See Me: Why I’m Still Single After College

Answering an Age-Old Question

Back in undergrad, it was not unusual for me to return home for break and get asked about my dating life. In fact, it was almost always the question posed by some church ladies who seemed to know something I didn’t. Well, it turns out they really did! Apparently, college was (and probably still is) the best time to try and land yourself a man.

While my previous comment is made in jest, I’ve found that there might be some truth to it. I mean, think about it. During your undergrad years, you’re typically away from home and allowed to reinvent yourself into the person you want to be. You can experiment with your sexuality, explore new interests, and see how you function while not under the watchful eye of mom and dad. Honestly, it’s during your college years that you find out who you are and what you’re made of.

If it’s true that you discover who you are during undergrad, then it makes total sense that a relationship formed at this time could potentially last forever. Right? I mean, you’re both being your true selves and figuring life out as you go. There’s no need for pretenses because you have nothing to hide since all the cards are on the proverbial table.

After thinking long and hard about this, I wondered why I hadn’t maximized my college years to meet my Mr. Right. For all I know, he could’ve been the guy in my English lit class or a panelist at one of the business conferences I attended. We could’ve gone to the same embassy networking events or been at the National Mall at the same time. Why hadn’t I put in the energy required to stick my head out of my books to take notice of the tall, beautiful, educated Black men around me?

Well, fellow navigator, I didn’t do any of those things because I was, you know, getting an education. Although I had a pretty decent social life during undergrad, the majority of my time was spent focused on my studies. I mean, I wasn’t going to college to catch a man. I was going to college to learn and set myself up for a bright future filled with endless possibilities.

Knowing what I know about myself now, I think getting into a serious relationship during undergrad would’ve been detrimental because I would have lost focus. My life would have centered around that man and his happiness; I would not have put much thought into pursuing my own goals. Why do I say that? Because that tends to be what happens. While this is not the case for everyone, I find that women often make more compromises in relationships when it comes to careers. We’re the ones who get pregnant and carry a baby in our stomachs for months at a time. We’re expected to go on maturity leave to raise that child. We tend to earn less, so we end up taking a back seat as our spouses climb the professional career ladders. If this is not true for you, then more power to you.

During my single years, I have been afforded opportunities to do things I never thought I could or would. There have been no compromises made on my end, except for the things that I, and I alone, have chosen not to do or involve myself in. I have come into my own as a woman who knows what she wants, who she is, and where she desires to be in life. Why am I still single? Because I want to be.

If I’m completely honest, while it’s been difficult at times returning to an empty home, I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had for marriage. Meaning, if I knew it would take 30+ years without a spouse for me to become who I am now, I’d willingly tell God to let me live my life solo. I know that the man I end up with will see value and beauty in all I have gone through and have to contribute to our relationship. I know he will appreciate my strong sense of self-awareness. I’m confident he will realize that the woman he sees and loves would not be who she is without all she has gone through.

I have come into my own as a woman who knows what she wants, who she is, and where she desires to be in life.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

So, to answer the age-old question, I’m still single because I’m living my life as I should. When the right man comes into the picture, that could all change. But, until then, I will continue to do what makes me happy and feel fulfilled. My spouse is meant to complement, not complete, me. What about you, fellow navigator? How do you respond when people ask you why you’re still single? Tell me about it!

Dear Navigator, Temptation is Real…Like, Really Real

I recently heard a sermon about David’s fall at the hands of a woman.

That’s not exactly how the preacher put it, but it’s essentially what he was saying. David, a man after God’s own heart, stumbled and fell because he desired something he couldn’t have: another man’s wife. David, a king with hundreds of thousands ready to die for him, faltered because of one thing: another man’s wife. What does this chapter in the book of his life teach us? I take from it two things. First, he’s human. Second, temptation is all too real.

Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that no one is above being tempted? Even Jesus, the Son of God, was faced with moments when he could have simply given into what Satan was offering him (food, power, and riches). Can we stop and take this in for a minute? Lucifer went so far as to try to get Jesus, the Lamb of God, to forsake his own Father. If that doesn’t put things into perspective about the power of temptation and the lengths at which Satan will go to deceive us, I don’t know what will.

Now, Jesus had just come off a fast. (Read Matthew 4 for the full story!). He was weak, and food would have been great. Nevertheless, he resists the devil’s advances and responds with Bible verses. Three times Satan tried to get Jesus to give in, and three times the Prince of Peace refused. He stood his ground and thwarted any plans Satan had for him that day.

Let’s be real: we don’t come close to being Jesus. When a beautiful, caring man enters our lives and whispers all those sweet nothings, most of us are all too eager to plan forever with him. When that same handsome man appears to have everything we’re looking for, we may be quick to ignore the fact that he’s missing the most important criteria: a relationship with God. I think it’s fitting to write about this, fellow navigator, because it’s a situation that I have found myself in one time too many.

