My first date was a big fat sloppy hour and a half of kissing (sorry Mom and Dad) supported by the screenplay of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I was fifteen at the time, and I felt I was about due for a relationship. I was not attracted to him, aside from the obvious teenage hormonal urges. Even at the fanciful age of fifteen, I knew this man was not my future spouse. So why did I agree to the Big Fat date? I thought that was where you found companionship.
A couple notches below rejection, spiders, and the dark, loneliness has become one of our world's greatest fears. We marry ourselves to phones, the computer, to people, all to feel constant connection and fulfillment.
In reality, though, we are never alone. For fear of sounding trite by referencing the Jesus that has somehow found a compartment in my heart big enough to reside in, I affirm that the Holy Spirit is always present, our greatest advocate and comforter. Loneliness is something we should never fear, but companionship can be something we always pursue.
I may have been single for the past ten years but I have found myself readily entangled in romantic misadventures. "Empowered and single" has not and will not ever be my mantra. The thought of a best friend with you always -- how could anyone not desire this? Family, children, sex: these are some of the finest representations of intimacy we have on this temporal Earth. However, maybe we do not need marriage to have them all and, more ascetically, maybe we do not need them all. We have been created for love, to fully know and seek intimacy. How that manifests will change for each individual.
The Big Fat date was not my last big fat sloppy hour and a half (again apologies to my parents and any familial guardians) and I hope it is not my last. But I know I can find intimacy outside of dating. My most exceptional encounters with intimacy have been in community: not in the butterfly-inducing, weak-in-the-knees moments of first dates, and especially not in the bitter break-ups and let downs of misplaced loved. Washing the hair of my flu-riddled housemate, sunsets with a stranger who became a friend, early morning coffee with once-feared professors, changing the diapers of ten-year-old boys, dinner with a priest and the man he tragically loves. These have been my moments of greatest intimacy. We all have them.
I admit I desire marriage. But I tell myself: Do not marry because you want to have sex. Do not have sex because you want companionship. Do not marry because you want companionship. None of these things are holistically equivalent to each other. Marry because that partnership allows a greater you to emerge. Marry because that relationship allows you to encounter a fuller presence of God.
So I will continue to go on dates, crush on every third person that passes me by, and wistfully watch romantic comedies. And you better believe I will be watching Prince William and Kate's wedding with a lonely bridesmaid's enthusiasm. But I do this all without the expectation of marriage. Marriage is not a life requirement, and it is most certainly not a biblical requirement. Intimacy and love definitely are.
Hannah Lythe is policy and outreach associate at Sojourners.