Ministering Angels

"They neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those what are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Single's Panic Syndrome

By Sarita

Much of the time I move happily enough from work to play to church. Life is good; I am happy with myself and the things I'm doing. Then, all of a sudden, BLAM! Single's Panic Syndrome hits me in the face.

My most recent episode was triggered by hearing that my recently ex-ed fiance is getting married, and not to me. I instantly went from merry Laura to despairing Laura, dissolving into a welter of insecurities and Ben & Jerry's.

You too may suffer from Single's Panic Syndrome (SPS) if you have 8 or more of the following symptoms:

    • You resent happy couples.
    • You feel broken because you don't date as much as you want.
    • You are sure that the solution to every problem--car troubles, bad roommates, unfulfilling job--is having a boy/girlfriend.
    • You are suspicious of other people, believing they either treat you kindly out of pity for your singleness, or that they treat you unkindly out of contempt for your singleness.
    • You view people not as individuals but only in terms of their relationships; your world turns into a couples vs singles battles.
    • You are certain that you would enjoy things more if you were in a relationship.
    • You think the things you're involved in are simply a way to bide time, rather than activities that are valuable in itself.
    • You become paranoid about the way people view you.
    • You have dating desperation, throwing yourself at any and every guy, without evaluating them or your compatibility together.
    • You mistrust all wo/men.
    • You constantly compare yourself with people who are in relationships.
    • You feel like you can't pursue personal growth, goals, or interests because you are single.

For me, SPS comes and goes. I am especially vulnerable when something happens to make me feel insecure: starting a new job, having a miserable date, gaining 5 pounds, making a mistake. My instinct at these times is to blame all my painful emotions--fear, loneliness, uncertainty, disappointment--on being single. When I'm in the throes of SPS, I really truly believe that being single is the cause of all the unhappiness in my life. Blaming singleness for normal human pain also becomes a way for me to avoid dealing with my feelings or the situation directly.

With SPS, singleness becomes a crutch, an excuse to put off personal growth or to let me avoid looking at things I need to change. "But I'm single!" I wail. "How can I possibly be expected to be happy/work towards goals/reach out to others/feel peace/be excited about my future while I'm single?"

The other tendency is for me to use that crutch to beat other people with-I distrust their motives, resent them, and basically try to make them responsible for my pain.

All the negative emotions that come with SPS, though, are a part of all human life. No one--married, dating, or single--lives entirely free from disappointment, self-doubt, frustration, and loneliness.

I want to make it clear that I think SPS is a different issue than the long process of facing a life without children or husband. LDS single adults come to peace with that (temporary) future in their own way and in their own timing. I don't know anyone who finds that an easy or quick or simple thing to do, especially in a church where we are constantly reminded of God's intense interest in families.

However, God is even more interested in individuals. And I am certain that He does not want me to depend on relationships for all my feelings of validation, fulfillment, and self-worth.

My recent bout of SPS is going into remission, for which I am very glad. I'm going to try to understand myself better, serve others more meaningfully, follow my dreams more passionately and listen to God more carefully so that I stay disease-free--at least for a while.

And in the meantime, I've got a freezer full of Ben & Jerry's. Cherry Garcia, anyone?



at 6/16/2005 10:36 PM Blogger Melinda said...

Wow, Laura, I can really identify with SPS! Way to diagnose the problem. Now we need a treatment and cure (besides a relationship, I mean).

at 6/19/2005 5:39 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think sometimes it's even harder for intelligent older single LDS women to date and find compatible partners. Whereas younger singles can blithely throw caution to the wind, dating for a couple of months before a whirlwind engagement and quick temple marriage, older singles who have been trained in critical thinking and who have a habit of carefully considering options are not so hasty.

There are, of course, exceptions to this, but it's ironic how one's strengths can also be weaknesses.

at 6/19/2005 5:50 PM Anonymous Magson said...

"Blithely throw caution to the wind" ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Critical thinking should *always* be part of it. Yes, the hormones do interfere with that to a degree, but even so -- we are thinking creatures. And it *is* good to think about who we choose for companionship and eventual marriage -- there's no weakness there at all.

Unless being single is a weakness? I'm not quite clear what exactly you are trying to say.

And can you define "older?"

at 6/19/2005 6:15 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I'm saying is that younger people tend to go in much blinder. Singles who have developed self-control and have had more time to develop their critical thinking are not usually prone to such mistakes.

