Posts Tagged With: single life

What Are You Looking For?

About 10 years ago, the concept of listing out what I wanted in a future spouse was introduced to me and like an obedient girl, I started my list.

A few years later when sifting through my life in therapy, I was told that I didn’t know what I was looking for in a spouse. Au contraire! I had my list! I showed it to my mentor/friend Katharine.

“Laura, you wrote the Proverbs 31 for men! This is completely unrealistic. And it says nothing about real things you want in a husband.”**

Me: “I did?”Gold pen with signature

Yet, not to leave me hanging, Katharine helped me pare down my page-long list to 3 columns. She guided me through selecting traits (physical, character, spiritual, personality, even how he spends his leisure time) into three categories:

  • Non-negotiable
  • Really want
  • Bonus!

One thing that has contributed to “success” is that my list is short; I think I have less than 15 items between all three categories. I’m also guided in my conversation on first dates by having “The List” in the back of my head. For example, I hate doing taxes due to a traumatic experience with them in college. Thus, I want my husband to be financially sound. On dates, I’m not shy to ask questions related to money and saving – while I don’t ask about his debt, savings, or salary, I am able to guide the conversation in order to ascertain his attitude towards retirement savings, budgeting, and financial management which let me know if I even want to keep considering spending time with him.

Depending on how long you’re in dating land, the list might need tweaking as years pass.  A small part of me dies when I look at “4 kids” in one column. It’s good to think about the number of kids you want (even if the number is zero), but being 30 with few prospects makes me less optimistic towards that original number as I’ve lost those years of childbearing/child-rearing. Also, “ministry group” had a specific meaning in my Protestant days; not so much in Ortho-world.

Here’s my suggestion, Ladies and Gents: write down what you want in a spouse. Be specific, even painfully and stupidly specific. Hair color. Ethnicity. Quirks. Height. Interests. This is your list. It might be longer than my 12-15 items, but if that’s what you need, do it. Then go through the list and pick out the “Absolutely, 100% MUST HAVE” for column A. Go through and pick the “I would REALLY WANT” items. Everything else is in “BONUS” – column C. You must have at least one criterion in each column, and it’s best to do this when you don’t have a specific object-of-your-affection in mind.

It’s frustrating to be in The Land of Few Prospects or The Land of Not-Right-Now and even The Land of Everyone-Else-Is-Married. The last 6 to 7 years of my dating adventures have been a little easier thanks to my list – if something doesn’t feel right on a date or in a relationship, generally one of the criterion in my first column isn’t present. And knowing what you’re looking for helps you not be distracted with Mr. Not-for-you-but-definitely-single no matter how great his personality.

**It has come to my attention that cradles or non-Protestant converts in the Ortho-world have not heard of the Proverbs 31 standard for choosing a wife. Proverbs 31:10-31 is an Old Testament passage describing a virtuous woman/wife. Some women, especially Protestants, feel it an unattainable standard held over their heads while wife-seeking men can never find their “P-31 woman”. It was only recently that it was brought to my attention that Proverbs 31 is an allegory for the Church and Christ. Yay, Protestant literalism!

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Battle of the Marital Status

Lists on the interwebs, I’ve observed, are ways that new bloggers can make it look as though they are being productive and wise. It’s like the people that start off their day writing at the top of the paper “1 – Make To Do List”.

This in mind, I read a list earlier in the year: 23 Things to Do Instead of Getting Engaged. I get part of it. Around senior year of college, enough engagement rings start appearing that those who are single can wonder if they are missing something. But I was still not impressed with her suggestions. Was this a list saying that getting engaged is another task in life? Some of her items served others and promoted personal growth. Others not so much.

Well, someone read the first list and wrote her response. But she wasn’t helpful. Rather, she was rude and impudent. She states in her rebuttal that “Well, if this is her bucket list, then maybe she shouldn’t publish it and suggest that I do it, too.” But what does she say later?

“Oh, and that if you’re going to share a list of fun things to do, make sure they’re actually fun. And worthwhile. So, here goes. 23 Things You Can Do With Your Husband Regardless of Age.”

And later on:

“…maybe that’s why some people don’t marry young, or ever! Because sucky people like her suggest doing awful things like that.”

Wait, wha—??

And the married vs single wars continue.

After reading the first list, other than rolling my eyes at some of the suggestions, all I could see was a 23 year-old needing validity for not getting married. It seemed to be a plea for purpose. “Help! I’m caught between desire for relationship and feminism!”

