Oh, the hundreds of seemingly similar conversations I’ve had surrounding this topic. The countless friends I’ve sat with and asked all the same questions over and over and over and over and over [you get the point] again. The tears, the disappointment, the sadness, the grief, really the loss of something. Really the loss of so many things. Things hoped for, dreams, longings and expectations — still left unfulfilled.
I’ve been asked if I want this topic to be “my platform” as a writer. In the past, that question has always been met with a pretty immediate “no.”
Not for me. I didn’t want a platform, and I didn’t want to write about singleness in my 30’s for the masses to see my broken heart on display. That seemed, well, a little pathetic, don’t you think? I’ve shared some of the depths of my heart in writing but when it came to my marital status, I wasn’t saying a word. In fact, I got to a place where I was tired of even bringing it up to friends anymore. Who could relate?
I’ve never been able to pinpoint why it’s so hard for me to put pen to paper on this subject. I think it’s more pride than anything. And, let’s be honest, a bit of shame. This topic is pretty unchartered territory. There aren’t a lot of books out there talking about singleness (not many good ones, at least). It seems you’re either one way or the other in the public sphere with the topic. You’re either really open and vocal and everyone knows where you stand, or you stay quiet, do your best to “be OK” and just don’t bring it up too often. No one wants to be that girl. Besides, who wants to hear a single girl talk about her sadness? Show me all the wedding photos and baby announcements but please, keep that stuff to yourself.
Some of us have put up false walls of security in an effort to not look pathetic and the emotions of singleness have become a secret life.
But here’s what I’ve realized, and here’s why I’m writing this:
Singleness is not who you are, it’s where you are. And we’ve got to continue to fully show up there.
If we can’t be honest about where we are in this life, then what are we doing? You are not pathetic. It’s not a death sentence, a disease or something that makes you any less than your happily married friends who might have five children and be approaching their 10-year wedding anniversary.
Life is moving along really quickly these days. This year I’ve watched so many close friends who were “in it with me” for so long “cross over to the other side” and find their person. There’s a sense of renewed hope that’s stirred up in my soul every time I stand beside a dear friend on her wedding day.
At the same time, my heart breaks. It’s not a matter of not being happy for others but alongside that happiness, living right there in the same place in my heart, there’s still a very real, very deep sadness within that I’d be doing a dis-service to myself and the world if I neglected to mention.
If you’re single, I’m writing this for you…
I’m writing to tell you that it’s 100% OK to be sad about your today. It’s not what you would have chosen and, quite honestly, it’s really, really tough. There you go. I said it. I think I’ve decided to say it in case no one else does. Your hardship is valid, not pathetic.
You see, you don’t have to choose between being happy for others and tending to your own sadness. It’s not a way to live. If we neglect what’s happening in our own hearts, it will only be a matter of time before it catches up to us.
The reality is, I’m not God. I can’t promise your future or know if there is someone amazing coming your way in the days ahead, but what I do know is that life is way too brief to wait until that happens to start living. If you’re older, I’m sure you stopped doing that long ago. Take the trips, form deep friendships, make the move, buy the house, heck — buy the Vita-mix for crying out loud.
Go on random dates. Get to know people as humans without worrying if they’re The One right away. Relax. Allow yourself to be ok. Soak up the freedom. From what I hear, when it’s gone, well, it’s gone. Enjoy the amazing things life has to offer and most of all, give. Give to the people you love, give to your family, give to the needy, give to yourself, invest in the things you love… Give to make the world a little bit brighter.
As you find joy in the everyday, it’s equally important to learn to embrace the feelings of sadness, hurt, disappointment, anger and confusion. Sit in these emotions. Cry. Ask a trusted friend if they’re up for sitting here with you for a little while. Talk it out, yell it out, do what you need to do. But don’t stay there. Give yourself a time frame, then get up, keep living your life, pursuing your dreams and loving the heck out of people. Those walls we’ve built up surrounding singleness? Well, we’ve got to create space to let them down.
As you live and move and love and celebrate others, let them love you back.
For the marrieds wondering how to love your single friends, I’m writing this for you…
It’s not as complicated as we’ve made it out to be. I always go back to one simple act. Acknowledgement. Ask your single friends this question, “How are you doing with singleness?”
