I was recently invited to speak at a women’s conference of a local church. Among several topics being discussed, I was asked to host a workshop about the joys and challenges of being single. Over the past several weeks, I’ve immersed myself in research, written commentary, and heartfelt discussion about the single life.
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of adults are single. Approximately 87 million men and women are unmarried, although a quarter report being in a committed relationship. Among all singles, only 16 percent report looking for a romantic partner. This only amounts to 7 percent of the entire population (U.S. Census Bureau).
Perhaps you are single after years of ending a marriage. Perhaps you are single as a man or woman who has never married. Perhaps you are single after the loss of a loved one through death. Perhaps you have recently ended a relationship. Whatever your circumstance, the status of being single will be claimed by all — either in the past, in the present or in future years. The status of singleness is worthy of our attention.
For those who are presently single, how do you feel about this season in your life? I offer that question without assumptions. There are myriad societal messages existing in our culture about the single lifestyle. Among them is the idea that single men or women are discontent and constantly seeking to be “completed” through relationship. Statistically, this is not the case. Numerous men and women report satisfaction with their experience of being single. There is no sleep lost among these content individuals. For others, this is not the case. Contentment is distant, sleep is restless and peace is needed.
It is valuable to consider how seasons of singleness are met with contentment and satisfaction. Perhaps being single serves a particular purpose in one’s life. Perhaps it is a practical decision. Perhaps it serves an emotional need for a time. If this is the case, there is significance in embracing the status of singleness — there is also value in recognizing when singleness is no longer offering solace or bringing pleasure. When discontent or frustration arises, pay attention to these ways of feeling.
There is a deep longing in the human experience to be connected to others through meaningful and intimate relationships. We are social creatures that thrive in relationship. Where there is isolation, the spirit risks health. For those who might be losing sleep over your single status, I offer these aspects to ponder:
• When considering your single experience, what are the aspects you genuinely enjoy? Where do you begin to feel discontent or struggle? Make a list of both elements. Keep it close to you. Remind yourself of the times you are thankful and can sincerely celebrate. Where there is discontent, honor what is being felt. Acknowledge this experience but don’t linger too long. Instead, seek ways to meet areas of discontent through available means. (For example, combat loneliness with social activities and building friendships. Shift the focus from yourself by serving those in need through local charities.)
• During the moments when you find yourself thinking about your journey toward love, consider the pitfalls that might be keeping you from romance and partnership. Do you find yourself dating similar men or women or having similar experiences within relationship? Is there a pattern you are discovering yourself to be experiencing in dating? If so, perhaps these aspects are worth a closer look. Standing honestly before the mirror is often just the place to begin when seeking the changes we desire.
• For the single man or woman seeking encouragement and direction during this season, remember that the experience of being single will most likely not last forever. For those who desire relationship, it usually comes when one is fully open and invested in the possibilities.
• While waiting for relationship to unfold, relish this time. Use it well. Soak up the uniqueness of the single life and make it a time where you create the life you desire. Become the man or woman you want to be. Invest in yourself and in your life, deepen the character you desire, and trust that love will come. Adopt a position of readiness, but don’t place your life on hold in the meantime. Rather than lose sleep in your singleness, rest well in this life-giving season until it brings another.
The desire to be loved and to love another is a noble one — and not for the faint of heart. The voyage of finding and sustaining love takes courage and passion and strength. It also requires reflection and examination. As you reflect upon your own experience of singleness or relationship, you may find it beneficial to speak with a therapist about your efforts of creating love. In the meantime, I wish you much adventure in these single years. May you fall deeply in love with this time in your life.
Shannon Renae West is a licensed family therapist serving families on the Eastside. She can be reached at (425) 415-6556 or via e-mail at ShanWest@msn.com.