Hi, all. I hope you had an easy fast this week and are having a great summer so far. I’ve been busy planning a trip with a friend, and I’m so excited but I also have to admit that I can’t wait to be home, safe and sound! (Nerves). In the meantime, I’ve been listening to audiobooks, painting a (very simple) abstract, and tutoring on the side.
Marriage is on the brain…has anyone else found it anxiety-provoking to be told to “use your time now!” to prepare for marriage? To “work on your middos” and “know that everybody has challenges” and “no marriage is perfect” so you want to “be prepared!”? I always wished for some kind of breakdown of actual, list-able skills or qualities to develop, and how. Like don’t leave me to figure this out on my own! What if I don’t get it right? Some direction, please. (I’m realizing that I definitely seek out scientific conceptions of relationships).
Well…over the years since seminary I’ve gathered some (obviously theoretical) knowledge and insight from books, workshops, mentors, observation, and inner work. What I’ve realized is that as much as it’s nice to want to build skills for a better marriage, your marriage is only going to be as healthy and invigorating as your relationships with yourself and others.
As a single adult, you have the advantage of capitalizing on your time and resources to invest in yourself in ways that will only improve your present life and your future marriage. Singlehood is an exciting time to strengthen yourself emotionally and spiritually for whatever life brings your way. So, here are some of my thoughts on the matter, and please can you share yours below?:
- Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Try to face down your fears and say yes to things you wouldn’t have before. You’ll meet all sorts of awesome people, expand your range of experiences, and develop self-confidence and independence. You’ll look at yourself in a year from now, whether single or married, and be proud of yourself for overcoming insecurities and grateful for the opportunities you didn’t pass up. You’ll be braver and more willing to take steps that help you in your life’s journey.
2. Get to know and meet your needs. It’s so hard when all you crave is someone in your life who will understand you, be there for you, and always know what to do to make things better. But as much as we all deeply want to be taken care of, owning your adulthood means knowing that you are responsible for meeting your own needs – material, emotional, and spiritual. Invest generously in yourself, whether that means pursuing a hobby, changing your eating patterns, jogging through the park, or taking yourself shopping. When you feel cared for, you have the space and energy with which to give to others – time, patience, a listening ear. Perl Abramovitz (I love her approach in general) suggests getting to know your own Love Language and finding ways to make sure it is spoken in your life. Self-care is key to maintaining a relationship in the long term. Know and understand that you are worthy of being nurtured. Along these lines…
3. Develop an independent life. What are your interests? What do you want to try? What do you want to learn about? Every relationship benefits from “away time,” whether spent alone or with friends. (And no one appreciates feeling solely responsible for someone else’s fulfillment or happiness). Pursuing what fulfills you and brings you joy will only enhance your relationships.
4. Strengthen and expand your network of friends. Connection to others is invigorating. Be open-minded and curious about what others have to offer. Go to places where you will meet new people. Join a shiur, exercise class, or chesed program. Try to connect with people who are different from you. Be open to making friends who are older or younger than you are. Relationships with others are enriching in so many ways. You will acquire respect for others’ needs that may be different from your own.
5. Find joy. Being single is hard and gets awfully lonely at times. You are definitely entitled to all your feelings and as I’ve mentioned before, it’s important to give space to the full gamut of emotions. However, getting stuck in negativity or despair is just plain misery. Just because something is your right, doesn’t make it pleasant or practical (or attractive). Be judicious about indulging your “right to stew.” Allowing yourself to savor the small things and thank Hashem for the gifts along the way is energizing. Gratitude leads to joy, and joy is beautiful.
6. Work to heal. Everyone struggles with triggers, unhelpful learned patterns, and difficult experiences. It’s hard to face pain, but know that every bit of time and expense you invest in yourself now in order to heal will be repaid one thousand fold in a marriage. The work is always worth it.
7. Live in the moment. Your life is valuable and worth enjoying as it is today. Know that you are loved in the place you are right now. Hashem has a plan for you, now and for your future. Take advantage of your life now and do your best.
What would you add? What have you learned? We’d love if you can share!