Dear Mentor: Should I give up on dating?

Dear Mentor,

I have a master's degree and am now enrolled in a PhD and another master's degree. I love what I do! I love how my work helps people and helps me see God in his creation. So I stay very busy, and I don't plan to stop; my dream one day is to be a professor or consultant and eventually become an administrator. I socialize with my colleagues and have several close, female friends. I have lots of hobbies, and I'm involved in my church.

But I am over 30 years old and have only been asked out on a date twice in my life. I have asked out several people, but I usually get turned down. At this point, I am wondering if or how it is possible for me to get married or even have a serious relationship. I wonder if I appear too intimidating or intense. Or even if I don't, is it realistic for me to want a good marriage given my career goals? I see so many people getting divorced in academia. I'm beginning to wonder if I should just embrace being married to my work and give up on being married to a person. What is romantically realistic for an ambitious, driven, intelligent woman?

from guest mentor Wendy Quay Honeycutt

I write from the perspective of a woman who got married at the age of 41, after having a career in law and obtaining two degrees in theology. This question of "Am I too highly qualified for a man to want to marry me?” came up for me a lot. Here is some wisdom that other women shared with me during my wait and some heart lessons I picked up along the way.

I’ll start with the toughest part (well, it was for me). I think an important question to ask yourself is, “Do I want to be married?” Bringing this deepest desire of mine to Jesus’s feet was the most terrifying thing I have ever done, but it was the beginning of God teaching me to ask him for this gift and trust him for his “yes,” whatever that ultimately meant. I’m not suggesting a “name it, claim it” gospel here. Rather, waiting and hoping hurts, and so we often try to hide these parts of ourselves away from God. May I encourage you instead to bring these deepest desires, worries, and questions into his presence in prayer, preferably in the company of sisters in Christ who will pray with you, and see what he might do with this confession? If it’s very painful, perhaps set yourself a period of time, say, one month, to bring this part of yourself before Jesus and see what he has for you in it. As highly qualified career women, the temptation for us is to look at the statistics and the data. My encouragement to you is to look to Christ, bring your desire to him, and let him talk with you about it.

I don’t know what it means to be “romantically realistic.” The two words together are an interesting juxtaposition. But yes, I do think marriage, family, and a career for a woman are possible, though perhaps not all at the same intensity all the time. If I understand the heart of your question correctly, it sounds like you might see your qualifications, career, and strong personality as a reason for your still being single, i.e., that men don’t like ambitious women, which is what the data says. My husband, many of his male friends, and the husbands of some of my best friends have taught me there are men out there who will appreciate and like you for your gifts and your personality. It’s really a case of taking what appropriate steps you can to meet them, and — this is the real part — waiting on God. There’s no easy way to say that second part.

And so, while you wait, I encourage you to set aside this idea of being “married to your work.” For both single and married people, I don’t think this is the best way to see our work. And for as long as you are single, it’s vital that you make sure that you reserve time, space, and energy to nurture your friendships and your relationship with God. Be bound to Christ and let him put everything else in its proper place. This applies even after you’re married.

On the more practical side, would you be open to online dating or using an agency? This is where men and women who are intentionally looking for spouses often begin now, and there’s no shame in it. It does, however, require energy and time, and you’ll need to make sure that your life isn’t so busy that there’s no space for this. I have several friends who have met their spouses online, and they are wonderful matches.

And finally, ask God to protect you from bitterness. Waiting can be hard, and hope requires us to be vulnerable before God, which can hurt. Staying soft means feeling more of the hurt, but it also opens us up to what God might have for us in our relationship with him and in our relationships with others.

I pray that as you wait, you’ll know God’s renewal of your strength, and that one day not too far down the road, you’ll receive the desire of your heart.

from mentor Leslie Walker

"Romantically realistic" — now there's a challenge. First of all, a disclaimer: I graduated from Wheaton College without a husband, having been told I had already seen the "cream of the crop" and was clearly intimidating or not right for the men I met there. I had concluded that I would never find Mr. Right when I started graduate school at age 20. (Perhaps I was a bit overdramatic.) Our cohort was encouraged to attend the huge Society for Neuroscience meeting that Fall, and when I walked into the social night for the "Christian Neuroscience Society," a group that meets once a year at the national meeting, I saw a tall blond guy with twinkling blue eyes, and the rest is history. Honestly. His parents were Wheaton grads, he was a med student doing research at the NIH, and from the beginning he listened, he supported, he encouraged me to pursue my dreams in medicine and science that ultimately led to my career in psychiatry, and he was and is an active parent for our two kids.

So I got my happy ending early. I have lots of friends, colleagues, and professional women who are my patients who are still waiting for the husband they hope and pray for. Why is it so hard to find men who will be strong leaders, active partners, and loving encouragers? There are no easy answers. The short answer is: it only takes one, and the process is up to God. For intelligent, energetic, ambitious, passionate women who are following God's call into professional careers, the reality is that only a very small pool of men will be good partners. You need someone who is equally yoked in the Lord, who is secure in his own identity and work and not threatened by your career or your drive, who is willing to be flexible in terms of jobs and family responsibilities, and who loves you as you are. For a man who wants a partner with more traditional gender role plans (i.e., a stay-at-home mom), you probably won't fit. For a man who feels threatened by your education or your intellect, you definitely won't fit. And for a man who isn't secure in his faith or his ability to lead or who doesn't value purity or faithfulness, you won't fit.

That leaves a small pool. These days, it seems like the online dating world is the most common way to find that needle in a haystack; I know a woman in the Women Physicians in Christ group who was a 40-something missionary doctor in Asia when she met her husband, a widower in the US, on eHarmony. But you just never know. I have a friend who is an ophthalmologist who loves mission work who in her 30s found...another ophthalmologist who loves mission work. Now they have two kids. The point is that only God can bring you together, and only God can comfort you in the deepest places when you are alone and longing for a partner.

I'm glad you're honest about the longing and the hope. I think this hope is like the "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief" struggle. Have hope, have faith, and simultaneously work to be content as a single woman. We are not promised husbands. I'm married but could lose my husband in an instant — one of my friends did last year when her 50-year-old husband was hit by a car while jogging. I'm also well aware that there are many women who are married but who feel deeply alone; one has a husband with dementia after traumatic brain injury, and another has a husband who is unfaithful. But there is no question that in our culture, and in our hearts, most of us want to be known intimately and loved deeply by a partner. So you continue to look, you ask your friends and family to pray for you, you pray, and you wait. Sign up for online dating if you’d like, go to singles groups, ask friends to set you up — all are reasonable steps you can take to find someone, but the only one that matters is the one that ultimately "works." And that's fundamentally a mystery that is known only to our Creator and Redeemer. As Isaiah says to Israel: "For your Maker is your husband — the Lord Almighty is His name — the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth." Ultimately, we rest and wait in him.

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