This guest post is by Dana Wolf, who blogs about Christian singleness at The Singles Table.
Valentine’s day was this week (or Single’s Awareness Day, as I like to refer to it). Valentine’s day may be one of the more difficult times of year to be single because it highlights the couples around you and often makes those of us who are single feel all the more alone. It’s even more difficult if you don’t have many single friends to spend it with. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve always had at least one single friend to commiserate with on Valentine’s day. In this post, however, I wanted to highlight the things that we singles often hear from our well meaning married or coupled up friends. Sometimes we, as single people, even say these things to each other, which kind of makes them even more cringey.
So here is my list of 6 things to stop telling your single friends, like immediately.
1. “It’ll happen when you least expect it.”
I, personally, find this one to be the most infuriating because it’s one of the things that well meaning people have been saying to me, pretty much my entire life. I have yet to see this statement come true. I mean, it’s been almost 35 years and I’ve been “least expecting it” for at least the past ten.
This statement implies that you’re trying too hard and you need to just sit back and not “expect” things to happen, because then they will just happen somehow. Am I the only one who sees the flaw in this logic?
Then there are other, well-meaning friends and family on the other side telling you that “you’ve got to put yourself out there” to find someone. So which is it? Do I least expect it or do I put myself out there? This is a confusing statement that doesn’t give singles any practical, useful advice on how to proceed if we are unhappy with being single. It’s also difficult for many of us to believe because we all know someone who was actively looking and didn’t have any difficulty finding someone. So please, avoid using this tired cliche if at all possible.
2. “You’re the kind of girl/guy that people marry, not date.”
This is one that I’ve heard for most of my life. The first time someone told me this, I was in high school. One of my friends had a boyfriend and we were talking one day about how I’d never had a boyfriend when she said to me “that’s because you’re the kind of girl that guys marry, not date.” She then explained how guys only wanted to have “flings” with her, but they would want to marry me someday.
Despite the obvious flaw in this statement (how do you marry someone without dating them first?), she smiled and thought that she had just given me a great compliment. Needless to say, I found this statement mildly insulting, and I still do when people say it to me today. This statement implies that the single person is in some way not fun enough to enjoy dating. That we are only good enough to sit on the sidelines while everyone else is off “sowing their wild oats” (for lack of a better term) and that we should be waiting for them when they are ready to “settle down” with someone more reliable. It makes us the second string, rather than the starting quarterback. While many people date and just don’t find the right person (I’m well aware that I will likely not be someone’s first girlfriend at this stage in my life), nobody wants to think of themselves as second best and we certainly don’t want it pointed out to us in such a manner.
3. “There are plenty of fish in the sea.”
Despite the name of the popular dating site, it’s just a fact of life that as we get older, the vast “sea” that everyone loves to refer to shrinks. At this point, my sea feels like little more than a puddle. Aside from this statement being a tired cliche, statistically speaking, when you are looking for a lasting relationship with someone of the same faith, you’ve just cut out at least 50% of the fish.
According to the Pew Research Center religious landscape report (check it out here), only 47% of men (across all religions) agreed that religion is a very important aspect of their lives, while 59% of women agreed. The same study also looked at marital status among different religions and found that 60% of evangelical Christians were either married (55%) or living with their significant other (5%), while 40% were divorced (14%), widowed (8%) or had never been married (18%). So statistically, there just aren’t as many fish as everyone would like us to believe.
4. “There’s someone for everyone.”
This is another statement that sounds cliche and makes me cringe a little bit inside. I’m sorry, but the numbers just purely don’t work out that way. The Pew Research Center report that’s referenced in number 3, also found that 45% of Evangelical Christians in America are men and 55% are women. So there are 10% more women to go around the Christian community than men. This ultimately means that if you want to marry a fellow Christian, then there just isn’t going to be “someone for everyone” according to the numbers. I’m not saying that God doesn’t work miracles and that the numbers go against His great plan for all of His children. I’m merely pointing out that this statement may give false hope, and generally doesn’t do much to make us feel better when it feels like we’re the only one without someone
5. “So why aren’t you married/dating someone?”
Ahh yes… why indeed? This question is difficult because, the obvious answer is that if I knew why I wasn’t married, I probably wouldn’t be single, now would I? Or the other thought that tends to cross my mind is that clearly I should be dating someone or be married by now and I’m somehow not fulfilling my apparent duty to do so. If it were as easy to find a partner as this statement makes it sound, then there wouldn’t be such a market (both secular and Christian based) for dating apps, websites, and other dating services. This question often just serves as further frustration for single people, especially those who desperately want to be in a relationship. Or it implies that those who want to remain single are somehow wrong because, obviously they should want to be dating or married.
6. “It’ll happen in God’s timing.”
I’m sure that I’ll get mixed reviews on this one, but hear me out. While, yes, we all know that ultimately if/when we meet the person that God has for us is up to God’s timing and His plan, this honestly does not bring much comfort to most single people that I know. This statement is typically met with a follow up statement of “I know it’ll happen in God’s timing, but it’s hard to wait when it seems like I’ve been left behind.” This statement is particularly difficult to hear from friends who are married. I have friends who’ve been married for 10 years or more, so this statement causes me to wonder why their time came so early and I’ve never even come close.
It also implies that I have less control over the situation than I already feel like I do (in contrast to the statement in #1). If it’s in God’s timing, then why should I take any initiative prior to God giving me a definite sign that my time has come?
The other problem with this statement is the very real possibility that God may be calling me to a life of singleness, so it may not be in God’s timing for me to find someone, because He wants me to remain the way that I am. Truthfully, only God knows what is in His timing. And if I spend all of my time focusing on when "God’s timing" will be, then I may miss out on His true calling for my life in the here and now!
While I hope you’ve taken these reviews as more of a joke (we need to be able to laugh at ourselves after all), I do hope they’ve at least sparked some thoughts about how you address your single friends. And if you hear one of these remarks from a friend or family member, understand that they are usually not meant as an offense, but rather they are meant to serve as encouragement from those who love you.
So the next time someone asks you why you’re not married, just smile and tell them because it’s all in God’s timing.
Dana is a life long single 30-something who loves Jesus, traveling the world, writing, and hanging out at the beach with her friends and my dogs. She also helps lead a single women’s bible study group and helped to establish a single’s ministry within her church, which has since grown to include other churches as well. She blogs at The Singles Table.