As a 36-year-old woman without a ring on my finger, I’ve had my fair share of experiences in the single life—some good, some bad.
Part of my challenge in being single is that I work at a college. Thus, the majority of single people in town are the 18-22-year-olds at the college where I work (AKA—not my dating pool). I’m also invited to between 8 and 12 weddings a year (an occupational hazard of working in campus ministry) and officiate several weddings a year as well.
As if all of these romances aren’t enough for me to absorb, I have a twin sister who married four years ago and my last single close friend is getting married this summer. I’ve dated (but not for a while) and watched nearly everyone I know fall in love and get married.
In the midst of all this, I can say I’ve experienced a peculiar grace. I have often said that my biggest grace in my singleness is the absence of jealousy over other people’s relationships. For whatever reason, God has graced me with the ability to celebrate the good fortune of others in finding a mate. But God still hasn’t brought a husband into my life. That being said, I’ve processed a lot of my own emotions, counseled others, and dealt with my own singleness a great deal in my 36 years. And I’ve learned a few things:
1. Don’t ever say, “I’m not going to [fill in the blank] until I get married.”
I used to say that about buying a crockpot. In my mind, the crockpot was the quintessential wedding gift and I wasn’t going to buy myself one; I was going to wait to put it on my wedding registry. And then I got asked to bring a pot of soup to a church supper, and I had to break down and buy the stupid thing myself. And you know what? I found that I love cooking in a crockpot! Don’t fool yourself into thinking such privileges are reserved exclusively for married people. Take a trip, buy that furniture set, inaugurate your own holiday traditions, get pre-qualified for a house. But whatever you do, don’t wait until you’re married to start living.
2. Don’t be so sensitive when people pity your singleness.
Most people aren’t being mean or judgmental when they try to give you a pep talk or tell you about the cute young man or woman they know who you should meet. First of all, you never know how those blind dates might turn out. And second of all, they’re doing it because they care about you. That’s what matters.
3. Tell people what you need—or don’t need.
If you’re not doing well in your single state of affairs, it’s OK to tell someone that’s prying (or pitying, or being thoughtless) that you would prefer not to talk about it. Or, that they shouldn’t assume that they know what you’re going through, and that you are not broken because you’re single. Be honest. Try to be gentle and respectful, but they need to know what you really think and need—or, what you don’t need.
4. Reject the lie that because you’re single, there is something wrong with you.
How many times have you heard, “I can’t figure out how you’re still single. You’re such a catch!” It is meant as a compliment, but it implies that there is something wrong with anyone who is single and until one figures it out and corrects it, one is likely to stay single. Ouch. Being single doesn’t imply being broken. Lots of broken people are married, too.
Your singleness is not because of your issues. Everyone has issues, married and single alike. However, the advantage that you have in your singleness is that you can use it to become a healthier, happier version of yourself. If you need to lose weight or start exercising, do it for yourself—not to attract a mate. Take the time now to decide who you want to be, and choose to be confident in who you are becoming.
5. Keep hoping and keep living.
It isn’t easy to be single in a world full of married people. But I don’t think it’s easy to be married, either. The reality is that relationships are hard-won and require fighting for. They’re worth it, but they take work.
Whether God blesses me with a husband or not, I am still in relationship with others and have the responsibility to take care of myself. Hopefully you and I can do that with our sense of dignity—and sense of humor—intact. Because the truth is, singleness isn’t training ground for “real life.” It is real life, right now—and it’s time to start living it.