For All the Single Ladies: Against “Settling”

Now, throw your hands up.

The older I get, the more anxious my single friends become about marriage. Especially for women, the passage of times means having children will be more difficult, and they may not be able to have as many as they wanted at twenty-two. Hence the anxiety.

But for some reason, I keep advising my single friends: never marry someone who will make you less interesting or compelling as a person. If your life would be more interesting single, then be single.

I think my adamant opposition towards “settling” comes, in large part, from my views as a Christian. Serious Christians can’t settle. Christians can’t date or marry out of a fear being alone or unmarried or without children. To pursue another for these reasons is to pursue another out of desperation. “Settling” involves a fatalistic weighing of options, a bourgeois calculating approach to the human person. And this is inimical to the Christian life, which goes towards others out of the gift of self. Settling involves “taking the best you can get,” rather than giving of yourself in freedom.

Of course, this gift of self presupposes that one has a self to give. And this further presupposes a wholeness, an integrity that may develop and mature in the marital relationship, but which cannot derive solely from it. The gift of self is wholly inimical to settling, because settling presupposes seeking another out of insecurity, rather than charity.

The Christian understanding of marriage does not involve two halves that become a whole in union. Rather, it involves two wholes that come together and provide for the creation of a whole third. The two do not simply complete one other, but transform one another, and create actively out of their mutual wholeness. “Settling,” on the other hand, rejects both wholeness and mutuality. In “settling,” the two cannot give over their whole selves to one another, because they do not have whole selves to give.

No doubt, two become more in any union. But they become more in the giving, rather than the completing. And though two may become “more complete” in their union, this increasing completion does not imply a unfilled portion in the life of each, but a growth into an unimagined fullness. If the two are simply each one-half, then the fitting together marks completion, telos, death. But if each are whole and can become ever more whole, then the coming together involves gift, creativity, and life.

And each further addition to that love brings ever greater richness. Man and woman can love from their created nature, into infinitude. They can gift into happiness, but they cannot settle for it.

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