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Single Living

I read an article about single Catholics the other day. I’m seeing a lot more articles like that, and it makes me really happy. But what I find even more interesting than the articles themselves are the comments below. 

In this particular article, there were several really good comments about the article itself, or the state of single life, etc. But then there were others – several of them – that were basically just complaints about how horrible it is to be single. They talked about being a fifth wheel, about not being included in social events, about losing friends when they get married. (“A friend married is a friend buried” was one quote that stood out in my mind.) They complained that family and holiday events were miserable because everybody felt sorry for them because they were unmarried and childless. The basic theme was that nobody wanted to be around them.

Reading through their laundry list of complaints, I’m not sure I’d want to be around them either.

I’m the first to acknowledge that, for someone who feels called to marriage, remaining single is a cross. I also believe that married life and religious life have their own crosses. I believe that we need to acknowledge the difficult aspects of our state of life, whatever they may be. I’m not of the grit-my-teeth-and-talk-about-how-wonderful-single-life-is school of thought.

But I’m not a big fan of wallowing in self pity either.

[You're Single, Get Over It]

I thought about my family gatherings, my holidays, my time with friends. And I can’t think of a single time where I was aware of someone feeling sorry for me because I’m unmarried and childless. I suspect that’s because I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself.  That’s not to say I don’t have my moments or my struggles. I bring those moments to prayer, to spiritual direction, to good friends in quiet moments. But I try not to bring them to parties. At gatherings of family or friends, I don’t focus on the children I don’t have. I try to concentrate on those I do have: the beautiful nieces and nephews and godchildren and friends’ kids who are such blessings in my life. And I focus on my friends, my community, whatever opportunity I have in that moment to be with them and enjoy their company.

I’ve written elsewhere about the importance of grieving childlessness, and I do think that’s an important prerequisite to fully enjoying other people’s children. Grieving, really facing the reality of our situation and going through the process of accepting it, isn’t easy or pleasant work. But with God’s help, we need to do it to free us to enjoy the gifts God has given us instead of obsessing over those we don’t have.

And to free other people to enjoy our company, instead of pitying our misery.

 

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21 Comments

  1. Dawn-58330 August 20, 2012

    Thank you, Mary Beth.

    I think one of the biggests evils we singles (really everybody) have to guard against is buying into the concept that our lives all need to look like everyone else’s. When we start believing that is when we start bemoaning whatever state we are in. Instead we need to see the gift that is our life and live it fully.

  2. Elisabeth-296513 August 21, 2012

    Hey, Mary Beth!

    I agree with what you say here and I disagree with you.

    I wallowed in self-pity about my singleness for a long time, and I complained, and I held pity parties for myself. Lately, it has gotten easier for me accept the good things about my life the way it is (because, honestly, just about every other aspect of my life is soaring), and it has gotten easier to accept my marital status, although, like you said, it is a cross. Not being sorry for myself has freed me to see the crosses other people (yep, even married people with little kids) have to bear. They get lonely, feel out of place, and have insecurities also. I couldn’t see that when I was so focused on myself that other people were distant blurs on the greener side of the fence.

    However, getting here has been a process and accepting myself as a single individual is not something I have completely done yet. Frankly, I think that the depression, the disappointment, the frustration that my life didn’t turn out according to my dreams were all phases I had to go through to get to where I am.

    Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified 5 stages a grieving person must go through to process that grief. These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, finally, acceptance. Looking back over my journey I have gone through all these, and am still going through the last two, as I learn to see my life differently from what I have always planned, prayed, and hoped for.

    My point: having a pity party as you grieve the changing of your dreams is not necessarily a bad thing since it may just signal a healthy and necessary process a person must go through to come to peace and acceptance. The only bad thing would be if a person stays there permanently and doesn’t allow themselves to continue through the process of accepting their lives the way they are instead of the way they grew up thinking they would be.

    • Catherine-135441 September 9, 2012

      Great reply Elisabeth. You are right on the mark. It is a process, and it doesn’t happen overnight. I remember an earlier article by Mary Beth (at least I think she was the author) in which she says that at one point she had felt that being single was a fate worse than death, but that over time she had come to a point of acceptance. It seems odd then that she expects others to get from point A to point Z in one leap. It takes time and a lot of prayers.

  3. Tessa-694373 August 21, 2012

    You need to remember God has his plan for all of us…just because you’re single today does not mean you won’t be married in the future. KEEP THE FAITH and thank God for the blessings you have been given and the opportunities you were able to accept because you are single… Enjoy your life today only God knows what your future holds…I like to believe it is so much better than we can imagine for ourselves….

  4. Tom-432657 August 21, 2012

    Whether you’re single or married, either can be a cross. Better to be single than be with the wrong person. It’s never worth getting in a hurry to get married. It’s better to take your time and find the right person.

  5. Arden-261786 August 22, 2012

    I do have to agree that being single can make you feel “left out” of some social situations, but having faith means that you leave the choice up to God. Remember Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, who had John at a really late age? Just because it hasn’t happened now, does not mean it won’t happen in the future.

    Leave it in God’s hands, and learn acceptance in His Will :) That’s about all we can do; otherwise we make ourselves and others miserable, and seriously, how attractive is that?

  6. Shannon-889454 August 23, 2012

    Those who liked this article might also enjoy this website http://seraphicsinglescummings.blogspot.com/

  7. Valerie-890798 August 23, 2012

    Being single is a cross to bear but can be a time of inner reflection, good health and being thankful for the blessings in your life. I focus on my children, walking, online college and my gardens; finding joy in their everyday gifts.

  8. Marita-847688 August 25, 2012

    I’m not so much upset about being single now as I am staying single forever. Because until recently, the thought never dawned on me that maybe it’s in God’s will for me not to have a husband. If that is the case, then it is in God’s will for me not to have children. That is truly something that needs be grieved over. It is okay to be sad, but we need to remember all of the good things God has offered us. If single hood is my calling I’ll have to accept this, but I am not there yet. It is hard for me when I see other people getting married and having children, but I am working on accepting God’s will.

  9. Jessica-888488 August 25, 2012

    I would like to say I have found some faults with the tone of the blog, not the direction. I understand the self pity and pity parties. However the post seemed to be attacking. She is correct. I often have to let everyone know in order to be with someone in the future, you have to be content being alone.

  10. William-872148 August 26, 2012

    SELF PITY IS NOT A OPTION WHERE DOES IT LEAD US .NOT A GOOD PLACE TO GO.

  11. Sonny-566024 August 27, 2012

    This article has got to be satire, is it not? I pity people that are married, not people that are single.

    Some of the happiest people that I’ve known throughout my life are those that are single. Catholics might know some happy single people too. They are called “nuns” “priests” or even ‘saints”. Oh and lets not forget the leader of the Catholic Church, Jesus.

    What are the benefits of marriage anyways? Kids? They are expensive and stressful. Sex? Life is better when you don’t need it. Companionship? You can have friends without marriage. (and ironically most people have MORE time for friendships when they are single vs. married)

    I could go on and on, but its not worth the effort.

    • Andy-896770 April 12, 2013

      lol, I actually think that all of the hurdles of marriage are definitely worth it. Having friends is awesome but it just isn’t the same as an intimate relationship. Having kids is hard, but it’s well needed considering how few faithful Catholics there are in this country. And sex, well, Theology of the Body is shows how wonderful it is as the physical component of the sacrament of holy matrimony.

  12. Sonny-566024 August 27, 2012

    I apologize for whatever I wrote in my last post. I re-read the original article and realized that my comment may have been misplaced. From the original article:

    “I’m the first to acknowledge that, for someone who feels called to marriage, remaining single is a cross. I also believe that married life and religious life have their own crosses. I believe that we need to acknowledge the difficult aspects of our state of life, whatever they may be. I’m not of the grit-my-teeth-and-talk-about-how-wonderful-single-life-is school of thought.
    But I’m not a big fan of wallowing in self pity either.”

  13. Catherine-135441 September 9, 2012

    Mary Beth,
    I was mildly amused by the comment you quoted, “A friend married is a friend buried.” I actually once had a married friend tell me, “Married people don’t hang out with single people.” I know she didn’t mean it the way it sounds. She was trying to offer an explanation as to why there were few if any married couples in the young adult group I belonged to at that time. I think what happens is those who are married, especially with children, look for companionship with others who share similar experiences. They want to be able to connect with people who know the ups and downs of their state in life. Perhaps it is different in other Diocese, but I have noticed in mine that Catholics tend to compartmentalize within their own “group”. In some ways this is understandable, but in other ways it is also unfortunate. When these two groups have limited if any contact with each other, married people sometimes forget what it was like to be single, and singles see only the happy, romantic side of marriage. In any case, although the comment you quoted was stated in less than a positive way, it’s possible that the person was making reference to this common scenario.

  14. Dirk-631502 October 14, 2012

    I think what makes things harder for singles is when parents begin to continuously ask or make statements like: “haven’t you found someone yet?”, “did you check the dating site again?”, “you are not interested in marriage, are you?”, “I will never had grandchildren!”, “He’s not doing anything to find a women!” … and so on. They get anxious. I try to read them, and I think they are thinking “no man should be alone…it’s not good to be alone”. And that’s their philosphy.

    Has anyone else had similar experiences with family? How did you deal with this?

  15. Dirk-631502 October 14, 2012

    Oh, I forgot to add…yes, I am looking for a woman, otherwise I wouldn’t be on Catholic Match.

    Cheers.

  16. Courtney-885262 November 29, 2012

    Married people do tend to hang out with other couples, and converse with those other couples as…couples. Being the lone single amongst a clan of spouses is a lonely and frustrating experience. And as we get older, there are fewer of us single people left. Hence the pity-partys. They’re the only parties to be had!

    However, as a 28 year old single who’s never been married, I can say definitively that I do hold an advantage over women who were married in their early twenties: I know me, I know I can take care of myself, and I’m confident in my abilities. Many women who marry and have children at young ages lack confidence and don’t know who they are outside of being a wife and mother. They don’t know how to be independent.

    For that, for knowing who I am and having overcome obstacles all on my own, I wouldn’t trade my single years for anything. It’s good to know who I am.

  17. Laura-879888 July 9, 2013

    Yeesh, this article is pretty down in the dumps…where’s the encouragement? Ok yes, I absolutely agree pity parties are useless, and that gratitude is instrumental to peace and contentment, but instead of jumping to “How to grieve your single and miserable life,” wouldn’t it be more useful to say, “Hey you, single and miserable! Why don’t you put on a nice dress (or suit, whichever the case may be) and get out there! You’re awesome!” I know dating is difficult, and the odds are stacked against Catholics, but you *still have to roll the dice.* God helps those who help themselves.

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