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Single People Are Not the Enemy

4 Jan

'dislike button' photo (c) 2011, Sean MacEntee - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

One of my friends lost someone he’d grown up with. They’d gone to the same church since childhood. They’d attended school together. They read the same kinds of books and watched the same kinds of movies, and even double-dated at times. Sure, he’d had a crush on her at one point, and at a totally different point she’d had a crush on him. But that was a decade in the past, and their friendship had never had a basis in romantic or sexual attraction.

It came to a tragic end when his lifelong friend said I do…to some other man. A man who felt threatened by my buddy’s presence in his wife’s life. Suddenly my friend found himself not only reduced to a brief smile in passing at church, but someone whose occasional phone calls or emails didn’t get answered. Shortly after the wedding, he learned she had de-friended him on Facebook.

This story is tragic.

Listen up, married people: Single people are not the enemy.

We’re not out to steal your spouse. We’re not trying to wreck your marriage. And if you’re too insecure to cope with the fact that your spouse wants to be friends with someone of the opposite sex, that isn’t my problem. It’s yours. And you need to deal with it, because I don’t deserve to have a friendship ripped away from me because you have a problem.

Your Insecurity =/= My Fault

Why did Mr. Insecure feel the need to end his wife’s friendship? I can think of a lot of reasons, none of which are my buddy’s fault:

– Mr. Insecure thinks his wife likes Friendly Guy better.

– Mr. Insecure is afraid his wife will leave him for Friendly Guy.

– Mr. Insecure resents the time his wife spends with Friendly Guy.

But is ending the friendship a good response? I say no, and the number one reason is this: ending the wife’s friendship with Friendly Guy is not going to address the obvious issues with her marriage to Mr. Insecure.

Instead of ending the friendship, why didn’t Mr. Insecure confront the reasons he felt threatened by the friendship? Why didn’t he spend more time strengthening his marriage instead of destroying the friendship? Why didn’t he attempt to cultivate a friendship with Friendly Guy, which would not only strengthen Mr. Insecure’s marriage, but also possibly bless him and Friendly Guy both?

Sure, it’s easy to blame the single friend. But it isn’t honest, and it isn’t effective.

Facebook and eHarmony Aren’t Killing Your Marriage

Sure, there are wives who reconnect with old flames on Facebook and divorce their husbands to pursue some fantasy. There are guys who set up secret eHarmony profiles to meet one-night-stands despite being married. Guess what? That sort of thing happened before the internet existed. It’s just the methods that have changed.

I read an interesting article today on the Atlantic website. Apparently some guy blames online dating sites for the way he can’t get a woman to settle down…ignoring the fact that he doesn’t put her happiness ahead of his own, doesn’t seem to care about his credit score or career, and wants to spend all his time watching sports and drinking beer.  Thankfully, someone who obviously has a much clearer idea of how adult relationships work wrote a response, pointing out the flaws in the argument. Maybe it’s not online dating that’s the problem, buddy. Maybe, just maybe, the problem is you.

Jesus put it another way: “Look to the plank in your own eye before removing the speck in your brother’s eye.”

Single People Aren’t Predators Looking for Marriages to Break Up.

No, I’m not actively looking for a spouse. But when I’m attracted to a guy who seems interesting, the first thing I do is check that left hand. If he’s wearing a ring, he’s automatically off-limits. That’s just how it works. Sure, there are people out there who don’t care. But I’m sick and tired of married people assuming the worst about me because of their own fears.

Think about this logically. If I’m looking for love, which is easier–to find someone who’s available and try to catch his interest, or to find someone who has already made an emotional and expensive commitment to someone else, which I must first sabotage and dissolve in order for me to experience my own version of marital bliss? Frankly, I’m just too damn lazy to try to break up someone’s marriage. Besides, who wants all that drama? Divorce is ugly. Especially if there are kids involved.

Your man may be great, but no one is worth me going to all that effort.

Not to mention…and I know this may be hard to believe, but…single people with ethics do actually exist.

The Real Question

So here’s my question: Why do people think married folks and single folks can’t be friends?

Jesus was a single guy, and he hung out with people like Peter, who had a mother-in-law, so obviously had a wife. Paul was a single guy, and he named Priscilla and Aquila as some of his closest friends. Yet people in the church seem to think a friendship between a single person and a married person is an infidelity just waiting to happen.

I think this is hypocritical, and I think it’s frankly dangerous. If you don’t address the real threats to marriage–things like married partners not putting each other first, married partners not talking honestly with each other, married partners not honoring Christ in their marriage–you’re not just hurting a single person who has lost a friend. You might just be giving up on that marriage before it really gets started.

