We had just finished playing a board game at his kitchen table when it happened. I thought, “Maybe being single isn’t so bad.” The past few days had landed me on a roller coaster of emotions, riding the hills of giddy excitement all the way to plummeting valleys of disappointment and even anxiety. The last hour had confirmed that exchanging my singleness for a relationship with this specific person was not a good idea. But even beyond that, I began to see the beauty that had been cultivated in my life specifically because I was single.
My name is Abigail, I am 28 years old, and I am single.
Why does that sound like a dreaded confession? Maybe because we treat singleness like a condition to be cured, rather than a season to be lived.
For those of you who are married, can I have your ear for a couple minutes? Goodness knows I’ve sat through countless sermons on marriage and parenting. (You probably don’t need to ask how many I have heard on singleness. Oh, and by the way, the two I sought out and listened to were taught by men who got married in college….).
For the sake of your kids, your bachelor brother, your unmarried friends, even that crazy cousin you don’t talk about…we have got to change the way we talk about singleness. Or, in some cases, maybe just start talking about it at all.
When I was a little girl, all conversations about the future went something like this: “When I am married and have a family of my own…” Every single decision I made assumed that narrative would unfold somewhere in the pages of my life. Not only was that story affirmed by those around me, it was encouraged. I can’t tell you how many conversations I had in high school and college about purity (solely for the sake of my future marriage) and healthy dating relationships. No one talked to me about the beautiful parts of being single.
Maybe that’s because we treat singleness like a condition to be cured, rather than a season to be lived.
So in case you haven’t heard, some men and women will never get married. In fact, as of two years ago, 53% of women in the U.S. and 47% of men were single. That means I am in the majority, not the minority. Can we stop operating under the assumption that marriage is in the cards for everyone? Also, news flash! There are amazing benefits to being single.
A year ago, I quit my job and moved across the country. In the months that have unfolded since then, I have taken spontaneous weekend trips, played countless late night games of pinochle with my roommates, snuggled a sweet new babe who is not my own (and handed her back at the end of the night), and devoted hours of my time to learning from families at the local homeless shelter. My life is full and beautiful, and I am confident that all this never would have come to pass if I had exchanged “Miss” for “Mrs.” even a few years ago.
There are so many things I want to tell you about what I have learned from this journey of singleness, but I will keep it to just a few points right now:
1) Be intentional about learning from the single people in your life.Don’t assume that they have nothing to teach you about relationships or parenting. I may have very little firsthand relationship experience, but I have spent the last decade carefully observing a LOT of relationships. I have lived with multiple families and learned enough about parenting to fill many books. I have had to figure out how to function as an independent (or at least semi-independent, ha!) adult apart from another person. You know that single person in your life? You might be surprised by the perspective he or she can bring to your marriage, your parenting journey, your life.
2) Propose singleness as a viable life plan. Introduce your kids to single adults who are doing amazing things. Talk to them about the benefits of being single. Celebrate the accomplishments of the single people in your life. And when that single person laments the challenges of being single, please don’t respond with some variation of “Don’t worry, it will happen eventually.” Because that’s not necessarily true. Instead, try this approach: Listen. Acknowledge the difficulties they are facing. Offer practical support. Include them in your life and family.
3) Particularly in a church and ministry context, be intentional about integrating singles into your community. Of all the churches I have attended over the years, I think I can count on one hand the number of single people in positions of leadership. Whenever there is a lack of diversity of any kind within a leadership structure, the message proliferated is likely going to be biased. Consider diversifying your leadership structure (in every way!).
4) Single friends, let’s not feed the lie that singleness is a condition to be cured. Live your life, and live it to the fullest! Whether it is a season that will pass or a season that will last a lifetime, take advantage of your singleness! Find ways to serve others with the extra time you have. Do fun, spontaneous things! Live in community. For sure, lament (again and again) the challenges and unfulfilled desires…But don’t waste your singleness pining for what you do not have.If you do, you will miss the beauty all around you!
There is a sweet dissonance to life, isn’t there? Those moments of aching beauty that rush in right alongside a deep well of pain, sadness, or longing. I’m sure you have experienced a moment like this at some point or another. Nothing has taught me about this dissonance quite like my singleness has. It is good, and hard, and lonely, and filled to the brim with adventure and intimate community. Both/and. That is the message I want to hear about singleness, and the message I want you to share with your kids.
Single friends, what would you add? Let’s keep the conversation going.