On Being Single: What if the Problem Really is Me?

I’ve spent years internally battling the lie that being single is a sign of something “wrong” with me. Marriage isn’t a reward for especially “good” people, and singleness isn’t a punishment for the “bad” people. They’re simply different, neither one being objectively better or worse than the other. This is truth. But there’s a piece of me that doesn’t always feel as though this is true. Society still seems to celebrate couples and marriage and families much more than it celebrates single people, and on an individual basis, I’m pretty sure I’d like to get married.

But I’m not. I’m nowhere close. My life is good and full and busy, and most of the time I can truthfully say I deeply enjoy it. These words I wrote several years ago still ring true though: When you desire something and that desire is coming from a good place, all the wonderful things in your life can’t make up for what you don’t have.

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Photo Credit: Ben Rosett

It’s only natural for me to ponder why I am single. I’m fortunate to have a fairly positive sense of self-worth–I think I’m decently great, and I probably just haven’t met a guy whose particular brand of greatness aligns with mine. But inevitably there are times I wonder: What if the problem really is me? What if I’ve been missing some glaring flaw in myself all this time, and that’s why I’m single? Even with a good sense of self-worth, I also know I’m not perfect. My faith isn’t perfect, my relationships with my family and friends aren’t perfect, I’m not a perfect employee, I’m not perfectly fit, and so on. 

These aren’t uncommon things–I’d be incredibly suspicious of anyone who said they are perfect in all those areas. Exactly zero of the married people I know are perfect, and yet they managed to find a significant other. And, of course, therein lies the problem: If so many other imperfect people can find another imperfect person to hang out with for the rest of their lives, why can’t I seem to?

Am I not smart enough?

Am I not pretty enough?

Am I not outdoorsy enough?

Am I not Jesus-y enough?

Am I not _____ enough?

Rationally, I know other people’s lives aren’t mine, and everyone’s story is different and that’s a good thing. But sometimes it doesn’t feel like just a case of “we all have different lives to lead.” It feels a lot more personal than that.

So in these times when it seems like talk of dating, marriage, and weddings is popping up all over my life way more than usual, I have to remind myself of a few things. This is what I know to be true, even if it feels very untrue for a while:

  • I’m not perfect. Congratulations! Welcome to being a human. We’re all that way.
  • It’s good to identify specific areas of my life I want to work on, not because doing so will magically conjure up a significant other, but because doing so will make me a better person for life in general.
  • Marriage is not a reward, and singleness is not a punishment. It’s not a matter of being _____ enough to get married.
  • Singleness and marriage are both good. Just because I’m one right now doesn’t mean it will always be that way, and the grass is not always greener on the other side. The grass is just different.
  • There are things wrong with me, as there are with everyone, but I am not too “broken” to find a significant other. I haven’t yet, but it doesn’t mean I never will. And if I never do, I’ll make a kind of peace with that someday.

None of these are new or earth-shattering, but sometimes we all need to be reminded of simple truths. Now, will you share with me? If you’re single, how do you fight the lie that there’s something wrong with and that’s why you’re not in a relationship? If you’re not single, how can you support the single people you know?

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

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Single and (trying to be) Unashamed

“So what is everybody’s family like?”

There are few statements that strike trepidation into the heart of a single person faster. It was a well-meaning question, and a fitting one given the situation, but I was glad someone else answered before I had to go. Trying to keep things light, I started out, “I am me,” and said a few other things about myself before gratefully letting someone else talk about their 2.5 kids and house with the white picket fence. Talking about my parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews wasn’t the kind of family they were asking about, and I found myself almost ashamed to not have a better answer to that question.

Except I shouldn’t feel ashamed of it.

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Even though I’m pretty sure I’d prefer to not be single, it is a fact of my life. But in certain circles, particularly in the ones I tend to roll in, marriage and kids are part of what people are supposed to do, and anyone who hasn’t reached those “milestones” is often looked at with pity and seen as perhaps a wee bit of a failure.

It’s not a failure to be single though.

Some people actively choose it, and for those of us who don’t feel as though we’ve ever actively chosen to be single but continue to find ourselves that way, it is simply our current state of being. It might always be our current state of being, or it might just be the stage we’re in right now.

A relationship or lack thereof doesn’t define who we are as human beings or dictate our worth, even though it sometimes feels that way.

