Hey there, single friend. Now that all that Valentine’s Day ugliness is behind us, lean in close and let’s have a real heart-to-heart.
I know, when a married person tries to give you “single people advice,” it usually goes like this: “Hey, I understand exactly how you feel. I really struggled with singleness for that week I broke up with my high school sweetheart. But then we got back together and married the day after we graduated from college, and now we have three kids who are in the gifted program at their school, and we have spectacular sex every night, and we regularly post family pictures on Facebook that look like the kind of pictures that come in the picture frame when you buy it. But yeah, that week of singleness was really hard.” (Hand on shoulder; understanding look.) “All in God’s good time, my friend, all in God’s good time.”
Well, that’s not me. I was exactly where you are, single friend. For twenty years, I lived as a bachelor, hoping against hope for that special someone. Meanwhile, seemingly everybody I knew, including a lot of people I wouldn’t trust to water my plants while I was out of town, marched past me down the aisle.
Now that I’m finally on the other side of that wait, I feel like I should share with you a few of insights I’ve picked up along the way. Because I know that our culture is a brutal one to be single in. (At least, it is if you’re looking for a meaningful relationship with a lifetime companion. If you’re looking for meaningless hook-ups, a significant portion of the US economy is built around catering just to you, you lucky devil.) And the church, in spite of doing a lot in the name of “singles ministry” and having the best of intentions, has doled out a lot of bad advice and, in a way, left singles feeling like second-class citizens. But you don’t have to buy into that, single friend. Just hear me out.
Stop Depending on Romance
If all you want out of a relationship is romance, you are setting your sites far too low. Romance comes out of those claw machines at the carnival. It swarms around your porch light on summer nights. Our popular culture is soaked in romance like a baked potato is soaked in butter. It’s cheap and easy, and on top of that, it’s a lie.
Well, maybe that’s too harsh. Let’s say instead that it’s a white lie. It’s a “first date” kind of lie, like pretending that you actually comb your hair and smell good all the time. It’s the kind of fiction that it’s nice to marinate in sometimes. But when you try to base your life on it, you find it’s just a vapor.
If you are fortunate enough to find someone to marry, your married life life is not going to be one long first date. Make sure that your relationship is built on something more substantial than romance.
Don’t Lower Expectations; Narrow Them
Around Valentine’s Day, I saw a glut of articles directed at singles looking for love that all said, essentially, “You need to lower your expectations.” These kind of articles are well-intentioned, and I see what they’re driving at, but that’s the wrong way to look at it. Plus, lovelorn singles who hear that are going to react by 1) getting more depressed, and then 2) doubling down on a bad hand by insisting that, no!, they will be the one who finds their perfect match, when the odds are better that they win the lottery and hit a hole in one while getting struck by lightning.
What you need to do, single friend, is narrow your expectations down to the things that really, really, really matter. Does he really need to love karaoke if he loves you enough to at least go watch you sing karaoke? Does she really need to understand baseball if she loves you enough to pretend to be interested when you’re talking about baseball?
Finding someone who’s on the same page with you on things that matter is hard enough. The longer your list of requirements for a mate, the longer your odds of finding someone who fits them.
The Hardest Advice
Ok, this is the hard part, but I have to say it, because nobody else will. But the truth, single friend, is that maybe you are destined to stay single.
This is something that the church especially gets wrong, when the church should be the place in your life that understands it best. Church leaders, singles ministers, and married Christian friends tell you without fail, “Don’t worry. God has a special someone picked out just for you.” But they don’t know that. Maybe He doesn’t. I don’t see anywhere in scripture where God guarantees you a mate. And I see several places that say maybe it’s better to stay single.
I know, I know. It’s easy for me to say that now that I’m married. But I can honestly say that, before I met my wife, I was at peace with my singleness. I should’ve been; after twenty years I’d had a lot of practice. You should strive to be at peace with it too. And peace is a hard thing to achieve when you see your life as incomplete because of an unkept promise from God.
Getting into a good marriage is a wonderful thing, and I recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity. (Getting into a bad marriage, on the other hand, is much, much worse than being single.) But the most important relationship is the one with God, and that’s the relationship that’s going to give you peace.
So chin up, single friend. Embrace the life you have. Don’t waste it pining for the life you wish you had. And in the meantime, use this time to grow into the person God wants you to be. Along those lines, here’s a good video on struggling with singleness: