“You singles out there, go to the lobby and just find someone to marry.”
Someone whom I knew and respected actually said that at a meeting I attended a few years ago. I wish I were kidding.
It wasn’t a meeting about marriage or singleness. It wasn’t part of some crazy dare, either. Instead, we were at a regular work event, and the comment had nothing to do with the leadership issues being discussed.
As if being an effective leader required having a spouse by your side. As if that’s how you’d find a great spouse. As if being married to just anyone—even if you had to go find him or her in a hotel lobby—was the key to happiness.
As if being happily single was not an option.
During the next break, I approached the speaker and enquired, “So… help me understand. What you meant with the assignment.”
It would have been great if he said, “You know, that didn’t come out the way I intended.” Or, “Yeah, that was a joke that fell flat!” Or even, “What did you hear me saying? Did I offend you?”
“Well, Adele,” he responded instead, “there are many singles in this room who desperately want to be married. Not everyone’s called to singleness like you are.”
Could someone hand the man a shovel so he could dig even faster!
I didn’t even get a “What?!” out before the guy excused himself to get the next session going, and we never finished our conversation.
If we had the opportunity to visit, I’d tell him what I had told Mary, a friend in Shanghai. I had been in Mary’s city for meetings, and after a few days of grappling with issues around leadership development in the underground church, interspersed with much laughter and the sharing of stories, Mary bravely asked, “Adele, when did you realize you were called to be single?”
“I’m not called to be single,” I explained. “I’m called to Jesus. I happen to be single.”
In case you wonder: My friends around the world can attest that while I’m far from perfect, I’m not weird. I’m not a recluse. I’m not unlovable or unattractive. I’m not socially awkward. I don’t weigh 600 pounds. I’m not unintelligent or boring. As far as I know, I have no offensive habits. And I am not gay.
I say this since folks assume that anyone who is still single at almost 50 obviously must be one or more of these things.
What I am, though, is rooted in my identity as a follower of Christ. And I have experienced amazing adventures because of that. (Which is why I’m determined to invite others along on this adventured called the Blue Thread Life! I wouldn’t be able to live and promote the Blue Thread Life if I weren’t able to embrace—even celebrate—my marital status.)
However, I know that not all singles describe themselves as happily single. So, if you’re struggling with being single—especially around Valentine’s Day—I have four tips for you:
1. Find a Purpose Larger than You
As my friend and mentor Michele Cushatt says,
“If you can lose it, it’s not who you are.”
(Last year, Michele recently published an excellent book on the topic of identity. It is worth the read.)
- You ≠ your marital status.
- You ≠ your parental status.
- You ≠ your job title.
- You ≠ your bank balance.
- You ≠ your academic credentials.
- You ≠ your weight on a scale.
- You ≠ your very best skills.
Unless you can find significance in a purpose much larger than yourself, you’ll continue to seek for things that will disappoint sooner or later.
2. Be Your Own Best Friend
Single folks spend a lot of time alone. Get comfortable with that! If you’re constantly looking for someone to be with you and fill the space, you’ll go through friends faster than a roll of toilet paper.
If you can’t stand your own company, others won’t hang around, either!
If that’s true for you, seek therapy. You’ve got to get comfortable with yourself.
Be careful, though, not to spend all your time alone. You need other good folks to keep you from getting weird.
3. Make Several Great Friends
It’s true. Good friends keep you from getting weird. Well, at least mine do! There are more than enough weird singles out there. No need to add to the pool…
But don’t wait for others to initiate friendship or activities. Reach out to others to do things.
It’s important to have different friends to do different things with.
Having only one or two friends can lead to unhealthy friendships. One or two people cannot fulfill all your needs.
4. Focus on the Positive
Tempted to fixate on what you don’t have? The best cure is to start a gratitude journal. Take note of what you have: Good health. Opportunities to learn new things. Freedom to make yourself breakfast for dinner, should you so wish.
Take note of the little things around you that make life beautiful: The sound of a bird. A positive exchange with a stranger. The smell of fresh coffee.
And for crying out loud: This week, on Valentine’s Day, reach out to your friends and family and tell them you love them. Stay off Facebook till all the “I love us” profile pictures have disappeared—unless you want to throw yourself a pity party. Or unless you can simply be happy for your friends and move on.
Whatever you do, resist the temptation to “just find someone to marry.” Everyone might not agree, but there are far worse things than being single!
My Challenge to You
- Don’t let your marital status define who you are. What defines your is your faith in God and your relationship with him.
- If you’re married, would you please commit to not saying stupid stuff like my colleague did?
- And if you’re a church leader who happens to be reading this, please don’t always just use illustrations about families and spouses. More than half of the adults in your church are likely single!
My Question to You
- What are some things you love about being single?
- Or, what are some of the craziest things people have told you or asked you about your marital status?