Single #1

21

21 October 2012 by thaliakr

Pope Francis, being single, being single is awesome, great things about being single, Christian parenting

I was single before I was married.

That’s less obvious than it sounds, given the number of people who marry their high school sweethearts or have a number of relationships throughout their twenties and maybe thirties.

I did neither. After a flurry of boyfriends in my teens (the internet won’t tell me the real collective noun), I was Single, Single, Single for twelve years until I met my husband when I was thirty.

The Old Testament book of Ruth stars four single people, and Carolyn Custis Jones’ marvellous The Gospel of Ruth gives each a full chapter. She points out that, given the fact that women live longer than men, nine out of ten married women will be widowed.

Divorce or far-too-early bereavement may leave any of us unexpectedly single, and of course many people choose a single life long-term or have it chosen for them.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Being single, single life can be great, Being widowed, Christian parenting

In my observation and experience, Christian people are more likely to spend long periods single, in church cultures that a) encourage a high degree of thoughtfulness about choosing a marriage partner; b) discourage relationships with people who aren’t also following Jesus; and c) often comprise many more young women than men.

Well, this is all very interesting, you may be thinking (I hope you’re thinking!) but what’s it doing on a blog called Sacraparental, even if there’s that handy set of brackets in the tagline?

I want to talk about singleness here for a few big reasons.

For one thing, our kids are pretty likely to spend at least some of their adult lives as single people.  Living a thriving single life is a skill all of them should learn, so it’d be good to share our experiences of singleness and talk about how we can equip them well.

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JK Rowling, who famously wrote the first Harry Potter manuscript as a single mum with her baby sleeping beside her in a cafe (Photo credit: Daniel Ogren)

Single parenting is of course a whole blog theme in itself, and it’s not something I can offer much insight into myself. But some of you can, so I’d like to offer you hospitality here for that conversation.

Single non-parents are often crucial people in kids’ lives. When I was single, I hugely appreciated the generosity of married friends in involving me in their kids’ lives. Our baby, SBJ, has two single godparents and two married (to each other) ones, and they can each offer different experiences and availability to our boy.

We are dead keen to provide SBJ with a great cloud of witnesses, a big extended family of people who will adore him and help him grow up to be kind and wise and brave. Single friends are a vital part of that web.

So I’d like to make some space here to consider what it’s like to be a single person in a variety of different life stages and situations, and to talk about how partnered people can be good friends to single folks. The goal is to build deep community between us all, right?

Portrait of Jane Austen

Jane Austen was a much-valued aunt to hordes of niecephews as well as a genius writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What have your experiences been? If you’ve been a single adult at any time in your life, could you please tell us:

  • what advice you’d give your younger or older single self
  • what advice you’d give partnered people on how to relate to single people
  • what is best and hardest about being single?

Thanks!

Tim Gunn, Tim Gunn celibate, celibacy, Being single, single life can be great,, Christian parenting

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21 thoughts on “Single #1

  1. Laura says:

    I’ve been single all of my life and I’m 24.
    I would tell my younger self; “Giddey, this could last a while, focus on yourself.” Not in order to be a ‘better potential partner’, but just to be a ‘better person.’ Full stop.
    I most appreciate my friends in relationships who don’t seem to have stopped being themselves once partnered off. They seem intentionally aware of me and so refrain from OTT PDA (double acronym!) but also can keep my company without making me feel left out. Or not part of some secret society of marrieds, especially since being single hasn’t been a choice.
    The best thing about being single is the independence.
    The hardest thing about being single is really, really, really wanting to depend on someone, but not being able to.
    Good thread TKR! Am interested in the responses.

  2. Miriam says:

    You’ve seen this, right? :-)

  3. Spaghetti says:

    Interesting to read this. Having been single the majority of my life (not by choice), I’ve noticed that most of my married friends – esp once they become parents – tend to shift spending their time with other married couples/families rather than with singles. I’d accepted that it’s just a reflection of where their priorities now need to lie, so it’s refreshing to hear you suggest that single people might actually have a part to play in family life.