 

There’s a piece of me that hates writing this post.

Especially this time of year, singleness is written and talked about a lot. My blog archives show I write about being single almost every February, and I’m fully aware that writing about singleness can come across as whiney, repetitive, and even entitled.

It should be the most obvious thing in the world that relationship status does not equal worth, but when I’m sitting in a room full of married people, that can be difficult to remember. They didn’t do something especially right and get “rewarded” with marriage, and I didn’t do something especially wrong and get “punished” with singleness. However much it might feel that way to me at times, it is not true.

 

So I keep writing about singleness because I need a reminder that it’s not bad, it does not define me, and I do not need to feel ashamed when people ask about my family and I tell them about my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and friends who are so close they feel like family. A single person’s definition of family might look different than a married person’s, and that’s okay. Our value is not derived from the people who may or may not be around us, at this time of year or any other. 

And I’ll keep writing about it in the hope that I’ll finally, fully, truly believe it, once and for all.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. If you’re single, how do you answer questions about your family?

(Un)Happily Single (and everywhere in between)

When I try to explain how I feel about being single, I feel like I often come across wildly inarticulate, hemming and hawing for what seems like an appropriate answer for that person in that situation. The truth is, I often don’t how exactly how I feel about being single–or that I feel so many things about it, I could fill a book.

Photo Credit: Flickr User DGriebeling, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User DGriebeling, Creative Commons

 

If there were a spectrum, with “Happily Single” and “Absolutely Miserably Single” as the two extremes, that’s where I live. Not parked at some stationary point along the spectrum, but literally on it. Every point, at various times, sometimes flying back and forth between the two extremes (and everywhere in between) with dizzying speed–no joke, sometimes in a matter of seconds.

I’m at an event having a great time with my friends, and I’m thinking “Yea, this is awesome! I don’t have to check in with anyone if I end up staying late, my friends are the best, this is the life!” And then I’ll spot a couple doing an average couple-y thing–laughing together at a story, looking for the other across a crowded room, an arm casually around a shoulder–and suddenly I’m lost in “I want that too.”

It probably shouldn’t cause that reaction, I know. Singleness is not a new state for me, and my fight for contentment has been going on for eons–but it’s not one I think I’ll ever completely win when it comes to being single. Being truly content with being single seems perennially just out of reach. Which gets exhausting.

There’s an element of it I think is true no matter what stage of life we’re in–there will always be something we want but can’t have, or don’t have in full the way we’d like–but the particular lonely longing that can come with being single feels especially poignant. As I’ve said before, it was much easier to come up with “5 Reasons Being Single Sucks” than it was to come up with “5 Reasons Being Single Rocks.”

At the same time, overall, my life is quite good. I have a lot of wonderful people in my life, relationships full of support and love and fun and joy, and I never want to minimize those. They are so important, so life-giving for me. It’s freeing to not have to compare schedules with the same person all the time, to be able to do what I went and when I want. My time is my own–which, although I realize can mean I spend it selfishly (and I certainly do at times), it means I can give my time more easily as well.

This is where I live, holding all these complex thoughts and feelings about being single, trying to not idealize (or idolize) marriage, while simultaneously recognizing it is not inherently wrong for me to want to not be single. Even this post can’t adequately summarize all of the swirling, contradictory thoughts I have about it. On any given day (or hour, really), I might feel any, all, or none of the above about being single–and maybe that’s unusual.

So if you’re single, will you tell me–how do you feel about it?

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

The 5 Minutes I Was Thankful to Be Single

It hasn’t been a literal 5 minutes, but I do feel like this time of thankfulness will be fleeting. So I have to get these words out now, or else I fear this season of gratefulness will pass before I’ve recognized it for what it is and taken a moment to pause and relish it.

For me, most of the time being single is difficult—sometimes exceedingly so. It feels like an enduring fight, of trying to be content, to not compare, and so many other things.

Mixed in with it all, there are moments of appreciation for the reasons being single rocks and of recognizing the lessons I’m learning, but truthfully, not a ton of thankfulness. Dashes, here and there, but not bucket loads.

