Don't Leave Us Behind: A Letter From a Single Friend
By Jan Heindel
|PC: Freddy Castro, Unsplash|
Side note: This is a somewhat vulnerable topic to share about, but it's reality, and I think sometimes we're too afraid to talk about those sensitive areas because of the fear of coming across as insensitive. But isn't ignoring it just as bad?
Here's the thing about now being an "older" single woman: though singleness has its advantages, it can also be an incredibly isolating place (compounded as a single female expat).
I don't deny that those in marriages also experience loneliness and isolation, and I grieve with those of you in that. As a younger single woman, I had more friends who also shared this single stage of life with me, and I have often reflected that when I was surrounded by good friends who were also single, who could relate, who had the freedom to be spontaneous on a Friday night or the availability to go on vacation with me, I was fairly content. I felt understood and like I had a place.
As I get older and have fewer and fewer friends (especially close friends) in this stage of life, it becomes increasingly harder to find that place, especially in a culture that, in some ways similar to the US, is fairly independent and not as open to sharing life with others. I could live in a place of self-pity, or I can find myself begrudging those who have someone to help them: carry bags of groceries home (especially when you are carrying it all by hand... no auto transportation here!). Or putting together furniture. Or having help figuring out all the legalities of visa and managing appointments. Of not having the company and social life I'd like. I don't want to live in that place of dwelling on what I don't have. But I DO still need community.
Yes, I'm reflecting on this after the wedding of a dear friend, but it's highlighting a piece for me that I've often thought about in the past. Couples, families... don't leave out the single people in your life because you're married, because you share the same stage of life with other couples and families. Yes, those relationships are important. But you need more than couple relationships.
You also need me as a single person in your life—to remind you of how to interact with those who aren't going through the same things. To find ways to relate outside of house or babies or couple issues. To be vulnerable in some of these things even if I can't completely relate. But I'm honored by you bringing me in and yes, I care about those things with you. Neither is it the whole of who you are. You are not your husband (or wife) or kids or home. That's not your identity.
You need me to bring another perspective into your life. I have a place at your table as well. I have something to offer—important pieces to offer without a spouse, and as a woman, without a husband. A man does not suddenly validate me or validate my ministry; it does not make me more worthwhile or usable or acceptable.
And we singles need you. I need you. I need community, and community outside of other singles (and this peer group is less and less the older I get). I need places where I am welcomed in and given space and treated as equal and worthwhile IN my singleness—where I feel like I have a place and am not less than without a partner. I need the company and friendship of both of the partners in a marriage, even of the opposite sex (and sometimes especially, since more of my life is relating to the same gender). I need to learn to relate to families as a whole and celebrate with you in stages of life that I'm not experiencing.
Some more practical pieces that I've experienced or heard:
Please don't assume that I'm too busy; sometimes I create busyness BECAUSE I don't have other places to spend it.
Please don't assume that I don't want to spend time with your crazy family. Yes, sometimes that's true, and I need my space and peace. But I am honored to be thought of and invited in. Please don't assume that a refusal means I'm not interested. Hopefully I communicate that.
Please don't assume that it will be awkward. It will be awkward if you think it will be awkward (3rd or 5th wheel, anyone?). I want to be secure enough to enjoy you and your family and company no matter my state. If I'm not secure (and it definitely happens at times!), that's mine to work through in my identity with God.
Please don't hold back because it might cause pain. Granted, sometimes it is hard for me. But the tension and feelings of isolation increase when communication becomes guarded for fear of hurt. Let's be authentic and support each other in the rawness of all of it. I learn to honor and serve others well when I take the pain to God and receive the strength to truly be with you in your joy and pain. I honor you by sharing my heart and the place I'm at without placing expectation or guilt on you. And we both feel seen and understood when we can be in it together without giving or taking offense. (side note: not every single or disappointed person is in a place to handle this. I get that. Be sensitive to your friend.)
At the same time, please don't flaunt your "success" by demanding I celebrate or be offended with you... this occasionally happens by gushing about your joys and pride or lamenting how demanding your life is because of the children or responsibilities. You can help me by not letting me do the same about my singleness. We've all got our stuff. Let's find a balance together.
Please DO invite me to join you. Make space for me—sometimes into your family time or time with other families. A dinner. A walk. A playground trip. I'm happy to be thought of.
Please DO ask or initiate conversation about life and stages of life. I want to know I'm seen and heard in that area, even if you can't specifically relate. I want to do the same with you. Don't let it be an awkward or shameful thing.
Please DO notice the single people around you: keep your eyes open and notice where they may or may not have community.
Please DO let us make community together. The young, the old. The single, the married. The childless, the overflowing family. The hurting, the healthy. The giver, the receiver. We all need each other; different ways in different seasons. We all have seasons to give and to receive. But let's find community and do it well.
What's your experience - as a single person or as a married individual or couple relating to someone who is single? I'd love to hear your thoughts and how we can do/be the Body of Christ better.
Jan is living and serving in Prague, Czech Republic, sharing Jesus through teaching English and working with youth. Her passions include people living in the freedom that Jesus offers and a lifestyle of worship. She finds joy in mountains and forest, quality time with family and friends and her puppy, and adventures of many kinds.