Responding To Platitudes

One of the most annoying things that you deal with as single person is all of the things that people say to you about your singleness.  I’m talking about all of the platitudes, quick answers, and questions that people say to you.

I was single until I was nearly 41 and believe me, I’ve heard them all.  They come from all directions.  People who care, people who don’t.  People who feel sorry for you, people who are frustrated with/at you.  From behind the pulpit to in the small group to heck, behind the counter.

  • I’m sure God has someone for you.
  • God is preparing someone for you – just be patient
  • Be grateful for your time as a single – once you get married it all changes.
  • Are you praying for your spouse?
  • Have you tried online?
  • It’s when you aren’t looking that you find someone
  • Just seek to be content in your singleness and God will provide
  • It will happen at the right time
  • Just focus on serving God right now.
  • God must have someone really special for you
  • Better to be single than married to the wrong person
  • Don’t settle
  • Are you too picky?
  • Are you dating anyone?

I could go on and on and on and on and on.  It can be funny, awkward, frustrating, or even infuriating.  The question is how do we respond well to this stuff.  I mean do you blow it off? Do you give a great sarcastic answer? “Are you praying for it?”- “Wow!  I’ve never thought about praying for it.  I’ll be sure to do that.”  Haha.

I think how we respond matters because it affects us and sometimes others.

There are some key things to keep in mind.  What is the intent? What is your relationship to this person?  What is the goal of your response?

Most of the time people are just making conversation.  It’s a question, in our culture that we lead with. It’s just a way of talking about something. The weather, the local sports team, your marital status. It’s all the same. There is zero reason to let it bother you. This last weekend I celebrated my one year anniversary. You know what everyone asks me? “So hows married life?” “Hows your wife?” “First year of marriage huh – bet that was fun.” “So has the honeymoon worn off?” Depending on how I answer that, they’ll have a nice thing to say about it. It’s no different as a parent. “How’s the kid?” “How is school going?”

Most of the people at church, in our neighborhood and even many of our family and friends will fit this category.  I think this is where you smile and take it.  And then ask about their kids. . . or the NBA finals.

There are others who ask out of some sort of sense of arrogance or wanting to fix you. This is more troublesome and might be worth challenging.  One time when I was on the golf course with a business associate who was about my age.  He was a Christian and married with kids.  He began to tell me how I should lead my dating life.  Basically he was pulling rank and telling me how to “stay pure”.  When the conversation moved to “I tell my 14 year old son. . . ” I stopped him.  I said, “Do you really want to have this conversation?  Because I’ll have it with you.  Do you really want to be in this with me?  I’ll let you in, but if you want to go there, it’s about to get real right now.”  That oddly enough kind of stopped the conversation.

Finally there are those who really do care about us.  I’m talking about our close friends and family who actually walk with us.  This is where, if we are bothered by what they ask us or the “wisdom” they dispense or if we are just tired of being identified as the single person in the group, we need to speak up honestly.  If we can’t challenge what these people say to us in a loving way, then we are in trouble, and not just in this part of the conversation.

But we need to realize some things from our end.  Do we really want to move beyond it?  Do we really want their actual opinion and help?  And finally, have we set the stage that way ourselves?

If for example every time someone says what can I pray for, we say, “a spouse” we don’t have a lot of room to be frustrated with them bringing it up.  If I’m focussed there, it’s pretty natural for the people around me to want to help.  Do we really want honest answers?  For example would we be willing to ask “why do you think I’m still single – for real?”  “Do you think I’m doing anything wrong?”  “How am I around the opposite sex?”  Are we willing to hear the answers?  Here’s what I’m saying.  WIth our close friends, how do we help them help us.

I’d love to hear from my readers on this one.  A couple of questions.

What are some of the things people say to you that drive you the most crazy?  How do you respond?




15 thoughts on “Responding To Platitudes

  1. “I can’t believe you’re still single!”
    “So…are you not interested at all in a relationship?”
    “You need to do what me and my significant other did.” This is followed by an unrequested lecture on anything from praying ‘correctly’ to serving exactly like they did to going to the right church or single’s group.

    For better or for worse, I usually just sidestep the question and it has reached the point now where few people bother asking me anymore (I’m 41). I rarely give a direct answer to anyone outside of close friends and family members. I don’t ask my friends or family with partners how their sex life is fairing so it is none of their business on the status of my dating life.

    Avoidance issues? Absolutely. I freely admit that. It IS often easier just to evade the question rather than directly ponder the reasons for my own single status. Heh.

  2. Some of my (least) favorites…

    Coworker: “Why hasn’t anyone snatched you up yet?”
    Company VP: “You can cook like this, and you’re still single? Just as well. If you were married, your husband would weigh 400 lbs.”
    Stranger at church: “You’re single? Don’t worry, we’ll find you someone.”
    Older friend from church: “It’s better to be single than to wish you were.”
    Same friend: “You never know when you’ll meet him, so it’s important to always look your best. That’s why I think you should get your lip waxed.”
    Friends: “You should join a Bible study to meet new people.”
    Sister: “When are you going to start thinking about getting married?”
    Mother: “Your standards are too high.”
    Mother: “Maybe you’re not involved in enough activities.”
    Aunt: “I know you think you’re having fun now with all your dinner parties with your friends, but your life doesn’t really start until you have kids. Ours didn’t.”
    Same aunt on why I would only marry a Christian: “I know your faith is important to you, but you’ve got to live your life.”
    Same aunt, until a year ago: “If you were to tell us one day that you like women, it wouldn’t make a difference with us. We would still love you if you are gay.”