Lately, though, I’ve felt some of it. Thankfulness for time to really think through what the point of the kind of marriage I want is—not just two people who happen to love each other a lot, but two people who, because they are together, help one another to better love, serve, and glorify God than they would be able to do if they were apart. Thankfulness for time to read and pray about the way I think a wife and husband should interact and treat each other in marriage. Thankfulness for time to discover who I am and what it is that makes me uniquely me, on my own, without the influence of a significant other.

These are lessons that many people learn while they’re in relationships, but I’m not sure I would have been able to—or certainly not in the way that I have. And I’m sure I have much more to learn about all of these and many, many more. But, for at least a brief period of time, I’ve been able to identify specific reasons I am thankful I am single. Which in itself feels like kind of a gift.

It doesn’t mean I love being single, because most of the time I don’t. This is still not the way I would have planned for my life to go. But singleness has been my reality for a long time, and looks like it may be for a good while yet. Already it feels like this season of singleness may be changing to a more difficult one, and that the thankfulness may be slipping through my fingers. Even as it does though, I can say that it existed at least once. And maybe I’ll be able to get it back and keep it for longer another time.

Say, 10 minutes.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Are you, or have you been, thankful to be single? Why?

There’s More to Life Than Marriage (Today at Relevant)

Today, I’m honored to have another post appearing at Relevant Magazine. If you’re stopping by from there, welcome! I’m glad you’re here. Feel free to take a look at the archives and share some thoughts.

There’s More to Life Than Marriage

This time of year, churches, banquet halls and barns get decked out in tulle and lights. Everyone seems to know someone who’s in a wedding, going to a wedding or having their own wedding.

And quietly, subtly, the chatter begins.

“They’re just so young. I mean, they’ll probably be OK, but it doesn’t seem like a good idea.”

“It’s about time they got married. They’re not getting any younger.”

“So when’s your wedding going to be? Why don’t you have someone in your life yet?”

They’re common thoughts we’ve probably all had or even spoken. Yet between the words, it is easy to weave a gentle judgment; someone has done things differently than we have, and we think to ourselves that our way is slightly better, more correct and, perhaps, more godly.

Keep reading at Relevant.

Til next time…
~Brianna!~

Singleness, Desire, and Buying The Mixer

I bought a mixer.

mixer

It wasn’t something I had planned to do, but it was there at the store, boasting its multipurposeness as a stand mixer or a handheld one, all for only $30. So I bought it.

But I kind of hate that I bought it. Or, more accurately, that I had to buy it.

Mixers seem like, as this blogger wrote, “a ‘wedding ticket’ item,” not the sort of thing one buys on a whim at Aldi. In my family, my grandma gives a mixer as a bridal shower gift. My sister and sister-in-law have theirs, and my engaged cousin will get hers in the next few months. Coming from my grandma, who bakes with great skill and as an expression of love and caring for her family and friends, it is the perfect gift.

So this is not how I planned on getting a mixer. It’s not how I wanted to get my mixer.

Because it’s not just a mixer. It feels like a symbol of how my life is going differently than I had planned or hoped. It’s one of those little things that has slapped me in the face and reminded me that I’m single but would prefer not to be.

It’s irrational, I know, to be tying my purchase of a mixer to the fact that I am single. My relationship status should not be connected to a kitchen appliance.

But telling yourself your line of thinking and feeling is irrational does not take the sting away. I still would like to not be single, and at its core, that is not bad. I have a full life, and for the most part I’m very happy with it; but I desire to get married, to have that one person to live and laugh and grow with, who will encourage me to love and serve and glorify God better as I do the same for him.

When you desire something and that desire is coming from a good place, all the wonderful things in your life can’t make up for what you don’t have.

I always hesitate to publish posts like this one. It can come across as whiney and ungrateful for the people I do have in my life, but I can’t wave a magic wand to make myself stop feeling like I would rather not be single. Buying a mixer, going to weddings, seeing the Valentine’s Day cards—all of these (and so many more) can be very sharp reminders of one’s singleness.

Now, I’m not made of glass; I won’t shatter as I walk through the Valentine’s candy aisle or sitting at a wedding (I actually quite enjoy weddings sometimes), and buying the mixer didn’t ruin my week. But I’m also not made of stone, and sometimes being single hurts. Yes, I’m young, I’m grateful for the freedom being single allows me, I know that being in a relationship isn’t easy either, and there’s lots of hope for me. But none of those change my current reality of being single when I’d prefer not to be, of having bought my own mixer because I don’t know if or when I’ll get one in some other way.

