Summary of today’s show: When you really believe God’s call is to marriage and you’re still single, Emily Stimpson says it can be very painful for the single Catholic woman. Scot Landry and Dom Bettinelli talk to Emily about her new book, “The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years: The Nuts and Bolts of Staying Sane and Happy While Waiting for Mr. Right”, including dealing with well-meaning advice and debunking all the myths about the single life.
Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Domenico Bettinelli
Today’s guest(s): Emily Stimpson
Links from today’s show:
- The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years: The Nuts and Bolts of Staying Sane and Happy While Waiting for Mr. Right
Today’s topics: The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years
1st segment: Dom and Scot caught up on their weekend and discussed today’s guest, Emily Stimpson.
2nd segment: Scot welcomed Emily to the show to talk about her book: The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years: The Nuts and Bolts of Staying Sane and Happy While Waiting for Mr. Right. Scot said her humanity and femininity comes across in the book.
Emily said her book was her editor’s idea. She had commented to her editor in exasperation that someone should have written a survival guide to the single life. This book is most definitely about being single when you believe your vocation is to marriage. She said it wasn’t an easy book to write.
Emily said she is a Catholic hack writer, like G.K. Chesterton. She writes for Our Sunday Visitor, Franciscan University’s magazine, and a lot of ghost writing. She’s written several books under other people’s names. She also blogs for CatholicVote.org. Prior to that she worked as a legislative assistant to Congressman Jim Talent and later at the Heritage Foundation. She just came back into the Church and so moved to Steubenville to study theology.
In the production, she wrote that at 35 she wasn’t supposed to be single and the fact it hasn’t worked out is a constant source of heartbreak. Scot said this is a kind of new problem for women in history. Emily said there are lots of books on why people aren’t marrying. 43% of adults over 18 are not married. Over 60% of those have never been married. This is an entirely new cultural phenomenon. So why is it happening and how do we deal with it?
Scot said when he was younger, there was an implied peer pressure to postpone in order to go to grad school and advance their career. Now some of his friends say they wish they didn’t listen to the advice and in the big scheme of things it would have been much better to start a family than start his career.
Emily said it is a factor in the culture, but even more might be the sexual revolution. There’s less pressure to marry and more pressure to cohabitate, plus the psychological and emotional damage all that causes. Then it becomes more difficult to meet people.
Scot said the concept of a single vocation was an a-ha moment for him. Emily said when people suggested the single life was a vocation for her, it was frustrating. They were trying to make her feel better, but when the desire of your heart is so completely for another thing, the idea that God would you to something else hurt. One truth is God never drags you kicking and screaming into a vocation, and you could never be ordained if you were so reluctant. Then a vocation director explained to her that there is no vocation to the single life. There can be missed vocations, but we’re all called to give ourselves spousal to someone.
In her book, Emily describes the three levels of vocation: the universal call to holiness, the primary vocation (marriage, priesthood, consecrated life) and the secondary vocation (what you do as your journey toward those other two vocations.) That could be your job or other activity. But there’s to be single when you feel called to marriage is a missed vocation. Emily said vocations can come late in life too.
Emily said you could use the terms spousal and providential instead of primary and secondary. The spousal way can be to God or another person.
Scot said some people have said they like the chapter in which Emily talks about how choosing work flows into the primary vocation. Emily said women should always keep in mind what you believe your primary vocation is. If you’re called to marriage, take it into consideration when planning your career. So if a husband or family came along, do I want to have this debt or do I want to have a skill that will enable me to work at home? Women can tend to have the attitude of waiting for real life to begin when a husband comes along. But this is real life and God wants women to do it well. She talks about discerning God’s will and embracing that to find joy in the current moment.
Scot said Emily asks the women who read this book to be very intentional in asking themselves about going on to graduate school and taking on that debt and putting themselves in a situation when they get married they can’t feel they can afford to have children for a while. Emily said she’s watched her friends struggle with this issue. They are in a tremendous state of worry often, and all of them wish they could go back and tell their younger selves not to take on the debt. It’s easy to focus on the present and the advice we’re getting at the time, but the decisions we make as a single person can have profound effects on our future selves.
3rd segment: Emily’s second chapter of her book is authentic femininity. She gives several lessons on what an authentic women in Church teaching and in her experience is. Emily said women are told so many lies in the culture about beauty, about career importance, about having children. Because they are lies, they cause unrest in the feminine soul. So she wanted to expose the Church’s teachings on femininity. She had to get over the false understandings of femininity.
