As a single woman in my mid twenties I find reactions to my seemingly permanent singledom status are hugely varied. Exclamations of “Don’t worry, you’re young, go and have fun before you’re tied down. The world is your oyster” to being informed at the age of twenty-two that I should hurry up and have children as my biological clock is already beginning to tick, “time is limited don’t you know”! I have also been surprised by people intensely questioning or commenting; “why are you single?” to “you’re just too picky”, often from people I would view more as acquaintances than close friends.
I know from friends in different stages of life that these questions and pieces of advice are often posed in slightly different ways e.g. “When are you getting married?” “When are you going to have children?” as we progress through life. I’m sure I myself have asked similarly tricky questions to an unsuspecting friend or relative which undoubtedly sent them reeling in embarrassment, not quite sure how to respond. I’ve been thinking through these questions and I’ve come to the conclusion that, because we hope for the best for others, particularly those we care about, we can often project our idea of “the best” onto those around us. We want to know that others are ok. I’m sure the questions or advice given to me come from a place of wanting to make sure that I am okay and that I’m happy. In this way, it is great to know that so many people are there, rooting for me, wanting the best for me.
However how well-meaning the questions and comments may be, it doesn’t necessarily make hearing them any easier. No I don’t know why I’m still single, apart from the fact that I’ve not met the right person yet. Yes I am “fussy” because I want to make sure that when I finally commit to someone, they are the person who God wants me to be with, that they bring out the best in me and I bring out the best in them.
Unfortunately, well-meaning questioning can unintentionally strike a chord. Yes I do know that my fertility window is limited. I am in fact more aware of this than most people my age, having had gynaecological treatment at the age of seventeen which will have a long term impact on my life. Most of the time I am totally ok with this. It was actually a massively transformative time in my life and is a huge part of my testimony. It is probably the time when I decided to take on my faith as my own. I am totally convinced that if God would like me to have children, that I will, no matter how old I am, or what my fertility statistics may be. However, being reminded of this, even when the person asking has no idea of my history, can be hurtful and cause me to doubt this.
Similarly, my feelings relating to my singleness seem to change sometimes on an hourly/daily/weekly basis. Sometimes I am totally happy being single, knowing I have lots of opportunities which I wouldn’t necessarily have if I was married and I’m content enjoying my life in the phase it’s currently in. At others, I can be deeply unhappy being single, aware of the fact that many of my friends are settling down, getting married, buying houses and having children and ultimately this is the stage I would like to be at now too. I am super happy for my friends but it can also be hard being the only one at a wedding table without a plus one, or the only one at a family BBQ without a significant other. At these times, being questioned about my “choice” to be single can be hard.
Dating and relationships are hugely personal and we all have different views on the way we want to experience this part of our lives. One way is not necessarily better than another, but just different. For some reason God is working differently in my life than he is in others. But isn’t that great? It would be so boring if we all lived our lives the same way and if God had the same plan for each of us!
So from me, here’s some helpful tips as to what I’ve found helpful and what has been less so and is probably worth avoiding:
Please don’t question me about the phase I’m in at the moment. The honest truth is that I don’t know why God has chosen for me to be single at the moment. Asking me this can make me feel inadequate and as though there may be a problem with me. Instead I’d rather focus on the positives of where I am right now and experience all of what God has for me.
Please don’t mention fertility. I know you are probably just joking, or genuinely concerned, but you don’t know if this will strike a chord with someone and cause unintentional upset.
Please do ask me how I am, but rather than focusing on my relationship status, ask what’s going on for me at the moment. The chances are, if I want to chat about a fun date I went on recently or the fact that I’m not seeing anyone at the moment, I’ll start the conversation.
Please do include me in your family fun, I love this and also love when people go out of their way to chat to or include me in big gatherings when there are often a lot of couples.
Please do feel you can pray for me if you’d like to. I don’t always love being single and I could definitely do with an extra dose of patience!
Most of all, thanks for being there and for caring. I am so grateful for all of my wonderful family and friends. You have such an amazing impact on my life and I’m so grateful for all the fun times we have together and for your support!