I’ve spent the majority of my 29 years as a single person. I’ve struggled with the ups and downs and the loneliness associated with being unmarried. I’ve responded to questions of “Why are you still single?” with nonconfrontational mumbles, despite being annoyed at the query and reminder of my relationship status.
I told myself there were many advantages to being single — and there are: it’s a valid life choice or stage, not a stepping stone to something greater. But it can be a struggle when you desire a partner to face life with, when you wish there was someone who would consider you a priority, someone who would hold you when you’re stressed and would handle financial struggles with you and argue about Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man.
Now that I’m happily engaged, I am aware of the blissful bubble I’m living in. I know what it looks like from a single person peering in from the outside, because I’ve been that single person. And now I wonder how best I can love the single people in my life. Despite the fact I’ve been in single shoes for most of my life, it’s shockingly different on this end. It’s easy to get lost in the romance, and I need to remind myself that others may be feeling lonely.
Some lovely single women helped me think through what could help. So if you’re in a new relationship or newly engaged, here’s five ways you can love your single friends. Though I’ll confess, I’ve been failing at a lot of these.
1. Don’t assume your significant other is automatically invited.
You’re still two separate people, and someone may prefer to interact with just you or your partner. In fact, some of your friends may be missing their alone time with you and are uncomfortable about sharing private details of their life in front of a third party. Maybe they just want a girls’ or guys’ night. Maybe your significant other isn’t a good fit for whatever their plans are.
2. Ask your single friends to hang out with the two of you.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, don’t assume your single friends never want to hang out with the two of you! One of my single friends surprised me by asking to be the third wheel on a date sometime. She wasn’t getting the chance to chat much with my fiancé during larger group hangouts, and she wanted to get to know him better.
3. Make time for your single friends.
I’m definitely struggling with this one, because successfully mashing two people’s schedules together requires a TARDIS. Suddenly, my calendar includes someone else’s timetable, and we have double the friends to see and twice as many events to attend. And now wedding planning on top of it! Finding time for everyone I love, plus the space to breathe, is tricky. But my fiancé and I are making a conscious effort not to spend all our free time holed up alone together, as much as we might want to (because let’s face it, we are in the euphoric stage where that’s all we want to do). Continuing to hang out with others, in groups and one-on-one, is healthy for all the relationships involved.
4. Be sensitive about your friends’ singleness.
This doesn’t mean expecting them to shatter like glass every time they see you two holding hands, or showering them with pity. It means asking them how their lives are going (whether that includes dating or not) and what they’re struggling with as singles. It may also mean limiting public displays of affection — shockingly difficult at the beginning of a relationship even if touch isn’t your primary love language — and reducing inside jokes or private whispers to each other.
Closely tied to making time for them, actively listening is huge. Maybe this means even taking time to write down some of the things your single friends are struggling with so you remember to pray for them. Your friends know you’re caught up in your new relationship, and your attention to their friendship during this time will probably mean a lot to them.
Even in the short time I’ve been engaged, it’s easy to forget what being single was like or to ignore the pain of others because I’m so happy. But as a Christ-centered community, we are to bear one another’s burdens and consider the struggles of those around us. I don’t want to lose that desire because I’m in a joyful place right now. I want to make space for the single people I care about and remind them they are loved, just as others reminded me when I was single.