When You Are Getting Married . . . (and your teammate isn’t)

by Amy Young on February 13, 2017

I received an email from a young woman who had read Looming Transitions. Janice is a Canadian serving in Laos, but soon to leave as she is moving to France to marry her French fiancé. She wrote so beautifully about the tension singles can feel around marriage. I received permission to share this excerpt.

Dear Amy,

“In this type of lifestyle, my roommate and I spend a lot of time together. We live together, we work together, we go to the market together, we go out visiting people together, we go on walks together, we pray together, we watch movies together, we read each other’s books.

Before I came to Laos I didn’t know her. However, we found we get along quite well. We have many overlapping interests and can talk about some personal subjects. I feel bad about not being there to help deal with challenges like money requests and electrical system issues. I also know that my leaving means that there will be periods of time where she is alone as the only expat. In the past there have been periods when I was alone in our town for weeks at a time. Despite having locals I was working with and visiting, and despite the fact that I am largely an introvert, I struggled with loneliness. I feel guilty about potentially putting her in the same situationeven though she doesn’t mind being alone here as much as I do.

“Aside from this, is the fact that I am leaving to get married, which is where I feel the worst about the situation. My roommate really desires to be married. She is mid-30s, and has been in Laos for over seven years. So she is older than me, she’s been overseas longer than me, and she has probably been praying for a husband longer than me.

“I know that God does not always do things in ways that seem obviously fair to us, but in this situation I feel the unfairness very deeply myself, and I can only imagine how it might feel from her perspective. In the past, she’s expressed her frustrations to me about how difficult it is to meet men while living here. And then I connected with this man, and now I‘m engaged. Everything about it just seems so unfair. And I know that there are many other single women like her serving overseas, because there are so many more of us than there are single men.

“To be honest, this has been sort of a difficult area in my faith. Before I came to Laos it was a struggle for me personally; knowing that if I stayed overseas a long time, I might not marry. But I felt God leading me to go, and I went anyway. And I learned of so many others in the same boat as me, including my roommate. Now I am stepping out of the boat. I am so grateful to God for bringing my fiancé and me together, and I do not take our relationship for granted. But I find that even now I still feel the pain somehow, though in a different way. And I feel guilty.

“I have found these feelings somewhat difficult to explain to people who haven’t been overseas and aren’t aware of the general situation. I have tried to talk about it with my fiancé. He is quite willing to listen, but I have found that if I get stuck on this topic with him too much, it is not beneficial. I don’t want it to sound like I feel bad that I’m marrying him, because that’s not what I mean to say. Right now some of my joy is buried beneath these other things. I keep hearing about people in Canada and France who are so happy for us. But I feel somehow removed from the happiness. How are you supposed to feel, when you know that what is a blessing in your life is the subject of such deep pain and disappointment to someone you love? 

I’ve seen that my roommate has been having a difficult time with this over the past few weeks, since some hopes she’d had for a relationship recently fell through. In the past she has been really supportive of me when I’ve gone through difficult times, and I wish I could do or say more. It tears me up inside, to think of her feeling so hurt and disappointed. But I don’t know what to do besides listen, and tell her I’m sorry, and tell her I’m praying for her. And I do pray for her, and when I do, I feel very hopeful for her. I have tried to tell her this, but it’s not very specific, so I don’t really know if it’s helpful.

“I really want to finish well with my roommate. It is painful for me to leave her. I know that our friendship can’t be exactly the same after I leave Laos, but I don’t want to lose it entirely. Since I got engaged four months ago, I’ve tried to tell her that I care about her, that I’ll miss her, that she’s been an important person during my time in Laos, that I hope we can keep in touch, that she’ll be in my prayers, that I wish her well. I hope we can share honestly with each other about how we are feeling, because I wouldn’t want us to have regrets later about things we wish we’d said to each other. But at the same time I know that there are so many deeply personal emotions involved that it can sometimes be difficult to talk about it. During this time I am also going through some of my own transition stress, but I still want to be sensitive to what’s happening around me and be able to express myself to people who are important to me in a way that is honoring to both of us in the long term.”

“Thank you for letting me write to you, Amy. I know this is quite a long email, and I don’t expect a super long response. If you have any thoughts on anything though, I’d be interested in hearing them. Again, I really appreciate your book; it’s been a blessing to me during this season in my life.”

