I have a group of seven close girlfriends, six of which — including myself — are single. As an educated, attractive, and good-natured lot — we occasionally joke that our crew must’ve been cursed.
(Because, despite loving our lives, it is still natural for a group of 30-something year-old singles who desire marriage and kids to think singledom is some sort of supernatural evil afflicted on those mistaken as witches or serpents.)
While said in jest, the idea of being cursed illustrates a deep-seated vulnerability for many single women. It reflects the looming question that we tend to swallow most days rather than speak — but one that the world around us still asks without shame.
“Why are you single?”
I’ve always hated being asked the question. Mostly because whoever was on the other side of it always seemed to have a questionable motive.
Friends seeking to give a dissertation as to why they believe you to be single.
Male callers desiring to use the question as a subtle way to assess whether they have a shot with you.
Random people trying to figure out who you are, using their judgments about singledom and your answer to make the final call: is she crazy, lonely, bitter, or just some sort of modern-day hippie?
Therapy will tell me that there is a good chance some of these people are not so ill-intended. That, instead, the question is simply a trigger for me.
That’s fine; no one said triggers don’t contain truth.
My perspective is that the question implies that women who are single are doing something wrong. Articles will tell single women of marrying age (rarely single men) what these wrong things are. Friends will ask if you’ve considered therapy or insist your standards are too high. Random people will tell you to get on the apps or offer how you need to just “put yourself out there.”
However, it’s not always the answers offered that annoy me, it’s the fact that everyone seems to have a solution for a “problem” they don’t have.
“Your questions direct the integrity of your thoughts.”
— Pastor Steven Furtick
I once heard, “your questions direct the integrity of your thoughts,” and going down a rabbit hole of what I’ve done to contribute to my single status never felt productive.
Instead, I believe the worthy question here is: Who are you meant to become in your season of singleness?
Perhaps more selfish. Or more generous.
A woman who takes more risks.
A person with firmer boundaries.
Once you answer the who, you can focus on what actions align with that person you’re striving to step into. And note: the person is always just an evolution of yourself — not a different person.
I like that this question puts less pressure on a person to do all the “right” things. It removes this false narrative that there is a recipe for finding love. Without that pressure, you can cozy up to the thought that perhaps there is something rich you’re meant to be or do that you wouldn’t be able to if you were partnered. It forces the idea of trusting the journey of your life and believing that faith can and should be applied to the relationship sector of it.
By all means, continue to take the advice doled out by those who engage you on the “why are you single” question. But please bear in mind that countless partnered people have not gone to therapy or lower their standards or swipe right on a dating app. For these people to insinuate otherwise is hypocritical, judgmental, and unconstructive.
If what we focus on expands — let’s focus on our beautiful evolution, and not on the partner we don’t have.
Start that by asking better questions about the season you find yourself in. You can take my question or create your own. Just remember: the quality of your question will determine the reliability of the answer.
And I’m sure you want a life — and eventually, a love — you can trust.