    My husband and I have been married almost seven months. Now when I talk to my mother or aunt it’s, “I’m so glad you met him. I’m so happy for you,” but now the richness of relief rounds out the acidic pity and bitter desperation in their tone. They can say what they want because my secret ingredient is grace. Lots and lots of sweet syrupy grace, poured out on this beloved sinner through years of faith. That’s a treat to savor with or without marriage.

    • Hahaha, wow, are you my twin?? Just about all of those (down to the very outspoken aunt) sound so familiar it’s like you’re me or something! I’m just glad I’m not alone 🙂

  3. Well said and put Justin……

    All of the comments and lines you mentioned in your post I have heard in the secular and sacred worlds. All of them used to burn me up bad. As I have matured in my own personal and deep walk with Christ….I take them now for what they are. Friendly talk. Advice that is not meant to shame, hurt, or belittle. What used to really get me was the “playback” later on, after I was given all this wisdom. Many a tear was shed over this. Time wasted.

    There is one….that still causes a pulse to beat a little harder on my brain…but I remind myself that I am not your “everyday” Christian guy…….but I just quit trying to explain to the people who say it. I smile, and shrug it off. It is this.

    “You know Jay, when you put the ‘toys’ away a lot of women are gonna be knocking on your door to get to know you, make themselves known that they are “interested” in getting to know you, but put that skateboard away, it’s really childish.”

    That is the ‘toy’ that is made known. My skateboard.

    I skateboard. I skateboard very well. I have been a skater since I was 15. It keeps me fit, slender, cut, and active. I have competed (still do 🙂 ). I practice, go to skateparks and have been “the adult” at times at these places because no adults are around. I have broken up fights. Administering some first-aid at times.Telling the younger guys and boys about a REAL rebel named Jesus Christ. No, I don’t go to their level. I bring them to mine.

    Also, I am very good still, which gets me an “in” with them to talk about Jesus.

    I have tried to explain this, and no one gets it. I decided to take it as ‘friendly advice” and leave it at that.

    Keep up the decent posts of late Justin

  4. Things people say:
    “I don’t know why you want to be alone.” person at church
    “Aren’t you really lonely?” can be from anyone
    “You’d better get in there for the bouquet toss. It might be your last chance.” man at church. When my friend cam out of the ladies’ room and I told her why I was leaving she was shocked anyone would say that. I told her it happens at every wedding if you aren’t on your guard.
    “I think you ought to pray about that.” from friends I’ve let in on the struggle. The tone of voice being used says it like it is a new idea. I kindly reply that I have been and then don’t share anything so personal any more. I want to say “what have you prayed about for over 25 years that you are still praying about?” They probably have something that just isn’t as obvious to others.
    “You sure are good looking for an old maid.” an uncle who thinks he is a comedian

    It’s difficult when you meet new people. You ask all the general things that people do and then when they ask me, “what about your husband?” you say “I’m not married.” Then they ask “how many children do you have?” and it’s my turn to say “I don’t have children.” And there the conversation reaches awkwardness. I have yet to learn a good segue into something else when I have already asked the get-to-know you questions.

    And I don’t know how to answer this type of thing when you are first dating someone. About the 2nd or 3rd date the man will say “*WHY haven’t you been married?” A short “I haven’t met the right one” or light-hearted answer doesn’t work. And from there I believe he is trying to figure out what is “wrong” with me. Or, on a date: “I bet you dated a lot in college” so I say “Actually, no”. Him: “WHY?” Me: “I wasn’t asked.” Him: “Makes sense”. This conversation would be different and acceptable a couple of months into a relationship.

    Now I’m 50. Yes, in my 20s I was too shy and didn’t project confidence. Also pretty tall and strong in Christian values. Today — most likely I am single because of my Christian values of purity.

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  9. The comments that make my blood boil all relate to : “you want marriage to bad and clearly have made it an idol.” “You have to get to the point where you don’t want anybody but Jesus and date him, soon your husband will come.” ” When you stop caring that is when your spouse will come.” Usually they will continue with how holy and romantic they were with Jesus even describing their date nights and their perfect husband. IT feels really judgmental and unfair… However, I have realized that these people are usually self righteous and void of compassion they assume that their legalistic approach to Christ is the tried and true perfect way of earning a spouse from God… Pathetic

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  12. Justin, “For those who understand, no explanation is necessary…and for those who don’t understand, no explanation is possible.”

    Singles do not always have to play the “gracious, good sport” which is what you basically advocate in this article (i.e. just politely tolerate those simply trying to converse with you, or go mano-a-mano with those who challenge you, or beg those smug-marrieds their opinion of how you, poor/inadequate single, should improve). Again, I say: For those who understand, no explanation is necessary…and for those who don’t understand, no explanation is possible.

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