**I originally posted this on March 14, 2016, then recently noticed it disappeared from my site. I’m not sure if my back-dating attempt will work, so if you are an e-mail subscriber and are receiving this one a second time, I apologize!
One reaction I have gotten to my engagement is essentially: “Oh good! Now Emily won’t be alone anymore!” This reaction deeply frustrates me. While it is true that having Tom in my life means I have a go-to person when I need support, it does not make past lack of support ok. It does not make it ok that there are many, many other people who feel alone and and unsupported simply because our society and our churches emphasize the nuclear family unit above all else. Above everyone else.
During the past several years of living on my own, I faced many difficult situations, from everyday challenges to life-changing tragedy. While I dealt with many of these situations on my own, there were times that people saw my need and stepped in. There were times when I had to bring myself to ask for help (sometimes receiving it, sometimes not); there were times that I didn’t have the strength to ask for help. There were times when simply no one could help me.
Having Tom with me in hard situations greatly eases my personal burden. But it also emphasizes the contrast between what is now and what was. In one sense, knowing what itwas like to experience grief and hard change on my own makes me even more grateful for having his faithful support now. But in another sense, it makes me even more heartbroken for people who are not supported.
Of course, this doesn‘t mean I suddenly believe that marriage is a solution for lack of support and/or that everyone should get married. To borrow some Biblical language, “May it never be!” For one thing, getting married certainly doesn‘t guarantee a supportive relationship, and no spouse can support another person in all of the ways that he/she needs. But mostly, just because we don’t, as a society at large, consistently offer support to people who don’t fit into a certain box, it doesn‘t mean those people need to find a way to fit in the box. It means we need to remove the box. Moreover, supporting a person who is single is not something to do because that person is not married or until that person is married. The reason to support someone who is single is because they are a person.
What I do believe in is deep, supportive relationships of all kinds–between family members and between spouses/partners, but also between friends, between members of faith groups, between, well, to borrow some more Biblical language: neighbors. Remember, the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. When a lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus didn’t say “your spouse” (despite what many wedding ceremonies would suggest). Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan.
We have to get out of this box of considering anyone outside our immediate circle secondary. It‘s no better than an “every man for himself” mentality. It‘s an “every person for him/herself and his/her immediate family” mentality. Please don’t use my joining one of the only society-recognized supportive relationships to justify your neglect of others outside that circle.
Please do use my example to remind yourself to look for needs, to learn to recognize calls for help, and, when you can, to support the person behind those needs.