As I see it, singles fit into 3 categories:
- Those who don’t want to be in a relationship.
- Those who do want to be in a relationship.
- Those who don’t care one way or the other.
Looking at the first category of singles:
- Those who don’t want to be in a relationship.
This often happens when you are still struggling from the last relationship. You might be dealing with feelings of loss, sorrow, regret, anger and bitterness. If that’s you, I commend you for not dating while you’re in this difficult state of mind and heart. I would encourage you to spend some time reflecting on your contribution to the problem. If you think it was 0% your fault, I guarantee you are wrong. After all, you picked this person. Why did you pick him or her? Self-honesty will be essential.
There are some great books that can help you with this. I encourage you to investigate a 12-Step program or find a therapist to work through some of these issues. It’s not going away on its own. It doesn’t make you weak or stupid if you ask for help. On the contrary—seeking guidance can be one of the wisest things you can do to heal the feelings that bring you down.
If you think no one else is being affected by your negativity, you’re wrong. Ask for help. It’s the fastest way to get out of the kettle you’re stewing in.
- Those who DO want to be in a relationship.
These folks are often frustrated with their singleness. They can spend a lot of time talking to God and each other about this dilemma. If you want to be in a relationship but it’s just not happening on your preferred time frame, there could be several reasons why.
Perhaps the problem is that your system isn’t working. That’s the solution most look at first. They try online dating or another singles Meetup group. Maybe they need to lose some weight or do something to their appearance. Maybe they need to stop chasing women half their age or refusing to date men who aren’t earning six figures. Maybe. That’s a valid possibility. It’s definitely something to pray about and ask your close friends for input. Make sure you give them permission to give you the potentially brutal truth.
Then again, maybe it’s God’s timing. You might be just where you need to be. You’ve worked through your past hurts and you’re really connecting with God these days. Those who know you well would agree—you are mentally, physically, spiritually and financially healthy these days. So it really chaps your hide when people ask “So why are you still single?” Good question.
What if you’re still single because God has someone specific in mind for you? Someone who is a really good fit. What if this person is not ready to be in a healthy relationship with you? What if he or she is going through the agony of losing a spouse to cancer? What if he or she is in the midst of a very messy divorce? What if it is in God’s loving mercy that He is preventing you from meeting each other right now? Will you turn this struggle over to God and trust that He has your best interest at heart?
The last and darkest possibility is that there is something in your life that is preventing you from being in a healthy relationship. Do you struggle with addiction? Do you turn to alcohol, food, pornography, gaming or drugs when life doesn’t go your way? Are you drowning in debt? Do you experience conflict on a daily basis? Are you stomping your feet at God, insisting that you’re not going to give up your dark indulgences or destructive behaviors until He brings you a spouse?
This is a tragically common scenario. When we are hurting and lonely, we want someone to comfort us and tell us that we are not the problem. Unfortunately, we are usually at least part of the problem. Even if it’s only 10%, we are the only part of the problem we can control.
Often God chooses to wait us out, refusing to give in to our demands until we relinquish that dark part of our hearts that we are holding back from Him. If there’s any possibility that you could fall into that last category, I urge you to go to God in prayer over the course of at least a month. Ask God if there is anything in your spirit that He wants to heal or remove. Ask for His help to do this. It’s hard, and you won’t be able to do it without His help. 12-Step programs can help, and so can a good therapist. It can be scary and painful, but you will also feel incredibly transformed when you are free of this burden.
3. Those who don’t care one way or the other.
There are some who say that they don’t care one way or the other. Sometimes this is true because they are so busy with family, friends, work, and volunteering that they really don’t miss having a romantic interest 90% or more of the time. There are others who have come to a place in their walk with Christ that allows them to have peace regardless of their marital status. They truly never find themselves wishing that they had a spouse. They are completely contented to be single for the rest of their lives.
Then there are those who SAY that they don’t care, but what they really mean is that ultimately, they wish they could be in a really healthy marriage with another devoted Christ-follower, but unless that shows up on their door, they are not pressing the issue. They have turned these desires over to God. It took me about seven years to get to the place where I was more or less content to be single indefinitely. Even then, there was an underlying sadness in my heart that I didn’t have a partner.
If God has given you the freedom of bliss in truly not caring about being in a loving, committed, and sexual relationship (AKA marriage), that is truly the GIFT of singleness. God did not create most of us to be that way. It’s a natural desire to have that deepest level of intimacy with another and disappointing when we can’t connect in that way. So what are you supposed to do if you’ve gotten your life in order and you’re still single?
Be still and know that He is God.
I know it sounds trite. I know it’s not a satisfying answer. But it is the truth. Last year, I had two girlfriends who (along with me) decided that we would rather be single forever than subject ourselves to any more unsatisfying and limited relationships with the selfish and damaged men we had been meeting. We talked about our regret that we had much to give, but no one to whom we wanted to give it.
We began restructuring our lives in the most positive ways to reflect our change in attitude. While our deepest desire was to have a partner, we agreed that we’d rather go solo for the rest of our time here on Earth rather than to have to choose between integrity with God and keeping a man around. We quit opening ourselves up (and dropping our standards), hoping that “maybe this one will be different.” We made more conscious effort to invest in our girlfriends. We decided to be happy where we were, and to quit putting off anything for “when/if we were married”. We travelled with our girlfriends, bought property, created new holiday traditions, etc. We invested time we would have spent with a love interest with each other, and that created deeper friendships which led to deeper joy.
The result was that we began finding community, companionship, contentment and peace. When we felt sad about our singleness, we took our feelings and complaints to God, who comforted us. Things really got much, much better for all three of us. Nothing else had changed—just our attitudes.
Then one day, M. had a call from an old boyfriend who had moved out of state over two years earlier to tell her he was moving back. T. had a virtually dead eHarm.ny account, and out of the blue, she decided to contact a gentleman. Last of all, I suddenly found a long-time, dear friend surprisingly attractive. Long story short, six months later, we all became engaged and two of us are now actually married.
This is not to say that HORRIBLE cliché, “when you quit looking for it, that’s when it will happen”. I want to pinch people who say that. My point is that we had all come to the place where we had genuinely turned the internal battle over to Christ. Not just in WORD, but in DEED. We had quit hanging our happiness on a circumstance we could not control, and we found joy. THEN we found romance.
So to recap, singles fit into 3 categories.
- If you don’t want to be in a relationship right now because you’re healing from the last one, please get some help (book/12-step program/counseling/etc).
- If you DO want to be in a relationship and it’s just not happening, take your frustration to God and ask for some insight. Ask an honest friend, too. Make adjustments if needed.
- If you are a bit ambivalent about dating in general, congratulations. When you can truly release the outcome to God, you’ll be a whole lot happier.