Scot said some myths are that men who wouldn’t be attracted to a woman who owns her own house or is extremely intelligent or other myths. Emily tried to debunk these myths through her own experience and the writing of Pope John Paul II and St. Edith Stein and others. She said when you look around at married women, you realize how silly all those myths are. All kinds of women are married. You will marry if you are being the woman God called you to be. But women can think, “I would be married if only I were …”
She outlines 10 lessons that outline what women are called to be and learn. Emily said the point of submit is not to submit to controlling ex-boyfriend, but to submit to God and yield to God in every moment of the day. Gentleness is about controlling strengths. Being attentive to the people you’re with. She explains what these feminine qualities really mean. Women learn to receive help, love, counsel, compliments, attention, guests, knowledge, the grace God longs to give you. Scot said this is good advice for all of us. Emily said a lot of the lessons single women need to learn are the same lessons we all need to learn.
Scot noted how many Catholic women raised to live a chaste life, then reach a certain age and unmarried and then submit to the culture and end up in serious sin with a man. We don’t have enough support in our society to help single people live chastely. Emily said sometimes women hear advice to loosen up a little in order to get a man to the altar. So she wrote about how to live chastity. If you make a compromise to get a guy to the altar, the compromises don’t stop. Love doesn’t mean asking someone to commit a mortal sin.
Scot said the chapter on do’s and don’ts of dating is a list of helpful advice to give any young woman. Sometimes single women won’t have enough folks to normalize their thoughts and help them not feel alone in this. If God wants me be to married, He doesn’t want me to commit mortal sin to find a husband.
Emily said we’ve picked up a lot of our expectations in dating from TV and moves and guys are very different in real life. PEople who are dating according to our culture’s norms are deeply unhappy. What the culture is doing isn’t working.
Emily noted that there used to be much community interaction with people in different states in life. Singles lived with families and grandparents and the like. Emily said she has learned so much from her married friends about what it takes to be a good wife and mother.
Scot said one chapter answers advice in a Dear Abby format. One question deals with the question of being childless as they get older and worry about having children. Emily said a lot of fertility problems are caused by contraception, so if you contract for 20 years and then want a child at 37, you can have problem. But where there is no contraception, many women can have multiple children past their mid-thirties, and it’s even almost a mini-fertility boom. She also discusses adoption.
4th segment: Scot said so much of the practical advice is how to have a God-centered attitude toward the situation you’re in. There’s a whole gamut of advice on how to recognize that God has given you this moment to take advantage of opportunities that come your way, from hobbies to traveling to reading to looking for ways to serve those around you. She talks about being grateful and counting blessings. Women have a special relationship with beauty, whether it’s creating a pretty blanket or redecorating your house.
But it comes down to relationship with Christ. When you’re in love with him, it makes everything much more bearable.
In the book, Emily addresses the advice that she should just “offer it up.” In this period of waiting when patience is important, how do you integrate offering it up. Emily said it’s very simple. If she’s really sad, just look at the cross and say, “I accept this. This is what you have for me.” The only wasted suffering is suffering we refuse. God is with us in our suffering.
Scot said Emily also advises us to count our blessings. Emily said we have to cultivate a spirit of gratitude, as cheesy and hokey as it sounds. It’s easy to focus on what you don’t have, but God has given us so much. See how richly God has poured out on us, even if we haven’t yet received what we most wanted.
Scot said he was stopped in the book by the statement that in some ways women are single by choice, not by chance. They own the situation because of the standards they have and the way they date. God, I trust in you, and am making choices the way you’ve taught me to. Emily said a lot of women could be married right now, but they recognized that the options they’ve had were not the right spouse. Being single longer to hold out for the right spouse is a good decision.
Emily said the book is really for women from early 20’s on up. For women who want to be married, it doesn’t matter if you’re 23 or 53, if you’re not living the vocation your heart is crying out for, it can hurt just as much at any age.
Scot asked what feedback she’s got from men. She said most men who read the book have liked it and they’ve received some wisdom from that for themselves. She said there is no planned sequel.
She is working on a book that builds on the Theology of the Body chapter, how women can really live the theology of the Body outside of the bedroom, dressing, eating, and serving others.