Where do you even begin to describe the real challenges associated with singleness vs. marriage? I run the risk of making myself incredibly vulnerable by the detail I share in this post, but to most of your readers I am a “relative stranger”, so whilst there may be some risk, I believe sharing may benefit some and in turn out-weight the associated risk.
I’ve been reading through your, and everybody else’s posts and have found myself literally laughing out loud! This is not because I think anyone here is a joke, it’s because I’ve been in exactly the same place as all these people, and reading the common response from our family and friends is genuinely humorous! It’s a kind of mix between christianease and self-help mantras from Oprah or Dr Phil! Sure, these things are expressed with a well-meaning heart, but that never guarantees how they will be received. Allow me, however, to share my own thoughts and experiences…
For some context, I’m a 30 year old man, single, never been married either. I’ve had a couple of long-term relationships (18 months – 4.5 years) and have desired to be married for a long time now. Now I know what some of you are already thinking, “Buddy, you’re only 30…” To help you understand my position, this is coming from the guy who wanted to be married from as early as 21!! So sure, I don’t fit the typical male stereotype in that I actually wanted to be married, but that is just who I am. To give you more context, I come off the back of a 4.5 year relationship where I believed we were going to get married, but didn’t. Since then I’ve tried twice to date again, and both times failed dismally…but that’s another story for another time.
Things that I wish my married friends would hear or know, well there’s a lot. I think the overarching idea that married people need to know first is this; trite little answers do more harm than you would begin to imagine. I’m not second guessing my family and friends’ genuineness, but you have to take into consideration that we’ve (singles) probably already heard it all before, and we all know what is said about familiarity breeding contempt. One of the things which most single people will have to battle with at some stage is the mental gymnastics of “am I meant to be single or have I just not found a compatible partner?” Nobody has ever even come close to giving an answer to this question, and I feel that perhaps this is either because I haven’t heard a valid answer, or because I personally have too much personal resentment with the idea of being single till the day I die, and therefore don’t care to hear the answers from anyone.
However, what I must say is this; I believe that the biggest irritation that married people cause is actually elevating the position of the single person, i.e. you’re free to do whatever you want, “I wish I was still single, there is so much I’d do!” Don’t get me wrong, freedom is great, and I love being able to do whatever I want…but for the guy who’s wanted to be married for easily that last decade, I believe life is best shared. The fact remains that we always desire the next stage of life, and that could be anything, marriage, kids, boarding school, varsity, retirement, the goal is essentially not what’s important here, it’s the state of your own heart. So elevating your singleness as something to be grateful for is a good as not making the podium at the Olympics and being told that it’s so awesome that you made it to the Olympics! The real issue is, are you content or not? Period. I don’t personally like to think this way, because most days I’m not content with where I am and that leaves me feeling pretty disillusioned with life, but on the odd occasion that I do feel content I can only thank my Creator for everything I am and have and will ever be, knowing that even if all I have is Him, then I am still doing pretty damn well!
Practically speaking, married people shouldn’t handle us singles with a 10-foot barge pole with a bar of soap on the end, nor with kid-gloves. We’re still the same people who will sometimes accept and sometimes decline to attend social gatherings. We understand that your time will be more scarce because you are married, and sometimes even more so if you have kids, but what’s important is if you make even just the occasional effort. Include us in your life, and in the spirit of any good salesman, don’t make up my mind for me!
You know, this doesn’t even take into account that some single people just plain choose to be single, and if that’s their choice, then leave them be! They shouldn’t be looked down upon or pitied, that’s what they want and that’s ok.
One particular thing which I believe most marrieds don’t get is probably the most painful of the lot. speaking out of my own context, the vast majority of marrieds I know and associate with, if not all of them, have never had to deal with the rejection associated with a failed relationship like that of mine. i.e. 4.5 years. I genuinely believe that the world we live in today has a different way of viewing relationships and commitment, and so to hear of people giving up on relationships, whether dating, engaged or married, is not uncommon. So for the married people who have found a friend who became the spouse, and are still trucking along together, you have no idea of the challenge associated with finding somebody who will chose you and chose to stick with you. The reason why I say this, is because the older you get, the higher the likelihood the pool of singles you associate with (and date) are in the same boat as you, i.e. broken-hearted in a state of repair as you begin to trust another person with your heart. I’ll be the first to say, two slightly broken-hearted individuals do not make a whole!! The point I wish to make here, is really about the way in which marrieds don’t understand this, and they don’t understand that we will probably never find some “pure, spotless and untainted individual” like they did because life in the western world has a fantastic way of hardening and callousing the hearts of those who have to “go it alone”. (Wow I’m starting to hear my own angst here…)
There’s no recipe or sure-fire approach to dealing with singles as a married couple, but at least if all you married people can hear this stuff you’ll understand our hearts a little better.