Originally published August 26, 2013.
“I’m not sure there are any benefits to being single.”
“Certainly there are benefits to being single. But the costs are infinitely greater.”
“Being single would not have brought the joy in my life that has brought me my four wonderful children and my loving wife.”
We hear you. We hear you, and we hear the thousands of others saying the same thing. It’s loud and clear, thanks.
When I was interviewed, someone immediately said he doubted whether there were any blessings in the single life. The three of us heard that comment and went, “Again?!” So we decided to take a moment to appreciate how some of the lovely things about the single life.
Marriage, I’m told, can be amazing. And I have every reason to believe that. It’s a sacrament, and I’ve seen the joy it creates in the lives of my happily-married friends. I’ve gotten to share in some of that joy, by attending their weddings and spending time in the homes they’ve created together, and in adoring their children. I hope to eventually have a happy home in which to raise children and share the blessings of that life in the service of friends and strangers.
But that’s not where I am right now. Right now I am single and childless. And that’s not a bad thing. This time is a blessing. But that does not mean my life is worry-free, or easy, or—God forbid—meaningless.
Of course my responsibilities would increase if I had a husband and children, as would my joys. But that doesn’t invalidate the seriousness and beauty of my life now. And when a certain type of married folk barges in and tells me that I will never be whole unless I marry, and that the meaning of life can only be found in one’s children… it can only take it for so long before there’s tears of fury. Words of this kind make the single existence sound pathetic.
We know that marriage is grand. It’s holy. You will never find us dissing marriage here. And for clarity’s sake, this is not a comparison post. This is not an X is superior to Y sort of deal.
But right now, we aren’t married. And God hasn’t abandoned us. It’s easy to get lost in that yearning for the future and forget the blessings in front of us. So that’s what this post is about. We asked readers to chime in about what they enjoy about the single life, or, in the case of our married readers, what they loved or miss.
These are the blessings we appreciate right now.
I don’t have to answer to anyone but God, and I make decisions according to my own conscience.
I feel more empathy for others who struggle with isolation and loneliness.
When I have a day off I can make it up as I go along—go to some festival if I feel like it, or walk around where I please, or putter around the house. Nobody else’s schedule to worry about or whims to deal with.
My single friend was travelling, and saw an absolutely amazing hand-made rug, and fell in love with it. She was able to buy it and ship it home even though it was ridiculously expensive, just because she wanted it. And she didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission or take anyone else’s ideas about how to spend the money into consideration. The rug was perfect for her living room, and it was a source of pleasure (and pleasant memories) from then on. And she said she never would have bought it, or even considered it, if she’d been married.
Nobody complains that I switch the temperature constantly—I’m too hot then too cold then too hot and ahh nice and co—somebody hand me a blanket.
I can decorate my home in my favorite colors and patterns without somebody griping about it.
I get to choose what kinds of entertainment and media enter my home.
Nobody else has to put up with my cooking.
As a single it was relatively easy to pick up and move to a new place.
Learning a new language or a new musical instrument is easier when you aren’t self-conscious about somebody else in the house hearing you practicing.
I love not having to explain what, why, when, where, how I’m doing something or not doing something.
I can go out without having to tell anyone where I’m going or without asking for permission.
If a friend needs me, I can be there (as long as my work schedule and the pet-sitter’s schedule allow for it) without my SO pouting because he feels neglected.
I can take spontaneous road/day trips with, either to a patronal/festal celebration or simply on a monastery pilgrimage.
You can travel for cheaper, and live frugally on vacation via camping or dingy hotel rooms that you otherwise wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing. Camping always leads to adventures.
I didn’t have to negotiate with a husband before changing careers, going vegan, rescuing pets, covering my hair, moving to different states, or even just canceling my cable TV subscription.
I have the opportunity to even consider being a monastic.
I can give my time to others in service and in love as I see fit, and to go on mission trips (short or long term).
Being single allowed me, in essence, to become Orthodox, and devote all my spare time and energy into the process of conversion, during my catechumenate.
It’s easier to finish books you want to read, or spend time to learn about things you want to learn.
I can’t make excuses for myself if I’m not living the life I want.
While it was incredibly painful not to have the same support system that a lot of married women do, it meant that I turned to God more often than I might have.
Even the bouts of loneliness and self-pity that I sometimes feel over being unmarried are a blessing in their own way. I usually have to be driven to my knees. I think God is the primary relationship in our lives and the only One Who can heal us. I think I had to be on my own to realize that.
I can nurture my relationships with close girlfriends, and spend plenty of time with my family and girlfriends.
When I was single, I tended to be impulsive, adventurous, and enjoy friendships with many kinds of people, so that is what I miss. I think my husband misses the peace and quiet.
I don’t have to compromise on little things: mundane dish-washing technique (so stupid but these things build up!); turning down the volume when I want to dance; leaving a church that I liked because my husband didn’t feel comfortable there; or dialing back a friendship with someone that my husband doesn’t get along with. Being “yoked” a good thing, but I mean, have you ever tried to do anything cool while your neck is stuck in a thing that someone else’s neck is stuck in too?
I can sleep through the night without being awoken by a husband’s snores or children’s cries.
I don’t have to deal with a partner’s libido (or lack thereof!).
I don’t have to worry about what kind of birth control to use and whether I should use it.
Being able to attend any service you want without having to consider sleep/food schedules of babies.
Being able to actually pray and participate at the services you attend rather than acting as child-herder.
Visiting friends and taking roadtrips on my schedule.
