Always A Bridesmaid and Never a Bride

12698453_805008379644694_4219333476885333484_o (1)Last week, my good friend Shari posted a guest post I’d written for her blog. I wrote 500 words  about something I don’t hear a lot of conversation about. I wasn’t planning to post it on my blog, but here we are, in a more-or-less quarantine, on-line more than normal, with more free time than normal. I don’t usually ask for  interaction from readers, but there again, we’re breathing different air right now.

So let’s talk.

“My church doesn’t know what to do with me.”

I’ve heard this line from singles many times. Maybe it’s the default setting in a sub-culture that greatly values marriage and family, but it always makes me sad. However, I’m deeply grateful for a church that gives me a place and lets us singles feel welcome, equal, and human.

Some things they do to give us a place:

  1. The ladies look for ways for us to be together—ladies’ evenings when the men have brother’s meeting, women’s retreats, extra ladies’ nights when we relax and laugh and tell stories.
  2. The men meet my eyes and shake my hand after church. They regularly publicly honor and praise single and married women’s contributions to the families, school, and church.
  3. Families invite me for meals and tuck leftover food into my bag as I leave because they know I don’t have all day to cook.
  4. They treat me like an individual with a life: they remember my birthday and ask about my family. They care about my dreams.
  5. The men generously give advice and assistance in their area of expertise: purchasing and maintaining a car, phone, house, or garden, which can include pest control, yard work, or a mechanic’s number.
  6. They send us reports of their brother’s meetings.
  7. Church treats us like people who have something valuable to contribute, and so we’re on the hostess list and the church cleaning list and the list of people for jobs on reorganization night. And no, I don’t like the job they gave me but it means they believe in me.
  8. They compliment my clothes. They remember I was gone last week and ask about the trip. They remember to ask about things we’ve talked about before.
  9. They don’t ask us singles to serve the Valentine’s banquet.
  10. They invite me to join their family in the fellowship dinner line.

Some time ago, in another place, I was helping to host an event and several men acted as if I wasn’t there. Were they wanting to prove their loyalty to their wives? Was I intimidating or dangerous? I got a taste of my friends’ lines: “They don’t know what to do with me,” and I felt newly thankful for the conversations, camaraderie, and support the men in our church give to me and other single women.

A key part of this is that healthy relationships are two-way streets. I aim to give more than I take. I need to contribute, not just consume. I must plug in, make effort, invest, because the good life is not about me and my comfort. I often don’t feel like going to cell group or bringing food for an event or doing my assigned job, but who does? And who will have the richest life—those who stay home and curl into a ball when they feel like it, or those who push themselves to do hard things and love their people?

It goes both ways, but if you know a single in your church, think about how you could love her well and let her feel like she matters and belongs.

Now back to you:

What would you add to this list of 10? Which ones do you feel aren’t important?

What keeps you from engaging with someone with a different marital status than you?

What do we singles do that makes us seem threatening or dangerous to marriages?

To be clear: extended singleness isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a person. It’s not a crisis situation, and there are much, much worse, harder scenarios to live in. But singleness IS a disenfranchised grief. There are no sympathy or thinking-of-you cards that address it, and singleness doesn’t keep getting better every year like a good marriage apparently does. So it’s a lonely place for most of us, and one where good role models are scarce, and it’s hard to talk well about it without sounding bitter or desperate.

So.

Let’s hear each other, ask questions, and walk toward wholeness and mutual understanding. This isn’t a platform for bitterness or accusation. We all need each other and we’re all far more alike than we are different.

We all want to matter, to make a difference.

We all want to know we’re beautiful and loveable and not obnoxious.

We all are hungry for more connection and less isolation.

What would you add to the lists of commonalities and ways to integrate?

