I woke up this morning singing — or rather, groaning — the melody of one of my favorite India Arie songs. It’s perhaps one of my favorite songs of all time, India or not because it seems to voice those wants and desires that I can’t always articulate myself. And it does so in a beautiful way.

I am ready for love…

But am I? I don’t know that I can confidently say I am. I wonder: How does one know when they are ready for love? Do you just wake up one morning and say, “Today, I am ready”? Or do you have a checklist of things you must complete and then you’ll be ready? What’s the litmus test?

Lately, it seems like I’ve seen a more than the usual amount of relationship-based foolishness. For the first time in my life, I’ve figured out and understood why people don’t want to get married. Considering that I’m a hopeless (or, as one friend says — hopeful) romantic, that says a lot. Love and marriage is hard work. Too often people enter them haphazardly, without fully understanding the implications of their actions and choices — not only for themselves and their partner, but for those around them who are watching them to see what happens.

(To be fair — I know of several relationships that have beautifully blossomed over the past year or so. It’s never all bad; it seems that, right now, the bad relationships are outweighing the good. Or perhaps I’m just noticing them more in order to justify my fears.)

While every relationships is very different from the next, it’s incredibly disheartening to see so many fall apart. And coming from a divorced household, that fear, the fear of failing at relationships, is even greater. While I know someone else’s relationship falling apart has little to do with the success of mine, I can’t help but wonder if I’ll become yet another statistic on the wall of failure.

Why are you hiding from me?

Perhaps it is not love that’s hiding from me, but instead I that am hiding from it. Maybe I know where to find it, but because of the above mentioned reasons, I haven’t yet deemed myself ready to find it. Or maybe I’m just scared.

As I survey my life right now, all the good and the bad and the ugly, I don’t see something that I want to bring a woman into. Obviously no one is perfect, and there will forever be issues I’m working through and dealing with — that’s life. And of course, I’m my own worst critic. But I feel that there are certain things in my life which, were I a woman looking at me, I would be very hesitant about. Granted, I’ve become adept at covering these things up and making them seem better than they really are, but if I’m going to love, that means pure honesty — going beyond just telling the truth (because Lord knows we can answer questions truthfully and still withhold certain aspects of the truth) and goes into the realm of volunteering information without being asked.

I’d quickly give my freedom to be held in your captivity

This can be both incredibly wonderful and ridiculously scary at the same time. The other night I found myself watching “Tough Love: Couples” on VH1. This particular episode was the season finale where two of the couples were getting married, but one of the men was having a fairly severe case of cold feet. While he overcame his issues and ended up going through with the ceremony, I could identify with where his mind was.

Discussing this with a girlfriend the next day, she asked me why men do that. I told her it’s simple — we lose sight of the one person we’re going to be spending the rest of our lives with and focus on the hundreds or even thousands of people we won’t be spending any time with. It’s a matter of focus and priority. It’s as much about saying, “no” to everyone else as it is saying, “yes” to that one person.

It’s the canceling out of all those other options that makes us, as men, fearful. (And knowing that men hate to be afraid, is it any wonder that many of us just avoid it altogether?) Marriage, unlike any other choice we’ll ever make is permanent. If I buy a car or a house I don’t like — let’s sell it. Got a new job and I don’t like it — get another one. Marriage is the only choice a person will ever make that cannot be reversed. Accordingly, it’s not one that should be taken lightly.

Ok, fine, go ahead and ask about the d-word — I don’t believe in that foolishness. It’s a punk move. If I make a vow, a covenant between myself, a woman, and God, I do so with the expectation that I will uphold that vow no matter what. A man’s integrity is found in his ability to keep his word and do that which he says he will do. For me, there is no way out. Period.

You may be wondering why it seems like I’m jumping from love to marriage and back again when I’m not even in a relationship. I, unlike some people, don’t take relationships lightly. If we’re dating, the intention is that we’re on the journey to find out whether or not we should marry each other. For me, marriage and dating are inextricably linked.

Tell me this — Have you ever been where I am? Do you see relationships failing and not want to get involved at all? How do you overcome the feelings of worry or doubt? Talk to me…

[Written by Stuart McDonald for Elev8.com. For more from Stuart, check out his all NEW personal blogfollow him on Twitter, and connect with him on Facebook.]

Related Articles:

The Reason Men Love Women Who Cook

Watermelon Smoothies & Lessons in Race

In The Midst Of “I Don’t Know”