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Single Living

I recently spoke at a Catholic conference and met lots of wonderful single Catholics at the event. One particular encounter has been on my mind ever since.

 

A woman approached me at my book table, and after introducing herself told me quite bluntly: “Stephanie, I’m single too…just a lot older than you. And sometimes it’s really, really hard.”

 

The hurt in her eyes and the ache in her voice were all too familiar. I’ve encounter the same in my travels to Catholic events, in emails and letters I receive from my radio listeners and article readers, in my local Catholic singles’ group, and sometimes in the mirror.

 

I never know how to respond to such a confession from a fellow single person. The “I hear you, Sister Soul…I definitely understand what you are saying” doesn’t quite cut it sometimes. And yet I knew this woman needed some encouragement, something positive or comforting to take home with her that day. As I tried my best to uplift her spirits, she caught me off guard with a penetrating question:

 

“Stephanie I realize you probably struggle with a lot of the same emotions that I do as a single woman…but I just want to ask you, are you content?”



Am I content??? 



I quickly racked my brain for the honest answer. “YES…” I replied, but even as I said the word she was looking at me with a knowing gaze that told me I wasn’t the only person who noticed the hesitation in my voice. “Well,” I admitted with a sigh, “The answer is really ‘Yes….BUT.’”

 

I then shared with her that I truly am happy with my life. I am blessed with an amazing family, terrific friends, I love my job, I’m grateful for the opportunities I get to travel around the country and participate in so many exciting things – some of which would probably not be possible if I was married with children at this point in my life. However, even though I am happy, there is definitely a “BUT” at the end of my answer. I’m sure many of you readers will relate to the feeling, so let me explain.



The dictionary defines “content” as “satisfied or showing satisfaction with things as they are.” Most single people would probably admit to being happy, and even content with many areas of their lives, and yet in the background, on the fringe, or in the deep recesses of their hearts there is an ache, a longing for something more. Or, more specifically, for someone more in their lives.  



The woman at my book table understood the “Yes…BUT” answer all too well. We talked for several minutes longer about our mutual desire for a husband and a family someday, and some of the struggles of living as a single woman. It was refreshing for both of us to admit our struggles to each other, and commiserate a little bit about shared experiences.  



Ever since that encounter at the conference, I’ve been asking myself why we single folks often feel the need to act as if everything is always okay, to pretend that we are perfectly content or that we don’t struggle internally with this ache for the day when we will enter the sacrament of marriage. We probably all feel it, on one level or another, but why do we try to hide it – either from each other or from friends and family and ones we love? 
 



While transparency and vulnerability are never easy, I suspect that many single people are walking around with smiling faces and deeply hurting hearts. Sometimes it’s important for us to let our guards down and share that – to commiserate with each other, not in a “woe is me” pity party, but to be vulnerable in a way that is honest, so that we know we are not alone in the daily struggle to live the single life with faith, hope, and perseverance. 
 



Longing is a very real, often painful, emotion. And it’s a fact of life that sometimes the heart hurts – badly. St. John of the Cross wrote, “Yearning: It needs to hurt in order to be worthy of the word. Otherwise it is just wanting.” That quote reminds me of a conversation I had with a young woman who, while telling me about her struggles with “waiting” for the right person, said to me “Don’t tell me my pain, my suffering is not real. I realize that it’s a different kind of pain than children starving in Africa are feeling, or cancer patients on their deathbed are feeling, but don’t tell me my pain – this hurt in my heart – is not real.”  



These feelings are universal to both single women and single men. A single guy recently told me, “I hope God gives me the grace I need to live a single life obediently as I should and with joy. That last part is hard sometimes though, you know? It's tough seeing all those married couples at church and you’re as single as you were the Sunday before.”

 

I often refer to those periods of loneliness or relationship disappointment in my life as my “Blockbuster and China Wok years.” I’ve spent way too many Friday nights at home with a movie and Chinese takeout while friends, siblings, and relatives were out with their sweetheart on date night. Is that the end of the world? Certainly not. Is it a struggle sometimes? Absolutely! And it doesn’t make you or I a bad person to admit that we are less than content with the way we spend our Friday nights.



Singleness Labor Pains  



I’ve heard the struggle of the single life sometimes compared to the childbirth experience. During labor, all a woman can think about is the immediacy of the physical pain of childbirth (so I’ve been told). But afterwards, a mother is so consumed with joy at the arrival of her child that the pain is soon forgotten. On an emotional level, the same often goes for single people: the struggles of loneliness and yearning can be difficult and at times consuming. But all of the couples that I know who have waited a long time for their spouse – they look back on those years and wouldn’t trade it for anything. They see God’s hand both in their relationship, and in the period of waiting and testing that came beforehand.

