What I Wish My Single Friends Knew About Marriage

5 honest admissions to help bridge our differences
What I Wish My Single Friends Knew About Marriage
Image: SLOONA / SHUTTERSTOCK

When I got married ten years ago, there were certain things I expected—things like love and struggle and joy and pain. But what I didn’t expect was that those emotions might not only occur within my marriage, but also between me and my single girlfriends. As I learned what it looked like to be married to Michael, I was also trying to learn how to re-build friendships with the women in my life.

It wasn’t easy. Suddenly, I was in a different stage of life than they were, navigating different questions and concerns. Our seasons of life were different, and we had choices to make: Would we stay connected, work for deeper friendship even in the midst of life change? Or would we slowly fade apart?

5 Honest Admissions

Here are the things I wish I would have said ten years ago to my single friends—and the things I still may need to say to my single friends. Because friendship in any season is worth the time and intentionality it requires—even if it does get a little awkward as we figure things out along the way.

1. Sometimes I don't know how to relate to you. I know that sometimes you feel like you can’t relate to my life situation—and I actually feel the same way about you. Our seasons of life are markedly different, now, and I’m not always sure how to connect.

Maybe it’s because I was the first among my friends to get married, and it was as if an invisible wall went up in some of my friendships—a wall I didn’t know how to break through. Some of my friends were jealous; some were unsure of how our friendship would shift now that I was a Mrs. It made me gun-shy, and I felt the shift. I worried that I would misstep in my friendships with single women.

What I’m saying is that I'm not sure what stories you want to hear from my life. Should I avoid all of the stories about our marriage? I don’t know how painful it feels for you when I bring up my husband in conversation. And I have no idea if you want to talk about your singleness of not.

I might need you to tell me; I might need you to open up the conversation and share where your heart is with singleness, with marriage, with Jesus, with the church. And I might need to share with you about my marriage. We might just need to work through the awkwardness together. Because I want to love you well, just as I want to be loved well by you. But I’m not always sure how you want me—and maybe even need me—to relate to you. Please tell me. I won’t be offended. I’ll be thankful.

2. Yes, it really is wonderful. And yes, it really is hard. Even though I’m not in your shoes, I know that being single can be really, really hard. What I need you to hear from me is this: sometimes marriage can be hard, too.

Yes, I am grateful that I have someone to come home to, to lean on, to process life with, to live alongside. I wouldn’t be who I am today without Michael’s sharpening and loving presence in my life. But marriage is not all sunshine and roses. It is a daily choice to keep our communication open, our love pure, our dreams shared. We are two different people with sometimes markedly different views of how we should live, eat, work, and parent. And it can be exhausting to try and work things through one more time, when it would feel easier to throw in the emotional towel.

So there are going to be days when I need you to help me cherish my vows, and days when I need to help you trust God’s promises, too. I think we can help and love each other in these places if we can make room for each other’s struggles, no matter how different they are.

3. There are days when I envy your singleness. I relinquished a lot of freedoms at the altar because the marriage vow necessarily requires tethering: I can’t up and go whenever I want, I can’t choose a new job based only on my personal desires. I’m not free to spend money any way I want, or use my time solely in the ways I see fit. Those were freedoms I traded in order to have a healthy marriage. And while I know we are all called to shape our lives around Christ and live accountably to him and his church, there are days when your life seems very alluring to me: You don’t have to make decisions with someone else, or shape your life around another human. Some days, your freedoms sound luxurious to me. I know you might be rolling your eyes right now, but it’s true.

Paul warns about this reality in the Scripture—it’s not like I went into marriage blind:

I want you to be free from anxieties. . . . And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:32, 34-35)

I made this choice when I got married—to have, to a certain degree, my attentions divided between Jesus and my husband, my family. I seek to keep Christ at the forefront of my life, and often serving Jesus means serving my husband and family. But there are days when I feel torn in my attentions, and I look at your life with longing.

4. Sex is good, but it’s not the pinnacle of life. Sex is a good thing. In a healthy, God-honoring marriage, it’s a holy and beautiful thing. I love that I get to have sex with my husband, and I remember driving away from our wedding reception amazed that what would have been so unholy just hours before—sex outside of marriage—had just been made holy in our lives because of our marriage vow. Now, we could have sex whenever we wanted!

And sex is unifying and fun and important and valuable. It’s a divine type of glue that binds a marriage together, and I’m so grateful for the gift that sex can be.

But sex is not the best part of my life, or even the best part of our marriage. Contrary to what the culture we live in communicates, sex is not the end-all and be-all of human existence. Are you missing out on sex if you are single and are living a pure life? Yes. That’s a legitimate loss. But be encouraged: There are many other wonderful things that you can experience rightly in the Kingdom of God. God isn’t giving you “second best” because sex isn’t available to you right now. It’s a “different best,” but it is still really, really good.

5. My calling as a wife isn't better or more valuable than your calling as a woman. Contrary to the underlying messages that are (unfortunately) reiterated constantly in some church communities, being a wife is not more valuable to God than being a single woman. We both have the same Great Commission in the kingdom:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Both of us—single or married—have the high and holy call of glorifying Jesus and loving others, and of making disciples and teaching them to obey his Word. How that looks will play out differently through our current relationships—what we do, what we have time to do, how we minister to those in our homes and communities. But one is not better than the other.

Friendships across different life stages can be hard. But of all these honest admissions, it ultimately comes down to this: I want to be a good sister to you. I’m grateful for you. You are immensely valuable to me, to Jesus, and to the church.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Ann Swindell

Ann Swindell is a TCW regular contributor who is passionate about seeing women set free by the love of Christ. Connect with her at AnnSwindell.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter at @annswindell.

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