Not once a year (not every day, either) but when you find time for a good catch up, when you get a sense that something is off, make it a point to ask and acknowledge this part of their heart. It will go a really long way, I promise. You may not be able to relate to their exact pain but what you can do is be present with them in it. Avoidance isn’t doing anyone any good.
When we avoid asking out of convenience, we give way to the lies that the emotions surrounding singleness are a burden to others or something to be ashamed of.
I believe acknowledgement is the key to so many things. When we take the pressure off of ourselves to have the answers or the quick-fix and take time to listen, allow our hearts to enter in and sit in the uncomfortable for a while, it makes all the difference. Listening is where love begins and avoidance is the culprit to letting assumptions get the best of us.
If we don’t ask or acknowledge, we’re not doing our part in relationships.
I believe there’s balance in everything and I want to find that balance. I want to contribute to this conversation in a way that brings beauty, empathy, encouragement and understanding.
Here I am, writing about singleness for the first time. In an effort to put my pride aside, show up with my whole heart and remain true to where I am.
So. Who wants to hear a single girl talk about her sadness? Well, I do. Your pain is not your weakness. It’s actually what’s making you one really strong, incredible woman. Let the pain do its work in you, give yourself some grace, allow your emotions to co-exist and be honest with yourself and others about where you’re at along the way.
Single friends, your pain is real. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. What might make you feel less than today is actually building more in you than you ever saw coming.
Don’t sell yourself short. Singleness is not a measure of who you are. Who you are is one incredible, strong, talented, amazingly whole person.
You are loved and you are certainly not alone.
Images via Kayla Gale
I broke up with my partner of 10 years. We never married, but it i fought for so long, especially have a son with her.
Now being single, I feel….overwhelmed with isolation and a real fear that I won’t find anyone again. The dating apps are a nightmare, and most adults just keep their head down. They aren’t interested in truly getting to know someone. They already have their tribe.
To make matters worse, I actually met someone that i really clicked with. We dated for a month and a half. Brilliant lady, funny, and an incredible mom. She broke up with me just after she let me meet her two kids. Not what I needed in an already rough time.
it’s hard out there. Harder than I thought. I’m a grown man and some days I have to fight back tears.
Good luck to everyone dealing with similar.
Well there are many of us out there that are certainly not single by choice, and we just never met the right person unfortunately since many of us had hoped to be all settled down by now. And being single and alone for many of us men certainly has so many disadvantages as well. I was always hoping to meet the right woman to share my life with instead of still being single and all alone today since it can be very unhealthy and depressing too. Everyone needs love, especially when you see all your friends that were very extremely lucky and blessed to find love. The disadvantages are for many of us men that are still single today is that going to a restaurant to eat out by yourself is very difficult since many other people will stare at you making it more very uncomfortable for us as well. Very difficult to go on trips by ourselves since it is always great to go with a loved one, if you’re that lucky. And there are so many other disadvantages as well which i will stop right there. The great majority of single women do have a lot more friends which anywhere they decide to go which they will go out in groups, and enjoy themselves. And i will even admit that most women are the much stronger sex when being alone since they really can handle it a lot better than us single men.
Oh. My. God.
You are amazing and thank you for this post. Exactly what I needed to read right now.
It really sucks to be single. What you see around is everyone having that someone to be with and you keep wondering what went wrong in your life? why are you alone?
I have been single for the longest period I can imagine now. Its terrible, the void feeling that churns in my heart is something I just want to get rid off. Its awful.
Now as I read this article I feel if at all my married friends are responsible for evoking these thoughts in my mind.
Singleness is a real punishment from God.
I’m 30 and recently called off my wedding 2 months before the wedding date. The pain has been unreal, to have the hope of companionship dangling in front of me and then snatched away has nearly crushed me. Day by day I’m wading through the grief. I’m glad I found this little spot on the internet to remind me to stay vulnerable and feel my pain (and share it!) and that it’s okay to be sad. That my pain is valid. The loneliness of still being single SUCKS. But I gotta keep living. I just have to. There is much to live for, much that is worth enduring loneliness for.
