Is an introduction necessary? I think not. Yay lists!
1. Singles are self-absorbed.
One of the more frustrating comments people made to me when I got married was how different my life would be. They would go on to say, in some backhanded compliment kind of way, how being an older single (39) I was more settled and my life was going to change dramatically. I’m not saying it didn’t, nor am I saying that they weren’t in their own ways trying to be helpful. Having an instant family of two teenagers and a previously married husband has its own unique challenges and I would be foolish to believe it would be a walk in the park. For anyone.
The part about me having to think about other people “now” was what got me. On more than one occasion someone used this exact phrase as if to indicate how overnight I was no longer able to be a selfish you-know-what. Because that is how some people see singles. Singles are comfortable. Singles have lots of disposable income. Singles can do whatever they want whenever they want. They don’t have to think about anyone else or make commitments. How nice for them.
Anyone who has spent as much time being single as I have can’t help but smirk and bite their tongue. Sure, I could be a narcissistic jerk face if I wanted to be, but that’s not how I live and I’m a little put off that you think I have to make some drastic life altering changes to my character to be someone who thinks of others first. Truth is most of us who have been single for longer than their 20s had a lifetime of putting others first. We’ve had more than one occasion to exercise flexibility and patience with others. We’ve had plenty of experience asking other people for their thoughts and wishes when trying to plan things that directly or indirectly affect our lives, not to mention mental well being. There are a plethora of concrete examples of when we have put our own desires and feelings aside to keep the peace, to go with the flow, and appease others who refused to give in.
There are so many singles doing amazing things for others. I know many personally who give countless hours, completely unsung, to help other people, giving time and resources. This isn’t a trait that develops solely in marriage and parenthood. It isn’t something new to singles. And if someone is coming into a marriage without such experiences, then we’re all in for trouble.
2. Singles have lots of free time.
This goes along with being self absorbed. I know people who don’t even have time to date. Between making a living and doing things you love to do, it is always hard to find time for one more thing. Because singles are often seen as self centered in their choices of how to spend their time, people assume they should be more flexible than those with families and be willing to sacrifice their “extracurricular” activities all the time. No one should have to sacrifice all the time. A commitment to do something is a commitment to do something. Some tend to feel a single person’s commitments are somehow less valid. And just like being selfish isn’t solely a single trait, being flexible and understanding isn’t either.
3. Singles haven’t tried to [insert your helpful suggestion on how to meet people here] yet.
If I had a dime for every time someone mentioned eHarmony, and not ironically, I would have at least five dollars. But really, it becomes a joke amongst singles that married people love nothing more than to tell single people how to get married. As if there is some elusive formula, or it’s by appointment only to find the right one, married people tend to want to hand out dating advice like its coupons for free dinner at Olive Garden. I don’t love Olive Garden and not sure I’d eat there for free anyway, but thanks.
If you didn’t realize it yet, no two stories are alike. For every person who met on eHarmony, two other people have horror stories about eHarmony. For every time I heard someone say don’t go to a movie on a date, I say how I find out an awful lot about people watching a movie. Point is that no one can actually predict how and when you’ll meet, not you and not your mama. Though she’d like to.
4. Singles would rather be on a date than hang out with you and your family.
There were several points in my 30s when I was just plain tired of dating. That same conversation over a drink or coffee. That same awkward hello and/or goodbye, depending on how the in between part went. That same wondering if this person will be significant or not in my immediate future. It’s exhausting at times and far from energizing.
At some point, it occurred to me that very few people invited me over to their house to hang out. It was mostly other singles or newlyweds. I’m not sure if it was partly just that I seemed boring or that I wasn’t someone who volunteered to babysit or work with the youth at church. I can count on one hand how many people have made an effort to invite me over when I was single. (And for argument sake, that number has changed significantly since being married with kids.)
It makes me wonder if it’s up to singles to invite themselves over, or to suggest outings with families. Or maybe families are afraid to invite singles because it might seem like they’re holding out a carrot in front of them, like this is something they don’t have and want. Or maybe a lot of people just don’t think singles will enjoy their kid driven chaos. Truth be told though, many do. Many singles crave it actually. It serves to remind us how family is a good thing, albeit an imperfect thing. It reminds us that we are made to live in community and to grow up together. It reminds us all that each person has worth and beauty to contribute to the whole. Single people need to be reminded of that in the midst of their loneliness. They need to see and experience their value to the lives of others often and to seek out opportunities to enrich the lives of others in their unique way, as well as be enriched by those around them.