The story is always the same. We meet, get to know each other, talk about every nonsensical issue under the sun, then eventually make our way to the serious topics. This is the make it or break it moment in determining if the relationship will live or die. In most cases, the feelings of “love” fizzle as we realize we’re not as compatible as we thought. We’re not pursuing God in the same way. We don’t have similar views on family or how children should be raised. We don’t think about marriage and the role each other will play the same. How can a relationship lead to forever when we don’t see eye-to-eye about these vital topics? It can’t. And it doesn’t.

I mentioned David earlier for a reason. Before I say what it is, let me just state that relationships are difficult to navigate. We are deceived by our eyes and mind to think that what we don’t want is what we need and vice versa. Temptation rears its ugly head each and every time we think we are strong in an area. It uncovers our weak spots, takes advantage of us, then leaves us high and dry to pick ourselves back up after we’ve fallen to the ground.

With regard to David, even though he could have had any single woman in the nation, temptation in the form of lust led him to pursue a married woman. He was captivated by Bathsheba’s naked form and, not being where he should have been (fighting with the army), he gave into the temptation. This critical moment caused him to take other actions that would lead to his downfall. (I encourage you to read the story in Matthew 4 to get the full context.)

Temptation rears its ugly head each and every time we think we are strong in an area.

I’m no Bible scholar, but I believe we’re all susceptible, like David, to having weak moments. (After all, we are human!) We see a man we want and go after him with reckless abandon. It’s not until after our hearts have become tied to this person that we discover the skeletons in his closet. He may be married. He might not believe in monogamy. He doesn’t believe in marriage. Or, the one that causes many women strong in the faith to waver, he might not have a relationship with God. Period.

It is temptation that leads us to a place of indecision about what to do next. We weigh pros and cons and try to find ways to make the relationship work. Slowly, after reflecting on all the good feelings we had with this man, some of us decide that life with him is better than life without him. Translation: We choose him over our convictions. Why is this important? Why should we care? Aren’t relationships supposed to be about compromise? Yes, compromise is a key word when it comes to relationships. But, if we must compromise the beliefs that make us who we are, then we are living a lie.

Remember that story in the Bible when Jesus talks about those people who would come and say how they did all those things in his name? What did he say back to them? He said he would tell them to depart from him because he didn’t know them. Yes, they did great things in his name, but their hearts were far from him. Translation: They professed him and did good deeds, but they didn’t really know him. If they knew him, they would have had a relationship with him. If they had had a relationship with him, they would have obeyed his teachings. If they had obeyed his teachings, they would not have entered into relationships with men who didn’t know him because he clearly states that being unequally yoked is not what’s up.

Fellow navigator, relationships do require compromise. However, when compromise comes in the form of ignoring our deal-breakers, we shouldn’t do it. They are called “deal-breakers” for a reason. That good man you want more than anything, the one who makes every other guy before him look like a chump, is not worth disobeying God. I know that not everyone might receive this message; I didn’t write it for everyone. This blog post is one written from a place of vulnerability as a reminder to myself and women like me who have been tempted to give up on faith because they question if another good man will present himself.

What are your thoughts, fellow navigator? Have you ever found yourself in this place? Tell me about it!

Dear Navigator, I Accept that I’m a Different Kind of Woman

Once upon a time, I thought there was something wrong with me because men weren’t knocking down my door. I thought I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough, or worthy of the attention of a man. Several relationships ended because I wouldn’t “give it up” within the time frame deemed by my partner. (It’s sad to say that even the holiest of Christian men struggle with their libido.) Knowing that I deserved more, I did the only natural thing to keep myself from going down the endless road of trying to contort myself to fit a man’s image of who I should be—I buried myself in work.

If some of us women are honest, I wonder if we share a similar experience. How many of us who have been labeled as “career-driven” would say that our jobs only became a priority because we realized the men who were trying to capture our attention weren’t anything to write home about? I mean, I would much rather focus on my work and making my dreams come true than put all my energy into a relationship with a man who only views me as an option. Has this been true for you?

Fellow navigator, we’ve been greatly wronged in the way we’ve been conditioned. As young girls, we were taught to be meek and mild-mannered. Many of us grew up believing women were to be seen, not heard. We were told to suppress our sexual urges and act daintily in public. We were brought up to believe that everything a man says goes; we should never question his decision. We were instructed to put our lives on hold to focus our attention on family and home. Some of us were even raised not to dream or have aspirations of our own because only what the men in our lives wanted mattered.

