What I Love About My Single Life

Lisa Rieck

In March, my second cousin, Sue, passed away unexpectedly. I knew her as a spunky, funny, adventurous woman, but I was unprepared for the number of people who attended her memorial service. Though there were well over 200 guests, my parents and I were the only actual family members present. Having never married, Sue, at 69, had no descendants and was the last of her immediate line in England. But she clearly had plenty of other family. Friends from her school days, former coworkers, piano students and their families, church members, friends from choirs she’d sung in, and fellow musicians whom she had gathered together and played with all came to show their respects and mourn this beloved woman who had certainly not wasted her years waiting for some chap to rescue her!

At 36, I don’t feel like I’ve squandered away my single years waiting for a man either. But Sue’s funeral and the new snapshots I heard from her friends of her adventurous spirit and generous heart helped me see my singleness differently — with a bit more inspiration and gratitude and a bit less fear. Because even though I’ve made decisions for myself about my life as it is —not assuming or taking for granted the fact that I will, someday, get married —a big What If? (with accompanying questions) has lurked in the background, sometimes more concealed, other times more in the open:

What if I don’t get married?
What will people think of me?
What will I miss out on?
How will I feel about my life when I look back on it?

Yet Sue’s service — a picture of a life lived well, surrounded by community — gave me the reminder I needed. If I never get married, I will be just fine. That means I can keep enjoying the things I actually, truly appreciate about my single life — things I would genuinely miss if I were to marry. Here are just a few of those things that have made my single life both meaningful and rich.

Friendships with other single female friends.

There is nothing quite like the bonding that takes place on a Friday night between single female friends sitting in someone’s home having real conversation, laughing, and dreaming together. It is a bond formed through a kind of suffering that comes from asking God over and over for something good — something he created us for — and not having him answer in the way we want. It is a bond formed through broken hearts shared, first dates debriefed, healthy dating relationships celebrated, and the ache we feel — full of joy and sadness and longing — when another one of our own moves from single to engaged and then married. It is a bond formed when we celebrate together whatever impressive feat one of us just accomplished — fixing a dishwasher, changing a tire, getting all the groceries and the gym bag and the cool free chair we stopped and picked up on the side of the road into the house in one trip. And it is a bond formed through a seldom spoken of but often felt insecurity that maybe there’s something wrong with us, which is why we haven’t been “chosen” — an insecurity that is largely absent when we are together. If I ever marry, I will truly miss being part of the community of courageous, beautiful, gifted, talented, intelligent, godly single women I am privileged to call sisters and friends in the same way I am now.

Time and space to pursue unique callings.

I know this one isn’t only true for single people — I’ve watched my parents and many married friends pursue shared and separate callings together and thrive. But it is less complicated to listen to the Lord about one person’s calling than two. Being single has meant I am free at any moment to explore callings I sense from the Lord. And this freedom has led me to consider graduate school, move cities to take a new job that was a better fit, and, most recently, move in with a family in a more diverse neighborhood to invest in racial justice work in my city. I have watched other single friends go back to graduate school in completely different fields than they’ve been working in, step away from their jobs for a sabbatical year, and join God’s work in places where Christians are persecuted. These decisions are a bit easier logistically — though also require more courage, without the “safety net” of a spouse’s support and extra income — when you’re single.

Truly restful vacations.

Bad work boundaries aside (which is my own problem), my vacations are usually actually restful. And this is particularly helpful for my all-or-nothing personality, which, despite my best efforts, can lead me to say yes to too many things and then leave me exhausted. Most of my vacation time now is spent with family or good friends, doing things I love to do — things that are life-giving and restorative, like being by water, reading good books, having deep conversations, drinking leisurely mugs of tea and coffee, and taking long walks. And while I know vacations with a spouse can be restful (particularly if you don’t have children), I know of few people — even people who really, really like their in-laws — who would rather spend time with their spouse’s family than their own, if they’re perfectly honest. I don’t have to pick. And I’m grateful for the extra time with family and friends that my single life affords me.

Money to spend (or save) as I want.

Yes, there are definitely days when I wish I had a spouse to help me make financial decisions (and a second salary to add to the income!), but much of the time, I like being able to do what I want with my money without having to spend energy “negotiating” (sometimes called fighting). However exhausting budgeting and investing and saving and purchasing might feel now on my own, I have to believe it’s all even more exhausting when there are two of you, each raised in different families with different habits and philosophies about money. There’s a reason so much marital conflict happens around money. But as a single person, I have no one to blame, or thank, but myself. There is a certain kind of freedom in that.

