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I'm 34, single and learning to love every season of life

The following article was written by our guest blogger Aimee Nanney. Aimee spends her time sharing the testimony of her past, her mental health and learning to love every part of herself. She is avid cat and coffee lover, an amazing friend and a loyal listener.

Photo by Sarah Elkins

I'm 34 and I'm single. It took me a long time to be OK with saying that. In fact, I had a hard time saying it when I was 25 and 30. As a woman, there are often unspoken judgments or stereotypes if you haven't found a spouse yet or started a family at my age. And I think I let that pressure get to me. I want a family. I have always wanted a husband and kids. But for many reasons, I was still single. 

But what I learned along the way is that I was wasting time, joy and memories worrying about what I thought my life was supposed to be at a certain age.

Yes, those were things I wanted deep in my heart, but I wanted to also learn to love my life and myself during every stage of it. Ladies, it's easier said than done, I know. I have gone on my fair share of terrible dates. I've heard so many people tell me how I should meet someone or where I should start looking, or that I should just pray about it. Trust me, I pray about it. But maybe it's not my time yet, or maybe there is more for me to learn first. What I do know for sure is that no women should be treated like she is less than because she is single. I am so many things to offer this world that don't include whether or not I would make a good wife (I totally will, though, in case you're wondering). 

Today, I'm so much happier than I was 10 or even five years ago. I have learned so much about myself by being single. And I learned how to simply be in the moment of where my life is now, and not what I want it to be in the future. That will come soon enough. Don't miss out on all the good things you have today, because you're wishing for what could be in the future. 

Did I mention I had bad dates? I can laugh at them now ... mostly. This one is a good one.

Photo by Sarah Elkins

I sat across from him while we made very awkward first date conversation. He casually reaches across the table to grab one of my fries and an episode of Friends flashed through mind when Joey was on a date and yelled at the girl for taking his fry “Joey doesn’t share food!” I smiled and subtly pulled my plate closer to my side of the table as we continued to talk about what we were looking for in a relationship. 

He asked what boundaries were important to me and I said I wanted to take things slow when it comes to the physical side of a relationship. I made it clear that this was a non-negotiable topic. I have been in toxic relationships before that revolved around the physical aspects, and I wanted that to be different this time around. I told him that I didn’t even want to hold hands or kiss on a first date. I wanted to get to know someone before anything physical happened and he seemed to understand and respect my choice.

We finished up dinner and started walking to Ford Field to head to a country concert, which if you know me was definitely a huge compromise. I hate country music. This is not an exaggeration. I understand that in any relationship there will be times you make a compromise, so I stepped out of my comfort zone. As we were walking to our seats he went to hold my hand and I pulled away. Did he not listen when I said that anything physical was a no-go? I brushed it off as we climbed the steps to where we would be sitting. He then went to put his arm around me and I just sat there completely uncomfortable. The concert hadn’t even started and I was ready to go home, but I was determined to make the best of it.

This country concert turned out to be a four-hour experience. He wanted to slow dance at one point and I just wasn’t feeling it, so I declined. He continued to put his arm around me and even put his hand on my leg at one point. Nothing about this date was enjoyable. Between every band there was a short break in which I would “go to the bathroom” so I could gather myself enough to not “fall” down the stairs at Ford Field. However, if I fell he would have to take me home (kidding... kind of). He was having a blast and was completely obliviously to the fact I was 100 percent miserable. I rejoiced once the last band played and we made our way back to his car.

We still had an hour drive home and the entire time I am texting both my roommates telling them they need to be on the front porch when he drops me off, that way he couldn’t walk me to my door and try to kiss me. Around 2 a.m. he pulls into my driveway where both my wonderful roommates were out on the front porch, and before he could even stop his car I hopped out and said goodnight. It was rough and uncomfortable and I was thankful it was over. After that night I realized that online dating was not for me.

For the last seven plus years I have lived in singleness and experienced the highs and lows of what that looks like in your late 20’s to mid-30’s. It’s been an experience and I’m honestly thankful for all of it. It’s been interesting, to say the least.