I use the pronoun “we” when discussing the erroneous ways many of us were brought up because, at some time or another, we’ve all been faced with situations where our womanhood was called into question. For some, we’ve even had to choose between the wishes of our families and the desires birthed inside of us wanting to come out. As women, because of our sex, we are viewed as “weak.” Men say we need protecting because are fragile, and that is what they use to justify dominating our lives. Granted, not every woman lives like this. But it breaks my heart to think of the millions of women who continue to live in male-dominated societies and are never given the opportunity to discover their identities outside of the closest man in their lives. Their pain is my pain. But I digress…

I am not a bad woman or poor choice for a wife because I have ambition. In fact, I believe that makes me wife material because I’m the kind of woman who supports and encourages the one she’s with to pursue his dreams. When he feels like giving up, I’m the lone cheerleader letting him know he can do it. When the world beats him up and spits him out, I’m the safe haven he can find rest in and know that he still matters. I’m the woman who isn’t concerned with whether he’s bringing home all the proverbial bacon because I’m contributing, too.

He’s not my sugar daddy, feel good machine, or arm candy. No, he is my friend, partner, and confidante. We don’t have to concern ourselves with what the world thinks because we’ve learned each other and grown together. Society may try to pull us apart, but it’s really us against the world.

Not every man is deserving of me. If you are a real one, fellow navigator, the same holds true for you. At just about every turn, your femininity may be called into question. And that’s ok. The wrong dude might say you’re not a “good woman” because you don’t allow him to win at everything. You might be labeled “too masculine” because you decide to go after what you want instead of waiting for it to be given to you. You may be considered “not soft enough” because you drive better and faster than many men.

I’m the kind of woman who supports and encourages the one she’s with to pursue his dreams.

One of the worst things you can do is lower your standards to match a man who isn’t worthy of you. Instead, keep working and grinding until the man who sees your value shows up. Recognizing him will be easy. He’ll be the one who sticks around at times when others have left. He fights fair and doesn’t hit below the belt during an argument. He’ll listen when you speak about your insecurities and fears, then do what he needs to do to make you feel safe. These men are few and far in between. They aren’t perfect by any means, but they know how to spot a good woman—another kind of woman—and work to keep her.

Fellow navigator, I wish someone had sat me down and told me that it was ok to be a different kind of woman before I entered the world of dating. To be honest, maybe someone did. Maybe I didn’t receive it or recognize the words as wisdom at the time. Nevertheless, I found myself in a pattern of dating the same type of man but only with a different name. What dating gems have you learned and currently apply to your life? Tell me about it!

See Me: The Good, the Bad, and the Crazy

Keeping it real about my complexities

Believe it or not, I used to be pretty uptight when I was younger. To be completely honest, I probably still am when it comes to certain things. That’s neither here nor there. I wrote once that I’m a complex creature because there are so many layers to me that it would take a man a lifetime to uncover them all. There’s the version of me he sees when in a professional setting, another when we’re in private, and yet a different one when we’re among friends. It’s not that I’m two-faced or put on a show based on who is around. No, it’s because I’ve learned not to allow everyone to have complete access to my true self.

Business associates and colleagues have no right to know what I do in the comfort and privacy of my home. Workplace etiquette demands that I maintain a certain level of professionalism to ensure that I’m taken seriously and critiqued based on my performance. Similarly, friends (even close ones) don’t need to know the intimate details of my love life. This is not to say that those my future partner and I choose to take on accountability roles in our relationship won’t get this access. Instead, I’m suggesting that I won’t be running around in the streets telling people about every tiff my future partner and I have.

When it comes to everything that is me, there is the good, the bad, and the crazy. I’ve learned that just because someone plays some sort of role in my life does not give them the right to see me in every light. By setting boundaries, I guard my heart and keep people who may not be able to handle it all at bay. Past experiences have taught that I place myself at a greater risk of getting hurt and doing unnecessary emotional and psychological damage when I fail to establish boundaries.

Setting boundaries looks differently for everyone. For me, I’ve broken my world into the three categories previously mentioned: the good, the bad, and the crazy. This is my way of determining how close to allow someone to get to me. Everyone starts in the good and, depending how things go, make their way to the bad. If they are able to hang on, they ultimately cross the finish line to the crazy. While these are terms I use in jest, they actually accurately sum up what transpires in the three major categories.

Let’s start with the good. This is reserved for those who get to experience the joys of life with me. We cheer each other on, check in to hear about life updates, and encourage one another to achieve our goals. In a romantic relationship, this is the “getting to know each other” stage. We discuss our passions, hobbies, and things that generally make us happy. The relationships aren’t superficial, but they lack the depth of the other two.