And the married girl? First, don’t mention making out or having make-up sex with your husband – multiple times in one post. Second, why are you so offended that someone was trying to encourage, albeit badly, that people not focus their personhood on marriage? Third, you didn’t represent the marrieds very well. You were snarky to the single girl. You didn’t say anything positive about your single experience. Also, getting married at 25 is not that big of a difference to 23.

In fact here’s what both articles screamed to me:



But some lists, or lists disguised as prose can be good. This came to my attention a few weeks after I read the first two lists.

“Start living the life that you do have instead of wishing for things that you don’t have. There will come a time you’ll meet a boy and you’ll have to give up some of this single freedom you currently have. Start being more thankful. Start doing that now.”

It was refreshing as secular reasoning for singleness can be. It reminded me of a book I read at the beginning of my post-college life that gave a list of 100 things to do in your 20s. But unlike the first two lists – it doesn’t depend on or make value judgments about marital status.

We can have all the lists we want and never have the life we need.

The heart of the first two lists is basic discontent and lack of approval. As Christians, this is crucial to understand. All we need as the source of our validity, personhood, approval, and life’s contentment is Christ. He gave us other good things – family, the Church, talents, abilities – but they are not to be the foundation of our acceptance and knowing we are loved.

I needed three years of counseling and multiple reminders since that Christ is my contentment. Christ is my source of acceptance. The very God that says He knit you in your mother’s womb, and looked on his creation and called it good (Psalms and Genesis, respectively). This same God calls us to lay aside everything that hinders and look to Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12).

Get away from lists and go towards Christ. The list looks easier at first, but in reality it is heavy and constricting, regardless of your marital status.

Categories: Articles, Singlehood | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Be assertive.

I rewrote the title of this post three times before I could let it sit as simply, “Be assertive.” I tried things along the lines of “The Value of Being Assertive” or “The Squeaky Wheel” or “Sometimes, you have to ask for what you want” first—gentler, less direct options designed to encourage you to be assertive without actually making it a command.


Anyway, I bought a cheap Goody hairbrush a month ago, and last week I was dismayed to realize that the rubber coating on the bristles was wearing away—my morning routine was becoming painful, and I was going to need a new brush.  I didn’t want to have to buy a new one already, so I did a quick search of Goody’s website and found their contact form.  I didn’t expect anything to come of it, but I wrote a quick note:

Hey there, I’m feeling a little frustrated. I bought a grey paddle-style hairbrush from you a month or two ago and the rubber coating on the bristle tips is coming off–it’s definitely becoming painful. Would you be up for replacing the hairbrush?

I wasn’t rude or demanding.  I still dithered a bit—”Would you be up for replacing the hairbrush?” instead of “Please send a replacement”—and I honestly didn’t think they’d even read my comments.  But to my surprise, three days later I got an email.  Pick out a replacement of comparable value from their website, it said, and they’d include a prepaid envelope so I could mail the crummy brush back for their engineers to mess with.

The brush I was interested in was a little more expensive than the brush they were replacing.  I didn’t want to claim it was of comparable value, but it didn’t hurt to ask.  After all, no harm done if they said “nope, choose again.”  So I just said, “I’d love to try this brush, if that’s all right.”  And then I never heard back.

But a few days ago I got a package in the mail.  I now have a new “Heritage Collection” brush, Goody may learn something from my hard head destroying the other one, and my hair feels amazing.

Moral of the story?  Well, partly to say that it’s worth giving your business to companies that want to protect their good name and that listen to their consumers.  Partly to plug this rather delightful new brush of mine, because good customer service deserves a callout.  But mostly to remind you that you get to make your voice heard.

There are times to be gentle and beat around the bush and imply things.  There is value in that, and there’s a reason we’re taught to do it.  But there are also times to cut to the chase and be upfront about what you want.  You’re allowed to say, “I’d like ______, please.”  Even if _____ is an inconvenience.  Even if you’re not guaranteed to get it.  Even if, even if, even if.  You get to speak up.

It can be so uncomfortable.  As often as not, it won’t do any good.  You still won’t get what you asked for, much of the time.  And that’s okay.  Your odds are a damn sight better than if you just sit there wishing silently.

I still wasn’t hugely direct when making my requests.  I have to work on that.  I still spend a lot of time and effort not-saying things, because I’m still figuring out how to speak boldly—I don’t want to become a harpy, but I also don’t want to become a doormat.  It’s easier when it needs to be said, when I’m speaking up for someone who needs me or against some grand injustice where many voices need to be heard.  But our voices deserve to be heard over little things too, and it’s a good life skill to have in the arsenal.  A crucial one, in fact.

