Disclaimer: I wrote this post based on my own experience as a single woman from the ages of 18-32. I wrote it for those of you who struggle, on occasion or on the regular, with being single and are hoping to one day be married. I do not expect that it will resonate with every person who reads it, nor do I think that all single people are necessarily miserable. I myself enjoyed much of my single life, but I think it could’ve been a much more peaceful and fruitful time had I not done these things.
How to Be Miserable as a Single Person
1. Go to every party/event/wedding expecting to meet “the one.”
I went home from so many parties in a state close to despair because of this. I was constantly on the lookout and when the man of my dreams didn’t materialize, or the guy I spent 20 minutes chatting with turned out to be a weirdo who thinks that women shouldn’t be doctors or lawyers because then men won’t want to be doctors or lawyers (yep. That happened.), I would walk/drive home in tears of frustration, wondering if I would EVER meet my future husband. The problem with this attitude is two-fold: first of all, if you approach every man/woman as a potential future spouse, you are not recognizing that they are first and foremost a human person and a brother/sister in Christ. In a way, you’re objectifying and reducing others to what they could potentially mean to your future and not simply embracing their inherent dignity and worth. Secondly, you’re not free to enjoy the gift God wants to give you at that party/event/wedding because you have an agenda. I wonder how many parties I would have actually enjoyed had I gone in freedom, open to whatever the Lord wanted to give me--whether it was a new girlfriend, or a fascinating conversation with someone I’d never met before, or an opportunity to share my faith with another guest. I missed out on a lot simply because of my own one-track thinking.
2. Have regular ranting sessions about the opposite sex with your friends.
I don’t know if guys do this, but it’s definitely a big temptation for the ladies. The thing is, ranting does NOT help anyone. At the end of those conversations with my girlfriends (which often included gossip, detraction, and other sins of speech), I would feel even more bitter and discouraged than before. It might feel good in the moment to talk about how horrible the state of men in the world is, or how terrible x, y, or z guy you went on a date with was, but it’s not doing you--or the men in your life--any favors. In my experience, it actually leads to more cynicism about the opposite sex and can actually change the way you think of/treat the opposite sex in real life. Just say no.
3. Compare yourself to your married friends/acquaintances.
It can be really, really tough to watch all of your friends get married and have babies before you. Trust me, I know. Two of my younger siblings and all of my closest college friends were married before me, and I’ve been a bridesmaid six times. But comparing yourself to them (what do they have that I don't??) will get you nowhere. There’s no magical formula for getting married; and if you think about it enough, you know that you wouldn’t REALLY want the exact same relationship that your friends/family have, because it’s particular to them. Also, people get married all the time--even people who haven’t gone to therapy or done their own personal work or prayed as much as you have for their future spouse. Does that mean that there’s something wrong with you? Nope. For me, it meant that it was simply not time yet, and thank God it wasn’t! When I think about the men I could’ve married before I met Kristian, I thank God that he protected me from doing so.
4. Get in/Stay in relationships just because you’re afraid of not getting married.
This is how I ended up in an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship that scarred me deeply. It’s also how I ended up dating and breaking up with and getting back together with a really good man who, deep down in places I wasn’t ready to acknowledge yet, simply wasn’t right for me. It’s why I went on second dates with guys I had ZERO interest in dating, and put up with manipulative Willoughby types who just wanted me around but didn’t really want me. Dating for the sake of not being lonely or because you’re afraid of not getting married will lead you into some really unpleasant relationship situations--and can lead you to hurt someone who might genuinely like you.
5. Make marriage an idol.
For so many years, I imagined that the reason I was unhappy, anxious, lonely, depressed, etc was because I wasn’t married. That wasn’t true, but at the time it really felt true. As I grew in wisdom and understanding throughout my 20s (mostly through observing my married friends and family), the idol I had made of marriage was mercifully destroyed. Before I ever met Kristian, I understood the following: Marriage will not make you happy (although a good marriage can definitely contribute to your happiness). Marriage will not fix your problems (although your spouse can help you face your problems and love you through them). Marriage is not a guarantee against loneliness (although it does help mitigate some loneliness). Marriage is not God. Marriage is a vocation, a path to heaven, and as such is meant to draw you closer to the only One who can truly satisfy you. Until you can embrace this truth, marriage will remain a replacement for God instead of what it is: a path to deeper union with Him.
