We’ve all been there. The conversation turns sour, or awkward, or takes a long, quiet pause. They’ve just asked the question, “so are you seeing anybody?” and your answer was “no”…
In my experience this is usually when the conversation tapers off, awkwardly, neither party knowing what to say. Or if it continues, one of two things happens: the single party feels the need to explain or defend themselves, or the other party begins to offer solutions, remedies, things the single person should do to no longer be single.
I realize in talking to singles there is probably 2 general populations: friends who know a little bit deeper of “why” you’re single, and acquaintances who are just trying to make conversation and relationship status seems to be first on the docket of what to talk about. For girls I know there’s about 45 subcategories between good friends and acquaintances, but the conversational “do’s and don’ts” we’re going to talk about apply to everyone from your best friend to Jane What’s-Her-Last-Name you run into at the grocery store.
Take interest in more than just a relationship status.
Both singles and non-singles would agree there is much more going on in their life than either the presence or absence of a significant other. What are your hobbies? What are your passions? What are you doing this summer? How’s living with roommates? What has been a blessing in your life recently? What kind of pizza do you like? Anything is better than repeatedly hitting the dead end of “Are you dating anyone? NO.”
There was a point in my life where I had terribly depressing answers to the main questions asked: school, work, and dating. I hated school, I didn’t have a job, and I wasn’t having a blast being single. Since then, I have vowed to ask better questions. To acknowledge there’s more going on in someone’s life than just what they do from 9-5 or how they spend their Friday nights, and that they just might enjoy talking about something else.
Be okay with someone else singleness.
They’re not sick, they’re single. They don’t need a cure or a solution or for you to tell them about online dating (It’s 2013. Just assume everyone and their grandmother knows about the possibilities and availability of online dating and can chose this avenue of dating for themselves if they want to).
Avoid making suggestions about all the changes they could make in their lifestyle, appearance, expectations, ect in order to find someone. They might just be okay with being single, so there’s no need to troubleshoot with them on ways to change that.
Or they just might be living in the wilderness of unmet desires. There is a very real wilderness to walk through when someone is waiting for anything their heart is longing for, and sometimes the only helpful response is empathy. There is no formula that says wanting it less gets you what you’re waiting for, so avoid trying to rid them of their desires by preaching a gospel of contentment. Granted, there are some very real and necessary lessons of gratitude and contentment singles need to learn, but that is usually best done in an introspective fashion rather than people trying to spoon feed them happiness.
“It’ll happen when you least expect,” said no one helpful ever.
“You just need to lower your standards”
I’m sorry, what? So I’m single because I have high standards? And my friends that are dating…it’s because they lowered the bar and settled?
The answer is not to chuck all the things you’ve learned in dating so far (as the concept of dating, in it’s most basic form, is to find what works and what doesn’t) and “take what you can get,” but rather to develop a set of realistic expectations. To truly evaluate what you’re looking for in a person and why. And let’s remember “till death do us part” is no time to be settling.
“I don’t like when people assume that because someone is single that they are picky. People always tell me I am picky, but I prayerfully enter all relationships and prayerfully exit. I have felt like God has called me to break up with amazing guys and then later find them dating their wives just a few months later. So [rather than being picky] I hope it’s discernment.”**
Avoid telling singles that the grass is greener on their side of the fence.
“Your schedule is wide open and you can do whatever you want!”
“I miss being single, it was so easy.”
“You’ll wish you had this time back!”
“I’m jealous you’re single.”**
Oh, well when you put it that way, I do love being single.
Those cliche statements may be said with good intentions, but they almost never come across in a productive or helpful manner. Instead, they widen the gap of relatability, and leave singles feeling isolated or guilty in their desires.
Just because your kids are stressing you out and you would kill for a late night out doesn’t mean singles wouldn’t kill for a night in with a spouse and kids of their own. The grass is always greener, and while your goal may be to help singles love where they are at, it actually makes light of things they want by saying “it’s not really that great.” Easy for you to say, you have it.
Don’t over-spiritualize it.
“Don’t compare me to the apostle Paul… I mean, it’s cool he was single and all…but is that helpful right now??”**
While it is so important for singles on their own to decide if singleness is a curse or a calling, it is not for you to throw spiritual catch phrases about contentment and the possibly untrue comment of “God has someone for you out there.” He may not. Singleness can span from a year to a lifetime, and it’s wise to not predict how long someone will be single.
“Be patient, you’ll find someone”**
Nothing makes me less patient than someone telling me to be patient. Sometimes singleness is a lesson in patience and sometimes it’s peaceful. Sometimes singleness is a lesson in gratitude and sometimes it’s just making it through the everyday grind. Not everyday needs to be a lesson learned or a conversation about the character they they are building. Allow singles just to be, rather than constantly focusing on what they should be learning or how they should be growing in this season of their life.
Remember what it was like to be single.
I can’t stress this enough. Some of my most frustrating moments in friendship have been when single friends promptly forget what it was like to be single approximately 2.5 weeks after getting a boyfriend or girlfriend.
Everyone who is married now was single at some point in their lives. Everyone, at some point, wanted to be asked on a date or wanted to get married. And everyone had to wait for that season of their life. Weather you waited 5 days or 5 years, we’ve all waited. Empathy can be the biggest connecting factor for singles to non-singles. Sometimes it’s just helpful to hear “ya, it is hard,” rather than the unrelateable tone of “it’s been 10+ years since I was single…what’s that like?”
Tread carefully when talking to someone who doesn’t have what you do, but wants that someday. Kids, house, steady job, husband or wife, you name it. It’s safest to walk softly and with sympathy if you don’t remember what it felt like to be without.
“Affirm us where we are in life, and in the ways we live and love well now. And don’t feel like you always need to have ‘answers’ or encouragement. We don’t always want them. Presence is enough. I am most grateful for friends across life stages who simply invite me to share life.”**
Speak kindly, and aim to be a blessing to others. Learn to share life with people regardless of what you’re waiting for or what season your in.
What have you heard that was helpful or hurtful while you were either enjoying singleness or battling with it?
Feel free to comment below.
**Wonderful thoughts and feedback from some of sweet friends