What Not to Say If You’re Single

I sat at the foot of the bed with crossed arms and my mind made up while I ugly-cried: “I will never meet another guy who likes me.” I was 20 and mildly dramatic and my path — one I briefly walked with a blue-eyed, black-haired bass player — had been pulled out from under me.

By text message.

On New Year’s Day.

Single, and I didn’t want to be. Perpetually, too — I was certain. My sole shot at someday becoming a spouse had expired because a boy who smelled like smoke and wore eye liner said so. I grieved, which is natural and good. But then I threw a pity party.

The same pity party I threw when I had never dated before and worried I never would, which I also throw when I am periodically tired of how single I am, again. At the foot of the bed, I told stories to myself about my relationship status. The stories I told were a lot of things (sad, frustrating, neverending). But the stories I told weren’t true.

I snapped out of it (for reasons that include but are not limited to “my mother is a therapist.”). But my heart hurts now, because in real life and online, I have interacted a lot lately with unhappy single people.

Single people who are telling stories. Sad, frustrating, neverending stories. Stories that aren’t true, that we who are single for who-knows-how-long or forever, ought not say to ourselves anymore.

Stories like these:

1. “Nobody wants to date somebody like me.”

If you have met all the people, asked all the people if they want to date somebody like you and all the people said no, then you’re right. But you have not met all the people. You have not asked all the people if they want to date you. That story isn’t true. What is true is that whether you are dating does not determine whether other people exist who want to date you.

2. “I’ll never meet somebody who meets my standards.”

If you are a time traveler or a psychic or a prophet, then I guess that by virtue of having done your homework, you could be right. But you are not a time traveler. You are not a psychic. You are probably not a prophet. Science says it is impossible for you to know right now all the things you’ll know at the end of your life. So does math. And religion. And logic. The point is stop it. I know a lot of people who once said “I’ll never meet somebody who meets my standards” who are now married to somebody who meets their standards and have four children.

3. “Single life is not a vocation.”

Except it is, and if it’s yours, telling yourself it isn’t is going to unnecessarily disappoint you. “Some people must accept that, in the Providence of God, they have been called to a single life. Worse things could happen!” (Fr. Benedict Groeschel). Neither I nor Groeschel are asking you to decide today to be single forever. I am, however, asking you to decide today to tell yourself a different story about single life from now on: that it isn’t the worst thing that could happen to you.

4. “I’m unlovable (or unattractive, or boring, etc.).”

If you are not a human, then maybe. But you are a human, and humans are of intrinsic, infinite value, on the neverending receiving end of authentic love and unabashed affection from the creator of the universe, in whose not-unattractive, not-boring image you are created. You are not just lovable. You are loved.

What else ought we not say to ourselves while we’re single?

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

  • Lorrie Yunace

    “I am alone and loneliness is my suferring in my single life” I am never alone!! I will always have Christ with me and in me. The question is will I absorb myself in the most important relationship of my life? Will I aknowledge His ever presence? Will i allow Him to be my best Friend, my Councellor , the lover of my soul? Yes loneliness is a sufferring and can unite us to the Cross. JESUS knew loneliness in this world..
    abandoned by his own followers while carrying the Cross. Literally read this last night loneliness can change into a solitude where one can recommit to the LORD and enjoy His companionship. I need to live my single life joyfully

  • Brian Baudoin

    “If it wasn’t for my faith or my commitment to Chastity I wouldn’t be single right now. Without that, it’d be so easy to find someone.”

    Honestly I’ve been single for a little while and the past few girls I’ve given dating a shot with didn’t work out largely because of differing views on chastity. And the thought above has been in my mind a TON the past year. But I’ve seen and learned enough to know that it’s better to be single than with the wrong person. I know that if I compromise just for the sake of finding someone so I won’t be single then I’m not really giving myself to them in an honest way. They won’t be receiving who I actually am, just the counterfeit version I made up to get them to be with me. Not the way to find love.

    • Arleen Spenceley

      Ooo! This! Yes. I’ve heard that story a lot, too — And re: “I know that if I compromise just for the sake of finding someone so I won’t be single then I’m not really giving myself to them in an honest way.” …AMEN. I might have to Twitter quote you on that later.

      • Brian Baudoin

        haha fine by me

  • Liberty

    No Arleen, being single is NOT a Vocation. There is nothing in church teaching to support it as a Vocation, so you need to stop preaching false facts. There is no theology of single people, no ceremony which declares this is the forever choice (as in marriage or religious life), no inclusion of it as a vocation in prayers of the faithful or by the vast majority of priests or even Catholics because it does not exist as a VOCATION. There are some people who, by nature of their SSA or inability to consummate a marriage, who are called to live their lives as single people and there are those who become *consecrated* lay people but this is NOT the case for the MAJORITY of single Catholics who have not wanted to stay single, felt called to marriage, but have not found a spouse. You just don’t seem to get it.