*

As a postscript, I’m going to fast forward my buddy’s story ten years. After a decade of ups and downs, including a lengthy separation period and marital counseling and lots of heartache, Mr. Insecure and his wife divorced…even though Friendly Guy hadn’t been involved in the woman’s life since she said “I do.”

Pretty telling, isn’t it?

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Thanksgiving as a Single Adult

21 Nov
English: Photo showing some of the aspects of ...

English: Photo showing some of the aspects of a traditional US Thanksgiving day dinner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hate the holidays.

Not the meaning behind them, because I think it’s great to take time to ponder all the blessings in our lives. And not the food, because my mom’s butterhorn rolls and pumpkin pies are possibly the best foods in the world.

But the social pressure? Yeah, I hate that.

As a single person, I’m not divided about what family I spend Thanksgiving with, at least. My mom generally hosts Thanksgiving and invites her family and my dad’s family (neither side is very big). I try to show up early and help Mom in the kitchen. But honestly, there are times I wish I could skip Thanksgiving entirely.

I tried that exactly once, about ten years ago. I stayed at home by myself. I was lonely and miserable. Late in the day I ended up ditching everything and driving to my grandparents’ house, where everyone had gathered.

But the thing is, I spend hundreds of other days by myself without experiencing misery or loneliness. Sure, I get lonely, but not on a frequent basis, and often not just because I’m at home alone. I think the reason I felt lonely that day was because American society has this image of the perfect Thanksgiving, watching the Macy’s parade and carving up a turkey and laughing with your family over a candlelit dinner table.

It’s not exactly a cozy image for a single adult, is it? What about singles who live hundreds of miles away from their parents and don’t have the means or opportunity to travel there? What about the divorced man whose ex-wife has custody of the kids for the holiday? What about the woman whose husband of forty years has died, leaving her alone?

I have this dream that some day I will be able to celebrate in community with all of my dearest single friends. They are mostly women and mostly Christians, and I think we’re all within about ten years of each other in age. I think that would be an amazing way to spend Thanksgiving!

A series of posts at Rachel Marie Stone’s blog has had me thinking about how we celebrate Thanksgiving. Take a look at Plagues and Famine: Better Not to Know?, How Knowing Things Saves Lives, and Can I “Eat With Joy” While Others Can’t Eat At All?, and let me know what you think. (Let her know, too–these are great posts.)

I think next year for Thanksgiving, I will plan to spend my day in a homeless shelter or at one of the area food pantries or soup kitchens that are providing Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless and underprivileged in America. I don’t think it will be possible to feel lonely in such surroundings, and it’ll have to be better than watching another Three Stooges marathon or watching my aunts bicker about how one is eating too much and the other not enough.

What about you guys? What are some of your Thanksgiving traditions? What sort of alternate ways do you have to celebrate the holiday?

Married People, Help Me Out

12 Nov

Dear Married People,'Begin Two Way' photo (c) 2011, niXerKG - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

What do you get tired of hearing from singles? What misconceptions do we singles have about your married life? What would you like to tell us about yourselves? How can we, as single people, be encouraging to you? How can we better understand you? What should we learn from you? What can we teach you?

I do a lot of talking about what it’s like to be single and how you married folks can better relate to us and encourage us. But this shouldn’t be a one-way street. I’m interested in a dialogue.

Please chime in and address issues you want us to talk about. Better yet, if you’re interested in writing a guest post for Single White Christian, let me know! I would love to listen to what you have to say.

Sincerely,

Single White Christian

4 Things To Say to Parents of a Single Adult

8 Nov

On Monday I posted 7 Things Not to Say to Parents of a Single Adult. But I try to follow up my “negative” posts with something more positive and affirming. So today I’m going to present four suggestions of things you can and should say to parents of a single adult.

