I’m writing this post as a follow-up to my previous post, “Unhelpful Things Said to Single People.” I know it can be frustrating to see posts about what “not” to say without any suggestions about what to say. So, for whatever they’re worth, here are my suggestions!
One of the main points I want to get across in this post is that single people have a lot more to talk about than dating relationships or their pursuit or marriage. (I would think that married people have a lot more to talk about than their marriage, too, but you’ll have to speak for yourselves on that one 🙂 ). Of course most single people like talking about dating and marriage at least some of the time. But it’s not who we are. While most of us don’t mind you asking, it helps if you don’t start with that question like it’s the most important or all you care about.
My mom and sister tell a story that fits here (and always makes me smile). My mom, sister, and aunt went into a church to meet with a pastor about a contribution my family was making to the church in memory of a loved one. My mom and my sister sat down, and in the course of the conversation, he turned to my sister and asked, “How old are you?” My sister replied, “27.” He asked, “So, are you married?” “No,” she responded. “Oh, that’s okay,” he consoled.
My mom and aunt interjected, “Of course that’s ok–she has a great career and she’s doing fine!” Afterwards, the three of them wondered “Why did he ask her that? Why does it matter? Couldn’t he think of anything else important to ask?” The question had nothing to do with their purpose there, and if he was interested in getting to know her, a simple, “Tell me about yourself,” would do.
For other conversation topics, ask a single person about…
- his job (or however he spends most of his time)
- her family
- how he spends his free time
- what has been life-giving for her lately
- what has been hard for him lately
- her living situation
(for more on helpful ways to ask questions, see this post: Avoid Leading Questions–Stick with, “How are you?)
When conversations genuinely lead to topics of dating or the pursuit of marriage…
- You don’t need to “say” anything (especially not the things I listed in the last post). Just listen. If he says he’s not dating right now, don’t assume that’s a bad thing. Ask him how he feels about it and let him give an honest answer.
- If the person you’re talking to is excited, be excited for her. If she is hurting, hurt with her. Show you’re listening by saying things like, “You seem really happy!” or “That must be really hard.”
- Please don’t tell them your story of “finding love” as some kind of manual to follow. His story is his, your story is yours. Dating and marriage happen in all kinds of ways. If he asks about your story and wants to know, then please make it clear his story will probably be different. Seeing attributes of others’ stories in your story is dangerous business. It can give them validation for something that may or may not be good or healthy.