Unmet desires can be heartbreaking. So how do you handle it? Today, we are speaking to Jennifer Howell, who lived with a deep unmet desire for a life partner for many years. Jennifer’s story is one of faith and courage. We hope that you will not only be inspired, but will also find some practical truth for your life’s situation.
4word: Can you start by sharing with us about your journey through singleness and to becoming engaged?
Jennifer: This past summer I celebrated my 40th birthday with a great sense of joy. Work was going well, I felt blessed for the friends and family in my life, and I knew I was spending my birthday with my future husband. All that was certainly wonderful. However, I felt most proud to be celebrating another year of truly loving myself and for finding joy as a single woman.
Just a couple years prior, I could not have said that. I was lamenting that I was single and not where I thought I should be in my personal life. For context, I broke off an engagement when I was 29 and was hopeful that my future husband was right around the corner. Little did I know, I would be single for another 10 years. Most of those 10 years were filled with a mixture of dating and tears, lots of learning, and searching for purpose in my life.
After I found peace and joy in singleness, it seemed like a very short time before I met Evan, my future husband. I joke that I didn’t realize I would meet Evan so quickly! I honestly thought it might be another 10 years before I met the man God planned for me, and I was happy with that notion. I was happy, because I knew God had great things in store for me!
4word: The desire for a life partner is a strong one that many women feel, but easily goes unmet. What were some ways that you coped with this unmet desire?
Jennifer: I can relate to girlfriends who have a strong desire to get married, but seem to never meet that right guy. It is a struggle to stay positive, put yourself out there to meet someone, and then get disappointed – sometimes over and over.
For me, I took a leap of faith from a trusted advisor and tried something different. I was advised by my counselor at church to take a break from dating when I was 36. It was a crazy idea to take time off from dating when I “needed to be out there more than ever,” I thought.
The counselor explained that when you are in a relationship, you are less likely to work on yourself. People tend to focus on the “we” in the relationship instead of the “you,” slowing individual growth.
During my 9 month dating break (yes, 9 months!), I assessed choices I had made, spent time with my emotions, healed some pain in my life, and worked on my struggle to trust God and His plan for me. I also took other actions that I reference in my blog that was posted by 4word, A Path to Joy in Singleness.
Giving up dating for 9 months isn’t for everyone, so I don’t expect others to jump on the bandwagon. However, I do recommend taking advantage of the gift of singleness and focusing on your growth opportunities. That 9-month period was life-changing. In fact, I attribute my relationship with my fiancé to that period of time.
4word: Through your experience, what is the healthiest way a single woman can manage her desire for a life partner?
Jennifer: Everyone has different life experiences, so I can best share what has been helpful to me. Managing my desire for a life partner was a struggle, because I thought I was doing a lot of right things to prepare myself for my future partner. I was addressing growth areas, I prayed a lot, I surrounded myself with great people, and put myself in situations to meet new people. However, my guy still wasn’t showing up. He wasn’t showing up after 15 years of searching!
I realized I wasn’t fully letting go and trusting God. I was so used to relying on my skills to make things happen in my professional life, that I wasn’t relying on God to take over my personal life. In fact, I was frustrated with His timing. After this realization, I began to repeat, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind.” It’s a hybrid of Proverbs 3:5-6 and Matthew 22:37. Over time, my faith in God deepened, as did my sense of joy.
4word: You mentioned having faith and trusting God. What does that mean and how does it apply to the search for a partner?
Jennifer: Trusting God’s timing and plan for our lives allows us to focus more on our purpose for being and less on what we don’t have. This shift enables us to see how truly blessed we are.
Perhaps we are blessed with singleness to accomplish things we could not accomplish while married. Perhaps we are learning lessons that will make us healthier and stronger so we meet a healthier, stronger mate.
Living our life purpose brings us joy and confidence. Don’t we all want to be around joyful, confident people? When we live our purpose, we become a lightning rod for great people and great gifts. We are also better equipped to serve and help others
4word: What does it mean to be content in your current status?
Jennifer: I think contentment in our current life stage is directly related to self-love, the love of others, and the love of God. I don’t believe contentment is wrapped up in romantic love. I came to this realization from personal experience.
Most of us are familiar with God’s commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31. Well, this requires us to do just that – love ourselves. We all know great women who demonstrate their love of neighbors by volunteering, taking care of others’ needs, and making themselves available to serve. However, we also know women who overcommit, put their friends and families first before their own needs, and are pretty harsh on themselves.
I have to admit I was a woman in the latter category and didn’t realize it. I was not showing myself the same care and love I showed others. My daily voice inside my head was often so unloving, extremely self-judging, and out-right mean. No wonder I was miserable and discontent!
I became conscious of that mean voice inside my head and began to counter it with sweet, loving phrases. I also learned to say no to overcommitting and used that time to practice self-care. As the negative voice subsided in my head, so did my discontentment.
4word: Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
Jennifer: We all desire a sense of community with like-minded people. This was especially true for me when most of my friends were married and I felt like the only one who was alone. I began seeking women who were forging a path in the single world, and frankly, succeeding at it more than me.
It was nice to know I was in great company with women I admire. These women became mentors in my life and I learned nuggets of wisdom from each of them. Plus, it was just great to call them up and go see a movie on a Saturday night or grab a glass of wine. I recommend everyone seek girlfriends you admire that are walking in similar shoes as yourself. To me, I call these women luminaries, and I will forever seek them out.
Are you living with any unmet desires? How can you apply the principles Jennifer mentioned to your situation?