So, I’m going to get really honest with you.
I dated a lot of guys before I was actually ready to be married. You might have even called me a “serial dater.” These weren’t just a bunch of first dates. These were relationships. Some more authentic than others. But even the ones that were authentic and meaningful were tainted by my attempt to fill a hole in my heart.
It became a cycle of moving from one boyfriend to the next, hoping every time that this one would be THE One. Whether they sensed it or not (and I how could they not??), I put a ton of pressure on these guys to fit my definition of the perfect match. In each relationship, I engaged in fantasy thinking—imagining what our wedding would be like, how many kids we’d have, what their names would be, how far apart they would be spaced in age. Yes, even crazy details like that would wander around in my brain before we’d even hit our six month anniversary.
If you had accused me of this at the time, I would have denied it. Or justified it. I may have had some level of subconscious understanding that my choices weren’t the healthiest, but I was so driven to feel loved that it didn’t matter. As long as I was with someone, I thought I was doing just fine.
But in the weeks, months, or years when I didn’t have a boyfriend, the truth in my heart came out. I was nowhere near fine. I believed the answer was in the guy. After a break up, I’d think maybe I’d just chosen wrong. Or, clearly, he wasn’t ready for a serious relationship like I was. My solution wasn’t to look inward and figure out the flaws in my dating strategies. Instead, I looked outward, blaming the one who wasn’t making me happy and still desperately searching for one who would.
It was a vicious cycle. Looking back now it feels like the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. But at the time, it was all I knew. It was just me. I was used to what my life looked like, and I didn’t understand how it could look any different or even why it should.
Until that one breakup.
The one that goes down in history as activating the most significant turning point of my life.
The funny thing was, I broke up with him. We were in a rough season about a year-and-a-half in. We’d moved in together, but we weren’t really happy. Or at least I wasn’t. We’d planned out our life together, and we were walking in step with our plan, but it wasn’t enough for me.
Behind closed doors it was a volatile relationship. We both had a lot of hurt and anger from past relationships. Now, I call them open wounds; they were gushing everywhere and impacting us individually and as a couple.
We were both well-practiced at hiding our hurts. Plus, we were so caught up in the romance and the high-highs of our intimate encounters that we didn’t see (or at least we were willing to tolerate) the low-lows that oozed from our inability to communicate or cope with our wounds.
So, in my dissatisfaction with the relationship, I cheated on him. More than anything, it was an emotional affair. I allowed my heart to go to someone else. Someone who seemed to understand me. Someone who listened to my complaints about the relationship and empathized. Someone who lived far away so he didn’t present any real risk to getting caught.
But after one week of getting to know this new guy, I couldn’t go back and be normal again with my boyfriend. I tried for a while, with some subtle feelings of shame over what I’d done, but it didn’t work. I’d had enough. I wanted what I thought this other guy could offer me. So, I conveniently found a way to work it into a conversation with my boyfriend that I needed a break. We needed a break.
I’ll spare you the gory details that followed, but just a few months later I was back in the same place. Dissatisfied, discouraged, thinking the grass was greener somewhere else. My ex and I still saw each other often. And, as he began dating and pursuing other women, it totally crushed me. I couldn’t remember all the bad parts of our relationship or that I was the one who wanted to leave. I couldn’t see how we were both so relationally unhealthy. I forgot all the yelling, screaming, and door-slamming that permeated our conflicts. I just wanted his attention and affection back.
But it didn’t matter; he was done.
His rejection was excruciating. It felt like the walls were closing in on me. I couldn’t stop crying. My heart was so desperate to feel loved and nothing and no one was enough to fill it.
That was 15 years ago.
I still have a tendency to lean into relationships with people to find my self-worth, to feel loved, affirmed and accepted, but in the last decade and a half, I have changed and healed in so many ways. My marriage isn’t perfect. But it’s far healthier than what I would have ended up with had I continued to walk down the road I was on in 2000.
Maybe your story lacks the drama mine has (I hope so). Or maybe you see yourself a little in it. Either way, you deserve to know you are loved. But not necessarily by a man, though that would be nice, right? No, I’m talking about the God of the universe. He loves you. Do you know that? His love for you is higher than the heavens and deeper than the oceans. It’s far greater than any of us can understand. It is a sacrificial love. He pursues you like no man ever will, and he woos you to Himself.
Do you feel it? Do you see it?
It was His love that changed me. He intersected my life 15 years ago, and I will never be the same. It didn’t happen overnight. But, with time, He has healed so many broken parts of my heart. And I know He can do that for you, too.
That’s why I want you to know Him—God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. And, having walked in the shoes of singleness for 39 years, I think I may understand a little bit about where you are right now. You feel alone. The longing of your heart is unfulfilled. For some women that longing is totally healthy. For me, for a long time, it wasn’t. But no matter which side of that coin you are on, I promise you that Jesus wants to walk through these days, months, or years with you. He is the great Redeemer. He will restore the years that the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25).
My name is Merritt, and I want to know your story.
Will you allow me to walk with you through your season of singleness?