Next, the bad is saved for those who are emotionally and spiritually stronger than I am. We go through the harder times of life together. We walk through moments of questioning it all and wanting to give up. When I feel like I’m on my last leg and hopeless, they’re the ones I turn to for prayer and support. When my fire looks like it’s about to go out, they add fuel to keep it running. In a romantic relationship, we discuss deal breakers, faith, politics, and just about every other taboo topic. This group of people are few, but they are dear. Made up of prayer warriors, positive personalities, and individuals who will keep it real, they speak the words I need when life just seems like it’s spiraling out of control.

Finally, the crazy is exclusively for those who see my heart in full transparency. There are no secrets between us because we’ve been through it all. They hear the unfiltered stories about my insecurities, see the heightened emotions, and experience the moments that leave me feeling debilitated. There is no judgment among us because everything is exposed. Some say you can never be 100% your true self with anyone, but I disagree. The very few people in my life who are able to witness the ugliness of my heart that manifests through words and actions are the ones who see my true self. In a romantic relationship, this is where we decide that only death will do us part. (I’m still single, so no man’s made it this far yet.) This type of relationship takes an enormous amount of trust, patience, and discipline because of the level of vulnerability involved. But if we make it to those point, where all the crazy hangs out, we will be together forever.

They hear the unfiltered stories about my insecurities, see the heightened emotions, and experience the moments that leave me feeling debilitated.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

Now, there are sub-categories, but we won’t get into them. Some in my life might experience the first two categories, not the last. Others may only be granted access to one. The point is that, much like in a relationship, we’re not supposed to rush to give ourselves away to just anyone. Instead, we take our time to learn each other until we’re comfortable letting the other into our complex world.

Fellow navigator, have you ever stopped to consider who you allow to celebrate your victories, walk with you through the valleys, and see your true self? What is it about those people that makes them worthy of your trust to journey with you in those moments? If you don’t place yourself into such broad categories, how do you define relationship boundaries? Tell me about it!

See Me: Defiantly Single (pt. 2)

Can I be brutally honest for a minute?

If you ask me why I’m defiantly single, I’d say it’s because I fear choosing the wrong partner. Yes, I believe in God. Of course, I trust that He will confirm the man He desires me to be with in more than one way. Yes, I have a community of trusted people who will step in if they believe the man I want isn’t deserving of me. While I recognize that all of these safeguards are in place, there’s a part of me that thinks it’s still not enough.

Let’s be real. How many times have we heard of stories where a God-fearing woman married a God-fearing man and ended up dead or in jail because that man was a wolf? For those who don’t understand the reference, Matthew 7:15 talks about false prophets appearing as wolves in sheep’s clothing. Don’t get me wrong, men aren’t the only perpetrators. There are women who fake it, too. The point is that people may pretend to be charming, humble, and just about everything we desire in a spouse—that is, until after the wedding day.

I don’t mean to be a cynic. Because I believe marriage is a beautiful thing, I want to trust that mine will be all I’ve ever hoped for and more. But I have come to terms with my reality that I’ve made poor choices in the past. My sister (in Christ) will tell you that, after years of listening to my “boy stories,” I’m drawn to fixer-uppers. That is, the men with potential who don’t seem to be doing much with themselves. Looking past the physical, I pay more attention to the possibility of what a man can become (with the right woman by his side). I egg him on when he talks about his lofty dreams, even though he doesn’t take any steps toward accomplishing them. I support him when he makes otherwise reckless decisions, although I don’t agree with them. I praise him when he excels in one unrelated area, despite making no progress in the things that get him closer to reaching his goals.

When I think about it, I have been just as complicit in the failure of these past relationships because I ignored the obvious warning signs and chose to believe my own narrative, not what was in front of my face all along. Why? I don’t know. I wasn’t blinded by love—not even close. It’s not that I didn’t know my worth. I think I just got too caught up to want to do anything about it—but that’s a different post.

I thank God for my sister being truthful and telling me about myself because she saved me a lot of wasted hours, days, weeks, and months remaining with someone who didn’t deserve me. I wish more of us would do that for those we love. Yes, the person may get angry and not speak to us for a little while. But, I believe, they will eventually realize the error of their ways to see that we acted out of love.

Ok, back to the issue at hand. I stated in a previous post that I don’t believe my generation views marriage through the same lens as those who came before. Somehow, we’ve accepted the notion that a lifelong commitment is not something worth entering into with anyone. For me, thinking about being with someone for the rest of my life sounds lovely, but it’s also really scary if that man wakes up and decides he’s going to become someone completely different. That’s one of the reasons I don’t believe in putting up a front in the getting-to-know-each-other phase. I want my potential suitor to see the good, bad, and crazy from the get-go. That also sounds like it might be a future blog post.

