I was sitting on a panel about dating when someone asked the classic question: “What’s the hardest thing about being single?”
Two guys offered their respective responses, something along the lines of “loneliness,” “self-confidence,” “watching your friends get married”—the usual. Tentatively, I started, “I don’t want to belittle what they said. But I don’t think it’s hard.
“I mean, being single is hard. Being in a relationship is hard. Life is hard. I don’t think life is any easier when you have a cute boy to hold your hand; I don’t think life is any harder when you don’t have someone to text goodnight.”
No One Likes Being Single?
Even though I believed this with the core of my being—and I desperately wanted my high school students to hear this truth—I said most of this to my shoes. Because I knew this wasn’t a point of view I’m supposed to have, especially in the Church.
I still remember sitting in Panera Bread chatting about relationships when my friend said casually, as though there’s simply no denying it, “Krysti, no one likes being single.”
I laughed it off, but I was more hurt than I realized. Driving home, I kept thinking, “You don’t get to tell me how I feel. You don’t get to tell me what I can and can’t like.” I wasn’t angry at my friend, but at society. Because here’s a shocker: I like being single.
When this sentiment is said out loud in groups of Christians, it’s usually assumed to be: A) highly sarcastic (as people bemoan their romantic lives and their curse of this “gift” from God); B) highly ironic (as people are obsessively on the lookout for their future spouse);. or C) highly in denial (as people are stuffing ice cream in their mouths, crying, watching The Notebook).
A lot of churches don’t know what to do with people like me—because, as the thinking goes, marriage is the ideal, so why am I not striving after it? I’m not against relationships. I don’t hate men. I just don’t mind adventuring through life on my own until I meet a man I think is worth inviting into that journey.
Because, in reality, that’s what singleness is: a journey. It’s not that you’re a broken person. It’s not that something is wrong with you. It’s not that you messed up that last relationship and lost the love of your life. It’s simply that, right now, you haven’t found someone to partner alongside you in life—for myriad reasons.
And that’s OK.
The danger of a single story, as explained so eloquently by Chimamanda Adichie, does damage in many parts of life. And Christians tend to tell one story of singleness: That singleness equals loneliness.
Loneliness is Not Just For Singles
Loneliness is what singles are equipped to cope with, it’s what we are lectured on, it’s what we chat about. And sure, loneliness is part of reality for many single people. But surely, single people aren’t the only ones who get lonely. A ring on your finger or a Facebook-official relationship doesn’t cure loneliness.
We all get lonely, because we all strive for deep, meaningful connection—and that’s hard to come by, even in relationships. There’s miscommunication and selfishness and bad days. Personally, I’d love to hear more about “How To Handle Loneliness In Marriage.” Singles need to see that it actually exists post-wedding-bliss, and couples should feel freedom to express their struggles. Christians need to stop painting this picture of lonely singles, because, without meaning to, it paints the picture that marriage is the solution to loneliness.
We talk about how lonely singleness is. We talk about how hard it is. We talk about the struggles. I get that some people hate being single. I’m not trying to belittle the desire for marriage, I’m just trying to point out the other side of singleness.
More than “I have so much free time to serve Jesus!” and other, typical Christianese responses, I think there are real benefits to singleness. They are different to each person, just like each season of life is unique to each person. My college years were a lot different than yours; my first full-time job as a graduate is unusual; my season of singleness isn’t going to be like everyone else’s. So I get why not everyone loves being single—not everyone loved middle school.
The problem comes if we put our lives on hold or think we can’t be truly fulfilled until we have someone. We shouldn’t buy into the lie that our lives really have no worth until there’s a ring on our finger. We don’t have to wait until we’ve found our soul mate to start living a life of purpose.
If you hate being single, if you are having a hard time with it, if you are feeling lonely, please hear me: You’re allowed to feel how you feel. I’m sorry things are rough right now. I’m even more sorry if you’ve been led to believe that a relationship will magically cure all, if you’ve bought into placing marriage on a pedestal.
Let’s stop equating singleness with loneliness, let’s stop equating singleness with an unhappy existence, and let’s really stop equating singleness with being half a person. Because that’s what leads to an unhappy existence.