    * I agree totally with Laura’s first comment on what advice to give yourself. Also, living life for yourself in the ‘here and now’ rather than waiting to do certain things (travel, buy a house) until Mr Right comes along.
    * Advice to partnered people – don’t be afraid to include single people in what you do, and in your family life. And don’t be afraid to do a bit of match-making!
    * The best thing about being single is the independence.
    * The hardest thing about being single is loneliness and (seriously!) having to catch spiders by yourself.

  4. Rebekah Noakes says:

    I was single for maybe 8 years before I met and married Matt? THe church was a hard place to be a single woman in her 20s. I found myself coming to terms with the idea that I might be “saving myself” for noone but myself. It made earlier messages seem like false advertising. Any un married men in my age group at church became petrified of talking to me because talk might lead me to expect that they were interested in marrying me (or so I believed). And I became petrified of talking to them for fear of seeming foolish. My life was quite gender-unbalanced.

    Through a grieving process I let go expectations for marriage and a family life. I understood that these things are not a right and God does not automatically bless us in this way. I decided that God was still Good and worthy of my love and obedience even if I remained single for the rest of my life. And I found a new dream big enough for all my life and all my love: I trained a nurse with the intention of working in the developing world.

    And then I met Matt. To my amazement, found myself grieving again, this time for the dream I had for my life as a single person. I had to hand this dream, too, back to God for his safe keeping.

    As hard as it was, I’m now grateful that I spent much of my 20s as a single person. I pray I will thus not be guilty of the ‘smugness’ I either sensed or projected amongst friends who were married young, a smugness that seem to suggest that meeting the right person were some sort of personal achievement rather than the pure grace that it is. I pray that the memory of the heartache I experienced will keep my life open to those whose experience is different to mine: single people, separated people, widowed people, single parents. I’m grateful for the time and energy single life allowed me to get two degrees, travel to 4 continents, do more than a year’s unpaid work and have 2 different careers before I was 30. And, surprisingly, I’m grateful for the way my single life prepared me to cope with the very real struggles that married life can and does involve.

    My advice to younger self or other young women who similarly want to be married but are not woudl probably be: Dont let anyone tell you you must ‘stop looking for a husband in order to find one’. That is nonsense. How can you stop looking and hoping anyway? And why should you? But it is true that if you make being married the main goal of your life you may end up disappointed- you may find a husband, but loose other thigns in the process. Far better to find dreams and goals that are not dependent on finding a life partner. Devote yourself to what is good, worthy, life-giving because there is joy and fulfillment to be had right now.

  5. Anna S says:

    Thanks for starting this conversation, Thalia :)

    I once heard a sermon where it was said that the best thing about being single is being able to dedicate more time to the church. Or maybe the Church. Or maybe even the Kingdom of God. I didn’t really take it in – it was probably a very valid point, but I was irritated by the assumption that single people don’t have other responsibilities.

    The best bit for me about being single is having flatmates. I realise they aren’t the exclusive domain of single people, but they don’t seem to be the default setting for married people, in society around me. Flatmates are so much more than people I share dinners and lawn-mowing expenses with, and I highly value our interdependence.

    The hardest bit for me about being single is periodically panicking about growing old alone. I realise that this doesn’t only happen to single people. But all the same, I have an irrational fear of getting to the point of running out of flatmates, and living by myself. Of becoming an absent-minded woman who talks to her cats, while knitting oddly shaped cardigans. God and I have been working on this for few years (the panicking, not the knitting). When the fear bubbles to the surface – pretty much whenever a great flatmate leaves – I’m trying to learn to trust that I’ll be able to adapt to whatever comes next, and grow through it.

    One thing I’d tell my younger self is to cherish being an aunt, and to cultivate opportunities for “aunthood”. I love the connections I have with families, but I think what I’d really like is to be closer – not just a cool aunt who visits occasionally, but a cool aunt who is part of daily life for a family. I’m hoping that happens before I get to the Cat And Cardigan Phase!

