Three Lies Culture Tells Us About Being Single
The truth about thriving without a spouse.
Being single in your 20s is basically a non-stop thrill ride, right? Many of our favorite shows (Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and New Girl just to name a few) paint a picture of single life that looks, honestly, like a lot of fun.
You get to spend all your free time (of which you have an ample supply) in coffee shops, hanging out with your best friends, joking about your misadventures and keeping an eye out for your next date. Life is unpredictable and romance is always just around the corner.
While we all know that TV portrayals are a far cry from reality, cultural influences like these—combined with the voices we pick up from church and our communities—all manage to creep into our expectations for what single life is really like.
But singleness is never as black and white as caricatures and stereotypes make it out to be. And the truth is, every person’s experience of singleness is going to look a little different. There are times when singleness provides freedom and flexibility that we know we’ll never experience in any other season, and it’s thrilling.
But there are also moments when singleness leads to feelings of disenchantment or disappointment, as men and women wonder how their individual story fits in with the bigger picture of God’s plan. So when society and those around us seem to have ingrained ideas about what singleness really means, it can add a fair amount of confusion and lead to a level of feeling misunderstood. In the spirit of clearing up some faulty perceptions of singleness, here are a few myths I’d like to bust:
1. If you’re single, then your dating life is public domain.
The married couple from church. Your mom’s co-worker. The elderly lady in the grocery store aisle. If you’re like me, you’ve probably lost count of the number of actual strangers who have inquired about your love life at some point in your twenties. While almost always well intentioned, probing questions about relationship status can feel like someone is shining a bright spotlight onto a very personal area of your life.
If you’ve just gone through a rocky breakup or are experiencing a season of drought on the dating front, relationship questions fired without warning can be downright awkward, even painful.
So let’s clear the air: Single men and women shouldn’t have to provide details of their romantic life to people who haven’t been vetted as safe and trustworthy. Strangers and acquaintances? Not vetted. Your dental hygienist? Not vetted. Friends and co-workers? Pick the ones whose wise words and counsel you trust, and then share openly and transparently with those few.
If the one doing the asking is looking to connect, there are plenty of more comfortable topics to help build that connection. And if they’re hoping to be entertained by someone else’s love life, they can head home and binge on the last season of The Bachelor.
2. If you’re single, then you’re selfish.
We’ve all heard it many times in various forms, sometimes stated outright and other times just insinuated. And, it’s an easy myth to latch onto. After all, when you’re single you can spend your money however you like, your free time is all your own and you don’t have to answer to a chorus of tiny voices calling you mom or dad when you walk through the door of your home. Being single is like an extended vacation where every day is all about me, right?
In reality, my single friends are living some of the most sacrificial and selfless lifestyles I know. They are the ones who are willing and able to work long hours at lower paying jobs, often serving people directly with very little recognition. They are the ones who will drop what they’re doing to babysit so their married friends can have a much-needed date night or pick up the phone at 2 a.m. when a friend is in crisis. They spend most of their vacation days celebrating the weddings, baby showers and celebrations of other people. Their days tend to be long and packed, because they are involved in so many aspects of work, church and their communities. This is the reality of single life that many people are living. And they are painting a beautiful picture of a life lived out of love and service.
3. If you’re single, then you’re not really an adult.
Throughout my early and mid-twenties, I frequently related to Pinocchio. He wanted to be a real boy—I wanted to be a real adult. But, in many instances I felt like I wouldn’t be able to earn the respect of a fully grown adult until I tied the knot. I’ve talked to many single men and women in the church who have felt the same way. Because marriage is the ultimate expression of commitment, it can be easy to assume that a lack of marriage must mean an unwillingness to commit, which is seen as an indicator of immaturity.
In reality, relationship status doesn’t necessarily indicate an aversion to commitment or responsibility. It’s more likely an indicator of not having found the right person to commit to just yet. And that’s OK.
Life events like marriage, owning a house or working a full-time job are all opportunities for personal growth and responsibility, but they are not benchmarks to earning adult status. It’s possible to have all of these things and still lack maturity. And it’s very possible to possess maturity and wisdom without these experiences.
If you’re single, surround yourself with people who challenge you and recognize your full potential. Work with people who will expect responsibility and commitment from you, invest deeply in your friendships and build a life worth sharing with the community that you have right now.