    Read these-
    “Reading the Holy Father’s letter on women, Mulieris Dignitatem, reinforced my suspicions. In that document, John Paul II says that God calls all women to give themselves in one of two ways — in motherhood or in consecration to Christ.

    No mention of singleness in there.

    In fact, I find no mention of an unconsecrated single “vocation” in Church teaching anywhere. As far as the Church is concerned, it doesn’t exist.”

    “Is being single a vocation?

    I posed this question to Dr. Theresa Notare, Assistant Director of
    the Natural Family Planning Program at the Secretariat for Laity,
    Marriage, Family Life and Youth of the United States Conference of
    Catholic Bishops, and the quick answer is no: Being single is a state in
    life, not a vocation. Being single can be support for your
    vocation to follow God’s call to you to help others, to do good works,
    etc., but it is not a vocation in and of itself.

    Marriage, Dr. Notare explains, is an example of a vocation that
    requires a precise state of life. “Marriage is the vocation that a man
    and a woman are given by God to form a unique communion of persons in
    service of love and life. Only a man and a woman can enter marriage — together.
    One cannot enter into this vocation ‘on your own!’ Obviously, the two
    people have to meet each other first and then, in getting to know each
    other, also discern if God is calling them to marry each other,” she
    says, adding “It is important to remember that a person can ‘hope for’
    or ‘be open to’ marriage, but it cannot be lived until one finds his/her


    You wanting there to be a vocation for all single Catholics who aren’t married doesn’t mean there is a vocation. Right now there is a crisis in the church no one is addressing: the millions and millions of Catholics who felt called to marriage but haven’t found spouses. This isn’t because they are *meant* to be single but because the church has failed to address the change in culture, the fact that millions of those spouses might have been aborted, that married Catholics now regard single people as less than and fail to include them in their communities or introduce them to possible, faithful spouses. It is definitely easier to pretend that “there’s a third vocation to be single and everyone not married has it” but its not the truth.

    Never in my other comments did I say that being single is the worst thing that can happen to someone (maybe it is though when you are older and alone and get sick with cancer and have no family or anyone to care for you). THIS “Neither I nor Groeschel are asking you to decide today to be single forever. I am, however, asking you to decide today to tell yourself a different story about single life from now on: that it isn’t the worst thing that could happen to you.” just proves my point that being single is NOT a Vocation. A Vocation IS a forever thing. If you *choose* to become a priest then you are always a priest. If you *choose* to be married then you are always married, even if your spouse dies. If you feel called to marriage but cannot find a spouse and remain single you did not choose to be single. If you get to age 50 and meet a spouse then your vocation was not *single.* That is why it is a state of life, not a vocation. It is one thing to say change your attitude and be open to waiting for God to reveal his plan to you. It is another to say stop saying you hate being single because you are meant to be single.

    You are doing a great disservice by continuing to tell people (and yourself) that there is a common Vocation to singlehood. It is NOT supported by anything in the church other than wishful thinking.

    Oh and number 1: if there are people who would date you but you haven’t met them yet and you never meet them then what good is it to think there are people who would date you? It puts you in the same mental/emotional place. When you go years and years without ever meeting those people who would date you and then you turn thirty and keep going and then reach your mid thirties and you still haven’t met them it kinda doesn’t feel good. No this is not an indication you are *meant* to be single or in religious life. When you say such things to devout people who have tried to listen to God all their lives and who know they are called to marriage you are really being insulting and arrogant. If I asked you why aren’t you becoming a religious sister what would you say? That you know God is calling you to marriage? Then why don’t you trust other people know what they are called to in their own lives?

