A couple months ago I rejoined Instagram. I hadn’t used it since 2014, but after living in Czech Republic for over two years, I had beautiful pictures and needed to put them somewhere. Also, at the end of April, I adopted an adorable 3 legged dog and knew I’d be taking LOTS of pictures of him.
Instagram has changed over the years. It is still about displaying pictures on social media, but it is also a platform for promotion, sales and expressing opinions – just like all other social media now. But when did Instagram become a place to find a romantic relationship?
Since rejoining, a few men have messaged me, often immediately asking me personal questions about my relationship status. I enjoy meeting new people and as a writer, I like hearing people’s stories; therefore, I am open to messages from strangers and usually respond as long nothing inappropriate is said. However, once it is obvious that someone is only messaging me because they are trying to find a ‘more-than-friends’ relationship, I politely respond that I am not looking for romance at this time. Usually, after that, they stop messaging me and often stop following my IG. No big deal.
Lately there’s been a man who has made it clear that he is interested in pursuing a relationship with me (despite not knowing me at all), and even proclaiming he was sure he could make me “the happiest woman in the world”.
Well, that is a nice (and rather bold) statement especially since he has no idea what makes me happy. So I responded with my go-to message that I am not looking for a relationship.
I received a very unexpected response saying, (direct quote), “I want you to know that a person without love in his heart, is not a person at all. Love is the only warrior who in the battle of feelings, instead of fighting for itself, fights for the sake of others.”
So, because I’m not currently looking for a romantic relationship, it means I have no love in my heart? I’m sorry, but….WHAT???
It honestly made me laugh because it so ridiculous. Yes, I am a 38 year old, never married, single woman who doesn’t have kids. And my life is full of love.
I have an incredible family, wonderful friends, fantastic colleagues and many lovely acquaintances. I am honoured to work with amazing youth who bring me so much joy. There is no shortage of love in my life.
Most importantly, I have Jesus – a love so encompassing and enormous that it is impossible to truly comprehend or describe.
This whole exchange, (I received more messages about how life is too short to be “single and lonely”, and there’s no happiness without someone to wake up to, etc), made me think about how our culture views singleness, especially single women.
I’ve been thinking back over past years of my life and the many questions about my singleness or the assumptions made. Throughout my twenties I was always asked when I would ‘settle down’ and get married. Friends, family, and even people I barely knew were constantly trying to set me up. Well-meaning, (although somewhat clueless) people would point out random men to me and ask if I ‘liked him’.
I usually played along with the game, pretending I was dating or looking for someone. And at times, I honestly was. I was looking for a relationship because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. I was looking to get married and have kids because that’s what makes people happy, right? It’s what all of my friends were doing, and all most of them talked about.
If I didn’t follow the cultural norm, there was something wrong with me, right? If I didn’t want to get married and have kids, it meant I was selfish, right? At least, that was the message I often got. (A message that my single male friends rarely received).
I remember being invited to a married friend’s birthday party when I was 29. We had many mutual friends and I was looking forward to all of us hanging out. Except when I got to the party, I didn’t know anyone else there and they were all at least 6 years younger than me. I was confused – where were the rest of my friends? Were they not invited?
I found out later that there had been two birthday parties – one that included all of my friends who also happened to all be couples, a.k.a ‘the couples’ party’. Then there was the one I was invited to, where I didn’t know anyone and everyone was single.
I remember being deeply offended and upset. I wasn’t allowed to go to the same party as my friends because I wasn’t in a romantic relationship? I’m excluded for being single?
When I was 30, I went for an interview to volunteer with the youth group at church. The pastor asked if I was married and I said no. He looked at me and said matter-of-factly, “So, divorced?” He assumed that because I was already 30, I must have been married. Because of course, it is impossible that a 30 year old woman is just single, right?
As I got older, I listened to jokes about me “running out of time” or becoming “the crazy lady with many cats”, overheard questions and rumours about my sexuality, politely declined offers to be set up, and was on the receiving end of seemingly innocent comments such as, “But you’re so cute and nice – why haven’t you found a man?”
And I admit, I still don’t understand. Why is it that so many believe that the only way to be happy is to be married with children? And why do some people think that all singles are living lonely, miserable, loveless lives?
Why is being single still often viewed as a negative thing? Why are un-marrieds treated differently, especially unmarried women?
To be clear, I am not anti-marriage. Marriage is a beautiful union and I am not opposed to it at all. My parents have been married for over 40 years and I greatly admire their deep love and commitment to one another. I just haven’t found someone I want to marry. If it happens one day, great. If it doesn’t, great. I’m good either way.
However, just like marriage is a beautiful thing, so is singleness. Being single opens one up to different opportunities and gives a freedom that those who are married with kids don’t have. It’s not better or worse. Both are good.
Single does not mean lonely. It does not mean desperate. It does not mean unhappy. It does not mean a life without love.
The Apostle Paul was single. Jesus was single. Christianity is the only faith in the world that not only accepts singleness as a life choice, but values and celebrates it. If God wants me to remain single in this life, I embrace it and cherish it. I want to be used for His purposes.
And I can deal with the judgement, and the questions, and the assumptions about why I am single. But I should not have to. Nor should anyone else.
We should all be able to live our lives the way that is best for each of us. What’s best for me may not be best for you and that’s okay. We were each made uniquely and extravagantly.
I know we will never live in a world without judgement, prejudice and misconception. But I will keep dreaming of that world.
We need to stop referring to singleness as if it is a negative thing. Single is not a bad word. We need to stop putting expectations on others of how they should live their lives. We need to stop assuming that there is only one right way to live. We need to stop making assumptions and judging others for choosing to live different lifestyles.
I challenge myself every day to love first. I don’t always succeed. But I get up and try to do better the next day. Because we need more love and compassion in this world. We need more acceptance and understanding. We need to celebrate and encourage each other. We need to love more.
Be you. I’ll be me.