Tabi Upton describes her life as footloose and fancy free when she was in her 20s.
“I loved not being tied down to anyone or anything,” Upton said. “I lived in California for a while, worked for the Peace Corps in West Africa and went to graduate school in Colorado.”
Upton had a plan. She would spend her 20s doing whatever she wanted, get married in her 30s and settle down to have a family. Everything seemed to be falling into place.
“I did get engaged in my late 20s,” Upton said. “He was a great guy, but the more time we spent together the more I realized I wasn’t in love with him. We ended up breaking the engagement. Even though I knew it was the right thing to do, it was scary. It made me wonder if I would ever find Mr. Right.”
When Upton turned 30 and she still wasn’t married, anxiety set in. If she dated she wondered, “What does he want? Is this going to go anywhere?” She struggled with the whole dating thing emotionally and became depressed about being single.
“I resented people who told me it wasn’t a big deal and not to worry about it,” Upton said. “Sometimes I think people don’t allow you to be honest with your feelings because it is uncomfortable for them. Over time I have become much more peaceful about where I am in life. I have wonderful friendships, a supportive family, and some great male friendships that have really enriched my life. Right now I am choosing to focus on pursuing my dreams, work, writing and things I want to do.”
In spite of the growing trend to marry later in life, research indicates that more than 90 percent of Americans do plan to marry. So how do people handle the single years while they are waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right?
“As a counselor I tell my clients it isn’t about having your life all in order before you marry,” Upton said. “Your education and career are important, but so is making sure that you are a healthy person, good marriage material and that you are proactive and intentional about putting yourself in places where you are likely to find a good marriage partner.”
People might be surprised to learn that the most likely way to find a future marriage partner is through an introduction by family, friends or acquaintances.
According to research conducted by The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, despite the romantic notion that people meet and fall in love through chance or fate, the evidence suggests that social networks are important in bringing together individuals of similar interests and backgrounds, especially when it comes to selecting a marriage partner. According to a large-scale national survey of sexuality, almost 60 percent of married people were introduced by family, friends, co-workers or other acquaintances.
The study also found that the more similar people are in their values, backgrounds and life goals, the more likely they are to have a successful marriage. Opposites may attract, but they may not live together harmoniously as married couples. People who share common backgrounds and similar social networks are better suited as marriage partners than people who are very different in their backgrounds and networks.