But I have come to terms with my reality that I’ve made poor choices in the past.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

Although I’m afraid of picking the wrong person to spend the rest of my life with, fellow navigator, I still welcome the thought of marriage with open arms. I trust that my parents have raised me well enough to know what I should and shouldn’t accept. I believe I’ve seen enough couples succeed at married life, despite the obstacles that were in their way. I rest assured that God speaks to me in ways others may not understand, so He will prevent me from choosing a spouse who will not honor Him. I am confident in the fact that my intuition is almost always on point (when I listen to it) and will go off like a bullhorn if I’m about to make a mistake.

Fellow navigator, there’s an amount of risk involved in getting married. It requires a level of vulnerability and trust that you’ve chosen someone who will love, honor, and cherish you until death. That’s heavy. Be honest, are you like me? Do you choose to remain defiantly single because the thought of possibly picking the wrong person troubles you? Tell me about it!

See Me: Before Walking Away

Really? you didn’t see it coming?

It’s taken a lot for me to get to a place where I’m confident in who I am and what I bring to the table. That’s why it’s so easy for me to walk away from a man who doesn’t value me. It’s not that I’m some callous woman who entered the relationship with the intent of breaking his heart. No, I didn’t mean to start something I couldn’t finish. The truth is that somewhere along the way we lost ourselves. I’d most likely sat around watching and waiting for him to step up and treat me the way I deserved, but he never did.

While I don’t speak for all women, I can say that it takes quite a bit of messing up on a man’s part to get me to walk away. It’s not a decision I take lightly because, to some degree, it means accepting that I also played a role in the failed relationship. Walking away also means that I made the wrong choice. Maybe I was too infatuated by his captivating looks, intellect, or witty humor to see that we were incompatible from the start.

Regardless of the rationale for getting into the relationship, walking away is a step that indicates my desire for more. Yes, me walking away means that I wanted more. More of his time, affection, attention, and respect. Oftentimes I hear conversations about women who are portrayed as heartless individuals because they walked away. Their intentions are called into question, and the men (usually) in the group get upset and wonder if the women ever expressed their unhappiness in the relationship.

After kissing some frogs, I’ve learned to be upfront about what I need from my romantic partner to make the relationship work. As a result, I have no problem telling a man I’m interested in or dating how I receive love. I do it for two reasons. First, I want him to know what makes me happy. Second, past experience has taught me that I’m not the most communicative when I’m about to check out from a relationship. If I’m upfront with this man about some of my quirks, he can at least know what signs to look out for. Maybe I’m doing the most, but I don’t want a man to say that I didn’t give the relationship my all. As someone who’s been accused of being a workaholic, too busy for a relationship, and a slew of other things, I want the person I’m with to know I’m going into the relationship intent on making it work.

I’ve read tons of articles about why women walk away from relationships. I’m not proud to admit this, but I am definitely guilty of walking away once my threshold for nonsense has been crossed. Yes, it really exists. What’s the fastest way of losing me? Ignoring me. That’s it.

After kissing some frogs, I’ve learned to be upfront about what I need from my romantic partner to make the relationship work.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

I understand busy. I lead a pretty busy life at times, too. But I am capable of carving a few minutes or hours to spend exclusively with the one I’m with. Whether we’re texting throughout the day or talking on the phone before going to bed, that is his time. I make sure to do what I need to on my end to give him my undivided attention. That’s what I expect from him in return.

When we go days without speaking, I feel like I don’t matter. When he sends a good morning text and is silent for the rest of the day, I begin to question my worth in his eyes. When I tell him I miss hearing his voice and he continues the conversation as if I hadn’t just poured my heart out to him, I feel like a fool. It is at that exact moment that the walls around my heart begin to go back up and my mind starts to rationalize life without him.

It’s not that he’s a bad man—he just isn’t the one for me. I promised myself a long time ago that I would not beg a man for his attention. If he doesn’t give it willingly, knowing that that is one of the few things I ask of him, then I know he isn’t for me. No, fellow navigator, the man God has for me will understand the importance of this ask and strive to please me in that area. Even when he’s had a long hard day, he’ll pick up the phone and spend a few minutes with me before calling it a night.

Fellow navigator, what’s the final straw that causes you to walk away from a relationship? Do you give the one you’re with advance notice before you leave? After leaving, have you ever looked back and regretted your decision? Tell me about it!

See Me: Not the Same, Know My Name

To the Next Man Who Captures My Heart: An Open Letter

I’m sorry I made you jump through so many hoops, but I needed to make sure you were willing to work for my heart. I say that only because men before you have pranced around and behaved as though they could handle a woman like me. As you look around and see that you’re the only one standing, it means they failed in their follow-through. In the process, believe me that I stopped to ask myself what made you different. Was it because you refused to allow me to push you away? Or maybe it was because you were patient and gave me the space I needed to work through my mess?

