Great Expectations: Contemplating Marriage after Long-Term Singleness

For years, I never understood my mom and step-dad’s television-watching arrangement. Though my mom doesn’t really like sports or hunting or wild animals, she would sit dutifully on the couch in the family room where my step-dad would watch these shows for hours.

And it’s not like there wasn’t another TV in the house. Occasionally, when I was there for an evening, my mom and I would slip into the bedroom to watch a movie or a favorite sitcom. But more often than not, especially when my mom and step-dad were in the house alone, she would sit with him, regardless of what was on.

It made me wonder: if I got married, would I forever give up watching what I wanted on television? And really, television is so small in the scheme of things. What else might I have to sacrifice?

For the last few months, even before my boyfriend slipped a diamond ring on my finger and promised to love me forever, I had been anticipating marriage more intently. Our relationship was growing increasingly serious, and we had begun to talk about the future.

It wasn’t like I had always expected a walk down the aisle or a life of marital bliss. I’ve never forgotten the line in the 1993 movie, Sleepless in Seattle, about the near impossible odds of finding a husband over the age of 40.

“That’s not true,” Meg Ryan’s character had protested in the movie.

“That`s right it`s not true, but it feels true,” her friend had said. And it had felt true to me, too. Just seven months ago, I was the one who wrote passionately here about the merits of singleness and living alone. On the Friday when the essay was published, I had no prospects for marriage.

I was introduced to Steve two days later.

Now that it’s really happening, now that I have a dress hanging in the closet and a church reserved under my name and his, I wonder if the expectations I have accumulated over the years will have anything to do with the reality of marriage.

When I was younger, my list of what I wanted in a man had more to do with appearances and interests. As I got older, the list evolved more into beliefs and priorities. In recent years, I really just wanted someone who would take out the garbage and see that the car had its oil changed . . . plus share my beliefs and priorities, of course.

Over the years I’ve prayed for the man who would one day be my husband. I prayed for his health and safety. I prayed that he would know Jesus and be growing in his faith. Back around 2001, I started praying that he would know English. (Opening up the boundaries of my search seemed obvious to the still-single 30-something me.)

Steve has exceeded a life-time of expectations, and all my prayers for him were answered. Now, the biggest fear I have preparing for marriage is what to expect from myself. I have been single all of my 42 years, and for most of the last twenty years, I have lived alone. Will I be flexible? Will I be willing to share?

Recently, on an evening when Steve and I were each at our own homes, I was curled up watching a repeat episode of Season Two of Downton Abbey. I got this text from Steve: “Are you watching football like me?”

I wasn’t. In that moment, though, I realized that being with him was worth watching anything he wanted.

“No, I’m watching Downton Abbey. But if I were with you, I would gladly watch football!”

A few seconds later, he texted back: “I would gladly watch Downton Abbey if I could be with you.”

Something inside me melted a little. I remembered my mom, sitting in the family room watching sports and hunting and wild animals on television with her husband.

Finally, It all made sense.

Post originally published at The High Calling on December 12, 2012. 

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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.