Saturday, May 25, 2024
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What Not To Say To A Single Person

Photo courtesy of Marty Hadding via Flickr
Photo courtesy of Marty Hadding via Flickr

As a 32-year-old who has been actively dating for half of my life but single for the majority of my adult life, I feel like I can tackle this one pretty well.

1 – How are you still single?

Translation: What is wrong with you?

There are MANY versions of this horrible question. Typically, it sounds something like this: “You are so [insert various compliments here … take your time]; how is it that you are still single?” OR “You’ve got so much going for you; it’s amazing that you’re still single.” I could go on and on at the variations, but you get the point.

I am going to give a quick interpretation of how it sounds to me:

“You are doing everything right, but still can’t make a guy stick around?”

“You are attractive, intelligent, athletic, funny, etc., and still single … what is wrong with you?” 

When you praise me with things that are more surface-level or visible when you meet me (my appearance, intelligence, sense of humor, etc.), but then note the obvious fact that I’m still single … my first thought, logical or not, is if I’ve got all the surface stuff covered, deep down I must be such a hot mess that nobody wants me.

So well-meaning or not, please stop asking why I am single. I don’t know. I don’t ask how you managed to find someone … so don’t ask me how I haven’t.

2 – Enjoy your singleness while you can!

Translation: I wouldn’t want to do it, but you’re good at it; keep it up!

I understand this perspective—trust me, I do. However, I have spent the majority of my adult life single. My longest relationships have been under a year. That means that the total amount of time I’ve been single still amounts to about a decade. I’ve had plenty of time to enjoy the single life, so don’t assume I haven’t been doing that all along.

In my singleness, I’ve lived it up; I’ve had my bucket list, and I’ve knocked it out of the park. Don’t tell me to enjoy my singleness because I already have.

I will continue to do so, but it gets old. Impromptu trips are fewer and far between because now I have to be responsible, and I’ve run out of single friends to spontaneously tag along with me. Traveling alone is actually appealing until you look at the per-person cost. Everything costs more per person when you go it alone. Don’t assume that just because I get tired of single life doesn’t mean I haven’t spent time enjoying it.

I have spent a decade enjoying it, and now I’m ready for the next phase of my life … whenever it’s ready for me.

3 – A lot of people are staying single longer these days; it’s totally normal.

Translation: I can’t think of anything encouraging, so I’ll just tell you that you’re normal.

This is not encouraging for a number of reasons. Keep in mind that not everybody is actively choosing to stay single so long. Some are taking longer to get out of college and find their place in a career. Some are actively trying to settle down, but things aren’t falling into place as hoped. People are waiting, yes, but not all are trying to wait until we are older to settle down.

The part that is most discouraging about this is that more relationships become disposable. As an unfortunate result of people waiting later to marry, some aren’t trying as hard to keep relationships because there are plenty of options still available. In our culture of self-indulgence, if one option doesn’t feel perfect, we toss it aside to look for perfection. Just because it’s becoming “normal” doesn’t make it better.

A lot of people are waiting longer, but some out there in the dating world at my age haven’t just put off settling down. Those who are supposedly waiting longer to settle down haven’t always purposefully waited. Circumstance may have put them in a position to re-enter the dating world in their 30s. People get married later, but they don’t start dating later.

4 – You’ve just not met the right person.

Translation: You’ve just not met someone who loves you enough.

Thanks for the reminder. This may not seem bad for those who haven’t dated much, but for someone who has actively dated for half of my life, it’s a harsh reminder that I stink at this game. The only alternative to having “just not met him yet” is the fear that I’ve met the right person and screwed it up. (I realize how irrational and contrary to my faith this is, but it’s still a fear.)

I also don’t believe there is one “right person,” which is why this one bothers me so much. I truly believe that two people who are compatible and love each other enough can be right for one another. I think there are right people for certain times in our lives, but I think so many of us are too busy searching for a “soul mate” that we often discount that the person we are with could be worthy of being the object of that search. The right person is one who will fight for a relationship. The right person will love me enough to not give up easily.

So thanks for trying to be encouraging, but it’s just not working. On that note, I’ll end with a simple synopsis of what is okay to say!

If you must say something, this is all you need to say:

1 – There is something so much better out there for you.

Translation: Don’t give up!

Sometimes I just need to be reminded that I am worthy of that. It’s easy to think that it’s my fault that I’m single or that I need to do something to remedy the situation. In reality, there is a bigger plan than what I can see. It honestly is hard to sit back and watch life unfold sometimes, but I have been reminded that there is a plan unfolding before me. I am “God’s diva,” and He will not let me down. While people may disappoint and hurt me, I’m not forgotten by the One who loves me through it all.

2 – You are loved.

Translation: You are worthy of love.

It’s simple. That is sometimes all I need to hear. Knowing that I’m not totally alone in the world is encouraging. Our lives may look different, but knowing I’m loved despite it all helps.

Stephanie Gobler is a 30-something Christian, triathlete, architect and runner. She is active in her church and co-leads a small group of people in their 20s and 30s. Originally from a small town, she now lives in the middle of an in-town Atlanta neighborhood. She spends a lot of time with running/triathlon groups and neighborhood events. Community is essential to her, but as an introvert, she gets a lot out of writing (mostly just for herself). She’s recently been encouraged to share her writing, so here goes! Most of her musings are related to singleness and related challenges, but life in general is not off topic.
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