And the strength/weakness comment just meant that it's a virtue for singles to be more cirucmspect about who they choose (older singles= over 30ish, etc). However, those on the outside (such as the commenter on another blog who said all single women over 35 were "not very nice people") tend to judge people who don't marry before a certain age, even if the reasons for waiting are very, very good.

at 6/19/2005 10:23 PM Blogger Laura said...

Is it such a virtue to be more critical about marriage partners, as anonymous suggests?

I've always thought so, but this was brought up at M* and some folks over there saren't entirely sure if knowing someone really well before marriage matters in the end. The argument seems to be that people change lots after marriage, and shared experiences and committment matter much more in the end than similar backgrounds or great chemistry.

I don't know if that's true, but I do know lots of people (including friends who have been happily married for decades)who believe it.

Of course, there are always those singles who get more desperate the older they get.

at 6/20/2005 8:36 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, quick courtships CAN work. They're just not for me, or most discerning people I know. If I'm going to share my life, my hopes, my dreams my money, my body, my eternity with someone, I'd better know them for longer than just a few weeks. Some people spend less time picking a partner than they do pickingn out a car or a career. Sure, it can work sometimjes, but it's a risk most sensible people aren't willing to take.

at 6/20/2005 10:29 AM Anonymous Barb said...

Great comments. All my siblings and all but one of my cousins are presently married. And my single cousin is divorced so I am the only one who has never been married. I am the only member of my family. You know I think I would of a truth be more content with my single status if I had remained Catholic. I never really thought much about becoming a nun although such an orderly life appeals to me now. However, the Catholic Church teaches that a person can either have a Vocation as nun or priest, or married life, or single life. They teach that it is God's will for some to be single and not enter the holy orders. I do think that God wants his children to marry unless they have a condition that would make a happy union unlikely. Yet, all this emphasis on families does make me feel like the odd man out at times now that I am in my thirties. I guess it is society too as my family are not members nor the people who went to high school with me. Well, I said that I was independent in the previous post. While that is true because I have interests and have never been someone who absolutley had to have a man, I do have a condition that makes me very dependent on others for my needs. So for me, I really am broken. Yet, sometimes I let the romantic side dream that someone will rescue me and help me through my disorder and help me heal from the abuse in my life. Yet, I am not drawn to men that would dominate me by any means. I guess I am too scared of being dominated to marry. Wow! Is this more than everybody wanted to know?

at 6/23/2005 12:53 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a great saying: "Expect nothing, and you will not be disappointed."

It sounds dismal, but it is extremely helpful when treating SPS.

One of the downfalls of being an LDS single is the EXPECTATION that marriage *will* occur. Outside of the Church, people hope for marriage, dream about it, work towards it (or not) but don't necessarily EXPECT that it will happen.

Why the difference? There are many reasons.

1. D & C 82:10 (i think that's it). We expect the "blessing" of marriage because we've followed certain commandments. How many times have I heard my single girl friends bemoan the fact that they're single, "and I've done everything right!" Several of my single friends are in therapy with LDSSS just because of self-esteem issues related to their non-marriage status and how/if that is indicative of their unworthiness or unrighteousness.

2. Because this is the ultimate spiritual destination of every LDS (i.e. to be in an eternal companionship--or eternal group for those who are sealed to more than one person) we can't fathom not being party to those blessings. If we're to go through all the ordinances of the gospel, and marriage is one such ordinance, then we have to live for and pray for that blessing, as Elde rScott suggests.

3. As members of the Church, we covenant not to have sexual relations outside of marriage, and so for anyone who expects to have sexuality as part of one's life in any form, the expectation *has* to be marriage.

So, with all of these expectations come anxieties, unrealistic pressure from self, peers, family, etc. Sometimes family and friends judge singles to assess whether they're doing "all they can" to merit the blessings of marriage. Sometimes we read our Patriatrchal Blessings and say "if I had only not done XYZ" or "if I'd only been more righteous just maybe I'd be married by now."

But we just have to have NO expectations at all, and only expect that over which we can have control: jobs, volunteer work, our emotions, intellectual pursuits, etc.

Don't listen to people who say "your're so pretty/handsome/cute/thin/smart/interesting/funny, you ABSOULTELY will get married, honey..." If this were the case, all the ugly, unattractive, dumb, uninteresting, uneducated people would never have gotten married in the first place or would have been divorced long ago.

at 6/23/2005 9:16 PM Blogger Laura said...

Latest anonymous,

It's an interesting suggestion, to only expect what we can control. I think that's a excellent SPS treatment. I do worry, though, that the more I talk myself out of expecting marriage, the less open I will be to marital opportunities. I certainly don't want to pass up a potential relationship because I'm not paying attention, or because I'm so locked into my happy-n-fulfilled single's world, or anything like that. Maybe that's not a real fear; maybe it's only an excuse for indulging myself in SPS.