I’ve gone on dates with guys and thought it went great but didn’t feel a connection. I’ve gone on dates and prayed time would go by faster so it would be over. I’ve tried online dating, blind dates and mingling at young adult ministries and just couldn’t seem to get past a few dates to something more serious. I have had unhealthy and unrealistic expectations toward guys that I liked only to discover there was a lot of things I had to unlearn and learn about healthy, romantic relationships. I have so many hilarious fails from going out with a guy who only talked about his mother to a guy who said he wanted to watch me have sex with another man. It’s been awkward, wonderful, annoying, disappointing and so much more…and all of it has taught me something.

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to get married and start a family. In my early 20’s I was extremely naïve to what that really meant. Relationships aren’t all sunshine and daisies.

In any relationship, whether romantic or platonic, there comes a level of responsibility to that person and to yourself; it’s a mixture of healthy compromise, selflessness, respect and love.
Photo by Sarah Elkins

First, you need to love yourself before you love another. That sounds simple yet it’s one of the hardest things we struggle with at times. I am almost 35 years old and really didn’t learn to love myself fully until this past year, and it was a journey getting to where I am now. Years of self-doubt, insecurity, self-hate, unresolved  trauma, depression and much more stood in my way of simply loving myself and it kept me locked in unhealthy patterns. I knew in order for me to have healthy relationships I needed to take the time to heal and actually deal with all the junk. This looks different for everyone, but for me it meant stepping back from areas  of my life that kept me too busy to heal. It was going through therapy and cutting out toxic relationships. It was surrounding myself with people who loved me and walked with me in that season. You loving yourself is more important than getting married, having a dream job, having kids, traveling the world or having money. Understanding that you have value by simply being you will change your life.

Second, never settle for less out of fear of having nothing. There is a big difference between compromise and settling, and too often we settle and call it compromise. Compromise is coming to an agreement with someone; settling is accepting or agreeing with someone or something that is less than satisfactory. This goes beyond relationships and can branch off into so many areas of our lives. Learning to make compromises is important but understanding the difference between compromises and settling can dramatically change our lives. I am in no way a relationship expert and have had many tales of failed relationships, dates, friendships and jobs. Learning to love myself helped me to see areas in my life where I settled for less because I thought that was what I was worth. 

They walk hand-in-hand with each other and can reap a harvest or reap nothing but deviation, and I can tell you that it’s so much greener on the other side when you begin to love yourself enough to walk away from settling for less. Know what you want and understand the difference between the two, don’t settle in areas that mean the most to you and learn where compromises are needed. For me my faith is a huge part of my life and when it comes to a romantic relationship I want my core values to be something they share. That is an area I won’t settle or compromise in. I’d rather be single than in a relationship I settled for because I thought I was my only option. It’s not fair to that other person and it’s not fair to myself. This will look different for everyone but don’t be afraid to know what you want and refuse for anything but the best for your life.

Lastly, learn to love the phase of life you’re in! I have wasted years wishing and hoping to be in a different season instead of truly enjoying where I was at. It’s so easy to look at where my friends are at in life and be envious to the point of bitterness that I miss out on the good things that were going on around me. I was so focused on what others had that I forgot to stop and smell the flowers. Cheesy I know, but simple truths sometimes are what we need to make big changes in our lives. The past two years I have worked on my mental and emotional health. I have said no to things and yes to a lot more areas I couldn’t before. I have surrounded myself with women who encourage me and push me to be my best self. I have been vulnerable and open about what I am honestly walking through instead of painting the words “I’m fine” over my life. I have learned that singleness is not a punishment and it's actually pretty great. It’s a season I can grow and enjoy life. I have been able to really focus on my career and cultivate friendships I might not have if I were in a relationship or married. One day I hope to get married and have children, but I don’t want to live my life so focused on a season I’m not even in and miss the phase of life I’m currently walking in. Soak up every moment you have because time doesn’t stop for anyone. We have this one life and I intend to be active in the moment instead of focusing the what ifs.  

Love yourself, learn the difference between settling and compromise and finally live fully in the season you’re in.

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