I'll admit it—there are days when if I were to write an article called "Why Being Single Stinks," it would fill volumes. Days when the entire congregation at my church seems made of happy couples and their charming children—while I sit in my pew alone. Or when I receive still another wedding invitation and can't even picture whom I'd ask to accompany me, let alone whom I could someday walk down the aisle with once my turn comes.
But thankfully, this isn't the whole story. Just the other day my roommate, Karen, and I were enjoying our Saturday morning tradition of banana chocolate-chip pancakes—she dressed in plaid flannel pants and a tie-dyed t-shirt and I in my pjs and a Pebbles Flintstone-inspired ponytail. As we plopped down in front of the tube to watch a rerun of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, I flashed her a smile and asked, "Aren't you glad we're single?" She looked at our clothing, our cuisine, and the cute man on the screen, and agreed with a hearty laugh. Here are a few other things we like about being single:
Once we got our fill of pancakes that morning, we noticed the beautiful day shaping up outside. Karen looked at me and said, "Two words: Lake Michigan." An hour or so later we were in my car, a frisbee in the back seat, walking shoes on our feet, our beverage of choice—Frappuccinos—in our drink holders, and our favorite musical soundtrack blaring out our open windows. In twenty minutes we would be breathing in the fresh air and walking off our caffeine buzz along the rocky ledges bordering Lake Michigan. Ahh, the single life.
Spontaneity. Freedom. Flexibility. These are some of the best things about being single. They've allowed Karen, a middle-school teacher, to spend her summers off teaching day camp to inner-city kids. They've allowed my friend Cheryl to travel to Russia and share her faith with college students. They've allowed my friend Julie the time to create the most beautiful garden in our suburb. And they've allowed me to visit my friend Christa in Germany and take in the European experience without missing a husband or kids back home.
Sure, we'd all someday like to have the structure of date nights and bedtime stories, but for now we're trying to make the most of the flexibility in our schedules.
Months ago I had lunch with Carla and Annette, two Christian coworkers of mine, each with a marriage I admire. As we were talking about the upcoming wedding of a mutual friend, the conversation drifted to the topic of sex. While I blushed in silence, these frank friends told me that sex isn't always thrilling. Sometimes it's awkward and messy, they admitted. As a single woman in our sex-saturated society, sometimes I need to hear this.
Through listening to my married friends over the years, I've learned better than to think that marriage is always chocolate and romance—or that it's a cure-all. These friends aren't bashing their husbands; they're simply telling it like it is. Singleness may have its bad days—but these friends help remind me that married life does, too.
We all have our opinions on the age-old question: Can men and women be "just friends"? In my own life, I've found the answer to be yes. And I'm really glad, too. Because without guys like Ray and Max in my life right now, the lack of a husband or boyfriend could seem even more pronounced. Ray—whom I met at my Bible study—offers spiritual enthusiasm, prayer support, and a zest for life. And once he even lent his woodworking skills when I was trying to take apart a bookshelf and strip the paint from it. I met Max through a work connection and we talk often on the phone, exchanging creative energy, accountability for our various writing projects, and valuable in-sights on the opposite gender.
I fully believe God's brought these friends into my life. And if I were married right now, I'm not sure we'd even be able to be friends. I certainly know we wouldn't be as close as we are. So for now, in this husbandless season of my life, I'm savoring these male friendships.
For the first eight months after I graduated from college, I lived alone. What could have been the most lonely time of my life turned out to be one of the most rewarding. I would pray out loud while washing dishes, sing along with the radio without apology, or settle into a chair with a good book and read uninterrupted for hours. There was a richness to this time in my life I wouldn't trade for anything—even the days when the relative silence did actually turn into loneliness. And even on those days, because I had no one to turn to, I'd cry out to God and sense his presence more acutely than if I'd had the distractions of a husband and kids.
I've learned that being alone out in public has its benefits, too. Last fall I took a business trip to New York alone. My evenings were free and Broadway was a few blocks away, so I gathered my courage one night and went to see a show on my own. During the intermission, I struck up a conversation with the mom sitting next to me and discovered she and her family were from Denmark visiting the States for the first time. We chatted for a few minutes, exchanging cultural info we each took in with rapt interest.The next night I had dinner at a nearby quaint Italian restaurant with a woman from Arizona I met at one of the seminars earlier that day. After dinner we wandered over to Rockefeller Center and people-watched as we chatted about our jobs and home states. Because I didn't have someone else's schedule to take into consideration, I was free to take these spur-of-the-moment excursions—and interact with interesting people along the way.
Karen, my roommate, and I have three other friends—Julie, Lisa, and Ruth—who comprise what I jokingly refer to as Our Gang. These are the kind of close friends who will give me a ride to the airport at 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, or bring their own slippers when they come to our apartment for movie night. We've laughed—when a date backed into and broke Julie's fence; we've cried—when Lisa's grandfather's health deteriorated rapidly and he recently died; we've celebrated—when Karen bought her first new car last year. We've even traveled together to San Antonio, Texas, a couple Thanksgivings ago for a much-needed vacation.
It took me a while to settle into these close friendships, but it's neat to look back at how God wove each one of these treasured friends into my circle. I know that someday our tight ties will have to lessen when and if husbands finally grace the scene. But until that one special man enters my life, I'm thankful for these four special friends who meet my relational needs. And seeing how God brought them each to me at just the right time gives me renewed faith that if a husband's in his will for me, God will do the same with my Mr. Right.
Make the Most of Your Singleness
- Ask Around.
Talk to your married friends and find out what they miss most about being single. Is it girls' nights out? Is it the time to take a photography class? Take advantage of these opportunities now so you'll have no regrets later.
- Make a List.
What do you want to accomplish in life—write a book? Travel to Italy? Participate in a short-term missions trip? Write all this down on a master list, then pick one thing and go for it. Don't let waiting for a husband put your life on hold.
Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there are specific purposes for certain seasons of life. Ask God what unique things he wants you to do or learn in this single season. Obedience to these things will draw you closer to him and make for an exciting ride.
- Invest in Others.
Since you're not focusing a majority of your relational energy into a husband right now, you've got a lot to give. There are Sunday school classes, refugee families, and weary neighbors who could be eternally blessed by your involvement in their lives. And the joy you'll receive in return will help chase away those lonely days.
- Get Going.
There's a lot to see and do in this big world and now's your best chance to take it all in. A road trip with friends is always a bonding experience. And it's never too late for a family vacation. Enrich your life by broadening its boundaries. (You never know whom you may meet along the way!)
1998 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine. For reprint information call 630-260-6200 or e-mail email@example.com.