Very interesting thoughts, all. It's great to hear different perspectives on this.

at 6/24/2005 10:33 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you just have to have realistic non-expectations, if that makes sense.

I know (very unhappy) singles who actually project exact dates by which they should be married. The set-a-date program rarely works, whether for missionary work or for marriage. Then they feel like failures when not only do they NOT get married by April 23, 2008, but when they haven't had a date for three years.

How realistic is it to "expect marriage" when there isn't a partner to expect marriage *with*?

The married and family-oriented life is the more usual path, for most. Some people enter into this step without much thought. Some (even LDS) are pregnant when they marry, or marry out of guilt for having pre-marital sex. Some are tired of living with roommates and marry the first guy who asks. some are afraid to live alone and get married to alleviate loneliness or to prove that they are worthwhile or loveable. Some are simply, um, well...bound by biology and have no self-control.

For some people, these are perfectly good reasons to marry.

But these reasons sound perfectly shallow to me.

Is the goal really to get married, no matter what the impetus? Or should the goal be to live the fullest life you can, whether or not that includes marriage or children?

Nobody knows what "being married in the next life" means. So even dreaming about being married then is not helpful.

Letting nature take its course and allowing life to happen is much more healthy than "setting a goal" to be married.

Some people never get married, some really shouldn't, and some marry without thinking aobut all marriage entails. Not all marriage is equal, nor should it be.

at 6/24/2005 1:50 PM Blogger Dirk said...

Anony the mous(e) said "One of the downfalls of being an LDS single is the EXPECTATION that marriage *will* occur."

Well perhaps that expectation is partially due to the fact that many people can point to a Partriarchal Blesseing that tells them they should be expecting it. Where the problem enters in is the Expected and traditional timeline, of within six weeks of returning home from the mission. Or at least before we men become Menaces to society at age 27. or maybe by 30, or maybe .....

I know my family loves me but I often suspect they are confused at why it's taking me so long. All three of my sibs who served missions were married within eight months, and the one that took the longest hadn't dated his wife prior to the mission, so he was starting from scratch. The other two at least had dated the victim before their missions, and in both cases my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law waited for my Brother and Sister. The one other sister didn't serve a mission and was married at age 19. And I find the same story through most of the extended family including some cousins who married while the wife was still in High School. All of which adds to the SPS, but I can ignore it, primarily because of promised blessings (or is it Blessing promises), if I remember that the promise is made but no concrete timeframe is given.

at 6/24/2005 4:32 PM Blogger Melinda said...

I wish I had more of Dirk's attitude about not expecting marriage within a specific timeframe. Unfortunately, not only do I need to work on trusting the Lord's timing, but I have a biological clock.

I really identify with anonymous's comment (you should give us a name so I can acknowledge your insight individually). I did have an expectation of marriage. Expecting something leaves you vulnerable to disappointment. I've been trying to replace my expectations with trust, because trust doesn't have a deadline or a specific result in mind.

Anonymous - I've been thinking about a post that goes right along with your paragraph #1. I'll try to get it up soon, and I'd be very interested in your further insights.

at 6/25/2005 11:50 PM Anonymous Barb said...

Melinda, I think trust is the right attitude to have. It is funny how I have gone through spurts through the years. I was baptized in the LDS Church at 19 and my Home Teacher seemed to talk seriously about my getting married in the near future. I felt like such a baby still and still slept with a stuffed animal. Then at 21, I wrote in my journal that my goal was to be married in the temple that year. I think it was about 21 and a half when I first decided to go on a mission. Then, I expected to get married shortly after coming home. Well anybody who knows me knows that six months later wham! Then, I was too paralyzed by emotional problems namely ocd to even consider such a thing. Yet, sometimes I wonder if I should marry. A lot of people get over ocd but here I am over a decade later. It is probably my own fault that I am not over. So there you are with all this guilt if I had done something right that I may be over ocd and married. Sometimes I think it was a blessing because there were issues that I was not in touch with when I was younger that could have been devastating had they surfaced in marriage with out having dealt with them. I go through stages when I am so glad I am not married. I am rather an independent type. I really like children a lot. To be there for them 24/7 is a lot to handle though! I know that I am in no condition for it now. I turn 37 next next month. Talk about a biological clock ticking! If I just knew that I was not suppose to marry in this life, I would just deal with it though. I mean the not knowing is the hardest part.


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