In college, I often visited an elderly friend who had been in my life since I was 12. “Grandma J” would welcome me warmly and serve me a slice of pie. In fact, sometimes she’d send a whole pie with me back to my dorm room.
As we enjoyed a pot of tea together, she would inevitably ask, “So — how is your love life?” Then she would raise an eyebrow, awaiting my answer.
I was never dating anyone (I actually never had a beau during college). I remember on one such occasion, I came up with the perfect response: “Well …” I began, “It’s great! I love Jesus more every day.” Her annoyed huff melted into a chuckle.
“You know what I meant,” she said. “I’m just waiting for you to meet a nice young man at that Bible college of yours.”
Foot in mouth
When I was single, people’s inquiries about my relationship status didn’t bother me for the most part. I usually understood the person’s intentions were good — even if the comment made me feel bad. Still, it was wearisome when people asked questions I didn’t know how to answer, or worse yet, made me feel like something was wrong me.
Here are a few common questions and comments, along with my suggested responses.
“Why aren’t you married yet?”
Being asked this question, particularly if you would like to be married, can make you feel like ”damaged goods.” A friend of mine used to joke that she would answer this inquiry with, “I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I have significant personality issues.” As much as that silly comeback made me laugh, the truth is there’s not always a “reason” someone remains unmarried.
Response: “I would like to be married someday and I’m trusting God to provide. At this time, I haven’t met the right person. Thank you for being interested. If you ever meet somebody you think I might get along with, I’d be happy to hear more.”
“You’re so lucky! I wish I had all the free time/disposable income/adventures you have.”
This one is usually meant as a compliment or a pep talk. Unfortunately, it insinuates that your life is carefree, easy, and full of amazing experiences. But being single is no cake-walk.
Response: “I do appreciate and enjoy the good things in my life in this season. I’m also looking forward to being married and having a family someday. I know my life won’t be the same, but I’m up for the challenge.”
“Do you think you’ll ever get married?”
For this one, I wish I could address the question-asker. Few singles I’ve spoken with have a plan to never marry (although a minority certainly may). And this question can induce a sense of insecurity and self-doubt, because it feels as if the asker may be questioning your marriage viability.
Response: “You know, I can’t know for sure, but I’m hopeful. I would love it if that was part of God’s plan for me.” If you’re speaking with someone you trust, you might add, “I’d love it if you would pray that marriage would happen for me.”
“You’re not getting any younger,” or “Don’t wait too long to settle down or you won’t be able to have kids.”
A comment like this assumes that you are actively choosing to be single and somehow have control over finding a spouse by a certain age. It’s just not that simple, and such a comment can increase panic you’re already feeling. When I received comments of this nature, my initial reaction was, Of course I know! I’m extremely aware of biological realities, and I’m trying to stay positive here.
Response: “I would love to be married right now, but I trust God’s timing. Because getting married isn’t within my control alone, I would love your support and prayer as I ask Him to bring me a loving, Christian spouse.”
Enemies or allies?
When someone comments on your singleness or asks an awkward question, it can feel discouraging. But something I learned is that in most cases people aren’t bringing it up to be rude; they’re saying something because they care and are trying to be part of your world. Don’t forget that your married friends can be some of your greatest allies on the road to marriage. Just this week I heard of a single father who met his fiancée through a married couple they both know.
I’ll never forget a meeting with a coworker shortly after I got engaged. He showed me I had been on a prayer list that included all the singles he knew at our large Christian organization. He often prayed for these singles to find godly spouses. I was touched by his investment in my life — one that I hadn’t even been aware of. Sometimes people will say the wrong things, but don’t let frustration blind you to the caring intentions of those around you. Let them know you’re glad they’re in your life. Gently correct them when their comments are hurtful. And help them understand how they can better support you on your journey.
Copyright 2021 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.