5. Singles can’t have any useful advice on marriage.
That said, singles get a good look at what’s going on in their friends’ marriages. There’s something to be said for standing way back and seeing the big picture. Just because someone has never done something doesn’t mean they can’t have a valuable opinion on how to do it. Not to condone anyone who is arrogant or people who talk about things they really have no business talking about, there are times when a single person can have a clear line of sight to a marital problem and it’s a wise person who listens to sincere advice from someone who cares what happens. If they’re spending time with you and have a firsthand view, because you’ve invited them into your lives, then they might just see things you are too close to see.
This doesn’t give singles a license to be a backseat driver, though. Many things, like marriage, can be easier said than done, and sometimes the best thing to do is the hardest thing to do. Wise singles learn to observe and remember, recalling the tough choices when they find themselves in a hard spot in their own marriages some day. And much like a kid who says he will never be like his dad, singles need to remember that some day, they may eat their own words and it will be bitter. Or, if they are paying attention, they will cheerfully avoid the pitfalls they know will come.
6. Singles must not be ready for marriage and commitment.
It is a grave mistake to think that God only gives you things when you are ready for them. I’ve seen that sentiment on needlework. It’s unbiblical and dangerous. From bearing a child to winning the lottery, the things that come to us have very little to do with our deserving of them or our readiness to use them wisely. And so it is with a spouse. The gift of another human being to share life with and to join in true mysterious union is not to be taken lightly. How often I have heard people say they were completely not ready for all marriage entailed in their early years, how the learning curve was steep and sometimes, too many times, the relationship crumbled beyond repair as one or both refused to give in and grow up. Maybe some people are not so ready as they think they are, but are told to buck up. Everyone feels the cold feet, right? Everyone wants to have that one last hurrah, whatever form that may take, and some need to run away for a bit before they settle down.
But not all who wander are lost. I was the first to admit I knew I wasn’t “ready” in my 20s. I really couldn’t care less that friends were marrying around me. I have always known that getting married was a really big deal, so big, in fact, that I wasn’t going to do it. Choosing to not do something is not the same as being afraid of it. It also doesn’t necessarily mean you are ready when you do end up getting married. People marry for all kinds of reasons, and people wait to marry for lots of other reasons. Don’t dress all singles in the same outfit.
7. God loves families more than singles.
This is a tricky one. I’m looking at you, Church! It feels at times that churches have some kind of unwritten rule of standard operating procedure that caters to families and any church that has been around for awhile, no matter how it started, morphs into young families. It’s like the Game of Life. There is no option to not get married and fill your car with kids. It’s expected and unavoidable.
Don’t get me wrong. This is a part of God’s plan. It is not good for man to be alone, and we know beyond a doubt that God loves family and works His covenantal grace through family. But He doesn’t skip over single people. It isn’t a this or that, “Would you rather” question. He wants all of us right where we are to receive His grace and to show it off in our own unique way. He is building into each of our lives the story of the gospel, creating glimpses of His love for us in whatever circumstance and demographic we find ourselves. Churches that find themselves morphing into a family life center should take a good honest look at the trend and ask themselves if they are losing their relevance to the singles. Not that church should be a meet market Christian cafe for singles to mingles (that last s being ironic and cute), the church should be actively pursuing committed vibrant singles to leadership teams, staff, and ministries, not overlooking them as some kind of temporary placeholders until God really blesses them.
God is an artist and doesn’t paint with the same brush over and over again. He creates unique works of art and tells a different story masterfully every time. He lovingly pours himself into every piece so that anyone who takes the time to look will see His hand in it. Even more impressive is He fashions it still, and though far from complete, we see beauty and expertise in our lives at every stage in the process. We see God taking the broken pieces and what looks like errors and unfinished bits, and turn them into craftsmanship of the highest caliber. No matter what stage you find yourself now, know with all your heart that you are cherished as is. And always will be.