How to Love Your Single Friends

Dear friends,

Hi, it’s me. How are you? Good? Great. I’m glad.

You know sometimes I’m not great with expressing my thoughts unless I’m able to write them so I thought I would write you this letter. I have to confess something to you. I’m struggling. I struggle in our friendship and I don’t know how to talk about that. At first I wanted to rant about the pain that slices through me like a knife but as I wrote and rewrote those words, as intensely personal as they felt, I decided they didn’t accurately convey what I’m trying to say.

First off let me say that I love being your friend. I love doing life with you. I love knowing your struggles and your burdens. I love knowing your heart. I love praying for and with you. I love your kids/spouse/ fiancee/boyfriend. Seriously. I love being part of your community. You bring a depth and joy to my life that is nearly impossible to communicate. But I think sometimes it can be easy to forget the differences in our stages of life. I try to do a good job of talking parenting philosophies or encouraging you to spank or not to spank, being a comforting ear when your husband blew $500 on a new car stereo without thinking about the new washer you need, commiserating with you while you try to pick off-white or nearly white, and squealing with you over those words he said on your date last night. But in all honesty, sometimes those conversations pierce me like an arrow.

This is a hard letter for me to write. Because I don’t want you to think for a second that I don’t want to be part of your journey. It’s not true. At all. It’s just that some seasons are harder than others and this is one of them. I’m not sure if you know this but we’re in one of the weirdest transitions for young adults. For the first time ever, the average age of the first marriage for a woman is 27 and a man is 29. That is significantly later than when our parents got married and their parents got married and their parents got married. Even most of you got married before 25. And being a Christian in that? Gosh it is hard. Because the Church doesn’t really know what to do with us. We’re older. And single. But we’re not broken-single, we’re just… single. And we’re left to navigate this older singleness alone.

The other thing that makes it even harder is the prevalence of social media documenting our every move. Seriously. I’ve watched some of you go from first dates to engagement to marriage to babies via Facebook and now Instagram. Which again, hear me when I say, I love it. But it is a constant reminder of my lack.

Have I mentioned how truly grateful and loved I am? Because I know that. I really truly do. Down to my deepest fiber I know that I am not alone in my journey. I have an incredible family, job, support system, and community. I always have more than enough. I’m not discounting that or weighing it against my feelings of incompleteness.

I simply want to tell you about the gaping hole I feel.

Imagine having this unquenchable thirst. At first it is burning and confusing and all you can think about. You try everything to silence it but it sits in the back of your brain screaming out. Eventually you learn to quiet it for the majority of your daily life. You function and enjoy and live and love and move on. But it’s still there. Burning. And everywhere you look people are drinking water around you. Quenching their thirst. You hear people complain about the quality of the water or the temperature or the fact that they only have water to drink and you think, my goodness, what I wouldn’t do for a drink of any water. 

But for whatever reason, there is no water.

Sometimes I don’t handle it well. I cry, yell, go silent and numb, withdraw. All coping mechanisms.

In the midst of that I don’t always know how to tell you these things, because I don’t want you to think I can’t handle the enormous blessings in your life. So maybe I hurt you or you feel distance from me. I promise, it’s nothing personal, I’m just not good at it. So consider this an apology and a plea for extra grace.

I wasn’t really prepared for these emotions. It’s unlike any battle I’ve ever had to fight before. It’s not only a battle of not being content, it’s a battle of shame and guilt and anger. It takes every ounce of strength to face the morning sometime.

What my shame voice says are twisted cliches meant to drive the knife in deeper.

trust God more, ye of little faith
it’s not about you. stop making it about you.
you can’t even be happy for your friend?
don’t admit this to anyone.

Over and over like a dissonant symphony with no resolution.

But what I really need someone to say is that it sucks. No excuses. No half attempts at making me feel better. No cliches.

Just a genuine “yes this sucks and it hurts you and that sucks. I don’t know why, I’m not going to pretend. I see you. I hear your pain. It matters.”

No one talks about the reality of being left behind by your peer group. The pain in watching them move from single friends to relationship friends to married friends to parent friends. There’s just so much shame and feelings of failure in the middle of it. I get angry and sad and frustrated and confused at the swirl of emotions that I feel. So I work on trusting God harder, stuffing down my feelings, throwing myself into whatever I can to quiet the roar in my heart for even just a little bit. I don’t know truth in the middle of this.

So my beloved friends, can I just offer one piece of advice for the single friends in your life?