  1. You must be very proud of your son/daughter. Finding a mate and procreating is something that happens at almost every level of biology. It isn’t really something unique to homo sapiens. So let’s stop acting like marriage and parenthood are the only accomplishments in life. Every adult, single, married, or in-between, has done something to be proud of. Instead of focusing on marital status, look at the other things. Maybe she’s published a book. Maybe he just sealed a major business deal. Maybe she heads up a charity that impacts lives. Maybe he leads a Bible study in his home. Those are all things to be proud of. Celebrate those.
  2. It must be nice not having to share your child with inlaws during the holidays. Growing up, we rarely had this problem, because one set of my grandparents lived in Florida, while the other set lived fifteen miles away, so Dad didn’t see his folks for the holiday. But occasionally we spent the week of Christmas in Florida…and then my mom didn’t get to spend Christmas with her parents. As a single adult, I don’t have this problem. I celebrate Christmas with my parents the way we always have–we read the Christmas story, then open presents on Christmas Eve (it used to be at midnight, but as we all get older, this starts earlier and earlier in the evening). There are almost always bookish presents for everyone, so we stay up late reading our new books, and sleep in late Christmas morning. I don’t have to compromise on Christmas plans, and my parents don’t have to share me.
  3. (When a child moves back home) Aren’t you glad they aren’t married and bringing their spouse and children back home to live with you! Because yes, I actually know a couple of people who moved back in with their parents, with a husband, two kids, and a dog in tow. At least when I moved back, my parents were getting what amounted to an adult boarder in the upstairs. I contributed financially as much as I was able, and in labor, and I didn’t wake them up for midnight feedings or early morning walks.
  4. How has your relationship changed as your child has grown older? Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your friend with single adult offspring. Just don’t focus those questions on the marital or parental status of said offspring. If your friend wants to talk about her kid’s marital status, let her bring it up first.

Single readers, what do you wish people would say to your parents? Parents of singles, what do you wish people would say to you? Chime in!

7 Things Not to Say to Parents of a Single Adult

5 Nov

'SHHHHHH.....DON`T SAY A WORD!' photo (c) 2006, andrea silva - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I’ll be the first person to admit I’m incredibly blessed when it comes to my parents. They don’t believe I’m defective just because I don’t have a spouse. My mom has had plenty of bachelors and bachelorettes in her family. My dad’s brother didn’t marry until he was in his 40s. So my parents have never put pressure on me to get married and raise children. My mother has known since I was very young that I would probably never have kids, and she’s fine with it.

Unfortunately, other people don’t seem to understand my parents’ attitudes about being parents of a single adult any more than they understand my own attitudes about being a single adult. To help those people out, I’ve compiled a list of things not to say to parents of a single adult.

  1. Why don’t you just tell them to grow up and settle down?  Excuse me? “Grow up and settle down?” As if we aren’t grown up if we haven’t decided to get married? Do you realize how patronizing that sounds? Single adults pay their own bills, have their own relationships, and make huge contributions to society, church, charitable organizations, and businesses. Sure, some of them are also perpetual kids, but I know plenty of married people who act much less grown up than me and my single friends.
  2. You haven’t really lived until you’ve held your first grandchild.  Yes, people have actually said that to the parents of a friend of mine. My friend is in her 30s and is content as a single woman serving the Lord. She doesn’t have children, and doesn’t currently anticipate having children. And somehow that invalidates all the experiences her parents have been through? They have grown up, married, raised two wonderful, godly daughters, served God for decades, but they haven’t really lived? Please.
  3. You should introduce your daughter/son to a nice single person.  Okay, I’ve always wanted my parents to like the guys I have dated. I even dated a guy my mom introduced me to once, though Mom honestly didn’t have any ulterior motives, since he wasn’t available at the time anyway. But this statement doesn’t take into account the fact that the single adult may not wish to meet someone. The single adult may have no desire to be married. And if the single adult does wish to be married, is it really going to make them feel better to get pressure from their parents along with everyone else in society?
  4. You should kick her out of the house.  Yep, this one was aimed at my mom. I moved back in with my folks after a catastrophic job loss many years ago. When Mom asked her friends to pray about the situation–meaning me having no money and no job and being depressed about it–her friend said they shouldn’t be supporting me. This infuriated me, because I was doing my part around the house–housework, lawncare, running errands for my folks in my free time, etc. It also infuriated my mom, because my parents actually liked having me back home with them, and they were concerned for me, not about me.
  5. Why don’t you tell him to get a place of his own?  This one goes hand-in-hand with #4. An increasingly large number of my fellow Gen-Xers, as well as Gen-Y, have graduated from college into a crappy economy, or have experienced job loss because of said crappy economy. Maybe the situation isn’t ideal for anyone, but let’s look back a mere 150 years ago, and we’ll realize that for centuries upon centuries, the common practice in family life was to have several generations living together. Many single adults lived with their parents all their lives, and the only stigma they faced was that of “spinster.” There’s nothing wrong with single adults living with their parents.
  6. Maybe she’s gay.  When I asked my mom for input on this blog post, this was one of her suggestions. Which tells me that at least one of my mom’s friends thinks I’m a lesbian (possibly the one who says only lesbians get tattoos, or maybe that one who says women who wear flannel shirts are all gay). I told her next time, she has my permission to say, “I don’t care if she’s gay or straight, and what business is it of yours, anyway?” Because…seriously, what business is it of yours, anyway?
  7. Oh, she’ll change her mind and have kids someday. First of all, you don’t know my mind. My mind has been firmly anti-having-children since I was a very young kid and refused to be the mom ever while playing house. Secondly, you don’t know just how grossed out I get by the idea of growing an alien life form inside my body for ten months. Thirdly, my mom knows me better than you do, and if she is certain I won’t change my mind, who are you to question her? Or me, for that matter?

