What NOT to say to your single friends
As I prepare to close the Single chapter of my life, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the blessings and frustrations of being single and Catholic in the 21st century. After all of the positive feedback on the Fountains of Carrots podcast I recorded with Haley and Christy, I figured now was the time to write this post.
Below is a list of some of the things that have been said to me at one point or another during the past 10 years (22-32); you may have your own (please add them in the comments!). I hope that those of you who are single get a laugh, and that those of you who aren’t sure how to help your single friends as they navigate this in-between time of life will find it a useful how-not-to-help guide. Next week, I’ll follow-up with a post on how TO help your single friends. Stay tuned!
Before I begin, the caveats:
1. This list doesn’t apply to spiritual directors or therapists (for obvious reasons)--except for maybe #3 and #6, but I don’t know any self-respecting spiritual director or therapist who would EVER say those things to someone.
2. If a single friend solicits your advice, and you know her well, then some of these questions/suggestions might be appropriate. Proceed with caution.
3. If a single friend is complaining to you about being single and you know for a fact that she is not doing anything to remedy the situation, then some of these questions/suggestions might be appropriate.
What NOT to Say to Your Single Friends
1. You should try online dating!
Most single women I know have at least considered online dating, and many (including myself) have tried it. It’s pretty common these days to do so, and I know quite a few women who met their husbands via CatholicMatch or a similar site. Some women resist online dating because they feel uncomfortable with the idea for one reason or another. It’s fine to share your positive experience with online dating with a single friend, but try to avoid insisting that she try it.
2. Have you ever thought of going to one of those young adult groups? I hear they’re great places to meet people!
If your friend/family member is active in her Catholic faith and has friends, it’s safe to assume that she’s been to a young adult group. Maybe she’s been to all of them. She might even be on the leadership team for one of these groups. Some of these groups are wonderful: they foster authentic community and sometimes people meet their future spouse there. But that’s not always the case! You can even live in a city known for its “young adult scene” (hello Denver and DC) and still feel frustrated when it comes to meeting people you’d actually want to date.
3. I can’t understand why you’re single; you’re so pretty!
Recommended response: “Oh, you’re so sweet. I’m not sure why the Lord hasn’t brought the right man into my life, but I’m hopeful that He will someday. Keep me in your prayers.” Because really, what else can you say?
4. Men are probably intimidated by you.
This kind of comment is hurtful because it implies that it is her fault that she’s not married yet. Maybe it is, but this is a really unhelpful way of pointing that out to a single friend.
5. Maybe you should lower your standards./You’re too picky.
If your friend refuses to date someone if they don’t own a luxury vehicle or make six figures, then okay, this might be a reasonable thing to say to her. But if she isn’t open to dating someone who isn’t a spiritual leader, or who won’t pray with her, or who doesn’t want to raise his kids Catholic, or who she isn’t physically attracted to, or who bores her to tears, she is not too picky. Her standards are not too high. She just knows what she won’t compromise on, and is trying to trust that God has someone for her that she won’t have to convince herself to fall in love with...and that is a good thing. Yes, she may need to adjust her Disneyfied, romantic comedy ideals about marriage (like I did), but she doesn’t need to settle.
6. [Anything about their singleness on social media.]
Examples include: tagging them in posts regarding novenas to find one’s future husband, commenting on their photos with references to their availability, etc. I don’t think I need to explain why this is a bad idea.
7. Don’t worry about it!
Maybe this only applies to your anxiety-prone friends who (like me) find people saying “Don’t worry about it” unhelpful because you can’t help but worry about it. A better thing to say is, “I’m praying for you.”
8 . Have you thought about religious life?
This might sound a little extreme, but I think that the only people who should say anything to a single person about the possibility of a vocation to religious life is his/her spiritual director (notable exceptions: mystics like Mother Teresa and St. John Paul II). I’ve shared before on the blog about my intense anxiety/obsession about God somehow forcing me to become a nun, which was only exacerbated when well-meaning friends and family would suggest that I consider that vocation since 1) I love Jesus, 2) I love to pray, 3) I have two degrees in theology, 4) I’m trained as a teacher. All of these things objectively make me look like the perfect candidate for the convent.
There was only one problem: I had zero desire to enter religious life, even after my anxiety and fear subsided and I could sincerely consider that as a vocational path. So, if your friend asks you what you think about her vocation and you’ve prayerfully discerned whether or not to say something to her about religious life, go right ahead. But if she doesn’t ask, then it’s probably best to take her word for it that she feels called to marriage.
9. My [son, cousin, nephew, single male friend] really needs a girl like you in his life to be a good influence on him. Can I give him your number?
I’m very pro-setting up your single friends (as you will see in the next post), but take it from me: no girl wants to date a “fixer-upper”. No one is perfect, but if the guy you’re thinking of really needs a spiritual director, or therapist, or good guy friend to kick his butt (metaphorically speaking), he’s not ready for marriage and not ready for your friend.
10. Instead of trying to come up with #10 on my own, I thought I’d let y’all do it for me in the comments. I want to hear ALL of your groan-worthy stories, so please share!