Thursday, August 25, 2011

Transitioning out of Singleness (Part 2a): Words that hurt the Singleton's heart.

As I was thinking of how God prepared me for marriage, I was compelled to write about two particular things that people often say to singles about being single. It became longer than I expected, so the posting turned into two separate postings. The first (below) is things "not" to say to a singleton. The second post specifies the ways that I feel like I was prepared (and prepared myself) for marriage.

Before I share some of the things that I can see are helping me to be a better life-mate, let me first post my very strongly felt disclaimer.

Over the course of my adult life, I have heard many many many many (often married) people imply that there are specific reasons people remain single. These particular statements always strike me as condescending and generally, though unintentionally, hurtful. By identifying these statements below, it is my goal to expose that these statements are hurtful and to clarify that although I can look back and see how I was prepared, I am not saying that any other person's singleness, nor mine, is/was as a result of the reasons below.

1) The first is because "God wants to prepare them for their husband or wife." Yes, I think that a person's singleness may be a result of their needing further refinement (or I suppose of their partner needing further refinement) but to imply this about someone else is grossly prejudicial and condescending. Hopefully my words in the next post will show how I was prepared, and the steps I took to prepare myself - not just to be a good wife and life-partner, but also just to be a better friend and colleague. I would be more likely to say that doing these things helped me to be more open to approaching a romantic relationship than I needed to do these things "to be ready' to be a spouse. Frankly put, plenty of people meet a marriage partner before they are "ready" to be a spouse and just as many people get married in that same state. I have known them. Some of them worked it out and became great spouses. I just don't think "being prepared" alone is a good reason for a person being single.

2) The second is because "You need to focus all your attention on doing God's will, and then when you stop focusing on finding a partner, God will present that person to you."  Oh, this one makes me even angrier than the other - not the least of which is because I have spent the last 12 years really seeking God's will for my life -and following it into spiritual leadership roles, across the country, and into a new career, as a single woman... None of which I wanted for myself, while knowing the work would likely keep me single through each season. But also during those 12 years I wanted to meet a partner and I continued to look around for that person, even as I had fruitful ministries following God's call. And here I am - a decade older - and just now am meeting this person for me.
This particular statement "Just focus on doing God's work/will/etc, and then you'll meet your person." and its kin "When I stopped looking, that is when I found _______." are particularly painful because it implies to the receiver that they must NOT be doing God's will. Additionally, I frankly did not know how "stop looking" for my future husband. Being a wife and mother was a deep call in my heart and I did not know how to silence that in a way that made me immune to meeting new men and (even if only briefly) wondering "Could this be him?"

I want to bring these up, because I know how easy it is for each of us to advise others out of our own experience. A friend of mine, we'll call him Tom, told the story of how he met his wife and used example #2 above, during bible study, to a single gal asking for prayers for her husband. As Tom told it, he decided to stop just living to date to find his wife, and instead recommitted himself to God and gave up dating...and a few months later met his now wife of four years. This is a great story and yes, for him part of what it took was giving up his dating behaviors and focusing on doing work for God. But his experience is only his experience.  And my experience is only mine - which is why even though I'll gladly tell you I met Curby at, I won't say that you "should" get on that site because that is totally the way to find your husband. Its just rubbish to expect other people's stories to be like ours.

I guess what I'm saying is that everyone's story is different. Is it OK, when you single friend asks why she or he is still single to say, "Well, maybe there are some things you need to work on before you're ready." Sure, I think it IS OK - but only say it if you are willing to be specific with your friend about habits and behaviors that they can refine. And only if you are willing to partner in the responsibility for loving them through it. A better answer might be, "I don't know. But hopefully you'll meet your person soon." and then tell them the story of some old friend of yours who met her soulmate at 37. Or at 42. Or at 54, if you can. And pass on a little hope instead of pain.

Phew. All of that being said.... check out the next post. :)

And feel free to weigh in on this one below. What other "reasons" for being single do you hate? What reasons do you give your friends when they ask why they are still single? 

(and lastly, remember to keep our single friends in our prayers, too - it can be a hard life out there for a single person, and knowing that someone is praying for you to be at peace and to find your soulmate - that someone is crying out for you makes a difference!)


Erin said...

Tiff, I LOVE this post....I know there are a few more out there, because I feel like I've heard them all...I think it's any statement that leads to an "If....then..." conclusion, when the reality, as you so clearly put it, is that God works differently in all of our lives and there is no blanket or cookie-cutter method to getting married!! If I think of any other cliche phrases I've heard, I'll be sure to chime in again!

The Linz said...

Oh, Tiff. There are SO many reasons that people give me on a near-daily basis as to finding a significant other or while I'm still single. I find it irritating that most (if not all) of these people are IN relationships, MARRIED, or have HAD relationships. None of which I can claim, which makes it hard for folks my age to relate to my situation.

I think the #1 reason I'm given that I HATE! is that "it will happen when you're least expecting it." Pardon my language, but I call BULLSHIT! I expect it, I want it, and I want to slap people (even my best friends, for crying out loud) who say that to me.

Coming in at a close #2 would be that "you just haven't been in the dating world all that long - you have to go on a lot of bad dates to find the good ones." Again, I call BS! Just because I'm 28 and have only been dating for two years DOESN'T mean I should have to wait another 10 years before I find someone decent. We're grownups, for crying out loud! I don't think it's unreasonable for me to expect that if I go on a date with someone, they behave like an adult and treat me (and themselves) with some respect and dignity! It's so frustrating to hear these things over and over and over again.

*end rant* So there's my contribution to this post. And I couldn't be more THRILLED that you found Curby and are looking so happy these days. It does my heart good in so many ways.

Your Perpetually Singleton Friend Lindsay

Sarah Gail said...

Tiff, I just love this!! I get so frustrated with some of the things people say. I know they are trying to be encouraging, but it can wound more deeply then people know. I also feel like it comes across like we know less about life than those who have figured it out and gotten settled down. I know that's not the heart, but it is how it feels sometimes!

Kristen said...

You have excellent points. I had a lot of times where I felt like something was broken in me because I wasn't dating from high school through college. Most people's so-called advice never helped. My senior year I read a book called "How to Get a Date Worth Keeping" and I seriously think it changed the way I viewed dating. I actively went out and talked to guys and just had [clean :)] fun. After a few years I did meet my husband- on okcupid -and I think that's okay.

Kristen said...

maybe I should've read BOTH posts before commenting. It does attest to the truth in the book, though.

Wendy said...

Love your blog, Tiffani. Okay, here is my thing. Even at 43 and as a never married Christian woman, people (typically married women) call me Miss Wendy. I am in the habit of correcting people that call me that, but I am here to say that the Single Never Married (SNM) do not need to be reminded that they are unmarried every time their name is called out! Besides it is hurtful to the SNM, if feels patronizing to be addressed that way - especially when it is a married person saying it. Just Wendy or if you must, Miss Nungesser, please. Thank you. ;)

Jennifer said...

There are a lot of similarities in this and getting pregnant - my heart kept taking me back with each "reason". Things are not the same for anyone, people don't realize that what they mean as kindness can cut you to the core. Thanks for being so open and honest with where you were and where you are going. Admire you for that.