There’s always a fine line between helping/supporting your single friends, and trying to ‘fix’ your single friends. Too often, what is well meant on the part of the marrieds, is sometimes interpreted as them trying to fix their single friends as if they’re broken or unfulfilled. This is not to say that single people don’t need or want any help from you, because we very much need your support. Being single does not make me broken or incomplete, but yes, sometimes it is hard. So, here are a few ways that I feel you can support your single friends. [It’s worth mentioning that this is a personal account, and don’t speak necessarily on the behalf of all singles. But I do know/hope that some of my single friends can relate to me in this.]

I’ve often heard people say that being single brings freedom, but i don’t know if thats completely true. There is freedom only with regard to oneself – i can come and go as i like & i can make decisions that concern only me etc – but one cannot, and does not, live in isolation, even in being single. Other people (in our lives) are always a factor, no matter what kind of relationship you have with them, and so freedom is still limited, and its supposed to be a good thing i think. To be honest though, I’ve often felt that its been the other way around, in that there is less freedom in being single (and older), precisely because it becomes so much harder to involve the ones we want in our lives, because they have lives of their own with new and different priorities (not that these priorities are wrong). Honestly, i don’t think there is any married person who would exchange what they have for this ‘freedom.’

One of the hardest things about being single at this age (late twenties onwards), is that most of your friends in your friendship groups have now gotten married, and some even have kids already. It feels a bit like everyone’s lives naturally progressed on to the ‘next stage’, while you were left behind. I really love hanging out with all my married friends and their families, but these days we can’t always just hang out as it were. Marriage, I suspect, has much room for spontaneity with each other, but with others it now requires a bit of planning. And we do make plans, but these days everyone’s schedule seems to be so full that it becomes even harder. It can get a bit lonely sometimes when you can’t just do stuff with friends anymore, like go for coffee, or a movie, or just hang out, especially in those times you feel you need some company or friends, or to just get out the house. There have been many a lonely Saturday night, which has honestly become the worst day of the week for me. Its the day I often feel the most alone – because everyone else has their weekend plans. This is not because I have a non-existent social life, or because I choose to stay home to pity in my sorrows. Its just seems to be easier for a married couple to decide on coffee and movies spur of the moment, if they feel they need to get out or do something different, but it becomes a bit harder for the single to make spontaneous plans with others. As it is, its hard to make normal plans when everyone is so busy.

There are days that you can’t really plan… days where you just feel the need to get out, or when you just really need a friend to be there. These are usually days in which we feel particularly alone. I’ve often tried to solve this by sending out several messages to a number of friends on the day, or even a few days ahead, and the response is often one i find hard to swallow (which is why I don’t often send such requests out.)  The responses that i find particularly hard, are the ones in which a person responds by saying they can’t do something with me because they’ve promised to do it with their spouse/significant other; as well as the ones which end with “…but enjoy it.”  What is often unknown to the married friend, is that my request is more than not, a desperate plea for some company. What I’m often really saying is that, “I’m feeling lonely, and i’m asking you, and chosen you, to be a friend to me, to just come be with me” without trying to sound completely desperate.

Now I do understand that couples have things they want to do together, and i’m a big believer in date nights and spending alone time together, and i would never want to encroach on that; but often when one says they can’t do something because they want to do it with their partner, is often a response i feel very hurt over, probably because of the deep dark space from where the request comes. I don’t expect that i be more important to you than your significant other, as they are and should be the most important person in your life; but its still hurtful when one is rejected in favor for another. My personal feelings may be selfish, but i’ve sometimes thought that if its not something thats going to break your relationship over, then should it stop you from spending time from a friend in need. I don’t mean to come across as selfish or insensitive. Its more about the time spent together, than it is about the actual activity suggested. If it really is important to do the suggested activity with your partner, then suggest something else to do (if you’re free at the time), or suggest another day on which we can schedule a hang out (instead of leaving me with “…but enjoy it.”) Its fine if its another day, as it gives me something to look forward to. This is something really small, but can make a really big difference to someone in their struggle with being alone.

Another thing i’ve found difficult is that i’ve often noticed how other couples get invited over for dinner or arrange to do stuff together. I understand the need for couples to do ‘couple stuff’ together, but i’ve often felt like i haven’t been invited or included is because i have no partner to join in. This may be a completely false assumption, i know. But if you don’t mind having a third or fifth person around, you’d have no idea how much they’d actually appreciate it. I think people are often afraid that that person would end up being a third or fifth wheel, which no one likes, but this will only happen if you make them feel like a third of fifth wheel. Most of the time, we’re just happy to spend some quality time with good company.

And then there’s just the simple stuff, that’d i’d like to remind you to never take for granted. These are things I desire for, and long for to become a reality one day. To be able to come home and receive a hug, and to have someone to just talk about my day. To just have someone who is there to witness your life. I appreciate those people who have sometimes created a space for me to just share about my week or to talk about silly non-important stuff. Its those little gaps that help me deal with day to day life. And I struggle when those gaps aren’t found. I appreciate it when someone asks a simple “How are you doing?” and means it, or “How was your day/week/trip/thing you said you were going to do etc?” giving me a chance to get anything on my heart out. Sometimes the hardest thing is not having someone to talk to about the little stuff.

Let me end with saying how much i’ve really appreciated, both my married and unmarried friends, who have cared for me along the way. Despite the lonely days, and the hard times, I also don’t take for granted the love and care that i have received from friends. It can be difficult for marrieds to understand where singles are at, and vice versa, when we aren’t in the same space, and so I do hope that this provides some insight and understanding, and a few helpful guides on how to support us, but not fix us.

[To read some more thoughts on what Single people wished Married people would know, by Busisiwe Ledibane, click here]