 

Be Encouraged  



Not long ago, on a visit to St. Louis, I attended one of the city’s gorgeous old churches for morning mass. A very pregnant young woman approached me after mass and whispered “Excuse me, are you Stephanie Wood?” Although we had never met in person, I had spoken several times on the phone with this woman – and every time we talked, she asked me for advice or encouragement about waiting for a great Catholic guy, and what to do about feeling so hopeless or desperate or disappointed. As she gave me a hug and introduced herself, she told me about meeting her husband right in her hometown, and shared the news that they were expecting their first baby that summer.

 

God still answers prayers…we just need to be faithful about waiting for His timing. In the meantime, as we strive for patience, pray for grace, and seek the joy of following Christ no matter the cost, be encouraged that it’s okay to be honest and vulnerable about how you feel about being single. If we all answer the “are you content?” question more honestly, we just may be able to do a better job of encouraging and uplifting one another.



“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” – Romans 15:13

(This post has been read 113 times)

14 Comments

  1. Valerie-334252 May 7, 2008

    This put a smile on my face… I actually started opening up to people I know and care about and tell them how I feel about being single. It does help I have to say because I've been carrying that for so long not wanting people to know it.
    I'm not sure why you just don't want people to know that you feel that way. I just didn't want people to think I was weak or impatient eventhough I can be very impatient. Anyhow, I really enjoyed this article. It was uplifting. Thank you,
    Peace Out!
    -Valerie-

  2. Patrick-56466 May 9, 2008

    Great article. Very encouraging. It's nice to know that one doesn't always have to wear the "content" face.

  3. Alexandra-136238 May 12, 2008

    Thank you Staphanie for the encouraging words. Sometimes we forget we are never alone in our suffering; there are millions of us and God is with us. And the proof is, for instance, your article!
    Thank you for being a witness and a tool in God's hands.
    Alexandra

  4. Miguelinda-57188 May 20, 2008

    well .. a good article that really did knock my head a bit .Its true, living single is like u and urself .I know God IS THERE. He is there to mend ur singlehood. But men, we have our flesh desire. THEREFORE, God help me to overcome .. help me to cry to u when i felt alone.. Becoz only You are the source of my true joy.

  5. Julianne-92538 May 27, 2008

    Stephanie, love your article. Everything you said hit home with me. I feel the tug on both sides. I love my freedom But I long for companionship. I think our church is very slow in meeting the real needs of single catholics over age 40. I feel unappreciated and left out a lot of the time. I get angry about it too. My feelings are Real! Julianne

  6. Paula-352189 June 30, 2008

    I AM SENDING THIS TO MY NIECE THANKS

  7. Paula-352189 June 30, 2008

    If Stephanie wrote a book on being content and this article I would like to read it I can not find anything on her thank you and stephanie

  8. Conor-267352 July 1, 2008

    Wonderful article. In some respects I feel the same way Emily does. I hear some of the same things from friends and family over and over again. My family tells me that perhaps God doesn't intend marriage for me, but that really doesn't help, just makes it worse in a way. My friends all tell me, she's out there just waiting to meet me, however I'm not sure that I really believe that either. Its just that I get so lonely these days because just about all of my friends will be married by the end of the yr and when I see my friends so happy and knowing that I'm not or potentially might not ever be, well, to say the least, it doesn't make it a lot more pleasant for that matter. Just glad that I'm not the only one who is currently experiencing this.

  9. Robin-354158 July 7, 2008

    THANK YOU for this article! I really needed to read something like this right now (and all these comments). it is comforting to know there are other Catholics out there who feel the same way.

  10. Patricia-356217 July 18, 2008

    I am single now after a very long term marriage which brought much disappointment and heartache, although there were many good times.
    Now, that I am single again, I realize however, that I am more my "authentic" self than ever. I am blessed with a great family, wonderful friends, a satisfying career, and peace of mind. This is not to say that I would not enjoy a sincere, loving partner to share my life with. I do think that being content and happy on your own is the foundation for a satisfying relationship. You are responsible for your own happiness. Having a loving partner should be the icing on the cake.

  11. Maria-336468 July 28, 2008

    Great article! Reminds us of why is really important to be patient and sincere with ourselves & not to let the external "things" take over our thoughts & minds. :wave:

  12. Alissa-358816 July 29, 2008

    Wow! That realy spoke to me.

  13. Albert-146514 October 9, 2008

    ee

  14. Farah-367297 October 11, 2008

    I'm not happy being single ,sometimes i feel so lonely i'don't like being alone at night time .but you know what .let me tell you in my own language ,because it's the best way i can express myself "mieux vaut etre celibataire que mal accompagne.

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