So I own a mixer now. I could glare at this kitchen appliance in resentment over the way it reminds of how my life is going differently than I’d hoped, and honestly, there may be moments when I do. I could also use that mixer and learn to make really awesome food, keeping in mind that unfinished stories leave room for unexpected endings.

I’ll strive for the second.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you ever had something be a reminder of how your life isn’t turning out like you hoped it would?

Continued Confessions of a Singleton

Despite my declarations last week about learning to live in the balance of the goodness of singleness and difficulties of it, it’s not something I do very well most of the time. In the days surrounding those posts, I had moments of, “I’m so thankful I’m single” and “Oh how I want to be married.” Some days I had both of those thoughts, perhaps even within the same hour.

Because I absolutely believe that singleness is not something you “come to terms with” once and for all.

I believe there are times of complete contentment with it, and times of complete and utter despair over it.

In the span of a few minutes, it can feel like a beautiful blessing and an unshakeable curse.

I don’t think this is entirely uncommon among single people to feel this way, nor do I think it’s automatically a bad thing. Life has seasons, and I think singleness does too. Sometimes it’s a good season, of reveling in the freedom and spontaneity afforded by singleness, and it may last for days, weeks, or months at a time. Yet it can quickly become a season of sadness, of pining for something good that, for whatever reason, is not mine now and may not ever be. The time between the seasons may be long, or very, very short.

There may be some people, though I think them to probably be quite rare, that embrace their singleness wholeheartedly once and for all, and rarely think about it again. For most, though, singleness is not a wrap-it-up-in-a-bow and forget it deal. It is a wrestle, perhaps not constant, but frequent, of embracing the beauty of it and acknowledging that the desire to not be single is not inherently bad. It is a tension, a balance that so easily gets off-kilter when I see so many people around me with the thing I want but I don’t have it, not now, and maybe not ever.

The lessons to be learned in this struggle are many, but sometimes I get tired of looking for them. Sometimes it all just feels a bit exhausting, and though those in relationships are quick to remind me they are hard work, it seems a very different—and ultimately more enjoyable—type of work than the work of being single. I have glimpses of true contentment and they are good and lovely, but they never seem to last quite as long as I’d like them to.

I believe in finding the balance between these tensions, but actually living in it is a daily pursuit.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s.  If you’re single but would prefer not to be, how do you live in the tension between your singleness and desire to not be? If you’re not single, will you tell me about it?

5 Reasons Being Single Sucks

Sometimes being single rocks. Other times…well, it’s less than awesome.

Here’s 5 Reasons Being Single Sucks:

1)      Weddings. And engagements.

Though joyous occasions, the act of going to a wedding or a shower can be a bit emotionally draining when you’re single. It’s not that you feel no shred of happiness for the person or couple you’re celebrating, but it can be a stark reminder of what you want but don’t yet have–and may never have. Add in the likelihood of seeing family members or friends who feel the need to ask how your love life is, and it’s a recipe for roughness. They aren’t always so bad, but the potential is there.

2)      You don’t have one specific person you can always talk to.

Personally, I’m very blessed to have a lot of wonderful friends and family I can talk to about pretty much everything, and I do my best to appreciate that about my life—but it’s not the same as always going to the same person with whatever is making me happy, frustrated, sad, excited, and any and everything else. Instead of sharing all those things with one specific person, and, in turn, being the one person someone else shares all their things with, when you’re single, you tend to spread them out among a variety of people.

3)      Sometimes it’s the little things that slap you in the face and remind you you’re single but would prefer not to be.

For me, it’s seeing couples in the grocery store, working as a team to gather everything on their list as quickly as possible, then helping each other lug it all to the car and pack it in carefully. There’s something about grocery shopping that frequently makes me feel my singleness more poignantly, but it can be brought on by almost anything–a song on the radio, sitting behind a family in church, or the odd memory that comes bubbling to the surface. Slap. The unexpected sting of singleness.

4)      Even well-meaning people can make hurtful comments.

“You’re so great, I don’t know why you’re still single.” On the surface, it’s kind of a compliment, but it can subtly unearth the lurking fear that maybe you’re really not all that great, and that’s why you’re single.

