Alone In A Crowd

One of my favorite things about singleness is being available to people. Not to say I’m fancy-free with no responsibilities (I hate that assumption), but since I’m not focused on one main relationship, I can spend my relational energy pretty freely. I can rearrange my schedule if needed without consulting anyone. It’s gratifying when I can drop everything to be there for a friend or family member – or just to hang out in a spontaneous, low-key way when no one is having a crisis. In those moments, I’m so thankful for my independence.

But freedom has a dark side. Those spontaneous moments are much rarer than sitcoms and movies would have you believe. I find I need a huge stable of casual local friends to increase my odds of finding one person to see a movie with, and that’s a double-edged sword too. It means I have to spread myself thin, when I’d rather invest more fully in fewer, richer relationships. Meanwhile, it’s becoming the norm to go weeks or even months at a time without seeing some of my closest friends. Not because they don’t like me anymore, but because we’re all too busy, and their significant others and/or children rightfully have first dibs on their relational time. Coupled people undeniably need friends and community, but in a less immediate way than singles do. Especially singles who live alone, with no built-in (human) companion, no go-to person. I remind myself constantly that this is the natural order of things. It’s normal for dating or married people not to prioritize face time with friends. It’s normal for mothers to be consumed with their kids and socialize primarily with other moms. It’s practically the foundation of our society. But meanwhile, how do I remain positive with the message, You are the odd one, you are outside the natural order, so your needs don’t matter ringing in my ears?

Even when I can find people to hang out with, I feel like most of my relationships are on an Eight or Higher policy. I can’t regularly go to anyone with my twos and threes without fear of annoying or alienating them – I mean, who wants to be That Friend whose name on the phone display induces sighing? – and they don’t need me for theirs. Am I supposed to give up on my long-term friendships and find new friends who are in the exact same phase of life… then rinse and repeat once they start families of their own and move on? I don’t believe in that. But what am I supposed to do with my relational needs? How can I believe that singleness is an equally valid state of being if we’re just out of luck in this important area? It’s so tempting to shut my heart down and become an island. To say, Whatever, I don’t need anyone.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this, and I know it’s not necessarily a singles-only problem. I hear similar stories from long-distance friends, many of whom are married. Making and maintaining real friendships as an adult is often just plain hard.

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
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11 Responses to Alone In A Crowd

  1. Duchess says:

    Nope, you’re not alone in this. Nice to know I’m not alone in this either. I completely agree!

  2. Tessa says:

    That is really tough. There is no easy answer, unfortunately. Even as a married person with children, I can relate so much. You have social needs and friendship needs that are independent of motherhood, but how you meet them to a full degree is challenging under the responsibilities that dominate your life. I think it goes back to how our society is structured. If we lived in communities or villages or something, we would all see each other in a daily life sort of way, which is completely different than how we have to operate. Your right, it’s just hard. :-(

  3. How can I believe that singleness is an equally valid state of being if we’re just out of luck in this important area?

    I don’t think there’s realistically any way of escaping this aspect of being single when one’s friends or peers become married and take on the relations of their new families. From a Christian perspective, if you’ll forgive me for being slightly hard about this, I don’t think there is supposed to be either. When the Apostle Paul talked about the virtues of celibacy, he spoke of the state as one inherently less devoted to personal relationships in this world and more devoted to Godly pursuits. Of course, I realize that you are almost certainly not talking about singleness as a lifelong calling for yourself, but, rather, as a state you are in transiently now, but right there is the difficult and almost entirely unavoidable part: even if being single is just one’s condition while one awaits or looks for a spouse, one still has to take the relational deprivation along with it. The advice the Apostle gives of devoting oneself more to the things of God is no solution to your desire for more or better earthly relational contact, but it’s not supposed to be, and I don’t think—except maybe for some few singles who are exceptionally lucky—there’s any way around it. Not for the most part anyway.

    For my own part, the main thing I worry about for living alone is how long it would take for someone to decide to break down my door, if I should for some horrible reason “fall silent” to the outside world … well, that’s not true: I’m more worried about whether anyone would have the decency to give my cat a good home, if I should expire before she does. But, it seems, I’m not just a hard man … I’m also kind of a morbid one. ;-)

    • Maybe it is unavoidable, but I have a hard time believing it’s God’s intention. That seems too cruel. I think we can do better as a society and as a Church to create real community even for those who don’t have families of their own.

      I definitely don’t feel Called to Singleness, but I have no evidence that things will ever change for me. I’m just trying to do the best I can with what I have.

    • Well, it surely isn’t God’s intention that others treat you callously or that your associations (parish, what have you) make you feel unwelcome: that’s a matter of what the people involved choose. Nonetheless, God permits it and warns us to expect it. The way is narrow. It’s not supposed to be easy. Of course you can try “on the ground,” as they say, to improve things among those you know—talk to your friends or try to influence things at your church. Goodness knows it doesn’t have to be this way for singles in every parish (and in fact my own experience with Orthodox parishes is that they don’t have this kind of problem of excluding the unmarried, at least not to the degree I see others complain of online). But, as we all know, God allows all manner of sorrows to fall upon us.

      Just this weekend the author of a blog I follow confessed to debilitating depression. I mean as in, getting out of bed is an accomplishment and brushing one’s teeth is a maybe, if she has to leave the house. Is that God’s intention? Does this person have any idea what to do about it? Are her friends or family aware of it? Doing nothing or simply unable to figure out what to do to help her? Sometimes life just stinks, and God lets it.

      As I often say, since, although it’s not so reassuring, it’s about the best one can say (besides “life stinks”), hang in there.

  4. Jamie says:

    Love the HIMYM reference. :)
    I don’t have any solutions to add to the convo, but I wanted you to know that you are seen and heard. This is hard and it just seems so unfair in so many ways. Systemic, even. I, too, long for that community prototype where no one feels left out. Where no one has to hesitate to share their twos and threes.
    You are brave to share this. Praying for a way forward because your needs do matter. <3

  5. whitt_amy says:

    You’re definitely not the only one who struggles with this!

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