Here’s the thing–you can’t automatically assume that a single adult is defective somehow. And you can’t automatically assume that the parents of a single adult believe their child is defective somehow.

Next time, I’ll talk about some things you can and should say to parents of a single adult. But for now, are there any real doozies I missed in this post? Weigh in with a comment!

Family–Blessing, Idol, or Both?

7 Oct

I have to admit up front: I’d never heard of Ben Witherington before, but from looking at his CV, he’s a widely-published and acknowledged Bible scholar and theologian. And last week, he rocked my world.

His blog post, “Family First!–Not a Biblical Viewpoint” called out the church for its emphasis on physical family over everything else. He pointed out that, while the family was created by God and is a good thing, it’s very clearly not supposed to be the most important thing. The article had a mixed reception, based on the comments to that page, but it really resonated with this single, never-married.

He discusses the Greatest Commandment as well as the Great Commission. He discusses Jesus’ instruction from the cross for his birth mother Mary to adopt the Apostle John as her spiritual son, thereby giving Christians a new definition of family. He also addresses that wonderful, validating scripture passage, 1 Corinthians 7, where Paul expresses a preference for singleness over marriage.

I would encourage everyone to take a look at his entire post. The comments are also worth your time. There are naysayers and those who agree with him, and those who seem unconvinced but willing to listen. But the comment that stuck with me the most was from a single woman who had a heartbreakingly sad experience as a lifelong single in her church.

Another article worth reading is by Ben Ponder, editor-at-large of Media Rostra webzine. Entitled “Idolatry of the Family“, it touches on some of the same points Ben Witherington makes, albeit with a slightly more convicting tone. His last paragraph struck me the most:

The world is a mess because we are a mess. We are a mess because I am a mess. I am a mess because my heart is a mess. And the heart condition of each of us is the heart of the issue. Any other agenda, any other moralistic totem or golden calf half-truth, any political platform or religious soapbox should receive our careful scrutiny. Because an idol carved in the shape of a smiling family is still an idol.

It reminds me that ultimately, married and single people are on an even footing when it comes to salvation. My married friends are no more saved than I am, because no one can save them but Jesus–just as no one can save me but Jesus. Your spouse can’t convert you. Your child can’t get you into heaven. Your parents can drag you kicking and screaming to church, but they can’t force you to list your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Family is important. I’m grateful for the amazing family I grew up in, and I’m also grateful for the amazing spiritual family I have created for myself online. But when it comes down to it, everything relies on my relationship to Jesus.

I’m Infectious

22 Jul

Apparently my vocal attitude about being a single adult in the church has started infecting other people. Earlier this week I was talking to my mom, and she said she was depressed about church lately. When I asked why, she said it was the whole “Gold Medal Families” topic.

I admit, I cackled with laughter.

Her complaint was that the preacher said, in essence, “This sermon is applicable to everyone! Married people, single people, empty nesters…” Then he went on to talk about five reasons God created families.

Reason number one? Companionship. Reason number two? Procreation.

Yeah, because those two totally apply to me. I get my companionship from two cats and my friends, who live in various places across the globe. And I’ve never procreated in my life and don’t want to.

Yup, that sermon was totally applicable to me. And honestly, I don’t think the empty nesters are out there wanting to procreate all over again, now that they’ve finally got the house to themselves for the first time in 18 or 30 years.

And the best part of all this is that the above reaction wasn’t mine. Well, it was, but only after my mom related the story to me. The above reaction was hers, because she is the parent of a single adult.

Here is where I have to thank God, loudly and often, for a mother who understands that I’m happy as a single adult and that I have never wanted children. Thank God my mother comes from a family full of bachelor uncles and spinster aunts and doesn’t see my unmarried status as a flaw in me. Thank God my mother takes my side.

But yeah, anyway. I think I must be infectious.

Or just really loud.

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