Blessings,

Janice

~~~

What a gift to us, eh? The way Janice expressed all that is going on. Part of me wants to dive in with thoughts and answers. But because of the length, I sense the Holy Spirit saying, Amy and A Life Overseas, sit with this email. Feel how Janice—and others—are pulled in many directions. Next month, you can share your thoughts. But I want you and this community to grow in your ability to bear witness before you seek to solve. We do not have to rush this conversation and move on to the next post or subject. We will circle back next month and keep this conversation going.

So, in the comments, could you let Janice and me know that you will take a month to sit with her words. That will will listen to the Holy Spirit and other singles we know before we jump in to speak. That we see how wonderfully complex this is . . . for all. Will you join me in listening?

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About Amy Young

Free resource to help you add tools to your tool box. When Amy Young first moved to China she knew three Chinese words: hello, thank you and watermelon. She is known to jump in without all the facts and blogs regularly at The Messy Middle. She also works extensively with Velvet Ashes as content creator and curator, book club host, and connection group coordinator. She writes books to help you. Amy is the author of Love, Amy: An Accidental Memoir Told in Newsletters from China and Looming Transitions: Starting and Finishing Well in Cross-Cultural Service. Looming Transitions also has two companion resources: 22 Activities for Families in Transitions and Looming Transitions Workbook. You can listen to it too.
  • Anonymous

    This was quite nearly my story two years ago, me with the relationship and my single team-mate without. Until it all came to a standstill, and the break-up needed to happen. Even so, the scars of that time are still there. My team-mate can hardly read Janice’s letter without major triggers back to the time when Skype dates were my thing on Sunday mornings, and she had no friends yet in the village we’d just moved to and how terribly isolating it all was. The scars are still there for me, seeing my team mate suffer and knowing I was causing it… that I could bring relief to the situation simply by saying “no” to the relationship possibility, being pulled between her suffering and letting God work out His plan for my life. It’s a unique, and yet not so unique situation- there are lots of single women in mission, and many of them teamed up in two’s. This is definitely a topic to pray on for awhile, and one I hope people will enter into discussion on later…

    • So do i. (Hope that people will enter into the discussion). Prayers for us all, and for you in particular as I read this comment.

  • Sarah Hilkemann

    Amy, thank you for starting this discussion and Janice, to you and your teammate for your honesty. I am praying for healthy, honest discussion to come out of your vulnerability and healing to happen in all of us as a community as we process and dialogue together.

  • Loredana Rodríguez

    Amy, thanks for sharing this letter. I am a overseas missionary, single. I´ve been there…. in the side of Janice´s teammate. When I was a national missionary, I had a roommate, she was a missionary too and we worked in the same church. Two years later she got married. The moment I knew it…I cried a lot, it was like I suddenly knew what it will happen. No more work together, ministry together, movies together, etc…. But I learned to be thankful to God and I prayed for a heart pure, honest and free of bitterness. It can be tough that period of time, but also is a season that you can have the opportunity to make new relationships and always, Trusting in GOD, because he is faithful. I did that and I do that now. Recently I started a new adventure in a foreign country, single and a little older and you know what? I know that story could be happen again! But I really believe this :The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 😉

    • “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. ;)” Amen. There will be sorrow and disappointment, but also provision and joy!

  • Lauren

    This was such a well written letter and expressed what I found difficult to put into words and explain when I went through a similar situation. I joined the ministry I’m still involved in almost 7 years ago. My roommate had already been on the field 4 years by that time and was also a couple years older than me. Obviously this meant she had been dealing with the struggles of missionary life for years before me, she also was the first of us to head into our late twenties still single and wondering if anyone was going to come along. We work with a lot of students who come to serve with us for a few months out of the year. At first we were roughly their age, and then year after year you realize the people coming are younger and younger than you, and most of the guys in ministry your age are already married. A lot of the time we only had each other to relate to, the other people on our team were married, or younger and not in the same place in life. We encouraged each other through the general struggles of ministry, the struggles of singleness and the fears of the unknown future. We encouraged each other to trust God, to be content and thrive in the place and season of life He had called us to at that time. I can remember when she first told me about the feelings she had for the only single guy who was apart of our full time ministry team, and the hope she had of their work relationship developing into more. I had something going on with someone long distance at the time, but we both ended up disappointed. Two years after that I ended up working more and more alongside that same guy and realized that we had a connection and that our relationship was becoming something more. You can imagine how guilty I felt when I told her that he and I had talked, and we were officially dating. She only expressed her excitement for us, and her encouragement, but I know it must have been hard. I felt the unfairness of it. She had been on the field longer, she was older, she had actually liked the very same guy and hoped something would come from it only to be disappointed, and now the person who had been in the same boat as her was moving on. My husband and I dated for a year and I knew we would be getting engaged soon. Again when I thought about that next step, I felt guilty that I would be getting married and leaving my roommate alone. As it turned out, she meets this godly guy out of nowhere, they start dating a couple of months after meeting, and they get engaged the very same weekend as my husband and I, and were married a week before us. I know that’s not everyone’s story, and most often theres someone left behind when we move onto something new. For ever blessing we receive it seems there’s someone else who’s still hoping and waiting. I’m pregnant now with our first child, and the weekend before I found out, my sister-in-law had a miscarriage, and then my sister had one two weeks after. Why is my baby growing healthy and strong when theirs didn’t? I know from the story of my roommate and I that God is working a unique and beautiful plan for each of us with its own struggles and blessings that happen in His timing. But I still feel the guilt of having a blessing someone I love doesn’t.

    • Lauren, what a gift you have offered the community with this comment. The “unfairness” and mystery certainly don’t end with “I do,” do they :). I had a sister in a similar situation — pregnant when another sister’s adoption fell through. Looking forward to continuing the conversation.

  • Alanna Jones

    I am in the same situation as Janice and completely understand. I am leaving a team with eight other single women, older and younger, in varying stages of singleness and relationship. I just want to validate the struggle; it is real. You are not alone. Our emotions run deep; our hearts are overflowing all over the place. Just like those we’re leaving behind, we now have a new/increased need for Christ. I look forward to next month’s response! Thank you!

    • Alanna, thank you for sharing a bit of your story!

  • Bethany H

    Been there. Thank you for sharing, Amy & Janice. What a privilege to bear witness and participate in the listening.

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