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How do you handle the “I can’t believe you’re still single!” comments from people? I think they mean well, but it’s still discouraging.
This statement is usually said to me at weddings. And I generally respond with, “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT EITHER! Thanks for affirming my fear that I smell like cheese and will die alone!”
Then I try to give some grace as I remind myself that most people filter life through their own stories.
They got married young. They think you are great. They think marriage is great. Therefore they can’t understand why you wouldn’t be married. In their efforts to encourage you, they end up making you feel like you must have a mysterious fungus that repels possible dates.
An example of someone’s words probably coming out differently than they intended occurred during a baby dedication at my church. It started like this…
One father was sharing how he and his wife couldn’t get pregnant. He said, “I finally realized we were going to have to adopt. I knew this would be so hard—BUT a miracle happened! We got pregnant!”
The tone he used when saying “have to adopt” rang in my ears as though it was the worst possible option. I wanted to stand up and yell, “Hey! My brother just adopted the most amazing boy in the world! Adoption RULES!”
The reality is, this guy was explaining his mourning over the loss of a picture he had painted for their lives. He was contrasting the pain he was feeling of hope deferred with the joy of finding out their pregnancy surprise. He wasn’t bashing adoption…
…I just chose to hear it that way and react out of my experience.
When I got a grip, my annoyance turned to joy. I realized that while the words flowing from his heart to his mouth may have bypassed his P.C. filter, he was being totally honest and my reaction was wrong.
So, why do I share this story?
Often the people you run into at weddings are also speaking from a place of honesty. As you said, they probably mean well, and they’re simply saying the first thing that comes out of their mouths via their hearts—not trying to annoy you or make you wonder why you smell like Gouda.
Let’s try to get in their shoes by backing up the convo two steps.
Them: “So, are you here with anyone?”
You: “Nope. I’m not seeing anyone at the moment.”
In .0004577 seconds, the following subconscious thoughts arise in their minds. (Read this fast like the Micro Machines Man and insert your name in the blanks.)
I can’t believe ______ is single! ______ is amazing, attractive, talented, smart, and far more of a catch than I was. How in the world did I get someone to marry me? I feel slightly guilty and awkward that I have someone and they don’t. Ahhh, now I feel like I have made them self-conscious. I’m uncomfortable so I’m sure they are uncomfortable. I should let them know how amazing they are.
Before they can let their emotional heart response take a pit stop in the “tactful” department of their brain…
…out of their mouth comes,
“I can’t believe you’re still single!”
See, they mean well. (Unless of course they followed up with, “Especially since there are so many people in this town who seem like they would date anyone!”)
It’s easy for me to say, “See, they mean well. Don’t be discouraged; it’s a compliment!” But when it’s actually in my face, it’s a bit more difficult. Like the baby dedication story, the words sting because it’s a pain I have felt and questions I have asked. Their comments remind me of my fears.
Joy, why are you still single? What if you can’t have kids?
While being single or not having children is a choice for some people, I believe for many it’s a vivid painting of our brokenness. So this summer, when you attend wedding after wedding or baby shower after baby shower and people ask questions that sting the heart just enough to wake it up and remind you how tired it is, smile.
Replace the thoughts of discouragement or annoyance with a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13).
Make a choice that you will trust His goodness and that He knows what He is doing. Then, after you realize you have been smiling and talking to God in your head and an awkward amount of silence has passed, look at “them” and choose to trust the goodness of man as well.
Then respond. (You’ve been talking to God in your head for a bit and the silence and awkward smile you have had on your face is starting to get creepy.)
Maybe ask them a question.
Like, “So when did you start going gray?”
From my heart,
Love and Respect (Now) is a division of Love and Respect. Please be considerate.