Unhelpful Things Said to Single People

People Series
In this post, I want to examine a few of the unhelpful phrases often used to “comfort” or “encourage” single people (who, by the way, may not have asked for, needed, or wanted comfort or encouragement).  Although it’s true these phrases can be annoying and discouraging, that’s not the only reason I’m writing about them.  I’m also writing about them–and asking you to listen–because these phrases perpetuate some harmful ideas about a person’s worth and purpose in life.




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I am pretty sure there are several blogs/articles out there on this topic.  Here’s just one I know of: “What Not to Say to Singles” (from RELEVANT Magazine).  I agree with most points in this article, but I also have more to say… so, I’m going to say it.  For those of you feeling frustrated by “what not to say” types of articles, and you’d like some things TO say, I promise my next post will give you some ideas.

That said, here are three oft-repeated phrases used in conversations with single people.  I know you may have said these things and “didn’t mean” what they implied.  I fully admit I have said them, believed them, and tried to follow them.  Even if we “don’t mean” what might be implied, we still need to think about what the other person might hear.  (Likewise, when people say these things to us, we need to remember they most likely mean well).

#1: You have to be happy with yourself first, then you can be happy with another person. 

To me, this implies:

  1. If you have not found someone to marry, then you must not be happy with yourself.
  2. All married people are perfectly happy with themselves (and with their marriage).
  3. Both happiness and marriage are your life goals. 

(if you want to know some of the problems with these implications, see my previous posts, “Our Idolatry of Marriage” and “Happiness Is Not the Point“)

#2: Run hard after God, then look around and see who is running next to you.

This implies:

  1. If you haven’t found someone running next to you, you’re running in the wrong direction… definitely not towards God.  Or maybe you’re just not running hard enough.
  2. You don’t need to do anything to look for your spouse–he or she will magically show up.
  3. People who are married are definitely running in the right direction (and/or that’s how they found their spouse).

#3: The closer you get to God, the closer you get to finding the person He wants you to marry.  This is often expressed in the “triangle” format:

See how it works?  You climb up your side of the triangle, he/she climbs up the other side, and once you reach God, you reach each other.

The implications here are:

  1. If you are not close to marriage, you must not be close to God.
  2. Pursuing God is the same thing as pursuing marriage.
  3. When you find your spouse, you have “arrived”–you are both “done” in your Christian walks. (See “An Open Letter About Maturity (and Marital Status)” )

Anyone can say, after the fact, “I found my spouse at this certain point in my life, so that must be when I was happy with myself, running in the right direction, and/or close to God.”  Each of these phrases is basically the equivalent of saying, “Wouldn’t you know–I found my keys in the last place I looked for them!”  Of course you did… you’re not going to look other places once you’ve found your keys.  Saying one found a partner only when they did X,Y, and Z is the same type of reasoning.

However, the main problem with each of these ideas is they suggest God somehow guarantees that if you follow God you will 1) find someone suitable to be a life partner and 2) marry them.  It’s simply not true.  God doesn’t guarantee us anything but His love, and when we tell people–especially children and youth–that God will provide a spouse for them if they follow Him, what (and who) are they to believe when it doesn’t happen, or doesn’t happen in the way they expect?

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Topics for Conversations with Single People
We Are All Unreliable Narrators

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