We are obviously in an unprecedented time right now. We have a pandemic striking the world, and in response we have asked most people to stay at home.
To be sure this is a strain on everyone in every marital context. This is not to mention that there are some people in horrible situations. I think of kids who live in abusive homes or those that don’t have enough to eat. People who had enough to eat three weeks ago and now don’t. There are those who struggle with addiction, those who were struggling with mental illness before this all started.
But I want to acknowledge a particular group here today. Not because they are the only ones suffering, but because their suffering is surely different and I’ve not seen it talked about much anywhere. That is those that are single and live alone.
Now there are all kinds of unmarried people. Many live with friends. Some are in cohabitation arrangements. Some who maybe live with their parents. But I want to specifically address those who live by themselves.
I was single until I was nearly 41 years old. Mostly I lived with friends or for a short time had renters in the house I owned. I’m an extravert and I learned from six months of living by myself that it was an unhealthy setting for me.
25%-28% of Americans live alone. If nearly 50% of Americans are unmarried that means that about half of unmarried people live alone. This includes all versions of unmarried that we’ve talked about here over the years. Not yet married. Divorced. Widowed. Those who are called to Celibacy for the Kingdom. Those celibate because of the fall of man. Those born in a way that keeps them from getting married.
Let’s remember that no one, even those called to Celibacy for the Kingdom, are called to live their life alone. And yet there are millions of them doing that exact thing right now.
I’ve debated whether or not to write this post. Not because I don’t think it’s important, but because what unmarried folks are facing right now I never had to face in my 23 years of adult singleness. Almost everything on this blog about singleness I’ve written either from personal experience or from the study of the scriptures, church history and other studies. This is different. So I can’t write with the same authority that I normally do.
However, it needs to be talked about.
First we should acknowledge that it’s hard. And that would be my first piece of advice to everyone unmarried and married. To recognize the unique challenges that this context confronts unmarried folks with.
I want to be clear that I’m not suggesting that married folks should feel especially sorry for single people. But I think it might be good to be aware that they aren’t experiencing this the same way you are.
Church leaders often seem to forget the unmarried. We’ve discussed this ad nasuem on this blog. There are churches doing great things right now. Helping with the poor. Helping provide food for kids. Doing online things not just on Sunday but every day. I applaud so much of the effort. I’m asking you, regardless of how your church views singleness: Please remember your single members right now. They could probably use a phone call, text, email or whatever. Simply acknowledging and checking in would be appreciated by many I would think. There are some who are fine. But there are some who could use a live voice.
If I go on facebook right now I see all the families on bike rides, in the yard together, taking porchtraits. Nothing wrong with that. But if I were single and wishing I was married, this would make even more aware than usual that I’m alone. I couldn’t go out with friends. I couldn’t see my co workers. I couldn’t even sit next to some people at church.
Here are a few thoughts if you are home alone as an unmarried person right now. Remember I’m not speaking with the authority of having lived it here, just offering some things that might help based on 23 years of unmarried life.
- Give yourself the freedom to feel what you feel. You’re not bad because the porchtraits make you feel more alone. You aren’t a bad Christian because Jesus doesn’t seem like enough right now. Acknowledge your feelings and emotions. Don’t just tough it out. And for sure don’t condemn yourself for thinking it. Give yourself grace.
- Fight to engage others. If someone does reach out to you, take advantage of it. Use all the technology you have. Reach out to others.
- If helping others and ministering to others typically energizes you, do it now. Leadership is lonely but it’s less lonely than sitting there missing leadership.
- Engage your mind. Study something. Read something. Learn something. Fight the urge to dwell on darkness.
- Know your weaknesses. There is a reason porn sites are offering specials right now. Liquor stores are essential apparently. Do you already struggle with depression or other mental illnesses. Don’t pretend right now. Don’t just sit there and get crushed. Acknowledge these things
- Get help with the above if you need it. Call someone. Anyone. Tell someone. Don’t suffer in silence.
- To that end, hold onto the truth. The people that love you and usually hang out with you still love you. Maybe they haven’t called. I wish they would have. But everyone is in free fall in some way right now. Just because they haven’t called you, doesn’t mean they don’t care.
- Hold on to the truths of our faith. You are not alone. You really can take it to Jesus. He suffered alone. In front of people, but alone. In a way only He could. He sees you! Please read that again. Jesus sees you!
Really I hope that if this post does one thing it is that it communicates that. Jesus sees you. I see you. I’m writing this mainly so you know you’re seen.
If any of you who are reading this have thoughts about how you are managing that might be helpful to others, leave a comment. You’re the expert here. What has been helpful for you? What would be helpful to you?
Thanks for addressing this, even if as an outsider. I don’t have any great coping mechanisms but some single friends and I have been talking and sharing ideas. It’s almost two months since someone touched me and I miss physical touch like crazy. Sometimes my whole body aches for it. On a friend’s idea, I got a weighted blanket. It’s heavy enough to be a little like touch. It helps. I’ve also found that going to bed really early in the evenings and getting up early helps. I’m not a morning person so that’s a bit hard. But evenings are when I most want to be with people and am most achingly lonely. By having an early sleep routine and being too tired to stay up to a decent hour, it’s less hours during that difficult time of day for me. I also limit social media for the reason you mentioned. Family posts showing people all together (even knowing the hard moments behind those photos, of kids fighting etc) are hard. It’s not a jealousy as I’m happy for them. Maybe just an intensified ache to see people I care for or to have touch, which I can’t. So I limit social media. It helps a bit.
Tips for keeping your spirits up.
1. Spend lots of time in prayer and Bible study. Look at this as a spiritual retreat.
2. Avoid too much news media.
3. Limit social media. Send e mails, make phone calls and Skype instead.
4. Work on a creative project.
5. Occupy yourself with a form of manual labor to anchor yourself in the here and now.
This situation is like some culmination of how America has been collapsing in on itself recently. The Church is regarded as secondary to the Nuclear Family by many. Hence cancelling Christmas services so you can celebrate at home with your kids. We singles are alone again. Naturally.
Still it’s better alone than in bad company. I am better off than many singles since I was already forced to live with parents due to my chronic illness and low income. Better off than those totally isolated or living with abusive people.
I’ve been telling people upset with isolation since this started: welcome to my world. I’m one of those the church doesn’t give a whit about because I’m never married with no kids. The last church I visited, and I had only been a couple times then and had revealed very little about myself and was just getting a lay of the land, the pastor’s wife (!!) told me I was being gossiped about. Seriously? I never went back.
The church hates single men.
The church is harder on single men than women. Speaking as an observer.
Churches view single women as pathetic losers. But single men are regarded as deviants or even predators.
Some great general ideas for isolation! I agree that time with God needs to be key in all this.
I also agree that neither single men nor women are well viewed in the church. I think we need to still speak with love of our brothers and sisters in Christ. They don’t hate us. They don’t always know how to support or understand us as single adults, but much of that is simple ignorance. Families are preferred but it’s all from poor theology. I believe that Jesus and many others who came after Him have struggled to be understood. It doesn’t hurt less but we are in good company and have a chance to show love to others even when we aren’t always on the receiving end (Matt 5:46-48). But still…I know what you mean. Churches are very painful places some days for us singles !
My new church treats me decently despite my lack of a nuclear family of my own. I really miss them and look forward to meeting again this summer.
Surprised to find Kevin–the senior minister–didn’t marry till late in life. That’s why he and his wife are childless.
Next time I feel insulted by something a preacher says I will take him aside privately and tell him. Matthew 18:15.
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