The way to love us is this: sit with us in the suck of unfulfilled longings. Allow us to weep bitterly and be sad and struggle. Don’t tell us you know God has “the one” or we are too amazing not to be married, because at the end of the day – you don’t know what is written in our stories. And our stories might just be one of solitude. Give us a little extra grace for the times when it feels harder to be alone. Respect us if we don’t always want to hang out with all of our coupled friends, because when those split checks come and we’re the only ones paying for ourselves, it can sometimes feel like  a little too much to bear.

I love you. I love doing life with you. Hear me when I say that. So many of you do exactly these things for me. You are present in the suck. You offer no pithy sayings or trite phrases, only yourself. You don’t make promises or assurances that aren’t yours to fulfill. You’re just there.

And it’s because of you I know how to be loved.

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7 thoughts on “How to Love Your Single Friends

  1. There is so much pressure for faith based dating. And you know what? I hate it. I really do. I have told my friends that dating inside our local church has a high school mentality. So I go to church for one thing to worship God. And every once in a while I see someone that I am interested in and well the awkwardness. Either you are plagued by the friend of someone else that you dated and it didn’t work out, or they are crazy. You know church is full of a LOT of crazies. Its like crazy central. You have to be careful at church who gets your number.

    My advice is turn it over to your parents. I bet they know you better than you know yourself, and would be more than willing to help steer you to Mr. Right for you.

    So don’t worry about what your friends think. They were there and they remember what it was like. You just think they don’t remember.

    My last thought is that you don’t have a problem. Take a hard, honest look around and ask yourself how many people that are married and are lonely. Marriage doesn’t complete you. It can amplify you, or make you miserable if you chose the wrong person.

    I use my time of being single to build my businesses so that when I get involved with someone that I can work less. So if you have any special things that you want to accomplish do it now. Go back to school, start an outreach, invent yourself, something.

    Okay, sorry for blogging on your blog. I just had so many thoughts after reading your post. Rock on. Good stuff.

  2. Hi Rach,

    I am so glad you wrote about this. It does totally suck and then some!! I am ahead of you in this one, I am nearly 50, never married, what does the church do for me?  I confess I have wandered away a number of times because I was so frustrated. No one could adequately speak to my situation, so I thought I knew better than God or I would help Him find my guy. There was no support for me, the womens ministry met at 10:30 am, hey, I work! What about me? I am older than the 20 something group, they can’t relate to me anyway. So, I totally get it!  Maybe it is up to us to fix it or atleast call it out, maybe write a book or something. We should talk, and soon!!  I love you!!! Aunt J  

    Sent from my Samsung Epic™ 4G TouchRestore Our Love wrote:

    • Thanks for the honest post! some parts of it sounded so familiar, so painfully familiar… it takes courage to talk about this. i (think) i know where you are at too well. being almost 40 and having spent years and years single, i remember all too well the feelings of a gaping hole, shame, lacking etc. it is true that married friends or friends in relationships don’t know how to deal with their single friends, they are so absorbed sometimes in their boyfriends/partners/husbands, they lose sensitivity or forget what it’s like to be on the outside of it, witness all the things they are enjoying as a part of being with someone, and feeling left out and inadequate. i’ve had so many awkward get-togethers, trips, holidays with coupled friends, that i would dread every event i’d be invited to and try to prepare myself and gear up for being the only single person there. as i’ve said, i remember it too well… i’d often remind myself of how blessed i was (truly) to have all the time to myself, to be able to make decisions, plan finances, just be independent and not checking in with anyone. and i enjoyed it. but it often came with a dose of not wanting to make all your decisions by yourself, wishing to share the burden of financial planning and wanting for once to be dependent on someone else, even if it’s annoying. i pray contentment for you, and wisdom, and peace.

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  5. Great post. I’m fortunate to have some phenomenal also-single friends who absolutely understand and some other friends who were single for a long, long time who also understand. But it still makes it really, really hard to be part of the church sometimes.
    The biggest struggle of my life isn’t really something that gets talked about. And when it is mentioned it’s in passing, because no one really knows what to do with it.

    And yes, yes, a billion times yes to people not knowing how our stories work out. I’ve heard teenage girls ask adults in the church what honoring God looks like if they never get married and the adults brush it aside and tell them they probably will. It makes me want to scream, “Look around the room! Do you see all the single ladies in this room? There is no probably anymore!” And I want to ask them why they can’t point to any of us and say, “Do you see how they love God and serve God without having ever gotten married and had a family? How the way they live their lives honors God? That’s what it looks like.” It’s really painful that we have to be ignored.

    • Elle, this is great stuff. I love the idea of the church honoring single women and having younger teenage girls look up to them with admiration and not fear. Thanks for your comment!!

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