Regardless of how you became the last man standing, know that you are now the recipient of a love that will fight for us. I am prepared to honor, respect, and cherish you. Although we hope and will work toward a love that leads to marriage and a beautiful God-fearing family, anything can happen in this life. Despite all of that, you are the only man I see. There may be others who try to make themselves known, but they will always be in the background as you take center stage.

Only you!

When we met, there were many misunderstandings. We struggled with being vulnerable with each other because past hurts from relationships made us guarded. Though we never talked about it until later in our relationship, neither of us wanted to give up on the other because this time it felt different. When I try to explain it to others, I’m at a loss for words because I can’t. There was something about you; I wanted to see where things would lead.

Even when you annoyed me and made me want to tear my hair out, I couldn’t get myself to completely walk away. There were times when I turned my back on you, but you followed me and showed me why I should stay. There are many uncertainties on the path we’re on, but I know that I’ll be ok with you by my side.

Let’s do this!

You are not my savior; you are my partner. You support me when I feel like giving up. You cheer me up when I’m sad. You tell me I’m awesome when the world tries to beat me up. You defend me when others question my abilities. You endorse me in public, regardless of what others may think. For all these reasons (and more), I gladly (and proudly) call you mine.

There are many uncertainties on the path we’re on, but I know that I’ll be ok with you by my side.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

It is now my turn to speak some things to you. I am not her. I will never try to be her, nor do I ever want to be her. I won’t ever resent her for all she put you through. I’m sorry that it led to heartache and feeling like you were unworthy, but that made you so much stronger. The harsh reality is that, if she hadn’t completely been blind to the amazing man you are, you wouldn’t know how to recognize the one who would when she stares you in your beautiful eyes.

The truth is, I’m grateful to her. Because she couldn’t see all you could be, she gave up and left. It wasn’t that you were without vision, ambition, or goals; she just wasn’t the one meant to accompany you on the way to where all that’s in you leads. Who knows why God allows things to happen the way they do. Oftentimes, in the midst of what seem like horrible storms of life, we wake up to realize we were actually spared from what could have been worse. The growth you experienced while with her makes you an even better man for me because you see me and understand my worth. As much as I hate to admit it, she made you a better man.

You just weren’t meant to stop there.

We’ve been through some hard times and made it out on the other side. After all of that, I can’t possibly abandon you. As your number one fan, I promise to do all I can to encourage you on your way to the top. I’ll stand by your side when everyone else says it’s impossible. I’ll show up and be the loudest one in the crowd when you prove them wrong. From the time we met until now, I’ve seen your character, and you’ve seen mine. At the end of the day, all I can say is that she and I are not the same, know my name.

Fellow navigator, do you know how you are in romantic relationships? Do you test your prospective partner until he proves he’s deserving of you? What would you want the one who dares to stick around when everyone else has left to know? Tell me about it!

Mental Musings: Writing to Remember

words Can break cycles

My published words kept me from ruining a relationship that was being tested.

Almost two months ago, I published the book, Defiant! Redefining Singleness at 30+, because I wanted to document some critical life events that have led me to being 30 and single. What originally started as a series of letters to my unborn adult daughter, reassuring her that being 30+ and single isn’t a bad thing, turned into a manifesto of sorts. I poured a lot of my personal life onto the pages because I needed to get out my frustrations, joys, and feelings of loneliness that I’ve experienced on this journey.

While writing Defiant!, I felt like I was setting myself free from people’s expectations and assumptions about my relationship status. I intentionally chose to write it in the style I did because I wanted it to serve as a reminder of the thoughts and emotions I experienced; I knew those feelings would creep up again during the most inconvenient times on my journey as a single woman. I wrote about the pain of relocating and feeling like I didn’t have friends. In the book, I share about my struggles with my body image and other insecurities.

Yeah…

In as much as I wrote this book for my unborn daughter, if truth be told, I also wrote it for myself. Being single at 30 doesn’t feel the same as other ages. I don’t know if I’ve quite nailed down why this age carries so much weight in the life of a single woman, but I’ve decided not to allow a number to define who I am and what I’ve done. I thought being able to chronicle my experiences was a sign that I had conquered this area of my life; I was wrong.

Have you ever written something, put it aside, then gone back to it only to realize it was just what you needed in your lowest point? That’s what Defiant! Redefining Singleness at 30+ is for me. I wrote it because I didn’t want my unborn daughter listening to the lies of this world about her relationship status and what it means for her identity.

