With the passing of Valentine’s Day, for me and many others, the difficult season is finally over.
I know that’s a stereotypical response from someone who is single. But I really need you to hear me out here.
Christmas through Valentine’s Day tends to be one long, often painful reminder that I am alone. Not alone alone, but alone as in I do not have a boyfriend currently. And never have. Ever. And since the weeks from Christmas Eve through Valentine’s Day tend to be a long string of relationship, engagement and baby announcements, this time of year shines a spotlight on my BAGGAGE.
You know the type of baggage you convinced yourself you threw out on trash day sometime last year, but nope! It’s still there, sitting in your emotional attic, waiting to crash through the creaky, weak floorboards right onto your heart when you least expect it (this year, it was the Saturday before Valentine’s Day for me).
And one thing that can make this time, these emotions, these longings so much more painful and real is when people in my life, oftentimes very well-meaning people, make statements they think are encouraging or helpful, not realizing instead their words are actually crushing and, frequently, completely unbiblical.
When my friends Holly, executive director of Mended Women, and Joy Beth (better known to many of us as JB), author of the newly-released book “Party of One”, decided to put together a Facebook Live party for Valentine’s Day, they asked for help from a group of us single women. Together, we came up with a list of 10 things we really, really wish loved ones (or complete strangers) would stop saying to single people.
Here’s our list, along with my thoughts on why these sayings are so destructive.
1) He’ll come along as soon as you stop looking!
As Holly mentioned in the live chat, it’s great if that’s what happened to you or a friend of yours. You stopped looking, swore off men, decided to focus on yourself…and then POOF! Man of your dreams entered the picture. Fairy tale complete.
But that’s not everyone’s story. And it might not be mine.
2) I know God has the perfect guy for you.
I don’t know when or why, but at some point the Christian community at large started to accept and preach the above statement as a biblical truth. BUT THE BIBLE NEVER GUARANTEES US A SPOUSE. Nowhere. So, when you promise me that God has someone, somewhere, for me, you’re planting a possible lie into my head and heart, plain and simple. Tell me you’re hoping with me, praying with me that I will meet someone special, but don’t tell me as a fact that it’s going to happen. Because we don’t know the future — only God does.
As Joy Beth points out in her book: “We need to actively cling to promises that are in Scripture: promises that God will never leave us, promises of his control in all things, promises of his goodness, promises that the trials of this world pale in comparison to the glory of what is to come. These are sure things. A husband is not a sure thing.”
3) Guys are just intimidated by you.
*blinks slowly* And…?
4) Maybe you’re TOO picky.
Now, this may be true for a select number of people. Some single folks have constructed an impossible list of “must-haves” when it comes to their future spouse. But, if we go beyond those people, most of us have fairly open minds. For me, I’m praying for a man who loves Jesus immensely, cares for people, makes me laugh, and tolerates my semi-over-the-top reactions during Green Bay Packers games. Anddddd that’s basically it. So please don’t tell me I’m being picky, especially if you’re also telling me I’m amazing and should be with a really awesome guy!
5) You need to get out there more!
Sometimes valid, sure. But, for the most part, single people are not hermits. We’re living big, boisterous, great lives. We’re contributing in our workplaces, our churches, our communities, our family’s and friends’ lives. We’re not *not* out there.
6) Have you tried online dating?
Yes, almost all of us have. Or we’re not interested in trying it. Next.
7) God will give you the desire of your heart.
I know this is based in some biblical truth. When I was a high schooler, desperate for a boy to like me, I tended to cling to Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” But this is a great example of Scriptures we like to take out of context and twist, so we can try to make them mean something they were never intended to mean.
JB’s book has an entire chapter titled “Sorry, God Might Not Give You Your Heart’s Desire,” so I’m simply going to suggest picking up a copy of her book so you can read that entire chapter as a solid unit, since me highlighting a sentence or two of it here won’t really do it justice.
8) I don’t get why you are still single?!
Holly and JB broke this down best in the live chat:
JB: “That’s so rude.”
Holly: “I think it’s MEANT to be encouraging. Like, ‘Oh, you’re so pretty or so successful, I don’t get why you’re still single,’ but then we’re like, ‘Yeah, we don’t either, so please don’t make that more confusing.’”
9) You’re so lucky to not be tied down.
As someone who cherishes and loves my friends who are moms very, very much and tries to walk alongside them in their lives as best I can, I GET where this is coming from. I know many of my friends long for the days where they were more independent, less focused on scheduling around nap times, and able to grab brunch with friends on a moment’s notice. I truly, sincerely get that, and I want my married and/or mom friends to hear me when I say I’m not mad at you for encouraging me to make the most of the freedom I have right now. I need reminders to be brave and bold and travel since I can.
But sometimes this sentiment, even with the best intentions, cuts deep. Because sometimes I would like to have a weekend packed with plans. Sometimes I’m tired of making every financial decision myself. Sometimes I wish I had a travel companion for life. I share that to say: Please be careful with your single friends’ hearts. Your wistfulness for easier, less jam-packed days is incredibly real and legitimate, but it can be hurtful when forced on us in such a way.
10) Sex isn’t that great…
We’ve saved the best for last. C’mon, guys. I’m not stupid. I know this is a lie. And you know what’s mean? Lying to your friends.
So, now what? I encourage you to reach out to your single friends. Ask them if any of these statements have been painful for them to hear in the past. Take them out for coffee (or simply invite them over to your house — leggings and chats on the couch are great!) and ask them how you can better love and encourage them. Text a friend and let them know they’re seen and loved for who they are now, not what they may become in the future.
Cherish your single friends. Lift them up. Remind them of the very good things God has promised them, regardless of their relationship status. Lament with them if they’re struggling to understand why they’re still unmarried. Show them they matter in your life. Love them well. We need each other.