Tag Archive: what single people want married people to know


chrisjacobs

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.

[For other thoughts Single People have wanted their Married Friends to know, click here]

[For some thoughts from Married People on what they would love their Single Friends to know click here]

deborah

The first time I found out that one of my close friends was getting married, I cried. A lot. Like if I found out she was going to die. I was only about 13 or 14 years old, but I felt that I was losing my friend forever. As I got older, I realised that it doesn’t have to be this way – I now see it as an opportunity to gain a friend, in the person of my friend’s spouse. Now, at age 34, most of my friends are married, so I have a lot of experiences, both positive and negative, with my married friends, and I would like to share some of these with you.

I appreciate when my married friends include me on their family vacations. While it is true that I have my own family vacations that I thoroughly enjoy, there is something special about going on vacation with my friend. Just the mere fact that I have been invited on their ‘family vacation’ shows how much they value my friendship, that I am treated more like family than just a friend. Also, it allows us time to have conversations that we may not have been able to have due to the demands of our divergent daily schedules.

I appreciate when my married friends trust me with their children. I love children, but since I have none that I have birthed, I love when my friends allow me to treat their children like if they were my own. I am grateful for the opportunities to fall asleep with a baby in my arms, and to see the excitement in their eyes when they go to the zoo for the first time, and to hear their laughs when we go to the beach, and to get cards on mother’s day saying “Thank you for all that you do for me”.

I appreciate when my married friends send me texts at random times just to find out how I am doing. It shows me that, although our lives no longer run in parallel, my friend still cares about me and makes the effort to let me know that they do. Sometimes months may pass until I next hear from them, but that’s OK, because I know that the love is still there.

I appreciate when my married friends are willing to make time for me when I have one of my “I need to talk to you” moments. Most of the times, just the fact that you make the sacrifice to hear my story is all I need.

But, my married friends are humans too, and there are sometimes when they do things that unintentionally hurt.

I do not appreciate when my married friends make insensitive comments about my singleness and then say “Just joking”. To me, it is never funny.

I do not appreciate when my married friends share details of their married lives with me that should just be between them and their spouse. To me, it is too much information.

I do not appreciate when my married friends ask me when I am planning to ‘settle down’. To me, I am already settled, because I am content in my present state.

I do not appreciate when my married friends who I have not been in contact with for a long time ask me if I have a boyfriend as yet. To me, if we were that close, I would have told you, so the question is unnecessary. I also do not appreciate the ‘as yet’ part of the question, as though it is understood that my singleness is a temporary state of affairs.

The truth is, I don’t know if God’s plan for me involves marriage. But the fact is that right now, I am single, and doing my best to live out God’s purposes for me in this season of my life. The best thing my married friends can do for me is to love me as I am, and don’t try to change me.

[To read what Chris Jacobs would like his married friends to hear and know, click here]

busi

Busisiwe Ledibane, 22

The other day I went to my little cousin’s school and came across two little girls on the way to the bathroom. As I entered the staff toilets, they approached the door and one said, “You’re not allowed in there.” “I’m not a child,” I responded, trying not to sound hostile, although I ended up sounding hostile anyway. My mom came to my rescue and said to them, “She’s 23, my darlings.”

My mom may have fast-forwarded that a bit for effect because I haven’t turned 23 yet, but it still stung a bit. No, not the fact that two little girls thought I was in primary school, but the fact that I’ll be 23 this year. “I’m old,” I thought. How ridiculous? 23 is not old but I know why I may have felt like 23 is old. It’s because I live in a world where 23-year-olds are dating and getting married; a world where being single is almost always portrayed as some sort of curse. I’m sick of that world and I want to challenge it.

I only became passionate about commenting and adding my 2 cents on dating and relationships in the Christian context when I turned 20 because it is around that time that I started feeling it. The curse. I had been single for a couple of years before that (I’d stopped going out with boys when I became a Christian as a teen) and had never felt weird about it. My friends would sometimes comment, encouraging me to get out there but I chilled. I was young. However, when I entered the 20’s, I suddenly didn’t feel young anymore. People started getting married and as someone who wasn’t willing to date just for the sake of dating, I started to see it: how being a single 20-something wasn’t fashionable. I was annoyed, in fact I still am, at how Christianity sometimes handles singleness and below are just some of my thoughts on some of the things I’ve observed over the past couple of years as a single Christian.

Twenty-five

According to the made-up statistics in my head, there are about 1 million Christians (mostly women) on this planet right now who are moping about or smiling away their disappointment and hurt because they are either approaching; are at; or they are past the age of 25 and they are still single.

So, what it is about 25? I don’t know the answer to that but I definitely know that 25 is probably one of the worst things that can happen to the single Christian woman. I have met this woman a few times before and I often try to think up a million ways not to end out like her because she gets lonely and sad and she just breaks my heart.

It’s partly this woman’s fault that she feels this way but perhaps seeing younger women get married in her church has also taken its toll. She has seen the Church celebrate marriage and elevate it above being single and has been made to feel like she has lost. She even has nightmares about dying alone.

The “25 Phenomenon” is real and it has created an expectation among Christians to get married by 25. This is not just the fault of the Church, it’s something that married people and engaged people within the Church have played a part in too. It’s not all of them but often, married and engaged people in Christian circles even try to hook their friends up with their other awesome friends because, “You’re 22, you need to get out there!”

