There are many stages in being single and we switch back and forth between them quite frequently. We need to understand them so that we can decide where we want to be.
1. There is the “I am alone” stage. This is usually where we have just come out of a relationship. We look around us and find that we are content to have as our best friend the cat or dog that is in our home. They love us and we need no one else. If we have children, then we find that we focus on all of their lives because we have nothing else at that time and do not need it. There are 2 ways that we are like in this stage. The first is being content with being in this stage. The other is hating our lives. Wanting more, but do not know what to do, so we fill ourselves with activities to distract us. Yes, I have been both ways myself. I will even admit that I was in a marriage and was in this stage. I developed an addiction to reading books that were all fantasy and science fiction so that I could escape the real world around me. To live in another world helped me to deal with the world I was currently in.
This was not healthy, so then I shifted it and focused on helping my children develop the tools to be able to face the world.
2. The next stage is the “I just want to be friends with the world” stage. This is a good stage to be in. We develop a large network and they understand (hopefully) that just being a friend is a very good thing. We cheer each other on; we are there for each other. We climb mountains together, we pray for each other, we laugh together and accept each other as we are. There are no expectations concerning relationships at this stage.
The friends we add to our lives makes us richer and the network created will surprise us when we need it. I find that I swing into this stage a lot and now find that I am unable to go to a stake or a ward or even the Temple without bumping into someone that I know. I am not alone.
3. Stage 3 is the one that many of us dread and fear. It is the “Dating” stage. It is the stage where we have decided that we want to spend time with one of our friends more exclusively than any of the others. We think about kissing, holding hands, spending boatloads of our time with a certain someone. This is the time that we start thinking about what it is like to be with different personalities.
I described it to my father once. It is like going into a candy store and sampling the different kinds of candy to see what kind we like the most. Some of us like the solid, hard and clear. Some of us like surprises and some like me are attracted to the smoothness like caramel and a little nutty-just for fun. We understand that we can only have one kind of candy when we leave, but it is fun trying out the different ones.
My children then describe this as being a “Player”. Yes, I have done that myself, I confess, I even had a spreadsheet once (yes, it was a long time ago-years) so that I could keep track of the guys that I was dating and finding out which was a good match for me. No, it did not work. The one I chose was everything that I wanted, but still had a couple of differences that were huge that I could not live with. I find that I would rather just leave it alone and enjoy the ride. Open my heart and see where life takes me.
4. This is the “Relationship” stage. It is both a wonderful and a very hard stage. It is wonderful because “someone is paying attention to me”. “I am exclusive”. “Life is good”. The hard part is that our friendships that we have created feel like they are falling away from us. Our friends begin to miss us. We who are not in the relationship understand when this happens and if our friends are in the relationship stage, we back off and let things happen. This is when we begin to ask “Is this person the one I want to spend eternity with?” This is a stage that many of us move through quickly. We either spend a week, a month, even 6 months in this stage before we go on to the next stage.
5. This leads us into the next stage which is the “I am emotionally ready to consider marriage?” I did not say getting married, but rather ready to see it as a part of life we can be ready for. It means that we are ready to open our lives to add someone as a daily and eternally part of us.
6. The last stage is not exactly a stage so much as a desire of many of us. It is marriage. It is the beginning of new stages of life that we will not discuss here. But is a whole new world that has it’s own adventures.
We have the ability to shift from one stage to another. We can skip over stages and also return back to previous stages. We can be ready for stage 5 and then find that because of life changes that we shift back to stage 2. There is nothing wrong with this; it is a part of who we are. It is frustrating, but when we realize that each stage is normal and that we are safe in each, we can find that we can be happy. That we are not alone. That others are also in the same stage as we are. That others can take a very long time in each stage or move through them quickly. With each stage, it is best to see ourselves as to where we are and to know that we are loved. Our lives will be happier. Heavenly Father is always with us and wants us to be joyful at any stage.