Many women I know are very sensitive to the effects of their requests, sometimes too sensitive.  There’s a link between being open with one’s desires and trusting that it’s okay to be vulnerable enough to say what you want.  It takes courage to speak up.  It also requires paying attention and noticing that there’s something you need, and preferably recognizing what it is.

And too, we have to trust that the other person can handle the request without becoming resentful or guilt-ridden if they can’t acquiesce.  Especially in relationship and business situations, you need to be willing to speak up.  Your mama can’t read your mind to know that you now hate hooded sweatshirts, and she’ll send one every Christmas unless you say you’d love to receive her favorite novel instead.  Your boyfriend doesn’t know that his new cologne reminds you of your ex, your roommate genuinely wants to know what you’d like for dinner, and your boss (or client) will pay you as little as you’ll accept.  Even if your request is denied or thwarted this time, it’ll still be a net win.  They’ll know more about your needs and wishes, you’ll know more about how the two of you handle this sort of situation, and you’ll know you can speak up about more and harder things in the future.  Communication is a Very Good Thing.

There’s a difference between being assertive and being aggressive.  Being rude is aggressive.  Being demanding is aggressive.  Acting entitled is obnoxious and often aggressive.  It’s aggressive to say, “You need to give me a new hairbrush yesterday!”  It’s aggressive to say, “Your company is horrible and my hairbrush is lousy and I’m gonna smear your name all over the internet unless you placate me.”  It’s aggressive to say, “If you don’t give me a new hairbrush, I’m calling my lawyer.”  (Nota bene: There are times when, to protect yourself, you may need to be aggressive.  And calling a lawyer is not necessarily aggressive in all situations.  But if your initial contact is threatening to sue over a broken brush, that’s aggressive.)

It’s assertive to say, “I’d like a replacement brush.”  It’s assertive to say, “Actually, I’d prefer pasta for dinner.”  It’s assertive to say, “That comment made me uncomfortable.” And there is nothing wrong with that.

So.  Be assertive.

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Words of Wisdom

In truth, the Lord does not seek virgins nor married women, and neither monks nor worldly men, but doth value the free intent of the person within the arbitrariness of his free will to offer thanks to the Holy Spirit, which acts and which rules the life of each person yearning to be saved.

Saint Macarius the Great, via OrthodoxHelp

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Words of Wisdom

When we have a disagreement or some kind of problem with someone we shouldn’t keep going back to the same problems over and over again. It’s like when you are waiting for a train and it is late; once it comes, you get on. You don’t get on and keep thinking about when it should have arrived or when it wil get here. Live every day like someone waiting for a train. We don’t know when the train will come to take us away.

Elder Sergei of Vanves

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Stop telling me to missionary-date.

I had the pleasure of being asked to contribute a post to the Sounding. Here’s an excerpt.898643.542335

Missionary dating is dating the non-Orthodox in the hopes that they’ll convert and you can live happily ever after raising cute little Orthodox babies together. And for some reason, people keep suggesting I give it a go. Again.

Yeah, about that?


How many times am I expected to have my heart shattered before I can call it a day?

No non-Orthodox men. I’ve said this before, and I’ve made exceptions before. And I feel I was right to make those
exceptions, because they were amazing men who could have been great partners for me–they were worth the work, and worth the risk.
And eventually it all fell apart because I’m Orthodox, he wasn’t, I’m not willing to give up my faith, and he decided/realized he had no interest in sharing it, and there’s only so far you can go before the differences become unbearable.

It is not my job to convert the non-Orthodox. It is my job to love them and pray for them and live my faith with honesty, courage, and humility. And that job is big enough, thank you.

Read the rest at the Sounding.

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Linkage: Even More Creepiness!

For the record, we never promise that the sites we link to or people we quote are ones we’d agree with in all aspects. All we’re saying is that they made a great point, or an interesting point, or a point worth commenting on. Okay? Cool beans.

For a great post on Schrodinger’s Rapist, try this one. It’s directed at well-intentioned men who would like to be able to approach women in public and don’t understand why those women freak out or freeze sometimes. This is not a post telling women to be afraid or degrading men; it’s just noting that women have cause to be wary, and how men can be aware of the signals they’re sending and receiving. Quotes to note:

  • When you approach me, I will begin to evaluate the possibility you will do me harm. That possibility is never 0%.
  • Women are under no obligation to hear the sales pitch before deciding they are not in the market to buy.
  • Ask yourself, “If I were dangerous, would this woman be safe in this space with me?” If the answer is no, then it isn’t appropriate to approach her.
  • So if you speak to a woman who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message. It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights.