I’ve decided not to allow a number to define who I am and what I’ve done.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

A few weeks ago, I had a moment where I felt like I was going in a cycle with a particular relationship. A guy friend and I were having horrible communication issues. It was so bad that I had been feeling really low about myself. He made some pretty harsh comments and said things that left me questioning my identity and consistency as a friend. (In hindsight, his behavior was probably triggered out of place of his own pain and frustration with what had happened in our relationship.) The problem was that, though I’d never uttered the words, I had been entertaining the idea of this friendship becoming more. He never knew these thoughts were going through my head, but I had been closely observing our interactions to see if he was someone who could have a more valuable role in my life. Therefore, what he said took an even greater toll on me because I questioned whether I measured up as someone he could be with.

After his painful words, I wondered if there was truth to his remarks. Had I been exhibiting those behaviors? Was I the cause of confusion in relationships? Did I really push people away? The questions kept coming, but I saw no answers in sight. One day, when I was ready to do something that was out of my character in desperation to keep this man in my life, I had a passing thought that I should read my book. I found my copy on my bookshelf, opened to the chapter about not chasing dudes, and read. In those pages, I found the exact words I longed for someone to tell me in that moment.

Totally needed that pep talk!

You know what I did after closing the pages? I pushed pause on moving forward with my plan to communicate with this man, opened my laptop, and allowed my thoughts to fill the pages. I didn’t want to appear emotionally unstable by saying something to him I wouldn’t be able to take back. I’d been in this place before. I know that when my emotions are running wild, my ability to think rationally goes out the window. If I’m unable to break things down into logical steps, I go into panic mode because my brain can’t process what’s going on. This is not the case for everyone. Being single and having more than enough time to get to know myself, I’ve learned to recognize my patterns.

It was then that I saw the value of my book. Whether I sell 20 copies or 20 million, I don’t care. If writing this book was simply for me to have a guide for when life felt like it was going in cycles, I’m glad I did.

Gotta encourage yourself!

Fellow navigator, books, like music, are powerful tools that can bring healing and save lives. Are you an author? Did you ever have a similar experience? What’s the name of a book that has changed your life? Tell me about it!

See Me: Defiantly Single

trailblazer? Me? No, Thank you.

Almost everything in my world seems to scream that marriage is the natural next phase of life. Do you understand where I’m coming from? To say I’m living this single life on my own terms would capture my sentiments perfectly. Trailblazer? Me? No, thank you. I just reject the notion that I can’t be happy at 30 if I don’t have a man.

In a recent conversation with a friend, we discussed our realities and why marriage is not on the table for me at the moment. Although my friend is married, our dialogue proved fruitful in getting to the root of this whole I’m-cool-with-not-being-married thing. By the way, I totally encourage you to have similar conversations with your married friends because it appears that they forget what life was like before someone put a ring on it. It’s not their fault; they just become blinded by love.

Lost in his eyes!

Probably the biggest reason I’m perfectly content being single until God decides to do something about it is because, real talk, the divorce rates these days are beyond nuts. How did we, as a society, get to the point where we are fine with marriages ending left and right for the most minor infraction?

Hear me clearly, fellow navigator, I am not saying any woman should stay in a marriage where some dude (because he’s not worthy to be called a “man”) abuses her in any way, shape, or form. I’m talking about relationships where we just wake up one day and decide we don’t want to be together. In my opinion, because I’m sharing life from my perspective, marriage is too sacred to be entered into lightly. If I’m going to stand before God, my family, and a bunch of friends to boldly declare that I’ll be with a man “until death do us part,” best believe I will work my hardest to honor those vows. On the flip side, if my husband ever steps out or abuses me in any way, shape, or form, best believe I’m gone without so much as a letter or text explaining my actions.

These men aren’t perfect, but they consistently consider their wives before they consider themselves.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

This brings me to my first point: marriage isn’t taken as seriously as days passed. In my book, Defiant! Redefining Singleness at 30+, I share about being a single woman navigating life and some of the issues I face regularly. I mention the topic of marriage because we’re sending the wrong message to younger generations. Order a copy from my website if you want to read more.

Now that we’ve got that shameless plug out of the way, let’s get back to the issue at hand. If I’m honest, after the initial feelings of joy of meeting a potential love interest wear off, my mind goes to figuring out if this is someone I want. Will he stay and fight for the relationship? I watch his character, pay attention to his words, and listen to hear the slightest hint of someone who is fickle, not serious, or untrustworthy. Am I being harsh? Probably. Do I care? No.

Got that right!

When you’ve grown up with the kind of models of husbands who fear God and strive to love their wives as Christ loves the Church as I have, you see what a godly man looks like. These men aren’t perfect, but they consistently consider their wives before they consider themselves. Sometimes that means the man swallows his pride to do something he doesn’t want to, and other times it means his wife coming back to him and apologizing for some action that was uncalled for.