Even though I love these parts of my life, I do not mean to say that my single life is easy and perfect. And it’s not to say I don’t want to be married. There are days and moments when the longing for companionship — for a life partner to walk alongside and know and be known by — almost takes my breath away. There are days when singleness feels lonely; when I can sense people’s confusion (or judgment?) about why, at 36, I’m living with a family and not on my own; when I feel looked down on or less than or immature or naïve because I’ve never been married.

But there is gratitude that comes even in those moments. It is gratitude for the ways I am growing in a long-obedience kind of patience and trust. My life right now is full of both longing and contentment, joy and pain. I suspect, if I marry, the same will be true. The challenge — and the gift, if we can receive it — is to choose to believe anew that the life he has called us to live right now — single or married — is the best one for us and others, and one that can bring him greater glory. A life of that kind of faith in our good God is truly the most vibrant life of all.

Lisa Rieck is a writer and editor on InterVarsity’s communications team. She worked at InterVarsity Press for over nine years as a proofreader and Bible study editor (and, as it were, resident limerick-writer). She is continually inspired by the beauty of the sky and loves good conversation with family and friends over steaming-hot beverages.

9 comments

Thank you. I needed this today.

Feb 10, 2017 12:49PM by Sophia

Lisa, great article. With your perspective of life and values I think you probably will find the man of your dreams. The fact your work for InterVarsity gives you 10 extra points on the desirability scale. But just in case God has a better plan, just remember these 2 things: Jesus never married in his 33 years on earth as a man. And In Matthew 22 Jesus made it very clear that there was no marriage in heaven but that we would be like the angels. So if you remain single, you will just be getting a jump on the rest of us!

Oct 23, 2016 6:50AM by Ritchie Christianson

I love this article and it brought tears to my eyes...a couple of times. I cried because I hate the thought of you wondering what people think of you or you feeling condescended to because you're single. We're all broken because of sin, but nobody should be broken by their singleness.

You used the word "freedom" a few times, and Cindy and I appreciate that you use yours to serve your church, your neighbors, and your friends. There's still evidence of it in our home when we see daily thoughtful gifts you have given our family. You are a model to us, in and because of your singleness, of laying down your life for others.

And lastly, as a happily married man with four kids, I can assure you that married people still have unfulfilled hopes and unrealized dreams. Anybody looking for a spouse to satisfy all their dreams is converting marriage into an idol. That idol will eventually control them and their expectations will crush their spouse. Instead of placing my hope in my wife, kids, job, money, or who others think I am, I'm learning slowly to put my hope in God for real contentment.

Sep 30, 2016 12:06AM by Adam Pratt

Lisa,

So beautifully written, as usual. Thank you for these insightful and helpful words. You are a gift to so many!

Sep 28, 2016 12:24PM by Tanya Thomas

Thanks, friend. You are one of the beautiful courageous ones!

Sep 29, 2016 1:13PM by Lisa Rieck

Thank you for sharing this, Lisa! It's beautiful.

Sep 28, 2016 11:38AM by Bethany Bowen-Wefuan

Thanks, Bethany! Hope you're doing well!

Sep 29, 2016 1:12PM by Lisa Rieck

Lisa--

Your article provides such a tender discussion about the merits of singleness--something I would have benefited from reading a few decades ago.

But in your vulnerability, your piece goes beyond marital status. Your words are also a powerful invitation for each of us to be grateful for *whatever* circumstances in which we find ourselves . . . . to remember that those circumstances are not in any way evidence of God's neglecting us . . . and to continue trusting and celebrating the various and restorative ways He provides for us.

Thank you for those reminders.

Sep 28, 2016 9:37AM by Anne Lowry Pharr

Hi Anne! Thanks so much for your comments. I'm thankful it spoke to you too; I didn't want married people to feel excluded or to feel like I'm trying to say the single life is better. I think both are equally good, with different gifts and challenges. And I think all of us being willing to talk about the gifts and challenges of both stages helps us all live more grateful lives. I know that my conversations with married friends (including you!) have given me really helpful perspective on different aspects of my life. Blessings to you.

Sep 28, 2016 10:49AM by Lisa Rieck

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