    • Spaghetti says:

      Had to laugh when I read this Anna as you’ve almost described me! The Cat and Cardigan phase isn’t so bad ;) I do think your comment about being an every day Aunt is spot on though – something I’ve been challenged on recently too. So I guess the challenge comes from both sides – for families to include singles into their lives, and for singles to be willing to sacrifice some (or more?) of their independence & time so they can fully connect with that family.
      (p.s. let me know if you want knitting lessons, new parents adore getting booties!)

      • Anna S says:

        I should probably clarify that what scares me about the Cat and Cardigan Phase is the potential that I might substitute interaction with real people for pottering around the house as a recluse. Now that I think about it, my mother seems to be navigating the C&C Phase just fine!
        And yes, I’d love to be able to knit more than scarves :)

    • I’d like to just add in here how much we appreciate your commitment to ‘aunthood’ in our direction! The fact that you took annual leave to hang out with and look after SBJ meant a huge amount to me and us. When we’re in the same city, consider yourself part of the furniture.

  6. Frank says:

    I really struggle with how to incorporate single (and child-free) friends into my life with a toddler. I want my child-free friends to play a part in our family life, but I don’t want to assume that they would want to. I think it would be hard as a child free person to say to a friend, I love hanging out with you and I would rather hang out with just you and not your entourage because I’d like to have a conversation with you that doesn’t get interrupted 678,473,201 times an hour. So how do you know whether someone does or doesn’t want to be part if your chaotic, messy hilarious family life?

    I try to acknowledge that their primary interest may be with me, not with my 1 year old, and it’s okay if they’d rather not hang out with him and that there are times when I would prefer this too, but child-free get togethers are harder to organise of course. And the fun things we used to do may not all be feasible when a small child will wake at 6:30 the next morning.

    I also try to limit the amount of children talk I do – sometimes I specifically read up on a current event so I have something else to talk about than nappies and night wakings!

    Any other tips for including child free people in a child centred life while making them feel like they have a choice about it would be appreciated!

    • Laura says:

      I think most singles would appreciate being involved in your child-crazy life but perhaps a ratio could be set for times of just ‘you and them’ vs ‘you+children and them.’
      I think I would value this because I would care about you and your life, and want to be around your family but also would appreciate quality time.
      But perhaps you would need to think of this ratio, as you’re right, most singles wouldn’t probably feel comfortable asking for it, especially knowing how hard it can be to factor in. So if you were intentionally aware of it, that would help.
      Hanging out with kids give us perspective as well! And is fun, hence all the Aunty related comments above!

  7. Anon says:

    Frank, I think the key is to actually give them the choice – ask your friends what they prefer. If they can tell you they only want kid-free time, and you can hear that without being irrevocably offended, chances are its a pretty solid friendship! But they should also accept your priorities are different now, and so this might mean fewer opportunities to actually SEE you. Maybe it means more phone calls when the kids are in bed, rather than cafe lunch dates. I don’t think the significance of the friendship has to change for either party, maybe just the way it is conducted, and that might be fluid over time as kids get older and more independant. I think it is important for both to be clear about this though. As the singleton, I personally can’t ever imagine telling my friends I don’t want to see their kids, because to me that friendship includes whatever comes with them, but I know some people that are clear about their no-kids policy, and that seems to work for them.

  8. […] on from this earlier post, here are nine ways to be a great friend to someone who’s single. It’s illustrated with […]

  9. […] were some very thoughtful comments on the first two posts in our Single series (here and here), particularly about how single people and families can be part of each other’s […]

  10. […] I’m just guessing about that, but it’s probably right. I read that nine out of ten American women will be widowed, given statistical life expectancy. Even among Christians, marrying by 20 or so is pretty unusual. […]

  11. […] Raising Girls hasn’t been released yet, so I just thought I’d pop this in as an update to our discussion on the role of single friends in family life. […]

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