Another post called being creeped out a “Spidey sense women develop under duress.” Why?

When you’re female, unwelcome male attention kicks in when you’re YOUNG, with no power to do anything about it. …We don’t get to fight back, either. When we complain, we’re told the same things:
“It means he likes you. You should be flattered!”
“Oh, that’s not that bad.”
“You should’ve known better than to wear that.”
“Well, walk a different way next time.”
“just ignore him.”
The only way we’re given to deal with it is avoiding trouble, so we get really good at picking up on subtext. …In a culture that teaches women to smooth things over and not stir up trouble, where you’re not really given much of a vocabulary or tool kit to identify and call out people who feel like they have an unquestioned right to you or your time or your attention or your body or even your damn SMILE, and where the world tries to slap those tools out of your hands when you try to pick them up, all that’s left is the word “creepy.”

For a great post on why you should not let your feelings be overruled, try A Message to Women From a Man: You Are Not “Crazy.” It’s an old one, but it needs to be said. Quotes to note:

  • You’re so sensitive. You’re so emotional. You’re defensive. You’re overreacting. Calm down. Relax. Stop freaking out! You’re crazy! I was just joking, don’t you have a sense of humor? You’re so dramatic. Just get over it already!
  • Those who engage in gaslighting create a reaction—whether it’s anger, frustration, sadness—in the person they are dealing with. Then, when that person reacts, the gaslighter makes them feel uncomfortable and insecure by behaving as if their feelings aren’t rational or normal.

For more examples of across-the-board creepy guys (titled “Our group has a case of the Creepy Guy, how do we clear that up?”), and a great response, click here. Quote to note:

  • It gets written off as “not a big deal” or “he probably didn’t mean it” or “he’s not a bad guy, really.” Any discussion of the bad behavior must immediately be followed by a complete audit of his better qualities or the sad things he’s suffered in the name of “fairness.” Once the camera has moved in and seen him in closeup as a real, human, suffering person, how can you…be so cruel as to want to hold him accountable for his actions?  Bitches, man.

And to end on a good note, here’s how one writer changed the Creepy Guy Narrative on the train. “It is the narrative of how men hit on women in public places.” You’re going to want to click over and read this one in its entirety. It’s worth it.

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The Creep Factor

The last time all three of the Orthogals got together, an Orthofella we’re friends with asked a very good question. What is creepiness? How can he tell whether his action will be taken as creepy?
He didn’t want to freak out the women he was friends with, and he didn’t want to scare away those he had a romantic interest in, but he also didn’t want to become a doormat and never take any actions at all.

Let me get straight to the point: Creepy = you do not have emotional permission

Sometimes it’s situational. Sometimes it’s a given. But either way, it means that a boundary was crossed.

Continue reading

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Linkage: On Beauty

Several years ago, the singles Sunday school at my Protestant church was split by gender. The women were asked by the leader, “Be honest, would you rather be called ‘godly’ or ‘pretty’?” Most, if not all, of those present fessed up and said, “Pretty.” And from there we were able to have a great discussion.

Below are some encouraging posts for whichever age group you interact with the most, from 5-year-olds up to adults. We hope you enjoy.


  • Latina Fatale encourages real conversation with little girls. A classic.
  • Emily from Chatting at the Sky encourages moms (and women with influence in a teen girl’s life) to stop with trivial sayings.
  • Amanda Magee writes, “I need to once and for all shake this idea that I am supposed to be a way other than I am.”
  • Sally McGraw of Already Pretty reveals a big secret: There is nothing wrong with you. Another oldie-but-goodie.

And a few more worthy pieces:

  • I’m Pretty, but: Jezebel covers 10 reasons women don’t call themselves pretty.
  • Audrey Hepburn never thought she was beautiful, according to her son.
  • Katie Makkai’s poetry slam “Will I be pretty?” on beauty and motherhood. Transcript here. It’s sharp, but we get where it’s coming from.
  • And perhaps most touching, Dustin Hoffman talks “Tootsie” and what he realized women face in everyday life in the preliminary phases of the film (for the 5 of you who haven’t seen it already).
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Desperate Wife Hunter

“For some, there are few requirements…”

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