commitment, but if you can't be happy alone, then a relationship will never fulfill you.
God is bigger than our fears of singleness and he's bigger than our need for romantic fulfilment. Proverbs says 'he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted'. And that's right up there with the first and greatest commandment to love God above any other.
Maybe you met at high school? Or maybe you met at a speed-dating event at age 37? If two people love God first, above each other, then I'd like to believe they could make almost any relationship work.
Brad Mills enjoys the outdoors and almost any sport... For a day job he's a journalist who works at the Rhema Media in Auckland New Zealand.
Brad Mill's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/brad-mills.html