“Be thankful, singleness is a gift.” Marriage is also a gift.

“Get right with God and he’ll surprise you.” It seems to imply that all married people have perfect relationships with God, and that there must be some major sin in the life of the single person and that’s why they’re still single. Worse, it reduces God to a sort of cosmic vending machine–Insert Good Relationship With God, Receive Spouse.

(Also, I can’t resist recommending this cheeky BuzzFeed, “24 Things Single People Are Tired of Hearing.”)

5) The not knowing if being single is a season, or forever.

I’ve said that if I could know for sure that I will get married at some point in the future, I could handle it a lot better. But there are no guarantees. For me, this is one of the hardest parts of being single. Statistcally speaking, most people do get married at some point in their lifetime–but not all. I’ve never been one to handle uncertainty well, and not knowing if I’ll ever get married is one of the scariest uncertainties of all.

 

It’s easy for me to get caught up in the idea that marriage is objectively better than singleness. It’s probably telling that as I worked on this post, the reasons being single sucks came to mind a lot more quickly the reasons being single rocks. But despite the way that culture (and even moreso Christian culture) often seems to prize marriage over singleness, I don’t believe one is better than the other–even though I may sometimes think and act like it. Really, they’re just different. 

The point of this post is not to complain about being single (earlier in the week I celebrated it), but to draw attention to the fact that there are upsides and downsides of any relationship status—any phase of life, really. If they’re honest, I think most married couples would say there are things that suck about being married. They’d also say there’s things that rock. There are things that suck and things that rock about every phase, and life is about learning to live in–and appreciate–the balance.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Are you single? Married? What’s your favorite part of the phase of life you’re in right now?

A Valentine’s Day Plea

Photo Credit: Flickr User Sister72, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Sister72, Creative Commons

This week includes Valentine’s Day, and as I have been for every other Valentine’s Day in my life, I am single. Most days I’m okay with it.

But I’d be lying if I said I don’t have times of wishing my life had gone differently, and around a holiday devoted to love and romance it becomes more poignant.

“Valentine’s Day is just a commercial racket to get people to pay exorbitant amounts of money for roses and chocolate. It’s not about real love.”

“Singleness is a gift. Be content and appreciate it.”

“Let Jesus be your boyfriend–he’s all you need.”

There are bits of truth in these statements (and bits of fallacy too).

 

But here is my truth, the one I live in right now:

I get a little jealous when I see people buying giant bouquets and stuffed animals proclaiming, “I love you beary much.”

It would be nice to have a special someone to share those “2 for 1” Valentine’s Day specials with.

I’d gladly get over the embarrassment of an obnoxious singing card.

I wish I had that one person I could count on to be on my side, who would give me a hug when I am sad and tell me things will be okay.

I wish for adventures in learning what it looks like to live in such a way that we serve God more fully together than we could apart.

 
I know the kind of love I want is not all teddy bears and flowery scents and candlelit dinners, but that doesn’t change my desire for it. I don’t think desiring to get married is wrong.

 

There have been, and will continue to be, times when I’ll get this all wrong.
When my desire to get married may cloud my view of the goodness of today.
When my loneliness may skew my perception of the ultimate purpose of Christian marriage.
When my plan for my life is not going as I had hoped, and in bitterness I shake my fist at the sky and defiantly ask God “Why?”

 
That day is not today.

Today, I don’t need reminders that God has a plan for every part of my life.

Today, I don’t need reminders that marriage is really, really hard sometimes.

Today, I don’t need reminders that the view of love I’ve read about and seen in movies is not an accurate portrayal.

Today, I feel a little sad.
Today, I feel a little lonely.
Today, I feel a little jealous.

And I ask of you, the world at large, please don’t tell me how to feel.

Not just me, but everyone around you.

Please don’t tell them to turn their frown upside down.

Please don’t negate their feelings of sadness or loneliness.

Please don’t remind them of things they have heard over and and over again with sayings that minimize honest feelings.

Feelings can go astray. I can become misguided, disillusioned, and make unwise choices when it comes to romantic relationships or a lack thereof. There may be a time I need someone to step in if my actions are out of line with what I believe and who I am supposed to be.

But please don’t tell me how to feel.

And I will try to do the same for you.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Has anyone tried to tell you how to feel about your relationship status?