Yesterday, I related a conversation, in which a single girl explained her married friend’s repeated attempts to hook her up by saying the married woman wants “everyone to be as happy as they are”. When I protested the idea that single people cannot be as happy as a married person, I was informed by the married lady that since the single girl was so “miserable” she was “trying to fix that”.
I saw two unfortunate, and possibly dangerous, assumptions in that conversation. The first assumption – that single people cannot possibly be happy – we discussed yesterday.
Assumption 2: We should get unhappy single people married as quickly as possible
If the married woman in the conversation above had another married friend who was in a “seven year itch” sort of dissatisfied-with-marriage malaise, would she seek to help that married woman stop being married? Would she recommend solving that funk with a change of marital circumstance? Of course not!
Then why are we so quick to prescribe a change of marital status for single folks?
“That’s different!” you might protest. “Marriage is a sacred covenant to honor and uphold. Sure there are times of discontent, but that’s not a good reason to break the covenant!”
True. And according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, singleness is also sacred. Singleness, too, is to be honored, nurtured, and lived to its fullest. Jesus’ life exemplifies a complete, well-lived life that did not include marriage.
I am not anti-marriage, but I do protest the idea that the answer to a single person’s discontent is for them to get married ASAP. I protest this as much as the idea that discontent (I’m not talking about abuse or infidelity here!) is a good reason for divorce. It’s the fallacy that in order to fix our discontentment we must change our circumstances.
This I find to be the most dangerous assumption. Instead of urging one another to find joy in life as it is now, single friends go on romantic daydream group sessions. Instead of encouraging single people in their contentment, married people attempt to set us up in ways that convince us we could never be happy as we are in the present.
This assumption buys into the “happily ever after” fairy tale (have you never met a discontent married person? really?), while linking contentment not to God but to circumstance. It ignores Paul’s boast of contentment through God’s power in every situation and teaches us instead to pursue happiness by our own schemes.
Writing about experiencing rejection in a deeply personal relationship, Henri Nouwen writes in Spiritual Direction,
It was an enormous opportunity to grow into the truth of knowing that only God can give me what I want from another person. …it was God’s way of calling me to claim my belovedness and embodiment as a human being, to listen to that voice and hear God say, “I love you with an unconditional love. With or without a particular person in your life, I am with you and I am what you need.”
Let’s make sure we’re urging one another on towards contentment instead of stoking the fires of dissatisfaction.
What do you think is the most dangerous assumption people make about single friends? Do you agree the idea that the answer to discontent is a change in circumstances can be dangerous?