If I had gotten married in my early or mid 20s, I would have chosen a partner that I ultimately wouldn’t have been happy with. It took years for me to figure out who I was and what I wanted, and being single was paramount to that process.
I can flirt with cute men without guilt!
Periods of loneliness and isolation have softened my heart and made me more aware of the importance of hospitality and welcoming others.
In my early 20s, I was entering a time of personal growth and change. I expressed to others how I thought it would be better to have someone with me through that period—and then he would appreciate the hard work I was doing. Rather, I now look back and am thankful that I learned to grow and appreciate my life as a single person. If marriage is in my future, I can offer that relationship a better foundation than when I was looking to hide in someone else.
I have the music I like when I want it, and peace when I don’t.
I can be as extroverted as I please and as introverted as I need to be. If all my social energy is gone for the day, that’s okay, because I can hide in my room with a stack of books and a pot of tea and nobody cares.
I don’t have to constantly explain myself. Getting to know someone is hard work.
There are very few personal demands made on me—I mean, that one roommate always wants back rubs, but really my time is my own.
I don’t have to feel obligated to visit a second set of people for the holidays.
I don’t waste half my time missing someone. I travel all the time, and the emotional work of missing Whatsisface gets exhausting.
No cold feet in my bed.
I never have to watch Family Guy, The Simpsons, or South Park. Or football. I don’t get football.
When I was single I got to do ministry that involved helping young women who were addicted to drugs or sexually abused. I got my bachelors and masters degrees (the latter overseas). I traveled all over the US in a Christian drama company. I was able to have God as my focus. I had a great, exciting, and full life as a single person, and I am so grateful for that time. I’m so happy I didn’t hop from one relationship to another. People didn’t harass me about being single because it was so clear by my stories and my happiness that I was fine. While I am thrilled to be married to my husband, it is difficult. And I gave up things when I got married. I am not free to travel. I cannot just get up and go wherever I feel God is calling me to.
As our Fairy Blogmother put it, in Polish “‘Jestem wolna’ means ‘I am Single’ or ‘I am free’ and it points to the beautiful heart of Singleness which is that it makes you free for marriage, or for religious life, or for life in a L’Arche community, or as a numerary in Opus Dei, or for any commitment to which God calls you, in His own good time, through the medium of history.”
As a single there is a lot more room for “healthy selfishness”. You can focus on your needs and desires, finding out who you truly are and working on those parts of yourself that you don’t like.
You can’t love someone else if you can’t at least tolerate yourself. These challenges you face while you are single teach you things that you can use later on.
I encourage travel, of course (living overseas for a bit is awesome, but just visiting can teach you a lot).
Stop looking at the outside and start seeing people for who they are on the inside.
Whatever gets you outside your comfort zone and teaches you valuable lessons at the same time. Keep on open mind, step out, and just go do something that will grow you in a new and different way.
Give generously to missions. Go on short term missions trips.
Take lessons in a new sport.
Try a risky financial investment.
Take the time to develop and nurture deep friendships because God didn’t create us to be fully satisfied on our own—marriage isn’t the only place to find fulfilling relationships. After marriage, the friendship will necessarily cool a bit as you and your spouse bond, but the foundation of a lifelong friendship will have been laid.
The issues I have being single are the same issues I had being married.
Love your neighbor in radical ways that are unavailable to us old fogeys.
Work two jobs. Get out of debt.
Go fishing in Alaska. Hike the Appalachian Trail.
Don’t listen to advice. Relationships and marriages don’t happen and last because of advice. If things looking great “on paper”, okay, but just because they look great “on paper” doesn’t mean that’s actually going to have anything to do with how two human beings are going to interact. Nobody can tell another person how his works, and if you try following somebody else’s script, you’re never going to fully be yourself in the relationship/marriage. Yes, fine, you might luck out and have a situation where, as an old priest of mine used to say, “Your heart will follow your feet,” and the truth of the matter is that even in a marriage love is a choice constantly needing to be remade, but I think it’s harder to take your heart following your feet as a reliable possibility in 2013. In any event, God will lead you where He wants you; that might be marriage and kids, and it might not be. You’re no less a child of God either way, regardless of what monks or married people might tell you. Both ways have their consolations and their crosses. You may find that “completion” is a word that applies in the context of your marriage; to the extent that a Christian marriage is a component of our being “perfected” (which really just means “completed”) in Christ, why not? But if that word doesn’t make sense to you, don’t force it. (And if it does make sense to you, don’t assume it’s the general case for everybody.)
The point is, don’t let somebody else’s advice define these paths for you. Including mine. Take what’s useful to you, if anything, but leave the rest.
Singlehood can be a treasured time as you can do so much growing and learning while your time and energy aren’t being redirected elsewhere. Grow closer to God and listen for His guidance. Mostly, I’d encourage you to read through the Bible with an eye to finding out what God says He desires His daughters to be and do. Grow in grace and realize that a lot of married people just want you to experience, eventually, the joys that marriage can bring. It’s not that you’re a half-person or sub-human as a single, but know that they want “the best” for you even if they don’t always express it in the way that you find the most encouraging. When you’re living in a happy, fulfilling, Christ-centered marriage it’s easy to want that joy for everyone else (whether single or less-happily married) and to forget that God calls some people to be single for a season or a lifetime. It’s also easy not to see the joys that are a part of a different life. That’s a good thing, actually, because married people who pine for the joys of the single life end up destroying their marriage! So enjoy your season of self-focus and don’t despise people who want you to experience all of the joys that life can bring.
Embrace your independence! Whatever that means for you.
See also: xoJane