After recently joining a single ladies group at my church and pondering the idea of being happily single forever, I had an epiphany about the things I would say to my best girlfriends about their dating lives.
So often, I would respond to their comments of being lonely and searching for love with statements such as, “Well, maybe you aren't looking in the right places or putting yourself out there enough.”
Those hurtful and unnecessary statements now haunt me in my own journey of being single. I began to wonder, "How did I — or anyone else — get away with telling people what they should do with a topic as personal as dating? How was I qualified to talk about a subject I knew so little about?"
Sure, I would say these things to my close girlfriends who confided in me and would tell me their deepest, darkest secrets, but what I was saying in response to the questions no one can truly answer was irrelevant. While those statements seemed like harmless advice, they said a lot about how I valued the women in my life. It was as if I felt they were not good enough because they were single. And the truth was, I only responded in that way because I felt I wasn't good enough as a single person.
This disappointing revelation occurred when a guy friend of mine called me, and we were talking about life. The conversation quickly turned to relationships. He was blissfully talking about his relationship with his girlfriend and how happy they were.
Suddenly, he said, “When are you going to find someone?” Having the relationship that we have, I jokingly responded with, “Jesus is my husband.”
But, the question took me by surprise because of how comfortable we are with prying into other people's love lives, regardless of how close we are. As I walk through the journey of being happily single, I wonder how the need to be married or in a relationship became a constant focus in today's culture. One thing I've noticed is how our words cultivate this narrative.
However, I've also realized how insensitive we can be toward single people simply because they are not in a relationship with another person. Relationships are personal matters, and while our culture has applauded celebrating the creation of those relationships with engagements, anniversaries and wedding parties, the intimate details of relationships and roads leading to relationships are private matters, which includes living as a single person.
As someone who found herself telling her friends to “find a spouse” a lot in a previous stage of her life, I've learned that statement is not helping my friends, and it isn't helping our friendship. If finding a spouse was as easy as saying it, then there wouldn't be a pool of single people using all avenues to find their spouses.
Relationships are hard work, and having the right spouse is hard work, if you want a lasting relationship. I've learned to put that “find a spouse” statement behind me, and instead, I found myself asking deeper questions such as, “Do you believe the loneliness you are feeling can ever be filled by a man?” and “How are you cherishing the relationships you have now to prove you are worthy of a forever partnership?”
These are the questions we should be asking our friends because these are the things that truly matter.
I've found that the clichéd statement, “Happiness comes from within,” isn't clichéd at all because we seldom live by it. In a world where women are told how they should act, speak, be or simply exist by popular culture, the least we can do is encourage them to be happy in their single woman journeys.
Yes, some single women want to be married, but we don't want a constant reminder that we aren't meeting our goal. It's the same as people who are trying to reach a fitness goal not wanting to be reminded they've skipped a spin class.
The truth is, being single is as personal as being married, and it shouldn't be a topic we are so quick to add our unnecessary and unhelpful commentary to.
In my personal walk and the walks of friends I've been blessed to share this journey with, I've learned that my identity — or any other single woman's identity — is not defined by who I am dating, but by myself and my higher power.
The best thing couples can do for their single friends is come to this realization and help their friends enjoy their singleness. While it is OK to ask how they are doing in their single journey, it would behoove them not to assume the person isn't looking or is even prepared for a relationship. Making their single friend comfortable with being single and being a better person overall should be the end goal.