As I weathered Valentine’s Day this month (again) as a single woman, I’ve been thinking about some of the things I’d like to say to my married friends about what it’s like to be unmarried at 36 and living alone in a married person’s world.
First of all, I’m very happy when I see my friends enter into and build healthy, happy marriages. This is a beautiful thing, something to which, many of us as single individuals aspire to.
And I understand that it can be difficult to know what to say or how to treat those of us who have not yet gone to the chapel. So as I reflect on my station in life, especially as it relates to the empty fourth finger on my left hand and the desire I have for marriage, there’s a few things I’d like my married friends out there to know. Not to guilt you or chastise you, but to help you, like you help me, see life from a different point of view.
1. Single people make good friends, too.
I can remember times when I first moved to a new town and I heard friends (all married) talk about the fun things that they had done together as couples. I remember wishing that for once, they would invite me to come along! It’s up to me to decide if I’m going to feel like a third or fifth wheel, or enjoy the company. Invite me along, even if I’m the only one without a date.
2. Please don’t assume you know how I feel.
As an unmarried person, I may or may not be struggling with my singleness at the moment, so if you want to know, ask me. Don’t assume that because we spoke once and I was really struggling in my singleness that I’m forever pining away for a husband. And don’t assume that because we once spoke about how I’m pretty content in my single status that I’m always going to be content. Instead of assuming, ask me.
3. Singleness looks different in your twenties than it does in your thirties.
Because you may have spent a period of time—long or short—being single does not mean that you understand what it is to see your peers and even your nieces and nephews get married before you. The experience of singleness does not remain the same over time.
4. Dispense your formula for finding a mate with care.
“It” may have worked for you and 10 of your friends, but from what I know about love, and especially finding and marrying—and staying married—isn’t formulaic. Chances are, I’ve “tried” your formula and it hasn’t “worked.” This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hear your advice, I just hope that you’ll listen to me before you offer it.
5. There are days when singleness feels unbearable, and days when it feels empowering.
If you catch me on one of the bad days, offer to help me do yard work, buy me chocolate, take me out for dinner, or watch a chick-flick with me. Remind me that companionship doesn’t always come in the form of a romance.
There are other days when singleness feels empowering. On those days, I feel pretty good about managing a home, a car, a job, my bank account and social situations flying solo. Please don’t talk to me about how my independence is intimidating to a man. That’s so 1950s.
It may seem that I’ve painted a pretty bleak picture for how you can approach your single friend when it relates to their single status in life. But the reality is that he or she may be single, but they don’t have to be alone. And for their sake, and for what they have to offer to you and the rest of the world, I hope they won’t be.
You can help them to know that they are a valued member of a community, and not just because they “have all that free time on their hands.” Cut them a little slack, and do them and yourself a favor by treating them like what they are: normal.
Ashlee Alley is the Campus Minister at Southwestern College in Winfield, KS. When sheÕs not with college students, she is running, reading, and trying to get caught up on Downton Abbey. She (occasionally) blogs at ashleealley.wordpress.com and never thought that she would write an article on this subject.