I’ve heard so many responses to this.
Oh, you’ll get married some day.
Don't worry, I know you’ll get married.
God has someone for you.
Just be patient.
Are you sure you want to get married? Being married is so hard!
They completely overlook the fact that it IS POSSIBLE that I might not ever get married. And since of course I'm going to get married, I should never feel down about being single. I just need to be patient.
But marriage is not a divine right. Where is it written that everyone (who wants to) gets married? You can't see the future. You may really and truly believe what you are saying, but you COULD be wrong. (oh the horrors!) Would you tell someone who has an interview that they are definitely going to get the job? Or tell a woman trying to have a baby that she will definitely get pregnant? You want those things for them and they are possible, but it's also possible they may NOT happen.
This is what I hear when someone says one of these things to me:
Stop feeling sorry for yourself. This is no big deal.
It’s not hard to be single, so stop complaining.
Marriage is so much harder than being single, so be grateful you aren’t married.
Stop being so picky.
Why doesn't anyone understand?
The other day I was talking to my friend, Bethany. I was telling her that I was having a hard time dealing with turning thirty. I confessed that I thought it would be easier if I was married and had a family.
And then she gave me the single best response I have ever heard in my life.
“I see you as a complete person,” she said. “Single or not.”
I was completely blown away by this. She had managed to say the exact right thing. And yet, she was worried that said the wrong thing. “Not trying to sound weird!” she quickly added.
I just stared at the screen, slowly blinking (this was a conversation through gchat).
I couldn’t believe it. No one had ever responded that way before. With that one sentence, she affirmed my value as a person. She didn’t try to reassure me that I would get married. Her words acknowledged that I was dealing with something that was hard and encouraged me that even if I never get married – that’s ok. I felt so affirmed by this, I cannot even tell you. I was so completely shocked. Instead of feeling frustrated and misunderstood, I felt something new.
If you have a single friend who is struggling with being single, let me urge you to use this response. You don't have to use these specific words. But affirm them as a person. Make sure they know they have value whether they are married or not. Instead of trying to reassure them that they will one day join the marriage club, tell them that they are complete even if they never do. Tell them that you love them no matter what. Life has its struggles no matter what stage you are in, and let them see that you understand that. And that is how you encourage them.
I see your pain, I understand it, and I love you for you, not for your marital status.
"I see you as a complete person. Single or not."
Next week I'll be starting a series of posts with some reflections from China!