Leigh, Thank you so much for writing this beautiful, honest, and comforting article. Like what Laura commented, feeling validated, by reading your article, is such a comforting place to be, to such a vulnerable topic, for us single women. I’m turning 41 and I’m constantly making effort to balance out the fact that I’m ‘still single’, as I attend weddings and baby showers. I’ve kept these emotions buried deep down until a moment comes, and the tears and emotions release without warning. Reading your article brought a lot of tears but it was a release, rather than shame. Thank you so much Leigh.
As someone nearing 30 without a significant romantic relationship in a couple years, I’ve read a lot of unsatisfying articles that, while well-intentioned, fell so short of truly acknowledging where I find myself. This is by far the best article I’ve read on this topic. I’ve sent this to married friends to help them understand where I am in the spectrum of relationships, and I’ve sent this to MYSELF for the hard days. Thank you. I know it’s hard to share for fear of being “that girl,” but as one of “those girls” – thank you for speaking up for us.
Oh this is so good. Thank you for reminding people that our “pain is not our weakness.” Your point on avoidance is so on point. The more we counteract a culture that puts sexuality first (as if that were the primary thing that defines all that I am and hope to be), the easier singleness will become. Thanks for the encouragement.
I’m late to this article but also wanted to say thanks. I really appreciate hearing someone else say “it’s not what i would have chosen for myself”. Because that’s how I feel. I didn’t think my life would end up this way. 38, single, screwed over by the “love of my life” that told me so many deep truths but kept so much from me, too. I am the only single woman I know my age (that isn’t divorced). I am the only one of my friends without children. I am invisible to them. They love me and care about me, I know that, but I have a wildly successful career that they can’t relate to. So I ask about and listen to their stories of husbands and children and get feigned interest in return. It’s not their fault – they don’t understand what I do, and they do try, but I’m just so irrelevant. I am fairly certain they all think I hate children and marriage but no, this isn’t how I wanted my life to turn out. Truly. But here I am. Not everyone gets the two kids and a white picket fence life. Nice to hear a voice that also understands that. Thank you.
Amen amen amen. I love this Leigh, I love your whole heartedness, it’s so beautiful because it is so rare. I admire your courage and bravery to be honest and how you wrote about showing up exactly where we are. It’s not who we are but being honest about where we are showing up to that. That applies to so much. If we can be honest about what hurts we can address it and work to heal it and persist. I hope men and women all over are as encouraged by this conversation starter as I am. Honored to know you friend.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. These are words I really needed to read today, which would have been my 7th anniversary with my partner, whom I was supposed to marry. Learning to live in this new place of life has been difficult, and hearing others’ stories and perspectives is comforting.
Wow. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s not often that this subject is voiced. For so long I listened to voices that said marriage was hard, parenting was hard, so I should be thankful for this season of singleness. While I believe I should be grateful, I certainly don’t know what it’s going to be like when this season ends, it added a lot of shame and guilt to the what I was feeling and even made me think I shouldn’t really dream about something that is so hard. Validation is important. Thank you for making me feel valid right where I am.
Thank you for giving words to this topic. Appreciate the rawness and real emotions. Thank you for making me feel less alone.
Wow Leanne. Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m so grateful to hear this made you feel less alone! That is the goal. You are not alone. Remember that! Much love.
Thank you. Thank you for being brave enough to speak. Your words are exactly what I needed to hear right now. I need to learn to embrace the emotions instead of shutting them out.
This. Spot on. I’m truly happy for all of my friends that are in that next stage of life, yet can’t help but wonder when it’s my turn. In the meantime, I’m trying to focus on self care and enjoying the freedom!
This article was incredible. From one fabulous single queen to the other, thank you for sharing.
Whoa. Not sure I’ve ever read an article that resonates more richly for this season. Thank you for the courage you had in writing and posting it. This has been on my heart, and mind, for years and it’s hard to find the place to share it. I just read “Living life without a better half,” which is the best book I’ve read (mostly about learning faithfulness, but written to singles), and found it very refreshing. As a single wedding planner (of 8 years), the irony is thick each morning, and it’s hard to withstand the temptation to put on the mask of “okayness”.
Thanks for digging up the gumption to share.
Is the book you read called living whole without a better half, or living life? Sounded interesting, but when I googled it all I found was a religious teachings book of sorts. Thanks.
So sorry! Living whole without a better half is correct. It’s by Wendy widder is the author.
I love the illustrations! Who is the illustrator, may I ask?
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