6. Watch lots of romantic comedies.
Don’t get me wrong: I love a good rom com. But when you’re single and not happy about it, those probably aren’t the best movies to watch. They can end up making you more upset, and can also provide unhealthy models for relationships that affect you subconsciously. I definitely think my idolatry of marriage was exacerbated by some of the movies I watched--especially considering the fact that most rom coms END in an engagement or marriage, so you never see the reality of how much work it is to love someone, day in and day out, for the rest of your life. Exercise caution and discretion in your movie-watching, and you’ll be a much happier single person.
7. Act like you aren’t angry/confused/hurt/sad/anxious about your vocation, especially in prayer.
The Lord knows if you’re having a hard time with your singleness. He’s not surprised by it. In fact, he wants you to tell him exactly how you’re feeling. Tell him you’re angry. Tell him you feel forgotten. Tell him you feel like a vocational orphan. Tell him you’re terrified of dying alone. Tell him how much you desire marriage and children. Tell him how discouraged you are by your dating experiences (or lack thereof). Tell him. I spent so many years trying to be Perfect Catholic Girl in my prayer and say things like, “Lord, you know I want to be married, but I trust you” when I really didn’t. I wouldn’t let myself be angry or cry out to him or tell him how anxious I was. I didn’t really believe that he wanted to know. I thought my anxiety meant that I was a bad Christian for not trusting fully in God. Now, I recognize that this was the work of the devil and my own imbalanced brain chemistry and not at all of God. Once I started getting real with the Lord in my prayer, I was able to let go of more and more and began to actually trust him. Not only that, but I began to feel like I had an actual relationship with God, because I was talking to him like I would to one of my friends--instead of like I would to a distant, far off king who I didn’t know and didn’t trust.
8. Put off doing fun things because you’re not married yet.
One of my dearest dreams, as a theology teacher and pilgrimage-lover, was to travel to the Holy Land--but when I was in my early 20s I insisted that I didn’t want to do it until I got married. I just couldn’t imagine doing something so incredible without my husband in tow. Thankfully, when I was 27, I got over that and went anyway, and I’m so glad I did. My pilgrimage to the Holy Land--which was mostly solo, although my friend Meg and I did the Galilee portion together--remains one of the most beautiful memories of my life. If Kristian and I ever get to go to Israel together, great! But I don’t regret going without him.
9. Blame all of your relationship failures/the fact that you’re single on someone else.
For a long time, I blamed my failed relationships on the men that I had dated. After lots of therapy and soul searching, I was finally able to see that it takes two to tango. I was the common denominator in all of the relationships I’d been in. Yes, my exes bore part of the blame for the relationships going awry, but in the end, I was also responsible and needed to recognize that. Once I started looking inward at my own issues related to attachment, intimacy, and anxiety, I realized that these unhealthy relationship patterns would only continue if I didn’t do some tough self-work.
10. Put off therapy, spiritual direction, working on your physical health, etc.
Speaking of which, I think what I most regret about my early-to-mid 20s is that I put off getting the help I needed--especially following the abusive relationship I was in. When I think about the years I spent suffering in silence, when I could have been a much happier and healthier person had I only sought help, it makes me sad. Granted, the Lord still used those years and that suffering, but that doesn’t mean I don’t regret my own stubbornness and refusal to recognize my need for help. I’m of the opinion that pretty much everyone who grows up in the world we live in today could use some therapy, and if you’re single and hoping to get married, now is the best time to do it. I did a whole series on therapy and why I think it’s so important, which you can read here.
I hope this list is helpful and that those of you who are single will learn from my mistakes. This period of life doesn’t have to be miserable, but it so often is because of the things we do to ourselves. I’m sure this list isn’t exhaustive, so if you have anything to add to the list, please mention it in the comments. And I’ll be writing a follow-up post on how to make the most of your single years soon!