Happily Single: Keys to Thriving in a World Full of Couples

“You singles out there, go to the lobby and just find someone to marry.”

Gulp! Someone whom I know and respect actually said that at a meeting I attended a few years ago. I kid you not.

It wasn’t a meeting about marriage or singleness; I wouldn’t attend either of those. It wasn’t part of some treasure hunt or a game like The Amazing Race, either, where teams had to successfully complete challenges. Instead, we were at a regular work event and the comment had nothing to do with anything being discussed. Sam (not his real name) later claimed to have said it as an encouragement to us singles among the crowd, seeing that Valentine’s decorations were going up all around us.

As if that’s how you find a great spouse.

As if that’s the key to happiness.

As if being single is not an option.

Soon after, I approached Sam and in the kindest of ways, I enquired, “Help me understand what you meant with your earlier statement.”

It would have been great if he said, “You know, that just didn’t come out the way I meant it.” Or, “Help me understand what you heard me saying. Did my well-meaning comment offend you?”

Instead, Sam dug an even deeper hole. “Well, Adele, there are many singles in this room who desperately want to be married. Not everyone’s called to singleness like you are.”

I didn’t have time to respond verbally, but I’m sure my face communicated a resounding, “What?!” The HR director who had been standing nearby, cut in, “Actually, Adele, Sam didn’t mean to offend.”

I knew that. And it’s not like I would report Sam for offending me! After all, what would the complaint be? That he suggests being married to anyone I can find in a large hotel lobby is better than being single? After all, Sam was from a culture where marriages are still commonly arranged and not built on love but on compatibility. Perhaps he actually thought that we singles would merely come up with a list of traits, write it on a big banner and walk around the hotel lobby looking for someone whose list would complement ours.

It wasn’t worth the energy to try and explain to him why I took offense.

Sam’s response actually reminded me of a similar question I had been asked just a year or two before by a well-meaning friend in Shanghai. I had been in Mary’s city for meetings, and after a few days of grappling with issues around leadership development in the underground church, interspersed with much laughter and the sharing of stories, Mary and her colleague asked the question, “Adele, when did you realize you were called to be single?”

My response to Mary is what I would have loved to tell Sam, too. “I’m not called to be single. I’m called to Jesus. I happen to be single.” And that, more than anything else, is the key to thriving in a world of couples.

My marital status does not define who I am. My faith in God and my relationship with him does.

I have many, many friends around the world who can attest to the fact that I’m not weird. I’m not a recluse. I’m not unlovable or unattractive. I’m not socially awkward. I’m not unintelligent or boring. I have no offensive habits. And no, I am not gay. (I say this since folks may assume that anyone close to 50 and happily single must obviously be any one of these things.)

What I am is rooted in my identity as a woman whom God knows and loves better than any man could ever do. It does not mean that I would not be open to meeting a great, God-fearing man. But I’m not waiting around for life to start once I’ve met Mr. Right.

Hence, I’m almost 50 and I love life. I have experienced adventures that merit several other posts to be written about them. I have traveled to almost 70 countries by now and hope to see much more of the world before I ever slow down.

It also doesn’t mean that I’ve not sometimes wished for more. But ultimately, because my identity is rooted in someone far greater than myself, life truly is an amazing adventure!

I wouldn’t be able to be a wholehearted Serious Player if I weren’t able to embrace—even celebrate—my marital status. So, as someone who can honestly say that I am happily single, some thoughts for those who might be struggling with their singleness, especially on a day like today where relationships are the focus.

1. Find a Purpose Larger than You

As my friend and mentor Michele Cushatt says, “If you can lose it, it’s not who you are.” (She recently published an excellent book on the topic of identity. It is worth the read.)

So,

You ≠ your marital status.

You ≠ your job title.

You ≠ your bank balance.

You ≠ your academic credentials.

You ≠ your weight on a scale.

You ≠ your very best skills.

Unless you can find significance in a purpose much larger than yourself, you’ll continue to seek for meaning in more. More relationships. More money. More studying. More food. More sex. More ___. And all of that can and will disappoint at some stage or another.

2. Be Your Own Best Friend

Single folks spend a lot of time alone. Get comfortable with that! If you’re constantly looking for someone to be with you and fill the space, you’ll go through friends faster than a roll of toilet paper. If you can’t stand your own company, others won’t hang around, either! (Seek counseling if that’s the case. You’ve got to get comfortable with yourself.) But be careful not to spend all your time alone. You need other folks to keep you from getting weird.

3. Make Several Great Friends

It’s true. Good friends keep you from getting weird. Well, at least mine do! There are more than enough weird singles out there. No need to add to the pool… But don’t wait for others to initiate friendship or activities. Reach out to others to do things. It’s important to have different friends to do different things with. Having just one or two close friends can lead to unhealthy, codependent friendships. One or two people cannot fulfill all your needs.

4. Focus on the Positive

Tempted to fixate on what you don’t have? The best cure is to start a gratitude journal. Take note of what you have: Good health. Opportunities to learn new things. Good coffee. Or take note of the little things around you that make life beautiful: The sound of a bird. A positive exchange with a stranger. The smell of good food.

And for crying out loud: On a day like today (Valentine’s Day), reach out to your friends and family and tell them you love them. Stay off Facebook till all the “I love us” profile pictures have disappeared—unless you want to throw yourself a pity party. Or unless you can simply be happy for your friends and move on.

Whatever you do, resist the temptation to just find someone to marry. While “Sam” might not agree, there are much worse things than being single!


1. If you’re single, what are some things you love about it?

2. If you’re married, would you please commit to not saying stupid things like Sam did?

4 Comments on “Happily Single: Keys to Thriving in a World Full of Couples

  1. Finding your identity in our Loving Father is the best for any body and frankly the only way to be truly happy

    Like

  2. I love your take on this topic, Adele, and there’s so much truth, beauty and joy to your words! Thank you!

    I have to say, the comment made by your friend “Sam” didn’t upset me as much, maybe because a pastor I love often at the beginning of his service, during prayer, would tell people to hold hands and say jokingly, “If you’re single and you like the person next to you, squeeze their hand.” That’s not the same as telling people to just grab someone in a hotel lobby, but it’s the idea of “I want to help the single people find someone.” I don’t mind it.

    But I love the conclusions you draw and the message you get across here. And what I loved the most is this: “I’m not called to be single. I’m called to Jesus. I happen to be single.”

    I. LOVE. IT. And I love my life with Jesus. I love the opportunities He gives me, and I love how the adventures never stop. And I happen to be single. 😉

    Like

    • Essie, and like me, you’re not weird or any of the other things I listed. I consider myself richly blessed to count you as a friend. I look forward to your visit later this year. It’s been much too long!

      Like

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