I remember the first time I felt it. I’d just helped send my sister off to prom--nine years later, her date would become her husband--giddy with admiration for her beaded dress and lack of preoccupation with her looks. Three years before, I’d reluctantly attended my own senior prom, feeling the weight of expectation that it was what you were supposed to do, supposed to feel emotional about, at the end of high school. No one asked me. My dad dropped me off.
I felt it again the day an old friend called, breathlessly sharing the story of how she’d gotten engaged hours earlier on a snow-covered bench. At the time, I was navigating the waters of serious dating for the first time, aware my current relationship was diminishing my spiritual life and sense of who I was, yet too fearful and passive to do much about it. Where, I wondered, was the man I’d marry, and when would it be my turn?
Those stirrings in my heart had a name: an ache. My heart was beating; I was alive; and it hurt.
Sometimes, it was physically painful to sit on the floor of the chapel, eyes glazed before the tabernacle and desperate for the road to my vocation to present itself. I shared in the joy of my sister and my friends as they experienced the wonder and recognition of meeting the men they’d say yes to, forever. I was sincerely glad for them; not envious, just...sad. Something was missing. I struggled not to idolize marriage, knowing my ultimate fulfillment and truest home for my longings lay not in a spouse, but in the Father’s love. Yet all the same, I longed.
Then I found myself engaged, scarcely believing a man as sacrificial, tender, and endlessly fascinating as my fiancée was even a reality, let alone someone who would choose me. Those whispers of the ache came back, in the form of empathy for several close friends enduring recent, and very raw, breakups.
I remembered the feeling that my dating life had existed in an entirely different world than that of my engaged friends, and feared I’d now be the one inflicting pain on women I loved who were currently single.
As a result, I stayed close-lipped for a while about my excitement and planning experiences with certain friends, concerned oversharing would be hurtful. Until my best friend looked in my eyes and told me not to be worried. She was happy for me, she insisted, and my sharing the details of wedding plans didn’t lessen that happiness.
It takes a woman of great strength and selflessness to say something like my friend told me; someone of pure good will and an ability to enter into the joy of another as if it were her own. My friend gave me such a gift that evening, not only in her other-focused love for me, but in her honesty.
For weeks, I’d wondered what she was feeling as she ordered a dress, planned my bridal shower, and listened to my minimally detailed stories about registry scanners and accessory shopping, all while weathering a storm of uncertainty after what seemed like a promising relationship suddenly ended. I was anxious, constantly wondering if it was too self-important of me to even have the worries I did. As it turned out, directness was so much clearer--so obvious; so much simpler--than speculation and anxiety.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, unsure of how much of your engagement or newlywed life to share with your single friends, I recommend a heart-to-heart. The only way to be sure is to communicate. Ask your friend what sort of involvement in your plans is helpful, what’s difficult, and how she’d like to participate. Chances are, she’ll feel honored you asked, free to be honest with you, and ultimately, sincerely excited about your forthcoming marriage.
Conversations like these can be mutually uncomfortable. But on the other side lies greater comfort than ever, each of you more in tune with the other’s heart and feeling the unspoken freedom and permission to share your thornier emotions. Additionally, the practices of taking time during your engagement to spend quality time with friends who are single and interceding for them, placing your trust in the Lord’s timing with regard to their own vocations, bear only good fruit.
“...love always communicates itself, that is, love listens and responds, love is found in dialogue and communion.” - Pope Francis