    • PerfectlyImperfect

      If the
      millions and millions of Catholics who feel called to marriage but
      haven’t found his or her spouse yest is a crisis in the church, though I don’t think it is, it seems to be widely addressed at every young adult group I attend. It seems as though everyone is addressing this subject, and not just in the Catholic Church. Fashion lines geared toward modesty are popular. Blogs and books by authors and speakers like Arleen are popular. Thank goodness, and Praise God that millions of those potential spouses are still in circulation, equally single and attending one of Arleen’s speaking engagements or a Theology On Tap across town right now! And *no* married Catholics whom I have ever met seem to have regarded me as their subordinate; in fact they often try to fix me up! As for being included in the communities of married couples, well, I get invited to a lot of their parties, but don’t they deserve a little “quiet time” with just each other as well? And, again– I think if I bring the right bottle of wine or tasty baked dish to the parties they DO invite me to, then they will of course continue to introduce me to possible,
      faithful spouses; after all, if I’m a good party guest they don’t want to lose me to a different circle of friends. Its all in looking online for new jokes (because I can never remember the old ones LOL!) And, Yes, being single is a state in life … until you make it permanent as a Consecrated Celibate. But it may feel like or function in practical application like your vocation (if you’re open-hearted enough to listen to God’s call) But even if my single state in life remains as such until I take a vow of consecrated celibacy, even then … I think I ought to strive to be a good friend (and party guest) who tells funny jokes. What if I die in 6 months, do I really want my last 6 months to be pitiful and miserable because I’m single? What if I meet my future spouse in 6 months, will she even like me if I just spent the last 6 months behaving pitifully or miserably because I was single? Scripture tells us that God calls us to be Joyful in ALL things! How we prepare ourselves to be open to God’s joy in our daily lives says a lot about what happened to us previously … who formed us, taught us, gave us suggestions on choices we make? Now that we’re adults, how do we form & shape ourselves; what movies & books & music do we absorb information from? Are we participating in events with like-minded friends, such as The King’s Men, Generation Life, The Culture Project and so many other good influences? Do we attend confession regularly to dislodge negative thoughts or behaviors, allowing both our spiritual and our physical lives to be reopened again to God’s loving grace? My friend just posted a cute story about advice from his son, and I know it applies to me in my daily life. The children were going ice skating and the younger daughter was just learning how.

      Luke’s Skating Lesson Advice for Olivia:

      Step 1: “Get out there”
      Step 2: “Do it!”

      Big brothers. Sometimes I could use a big brother just like him.

      • Arleen Spenceley

        PREACH! 🙂

      • Liberty

        “Young adult” groups are generally for people under 30 and even if they are for ages 20-40 that is a huge age difference. Most 30 year olds aren’t interested in hanging out with 20 year olds at social gatherings when looking for spouses. You didn’t mention how old you are but it is a very different thing to be over 30 and single and surrounded by married couples who also don’t understand how it is to be single and over 30. It’s just not the same thing. I never said married people are required to invite single people to every single thing. Nice for you that you have people who do invite you to things and invite people for you to meet. Not everyone has friends who do that or a very large community to draw friends from. This notion that you have to make a good dish in order to be invited back really sucks. Like being a human being who is considered a friend isn’t good enough? It’s just about what you give to the couple that gets you invited? Again not everyone has a group of Catholic friends to invite you to do things.

        Yes, the whole point of my comment was that being single is a state of life, NOT a vocation, unless someone chooses to become a consecrated single. I didn’t ask advice for how to live my life. You don’t know how I approach life and I don’t need a lecture on being cheerful every moment. I try my best to live a faithful Catholic life. Again, not everyone has a group of like minded friends to attend events with or even such events to attend. Perhaps you live in a large metropolitan area with lots of Catholic parishes and events. Not everyone does. It is difficult to “get out there” when there’s nothing to get to and no one to go there with.

  • safeblonde

    And then maybe say: “I will change”. Not happy with your weight? Diet and exercise. Not happy with your face? Harder, but maybe minor plastic surgery will help! I know that some things you don’t like about your single self CAN be changed.

  • Episteme

    One caveat: if you’re the time traveler from #2, #1 is irrelevant – who wouldn’t want to go on a date with a time traveller? Even beyond the issue of the freedom to go on dates anywhen, his/her schedule would technically be totally open thanks to the time machine!

    My thought is: “Balance the moral & spiritual reasons behind our temporal flaws.” The reason that I don’t date (and haven’t over the past decade, despite my deep call to marriage and fatherhood) is economic. At 35, I may be a chaste daily communicant, but I can’t face my failures as a “provider.” Having given up career to be caregiver to my elder father, I look at my part-time-work economic situation and starting-over-grad-school when I moved back to my hometown as a strict prohibition on being considered attractive by any Catholic (or otherwise Christian) woman, given the great noise made about Man as Provider paying for her to be at home with the children. Just as my previous work experience literally doesn’t count in the field in which I continue to try to find work (in an area where it doesn’t exist – except occasionally where I can’t ethically apply – but I won’t leave my father like my brothers have, so I’m stuck), my domestic skills are worthless in a culture that determine that I can’t be considered for SAHD for reasons of biblical exegesis. So I remain alone, struggle on half an income, and care for a deteriorating old man while I realize that I’m not going to have anyone to do the same for me when I’m in his place.

    Other singles, DON’T DO THIS!

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  • Annay Cervantes

    Forever alone! I really dislike when i see this on fb. We need to realize We are never alone Christ is with us even when we feel alone. We need to look at the bright side of things seems like some single people always look at the negative side of things. While we are single we have more time to dedicate ourselves to the Lord:) and allow God to change us so we can learn to love ourselves and then others.