Based on my Facebook news feed, it is engagement and wedding season (with a few pregnancies and babies thrown in for good measure). I am extremely happy for my friends who are being blessed in these ways, but I won’t lie and say it’s easy to see yet another beautiful ring, yet another set of starry-eyed engagement photos, yet another photo album of centerpieces and flowers and beautiful dresses.
I am only 25. This is the 21st century; I am not a spinster. I have dog that I love in a house that I love in a city that I love. I have a wonderful job that more than covers all my expenses. I am beyond blessed, but that doesn’t mean I do not still long for romance, for a relationship, for a partner to share my life with.
Now, inevitably, when I say things like this (or, alternatively, joke sarcastically about beginning to collect cats), people chime in with all kinds of encouraging statements. The problem, however, is that most of these statements are not actually encouraging. So I figured I would be really upfront and let you know which statements do more harm than good, and why.
I have seen a number of other blogs do similar, very well-written posts, and I could just link to them, but hey, it’s my blog and I feel like this a topic worth putting my own spin on. So without further ado, here are some things well-meaning married people should probably stop saying to us single ladies (I can’t speak for single men, so I won’t try to).
1. If you really want to be married, God will bring you someone. God would not give you a desire He doesn’t intend to fulfill.
My first response to this one is “Ummm, have you read your Bible?” I’m pretty sure Hosea desired to have his wife stop cheating on him. The Israelites who were kept in captivity in Egypt for 40o years probably desired freedom. David desired to build a temple for God. All throughout Scripture people desired things and those desires were not fulfilled because God had a different plan. Yes, Psalm 37 says that He will give us the desires of our heart, but it’s talking about Him. He is the true desire of our hearts; nowhere in scripture does He promise me a husband.
2. Just be patient and trust God; He will bring you the perfect guy when you’re not looking.
The underlying message here is that something is broken in my relationship with God, and therefore I am being punished with singleness. As soon as I “get right with God,” I will be rewarded with a husband.
This is a horribly damaging message. The idea that my singleness is caused by something lacking in my spiritual life is the same as the disciples believing a man’s blindness was caused by sin (John 9). Yes, there are things in my spiritual life that need my attention; yes, I need to trust God and be patient, but those things are not the cause of my singleness. I need to trust God because it will get me more of Him, not because it will get me a husband.
3. You don’t need a man to complete you or be happy. You have a great life!/ Marriage is really difficult; enjoy being single now.
Yes, I know. I do have a great life. I am a complete person whether I am in a relationship or single. The surface messages are true; the underlying message implies that there is something wrong with longing. Longing for a relationship, for a husband, for a family, is not the same thing as brokenness. It does not mean I am discontent or taking my current stage of life for granted. It just means that I have a desire for more. If this desire leads me to the throne of God, there is nothing wrong or broken about it.
The same thing applies to all those stories you have about someone you know who didn’t get married until she was 35 or 45 or 55. Those are great stories and I’m very happy for those women, but it implies that I don’t have the right to long for a husband because I’m only 25 and that’s still really young. Once I’m older, then the longing will be acceptable, but right now I need to just suck it up.
Also, don’t lie. Marriage is awesome. Please don’t use my longing as an excuse to tell me how much better it is being single. I know marriage is hard, but I don’t believe you for a second when you say life was better when you were single.
4. I just don’t understand why _____ isn’t married yet. She’s so great.
This one may just be me and my issues, but when you ask me about why one of my friends (who is totally awesome) isn’t married yet, all I hear is, “Well, it makes sense why Rachel is still single, but I totally don’t get it with _______.” Again, this is probably my own issues coming out to play, but it still implies that singleness is a sign that something is wrong in my life.
So what should I say, then?
What should you do when we tell you again how it is difficult being single and we wish we could be married? How can you encourage us? Be honest! Tell us that you are sorry that we are hurting. Tell us that you will pray that we will be comforted in times of loneliness. Integrate us into your families until we have one of our own, and even after. Continue to share the joys of married life with us, so that we can rejoice with you. Do not give us the cliche, bible study answers you think you should give; just give us yourselves.
And finally, single ladies: be gracious. Our friends mean well and are trying to encourage us; they do not mean us harm. When we start to hear those underlying messages, let us speak truth into the lies. We are loved by God. Our singleness is not caused by sin. We do not have to clean ourselves up before we can be worthy of the blessing of marriage. Longing for something does not mean we are broken. Let us rejoice with our friends who have been blessed with families and enjoy the season we are in. Let us acknowledge the feelings of loneliness and longing, but not let them consume our lives.
Remember: regardless of whether or not we get married here on earth, we are the bride of Christ and have been invited to the wedding feast. And that will be the best wedding ever.
Rachel is a single girl teaching English in inner-city Memphis. You can find her at Why I…, her blog where she writes about anything that pops into her head, from television to theology to the weird things her dog does.