Can I tell you something? I’ve been told in confidence by married friends that they were on the verge of divorce for reasons outside of infidelity and abuse, but both parties surrendered the union to God and sought counsel from qualified professionals. Why bring this up? Because I don’t know if this happens with younger people, which is why I’m concerned about the ridiculously high divorce rate.

Yes, there are many factors that contribute to a marriage dissolving, but we need to start talking about the challenges of marriage beforehand instead making it out to be this idealistic union. A marriage can never be perfect, no matter what those of us on the outside think, because it’s two imperfect people becoming one. Outside of the grace of God, there’s no way that combination ends in perfection. Let’s do ourselves a favor and stop looking to marriage to make our lives worth living.

‘Til death do us part.

Fellow navigator, I think we should end here for today. As I sit at my desk, I realize there’s so much more I’d like to say about the reasons behind choosing to be defiantly single. I think this will become a series to highlight some of the realities of how marriage looks to me, a single woman who has never been in that union. You may not always agree with my views, but I’d love to hear your thoughts! Are you as perplexed by the current divorce rate as I am? Let me know!

Not I: Man Hater?

One thing I’ve never understood is why people make the assumption that a woman who chooses to live her best single life hates men. Let’s get something straight: I am not a man hater. Men are great! They provide emotional stability and rational thinking when my hormones go crazy. They offer a different perspective concerning situations that I never in a million years would have considered. For these reasons (and more), I value the role of men in my life.

Just because I make the conscious decision not to enter into a relationship doesn’t mean I’m a man hater. I hate when people make this assumption because they peg me as someone I’m not. My choice to remain single doesn’t stem from a dislike of men; it’s because I don’t want to repeat past mistakes.

It happens…

Speaking to both sides of the divide, I think there needs to be some understanding. We never know another person’s story when it comes to relationships and past experiences. To assume I hate men because I’m not ready to walk down the aisle is a faux pas. I could have been abused, manipulated, or mistreated in other ways by a man. Believe me, the hurt and pain that that suffering awakens takes time to get over.

“Let’s get something straight: I am not a man hater.”

To the men, I ask you to be patient and kind. A woman with her guard up probably has stories upon stories to tell of when she allowed someone in and had her trust broken. I wish I could tell men that their willingness to walk alongside a woman through her pain and mess would do far more good than simply getting frustrated and giving up the chase.

To the women, I would tell you that not all men are the same. After coming out of a bad relationship, we often question our own judgment, find ourselves in the same predicament with a man who’s just as bad because we believe that’s the best we can do, or swear off men altogether. While it’s easy to remain guarded and expect a man to fight to show he really wants us, I’d say that path leads to even more pain. We can’t put everything on a man. Our healing doesn’t come from any one human being; it comes from God.

“Believe me, the hurt and pain that that suffering awakens takes time to get over.”

Before getting involved in a new relationship, I am a firm advocate of us taking time for serious introspection to learn about ourselves. Ask yourself some vital questions that will bring much clarity and allow you to honestly get to know yourself.

  • What about this man made him so attracted to you?
  • When were you happiest in the relationship?
  • What aspects of his character gave you cause to pause?
  • How many times did he offer genuine support?
  • How often did his words pierce you?
  • After the first incident, why didn’t you walk away?
  • Who did you go to for counsel about this man?
  • Was that confidant in a position to give you healthy relationship advice?
  • At any point, did you ever pray and ask God if He was pleased with the union?
  • Did you witness the fruit of this man’s relationship with God before dating?
  • How did you view your worth before dating this man?
  • How did you view your worth after the relationship ended?

That was a lot! Introspection is not a one-size-fits-all process. We all take in and analyze information differently. I think there’s great truth when they say we date the same men with different names. All I’m offering, fellow navigator, are some great starters to get you to begin noticing your patterns.

“Our healing doesn’t come from any one human being; it comes from God.”

Because of our environments growing up, family dynamics, and other factors, I believe we continue vicious cycles when we choose to go it alone. The beauty of our faith in God is that He never leaves us. Even when those around us fail to come through, our Father in heaven is always there.

Always.

Fellow navigator, don’t allow past hurts to keep you from future promises. We’re not men haters. We’re not bound by the pain of people who used and abused us. We are strong, brilliant, caring women who have much to offer the world. We grow from our less-than-stellar situations and move one step closer to being who God created us to be.

Have you ever been accused of being a man hater because of the stance you’ve taken when it comes to dating relationships? What have you learned about yourself regarding romantic relationships? I’d love to hear your story!