I may be wrong, but I doubt that it’s only the single Christian who starts to panic when 25 is looming; I think her non-single friends start to panic a little bit too…

I’m fine

So stop with the constant match-making. I know that you’re happy and in love and you want the same for me but I’m fine. I don’t have to be in a relationship. Besides, you’ve lost the plot completely because I would never be attracted to that guy. Yes, I’m sure he’s great but I’m just not that into him.

Married and engaged friends of mine, you get a little too excited about hooking your single friends up sometimes. Relax, it’s just being unmarried, it’s not an abnormality.

Words of comfort

Sometimes, our friends do not freak out about our singleness. Instead, they offer words of comfort because they truly believe that our prince will come. There’s one problem though; they are sometimes not so good at it, hey…

“Be patient, he’ll come.”

Uhm…okay, if you were married at 20, you can’t be the person comforting me when I’m having an “I’m tired of being single” day. You know why? Because I haven’t been with anyone for years and you’ve been in a relationship ever since I’ve known you. You can’t tell me about being patient when you did not have to be.

I don’t often have those days, but I’m woman enough to admit that I sometimes do and I really don’t want someone who can’t relate telling me how to deal because then I can’t deal with her.

To be fair, married-at-20-person, this single friend shouldn’t have come to you in the first place but she did, so please be sensitive. You don’t always have to have a verbal response, just listen and maybe even admit that you can’t imagine what that must be like.

Also, don’t make promises you can’t keep. You know why? Because you’re not God. Your life may have turned out like this: you met him in your late teens and got married when you were 21. That’s not everybody else’s life and it most certainly isn’t the blueprint of the Christian life either. So don’t get caught up in fantasising with your single friend and helping them build expectations which might not be met. You can’t guarantee that they’ll be married by 25 or 30 or even 35.

“Focus on becoming Mrs Right”

I’ve heard this so many times before and I don’t necessarily think it’s wrong. In fact, I think that every single Christian should apply it to their own life. My problem with this phrase, however, is that it can often come across as a little condescending, especially if it’s coming from already married people. And honestly, the younger they are, the worse it sounds.

It’s this very phrase, along with others, that has made me wonder if I’m not right yet. Is there some sort of preparation process that I haven’t gone through yet? Is that why I still don’t have a boyfriend? Perhaps I need to get to a Christian bookstore and find self-help books on how to get ready for my man. I need to start the process so that when 25 comes in two years’ time, I’m sorted. I’ll just need to find a guy around that age who can afford to cough up cash (or cows) for lobola, of course.

“Focus on becoming Mrs Right,” whether coming from the friend across the table at a coffee shop or the person on the podium or pulpit sounds a lot like, “Get right with God first.” Hairs on the back of my neck? Raised.

I would really appreciate it if I wouldn’t be made to feel like there is a level of spiritual maturity that I haven’t reached yet which is the reason for my being single. I love Jesus too, you know. I love Him as much as the 21-year-old who is getting married next week, so please don’t make me feel like my relationship with my God is flawed or illegitimate and that’s why He’s “withholding my spouse.”

Facebook and Instagram

It’s very nice that you got engaged and/or married. I’m thrilled for you but maybe you could slow down the constant sharing of your perfect life on social media. I’d like to see your wedding pictures but not all 2 000 of them. I would like to know how you’re doing but I really don’t want to live through your first year of marriage on Facebook.

This may come across as a bit of jealousy, but before going further, I would like to say that I’m not jealous. Do I want to get married one day? Yes. In the next two to three years? No. So, I’m not jealous but I do honestly feel like married and engaged Christian couples should slow down with the over-the-top sharing of their relationships on social media.

Many Christians (like me) want to wait for the right person and are not so much into casual dating. So they will wait until they meet someone whom they think could be their life partner and that’s when they’ll decide to give it a go, but just because they have high standards and are choosing to wait for the right one doesn’t mean it doesn’t get difficult sometimes.

So, it’s nice that you’re so happy. I don’t mean to make you feel guilty because you shouldn’t feel guilty. You’re in love and you should be happy about that, but perhaps you should keep 98% of it in a photo album on your coffee table, in your journal, his instant messages inbox… Yes? Thanks.

And finally…

The “OTHER-ing” of single people

One of the ways in which marriage is always elevated above singleness is through the marginalisation of single people either through action or speech on the part of the Church and some married Christians.

Sometimes I feel like they don’t know what to do with us. We are a special breed of Christians. They must create programs for us and home groups to make us feel included. Hello? Why were we excluded in the first place?

My being a single 20-something doesn’t mean that I need your pity. I’m fine. I’m a person too and I just want to be treated like a person, not a single person.

Church shouldn’t be about the single and the married, it’s about community. I may be single because I want to be; or maybe I don’t want to be but I’m okay with waiting for the right guy, it doesn’t really matter. The bottom line is, I’m single. It’s not a phase, a temporary state of being until the next big thing aka marriage and it’s not a condition. It just is.

So stop making me feel like I’m the other. I’m as much a part of God’s community as you are.

To conclude, there is fault on both sides, really. While the Church and those who are married may have put marriage on a pedestal, the singles have also played a part in their own exclusion and marginalisation by buying into lies which have in turn created expectations (like, “God owes me a spouse and must deliver,”) that haven’t been met which have resulted in many single people being anxious and unhappy with where they find themselves in life.

Like I said, singleness shouldn’t be thought of as a temporary state, a condition or even a calling. It just is and it’s fine.

[To hear more thoughts from a Single person to their Married friends c/o Kate Sherry, click here]

chant2

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]

%d bloggers like this: