The most important thing to do while you’re single.

A stack of save-the-dates and wedding invitations covers a corner of my desk at home. By March 2015, five more of my friends and their significant others will have wed, while I — now nearly 29 — will have not. That I might witness all their vows without a date doesn’t bother me at all as I write this. That doesn’t mean that how single I am has never bothered me.

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“My wedding” sounds to me like the start of something so difficult but so good. In the sacrament of matrimony, we are given to each other by God, and we are given to each other by each other. It’s a miracle, because two people turn into a unit designed to result in the destruction of self-absorption. A marriage is supposed to be a space where we can work together to become holier, and guts are safe to spill, and virtue can blossom, in which love is absolute and unfailing, just like God’s love is for us.

I want that. When I am reminded that I want it, I sometimes start to ache.

The ache is a dull longing, and when present, a constant distraction. It starts in your heart, or in your soul, or in your gut, and is rooted in the belief that something or someone is missing. It can make a person whimper a little, or binge eat pepper jack cheese sticks. It has arrived when I’ve been a third wheel a lot or when all I’ve seen between my world and a good man’s is an iMessage he isn’t sending. It arrives when I think too much about five weddings and no dates.

When I have ached, I’ve sighed a lot, and have felt mildly unfulfilled, and noticeably alone, and irreparably restless. Each time, I’ve made myself agree to wait longer for whatever’s missing to show up. I’ve resolved to accept that for now, I’m alone.

Until the last time I ached.

The last time I ached, I learned the most important thing to do while you’re single. I sighed that day like I usually do. I was restless. But I thought a thought that probably didn’t come from me:

“You don’t ache because you’re alone. You ache because you’re looking in the wrong direction.”

The whole time, every time I ached, I ached because I was waiting to receive from significant others what significant others are not even designed to give us. I ached because I wasn’t paying attention to the source of my peace. As I ached, I associated how I felt with what I thought was missing: a guy to date, and to bring to other people’s weddings.

But nothing was missing. I only felt unfulfilled, alone, and restless because I had turned my head. I wasn’t looking anymore at what all of us actually long for, whether single, married, or religious. Because the most important thing to do while you’re single, as it turns out, is the same as the most important thing to do while you’re not:

Focus on Jesus.

There is no date that can do for me what Christ does, no iMessage that grants peace like the peace that comes from eyes on Him. There is no wedding that’s better because a guy’s beside me than a wedding I attend with Christ before me, and no way I can be a wife someday if I’m not looking at Him.

“The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.” -CCC 27

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Morgan

    AMEN. Thank you for this reminder, Arleen. And thank you for your honesty about how you also long and fret and ache…knowing I’m not the only one out there feeling this way help. Surely, it doesn’t fix everything, but it helps 🙂

    • Arleen Spenceley

      Thanks so much for sharing that, Morgan! Also glad to know I’m not alone.

  • Abby

    Working on this! You took the words right out of my mouth. And said them more eloquently, of course.

    • Arleen Spenceley

      Thank you, Abby! Prayin’ for ya.

  • “When I am reminded that I want it, I sometimes start to ache. The ache is a dull longing, and when present, a constant distraction.”

    This is how I feel now. Amazing how you wrote down my exact feelings beautifully. Thank you for lifting up my spirit. It is so hard to focus on Jesus when I think of my heart half-empty, but when I pray and during my quiet time, God fills it with His infinite love. God bless, Arleen. Keep writing 🙂

    • Arleen Spenceley

      Thanks so much for this feedback. Glad the post lifted your spirit.

  • John Morgan

    I know the feeling Arleen. I’ve accepted that being alone is part of who I am. It’s not easy. Your description of it is very honest and true. Thank you for your encouragement.

  • LR

    Thanks for the honest and thoughtful article Arleen. And each time I ache, and I keep moving ahead knowing the Lord has something good for me ahead, I feel strengthened in my faith and peaceful in my heart again. Was reminded of this song by Audrey Assad called ‘Sparrow’

  • Gresu

    The best advise anyone can give in regards to the tender matters you continually speak about is to talk to a priest. Never change course or make a life style commitment based upon lay people’s writings. An ordained priest has had years of training on family matters and is responsible for the sins of those he leads. In fact, he will be sent to hell for the sins of his flock if he is derelict in his duties.

  • Michelle Lorraine

    Because the most important thing to do while you’re single, as it turns out, is the same as the most important thing to do while you’re not:

    Focus on Jesus.

    AMEN!! Isn’t funny how people ache for that which is, and always has been, right in front of them? I am 38 and single and I feel that ache often as my biological clock ticks away… but then I realize that no man… no baby… no family… no wordly desire can fill that ache… only when I die to those desires is my ache dulled and sometimes… completetly healed (when I let it be). Thanks for your post… thanks for letting me know I am not alone out there… God Bess You!

  • Jerry Joseph

    Good one Arleen. God bless you in writing such good articles and confirming in black and white (through Holy Spirit) what the faithful usually hear in their mind (through Holy Spirit)

  • Pratheesh Mathew

    Thank you Arleen, its something which all we youngsters goes through, when our peer get married and have kids. But, many times i felt bit sad when ever i saw couples moving with kids 🙁 even though i am not at the age for marriage (over concerned :p 🙂 )

    what i m trying to say is that, myself or we all youngsters do with the ache is called “spiritual blindness”. We know Christ also His words to some extent and knows how promising is His covenants and promises. But when the color of the curtain in front of our eye changes we start crying like a kid 🙁 i think Jesus would be happy of us for being a humble crying kid and also sad for not thinking about His words 🙂

    All we do in times of hardships is , we start crying or complaining or talk to Christ about whats happening But we don’t listen to what HE wants to say about that 🙂 🙂

    No more aches in Christ 🙂

    As there is a time to spring, to blossom, to ….., Time will come in its perfect way through HIM 🙂 🙂

    God bless you and your family and your loved ones +++

  • Jonathan Gillenson

    I’ve found this in my own experience. It’s so true. Sometimes difficult because of human weakness but still true.
    Thanks for posting!

  • Episteme

    I have an odd question, which maybe the other singles here can contribute their take on it: when does a single stop getting invited to friends’ weddings? As a 34-year old, I’ve noticed that I’ve stopped getting invited to friends’ (or family members’) weddings since about age thirty. It’s not a case of those getting married being even the same age as me, as some are older couples and some are younger, but I stopped getting invites as a single man (having showed up too often as just a single man, with no prospects of a girlfriend of fiancé?) as soon as I hit that new decade. I even had one friend sheepishly confirm that I was on the cut list because they had an odd number of guests and they knew that I wouldn’t take the +1 option if offered — this was a Catholic couple, by the way, the groom being a fellow Knight of Columbus with me.

    Is this just me, is this a guy thing, or is this a singles thing? Sure, it saves me on small appliances, but it doesn’t do much for making a man feel connected to the social world — or give him the chance to meet those bridesmaids wondering where all the Single Catholics Guys at the reception are! 😉

    (When asked on the question about the morality of single men coming alone to Catholic weddings, I point out that Jesus almost certainly went stag to Cana…)

    • Arleen Spenceley

      I’ve officially been invited to seven weddings this year, but I haven’t hit 30 yet! Lol.
      I’ve never heard of people questioning the morality of a single male going alone to a Catholic wedding. Do people do that?!

    • Johanna Steinbacher

      This is an interesting question. I know, now that I’m 36, I’m invited to less weddings because most of my friends and family are married, but I don’t think I’ve not been invited because I’m single. Then again, I know my friends who have recently gotten married (all female) want to find me a man so this could be why I’m still being invited?? 🙂 Maybe there’s a double standard going on… good question.

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  • Johanna Steinbacher

    Thank you so much, Arleen! I’m still single and 36. This post was so needed. And, thanks to everyone who has commented, as well. It’s nice to know we’re not alone in this ache! Praise Jesus!

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