When I first started writing this, I came up with a specific and personal letter directed towards my early twenties self, telling me not to treat my singleness as a means to an end and to realize that being single doesn’t mean anything is wrong with me. Then I started talking to the people in my life about this topic and I realized that there are far too many different experiences out there for me to just use mine. Here are six pieces of advice gained from close friends and family in the hopes that no matter where you are on the spectrum of singledom, you will find something you can relate to.
“I wish I had known it was OK to be single.”
This one is the first one I thought of and several of the women I talked to said the same thing. I was never a very good single person. I spent most of my time trying to attract guys’ attention. I went on dates, I flirted, I positioned myself in a lot of places for the sole purpose of attracting a man; and some of those places were not good places to find good, godly men. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy, I had friends. I had a rich and fulfilling life, but I was never fully comfortable or content with my singleness. I wish I had learned that being single is not a sickness and that it’s perfectly normal and OK to be single. I wish I had realized during that time in my life how much I was learning about myself, my faith, and my goals. I wish I had used that time to focus on those things.
“I wish I would’ve known how selfish I really was.”
This one comes from my brother, who is one of the least selfish people I know. Being married to, and responsible (in part) for another person’s happiness and well-being forces you to recognize your own selfish tendencies. Marriage has a way of showing you just what selflessness really is and how hard it is to truly put another person’s needs above your own. Marriage isn’t 50/50, divorce is 50/50. Marriage is 100/100. So, enjoy the freedom to be a little selfish, and also maybe take the opportunity to practice being selfless while the stakes are lower.
“When you know you are or aren’t going to marry someone, don’t waste your time.”
My husband said this and I can attest to it from both ends. I dated someone for a long time knowing full well that if we were to get married it probably wouldn’t work out. I would’ve saved myself a lot of time and heartbreak if I had cut it off when I first had that realization instead of continuing to try and force it. On the other end, once I knew I could spend the rest of my life with my husband, I let go of any hesitations. Granted, there was a lot of prayer involved in that decision. Don’t waste your time on someone who isn’t right for you, get out. And when you do find the right person, don’t be afraid. Most importantly, don’t marry someone just to get married.
“Invest in your friends and family.”
Once you get married, your spouse becomes the number one person in your life. That’s how God intended marriage to be. So, use the time you have while you’re single to really deepen and enrich your relationships with close friends and family. We are human, therefore we are finite. We only have so much time and attention to give, so once you’re married most of that time and attention will go into building a life with your spouse. If you take the time to invest in others while you’re single, then it will be easier to retain those relationships once you are married. Don’t force yourself on an island with your future spouse. You both need support systems other than each other in your lives.
“Being married can often be more fun and less stressful than being single.”
My husband said this and I realize that this point seems to negate my earlier point that singleness is a blessing, so let me explain. Before I was married, all I heard was how hard marriage is. And don’t get me wrong, it is hard, but sharing your life with another person can take a little of the load off. So, if you are on the other end of the spectrum and you just can’t see yourself disrupting your single life by adding a spouse into the mix, be comforted with the fact that marriage is fun. Don’t be afraid to commit to someone. Marriage allows you to share the burden with another person. You no longer have to do everything on your own.
“Be aware of your expectations, and be realistic. Find your fulfillment in Christ.”
I had several friends give me some variation of this, and at first it sounds cynical. My sister-in-law said to keep in mind that he won’t be perfect. A good friend of mine called me and we had a very in-depth conversation about the fact that we wished we had realized just how many expectations we had and how unfair they were. Getting married won’t “fix” you or your spouse. You can’t expect your spouse to be the source of your life’s fulfillment. Your fulfillment needs to come from your relationship with Christ. Your spouse (like you) is imperfect and flawed. If you put that person on too high of a pedestal, then you will always be disappointed. It’s unfair of me to expect my husband to be perfect. It will strain our relationship because there are times when he will fail, just like there are times when I will fail. That’s ok! We are there to help each other grow. We are not there to be a kind of god for the other person. Basically, you have to love the Lord on your own first, or you will spend the rest of your life disappointed in your spouse.
This subject fosters so much conversation. There is no way I could fit it all in one post, so I took the most important pieces and grouped them together accordingly. The truth is, everyone’s experience is so vastly different. Feel free to leave a comment and add your own tidbit of advice.
Rachel-Claire Cockrell is a wife, a writer, and a high school English teacher. She is passionate about her students and does her best to exemplify the love of Christ to those kids who may not experience it anywhere else. She and her husband live in Arkansas. Follow her blog at http://rachelclaireunworthy.blogspot.com/ or on Facebook.