22 thoughts on “Always A Bridesmaid and Never a Bride

  1. I agree, corona has made more time and even interest to relate in a cyber type way. I miss coffee and a table with friends but this is us for now. I *think* the not knowing what to with can happen to any given situation if we aren’t intentional about our own lives not becoming a cage including only familiar. For example, I have actually heard similarly stated sentiments when it is a mom with a large family or a married lady with no children. A broken home or widow. A family that has lost a child and so on. We have done very well putting in care plans and I believe they are pure as gold in intentions and help tremendously. Flowers, cards, meals, asking how we can help,committees to address giant holes in our church or community in relating to lifestyles that aren’t in exact reflection of our definitions of typical, etc. I wonder if we fail most when we have not personally walked with someone in a life different than ours or our typical peers and setting. We start relating to the world around us as if we are relating to a particular condition and miss the actual person? I am not too great with writing and so coffee and a table is much easier to try to relate what i intend (miss it there too some times) so this may have just been read entirely different than what i hope to say. 🙂 So in conclusion, I feel like integration is not an action to the “different” , though it would obviously include fleshing out and putting into motion. I feel like integration is missed when we suffocate ourselves out of the bigger picture in life, recognizing and valuing the many, many different ways life is lived. So much broader than what we have adopted personally and making effort to see our world around us, people who do it differently. Singlehood seems to be one of the stages our lack of embracing a bigger life definition dances on. Great questions and comments you shared, love thinking through certain significant paths of life but ultimately want to see all paths leading to a bigger view of life, people around us.

    • Yes, Angie, I’d love coffee with you about now!
      You mention some other very real disenfranchised groups and I think you’re right about not keeping ourselves isolated from life’s bigger picture, and making effort to broaden our experiences and understanding.

  2. You said it well, Anita! I’ve been so blessed with married friends who make an effort to include me. Small groups have been a meaningful place to form deeper friendships with ladies. It’s also a place to get to know their husbands better and have the opportunity to get their input. I’m also part of a school community that is very supportive as well. Moms of students who drop off food for those of us who would need to go home and cook are such a blessing.
    We play a part in all of this as well. I’ve observed singles who lack commitment. If you want to be involved in church, you need to be committed. No one appreciates that person that frequently backs out of responsibilities. I have to be okay with the fact that my conversations with married friends are often interrupted by their children.
    I do feel like since our churches are largely made up of married couples, it is very difficult for singles to put the first step forward especially if the married couples don’t return the effort.

  3. Hi Anita, I’m wondering…what was the occasion when that picture was taken, you blowing bubbles with that cute little boy? I like your blog post. Btw…how are you doing? What are doing with yourself these days? Are you able to work? Or are you not able to work these days? I’m sure it’s very unhandy when you’re not doing what you’re used to doing. I hope you have a very lovely, relaxing, and blessed weekend! Lovingly, Sara Nisly On Fri, Mar 27, 2020 at 4:35 PM Tis a Gift to Receive wrote:

    > Life is For Living book posted: “Last week, my good friend Shari posted a > guest post I’d written for her blog. I wrote 500 words about something I > don’t hear a lot of conversation about. I wasn’t planning to post it on my > blog, but here we are, in a more-or-less quarantine, on-line more” >

    • Hi Sara! The picture was taken at my sister’s wedding a couple years ago. I was a bridesmaid, waiting around for the reception to start, and keeping my darling nephew occupied with bubbles!
      I’m doing really well, working from home, but it’s disruptive all right. Hope you’re well too!

  4. I like your list of ways to interact with your church and community, as a single. I’m relatively new to this ‘single and on my own’ life. What I miss the most is good input from men. I can initiate all the female connections that I’d like. Sometimes it takes a lot of persistence to make the schedule work out with my married friends. But, how to have good interactions with men in a socially acceptable and comfortable setting is more difficult…

    • Thanks, Karla. Yes, your dilemma is very valid and real, and demonstrates how much we need balanced input. I have some single friends who initiate friendship with a couple with the understanding that this is about male contribution to their lives.

  5. I love this whole conversation. Thank you for drawing us in… and that picture is so glorious I would like to frame it.

    For myself, I have been blessed by so many single friends of quality, insight, and beauty that it’s hard for me to remember they might feel a need to be “brought in.” I see them bringing a level of competence and focus that many of the rest of us – whoever that is – struggle to attain. My single friends tend to pursue personal development and opportunity more intentionally, making them rounded and capable people, with a lot to offer both personally and professionally. They’re among our very best communicators, Sunday school teachers, elementary teachers, researchers, designers, writers, and prayer-bringers. ❤

    Maybe we need to say it more often, the things we love about the other.

    • Thanks, Shari. I love that happy picture too!
      Your affirmation and naming of singles’ gifts is huge to me. And yes to naming the things we love about the other. That will be what is truly life-giving and will take down whatever barriers are there.
      What I love about moms is how giving and selfless you are. It blows me away, the unending care and spending every ounce of yourself for your little ones. It’s beautiful to me and often makes me wonder if I’m being a selfish little girl in comparison. That said, I thank God every morning for an unbroken night of sleep! I don’t know how moms stay alive when they’re woken up at all hours or with little people sitting on their heads.

