What Singles are Sick of Hearing (Part 2)
5 Pieces of Advice Singles are Sick of Hearing (Part 2 of 2)
Let’s jump back into some bad pieces of advice you hear when you’re single! To review, we have discussed in the previous post why trying to “enjoy” this time is silly and how psychology justifies our right to prioritize dating at this crucial time in our lives. We left off after #3 showed us that we can be happy and still desire a spouse, which brings us to…
#2 “You need to learn to love yourself before you can love somebody else.”
I admit, this one has some well-meaning intentions behind it. If you hear this advice, and you resonate with it because you struggle with low self-esteem and have been trying to fix it by being in a relationship, then this might have been appropriate for you to hear. Feeling insecure can indeed be a hinderance to finding romantic satisfaction. It can involve other mental health issues as well, including social anxiety and depression. If you feel this is the case for you, then therapy may be beneficial and it is still nothing to be ashamed about. We are all always working on ourselves, which is why this piece of advice also stinks.
The process of truly loving yourself is just that – a process, and it continues throughout our lives. I can pretty much guarantee that everyone who is married or in a relationship did not get to that point because they achieved some grand level of high self-esteem. This is partially because it is impossible to have good self-esteem all day, every day. Self-esteem naturally fluctuates throughout our lives as we grow and change. It can even go up and down throughout a single day.
Personally, I view my moments of low self-esteem as a chance to lean on God. Though it does not always feel good to be reminded of our short-comings, we can choose to see them as a reminder of how God loves to hold us up and make us strong through Him. If it were strictly up to us, we would always fall short of loving ourselves. Luckily, we have a God who loves us enough that we do not have to rely only on our own abilities. Consider this verse from second Corinthians: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take [my weakness] away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon me,” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).
#1 “I am single because something is wrong with me.”
You are probably upset with me about this last one. It is not advice – I hope no one has ever said this to you! – but it is something that belongs in this post because it is something we may start to think deep down after hearing the same empty words from others over and over again. You might be saying, “I feel down about being single sometimes, but I never go that far!” But let’s be real with each other. I know there were times I thought this and I consider myself a fairly confident woman. It’s just that we can’t help it. It’s natural to at least wonder if something is wrong with you when you attend yet another wedding without a date or hear that your last single friend just got into a relationship. So let’s be honest with ourselves and break down what is really happening here.
Why do we sometimes come to this conclusion when we know it is not true?
I blame two things: feelings and the devil.
Firstly, Satan, the king of lies, loves to whisper this in your ear at even the slightest indication of some self-doubt. The Bible often reminds us of this: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour,” (1 Peter 5:8).
If we continue reading, we are given advice as to how to cope with this: “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen,” (1 Peter 5:9-11).
You are one of God’s beloved children and you are made perfect in His eyes. Sometimes we need to repeat this to ourselves daily and that is okay. As we discussed, self-esteem naturally see-saws.
Secondly, feelings. We learned from Erikson in Part 1 of this post that the desire, even longing, we feel for a significant other during this time in our lives is completely appropriate and normal. But also, the feeling of an unmet desire is unpleasant. It feels bad. As humans, we crave to meet our desires and dispel bad feelings, so we are going to try to do that even when certain aspects of a situation are out of our control. When we keep focusing on that control, we wind up with this conclusion: “I must be doing something wrong,” which can easily be taken all the way to, “I am wrong.” Let’s not take it that far though. If we stop right at, “I am doing something wrong,” then maybe we can do something different before we go beating ourselves up about it.
On the one hand, finding your spouse does come down to God’s timing. But on the other, if there is some way that you could help this process along, you would probably want to do it. That is why I believe there is a need for therapy in young adults on the dating scene. From my own experience, and those shared by friends and clients, I have learned that often there are personal issues that get in the way of dating and connecting with others. For me, it was a fear of being truly vulnerable in order to protect myself from the possibility of rejection. What that looked like in my dating behaviors was absolutely refusing to use dating apps or sites, claiming some principled view of meeting in-person, but really I was just scared to put myself out there in such a public way (and surprise! In time, I met my husband on an app). Maybe for you it is something different, like dating the same unhealthy person again and again or always winding up in the same cycle of miscommunication. Therapy may be able to help.
As I close this two-part post, I want to remind you that this was not just another shameless plug for my services. In my bashing of bad advice, I hope you can see the good advice, which I will sum up as:
Do not pressure yourself to enjoy being single. Just simply be.
Do not hyper-focus on other areas of your life, such as your career, as a way to avoid dealing with the complexities of dating and connecting with others.
Remember that the desire for a spouse is a perfectly natural desire during this time of your life and therefore nothing to feel ashamed or bad about.
Respect “loving yourself” as the life-long journey it was meant to be and rely on God in moments of doubt.
Never question your worth because that is found in Christ and we can trust His timing. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” (Jeremiah 29:11).
If there is something, “wrong,” it is likely a behavior and those do not define us. We are free to change them at any time, with or without the help of a therapist.
Yours in Christ,