  6. i’m blessed to have a number of singles in my church family. and i feel very much accepted by the church as a whole. i get more respect from my church family & coworkers than i do from my own blood family. i think it has a lot to do with folks’ experiences. those who have adult singles & widows in their extended families do better than those who have had no exposure to single adults. i tend to be a little shy around men & would rather sneak by without saying something instead of interrupting a group just to say hi. but there are several men in my congregation who will not let me get away with it. but i do have to remind myself to take an interest in the lives of others too, not just expect them to care about me & my life. to have a friend we must be a friend. i don’t remember where in proverbs that is to get the quote right.

    • Yes, you’re right! Our experiences often inform us more than our imagination about another’s life. We don’t know what we don’t know. That’s why I wanted to start this conversation–for awareness and an opportunity to learn.

  7. Sometimes I think that the greatest hurt we do to each other is to assume that because we walk different paths, we have nothing to say or hear from each other. I’m barely old enough to consider myself really “single.” However, I have made this observation, that because many churches don’t know what to do with single people, means singles need to find bridges to build or walk across. The Lord has given me the sweet and natural bridge of children. My married friends love their children, their lives often revolve around their children; and when I take the moments to speak with their child, ask them about their baby, or relate a story from school about their child, they subconsciously realize that I am quite human and relatable.

    One other thing I’ll add, and I might be wrong in this. No self-respecting person wants pity. We each have our own grief and we welcome empathy and sympathy even, but never pity. And don’t ask me to describe the difference because its a difference we feel more than articulate, I think. 🙂

  8. Thank you for your words, Anita. Something I’ve been thinking recently is how it doesn’t take a lot for us to bless each other and I saw that in your post- for example, the handshake and look in the eye. I think it’s often for me a matter of looking outward and seeing/valuing others and being attuned to their well-being versus being wrapped up in my own life.
    I appreciate the practical advice you gave on how to love singles well.

  9. I have appreciated your book about being single. Your honesty is refreshing! I think sometimes as married people we don’t talk about our sorrows. Sometimes husbands & wives hurt each other deeply, & it’s easy to react to each other. We, too, need God’s grace. I don’t say that to minimize your struggles, but to be honest about my own. God bless you, & may you find His name to be a strong tower, a safe place where you are loved & cared for!

    • Thanks for engaging here, and for your honesty! Yes, we are all in desperate need of God’s grace. The scenario you pointed out illustrates how much we need other people–for us women, we all need at least one older, more experienced woman to walk with us and be a wise voice when we’re lost or floundering. I would be MUCH less of a person if it weren’t for the mentors and trusted women in my life!

  10. Good words, Anita! I have two main experience-related thoughts, and it is possible they’re actually the same thought.
    1. This topic reminds me a bit of other griefs in life, and the positions it puts people. The uncomfortable, “What do I say? How do I relate to something I don’t understand?” of the comforter. The uncomfortable, “I know this is awkward for them. It is for me too, and I don’t have anything to say back.” of the mourner. The uncomfortable, “There isn’t anything right to say, so I’ll just try to understand the pain but try not to understand too much because it isn’t the same as my grief…” of the comforter who has once mourned. Is that difficult tension similar to other scenarios where people are experiencing different walks in life?
    2. As a young happily married person, I am fascinated by how little I know how to operate in the social realm. It was comfortable (albeit sometimes lonely, etc., but still!) to be single. I knew how to operate independently. Now, with some new roles, I am needing to relearn what my interactions with the category I am now in (married) should look like as well as my interactions with the category it seems like I should still be in (single) all should be.

    I wonder if the best thing a person can do, regardless of the situation, is simply to truly listen and show care?

  11. Hi Anita,
    Thanks so much for sharing on this subject! I was encouraged! And the title describes my feelings very well…
    I am blessed to have singles in my church family. My church does very well with including singles to join their families in their home for a meal, etc. Occasionally I am invited to go camping with a few families which makes me very happy!! Camping is a lot of work and you just need a man to do some of that.
    Fellowship meals can sometimes be awkward. It would be nice to be invited to join a family in the line because that’s a prime time to be able to have conversation with a married couple and get some male input as well.
    One couple from church has a single daughter living at home and they don’t mind at all if the rest of us ladies come over for a meal, and spend time with them around the table talking, playing games, etc.

    Blessings!
    Irene

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