What to say (or not) to a Single Person

isolated-stop-sign-2 At times, those who are not in the single state will offer their own thoughts on why you’re still single and how to exit that state.  Although people may sincerely think they’re offering you words of wisdom with the idea of actually helping, some of the suggestions can actually do more harm than good.  Here are some of the most unhelpful and/or ridiculous comments aimed at single people that I personally have experienced:

  1. You’re old
  2. You’re fat
  3. Wear more make-up
  4. Change your make-up
  5. Change your wardrobe
  6. Go to Victoria Secret and buy a better bra
  7. You’re trying too hard
  8. You’re not trying hard enough
  9. You need to go hang out in a bar

While most of the items in that list are somewhat subjective- beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all- and a couple of the items are just down right silly, I can’t let item number two go by without a response.  For the record, I’m five feet, three and a half inches tall, and weigh 107 pounds.  Now that we’ve cleared that up. . .

Occasionally, by the grace of God and guidance of the Holy Spirit, someone has made a useful, uplifting remark.

1. When you say “no” to sex before marriage, it narrows the dating pool so much that your odds of marrying narrow with it.  This comment from a married friend had honestly not occurred to me, and yet, she put her finger on a very important truth. When your values are in conflict with most of the people in the dating world, the dating world then becomes closed off to you, not because you’re doing anything wrong, but because you’re adhering to your faith.

2. You’re doing everything you’re supposed to do.  This observation came from a friend who had married in her late 30’s, not because she hadn’t done everything she was supposed to do, but because she too adhered to the teachings of the Catholic faith and waited for God’s timing.  She knew exactly what she was talking about from her own experience and was in a position to comment on the situation.

3. I don’t know. . . I don’t get it.  After hearing so many blaming reasons as to why I was yet unmarried, this answer from a married friend’s husband was truly appreciated.  My friend wanted a “guy’s” perspective as to why I was still not married, so she asked her husband straight out what he thought the reasons might be.  Her husband, who has known me for many years,  honestly couldn’t imagine any reason why I wouldn’t be married.  His answer was honest, unassuming, and more helpful than I can describe.

4. Hang in there. I’m rooting for you.  A married co-worker came to my rescue with this two sentence show of support.  The co-worker saw how down I was on the subject of singleness.  Instead of blame and unjust criticism, she simply let me know that she was on my side in my struggle to reach my vocation.

Honestly, it’s this last response that a lot of singles would really appreciate from Church leadership.  If people honestly can’t think of anything else to do or say on the subject of being unmarried in the Catholic Church, they can at least send a little hope and encouragement our way.  How hard would that be, and why would the Church not want to encourage its members to continue to pursue their vocations?

In the meantime, if readers would like to share any helpful or unhelpful statements they’ve ever received on this topic, please leave a comment below.  Maybe we can all learn something about how to respond better to each other as a faith community.  Wouldn’t that be great during this Year of Mercy?

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14 thoughts on “What to say (or not) to a Single Person

  1. Can I comment without repeating what I’ve already written? Let’s see.

    I’ve been reading and commenting in these “Catholic singles” articles for about 2 months. You are right, there is endless advice on “how to exit the single state”. (But only in the Catholic articles. Because Catholics are obsessed with this stuff. In real everyday life, where I have no active Catholic friends, I’ve never had discussions like you wrote about.) For it is presumed that getting married off is surely everyone’s goal.

    Hold on a minute. I was always open to the possibility of marriage. But has it been an all-consuming life goal? Have I decided that I am “called to the vocation of marriage” (another apparently Catholic terminology that doesn’t exist in real life), even before meeting a possible wife? Indeed, have I ever met any single Catholic women of around my own age, so that I might consider being married someday?

    No, no, and no. There’s a simple and logical order to follow here. First you meet people, then you date, then you can discuss matters like celibacy before marriage, and then you decide to marry or not.

    Do you understand my point? I like to think I would avoid sex before marriage, but since I never met any single Catholic women, who cares?

    Anyway, the advice floods in, from people who don’t know anything about me. I can’t agree with any of it. And it depresses me, where I had been fairly contented previously:

    1. There are vast unclaimed hordes of devout lovely single Catholic women.
    2. You must try online dating.
    3. (From a blogger in my diocese, whom I keep quoting because her advice is so totally absurd) “trust me, if you are a good Catholic man with good hygiene and social skills, and a job helps, you will find a woman! I cannot tell you how many middle aged women are desiring a Catholic husband!” (And indeed, she hasn’t told me “how many” such women there are, or where they are. She just “knows”. Thanks for nothing.)

    Then there are the darker cautions about singles over 30, over 40. They are undateable. They are broken. They have unspecified, unfixable problems. Huh? Nobody ever warned me about that. I’ve just been busy – very busy – living my life, making friends, having a career. (And keeping up my hygiene.)

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    1. Larry, how is it that you’ve NEVER met any single Catholic women? Where do you live? Alaska?!? A country controlled by a Christian-hating regime?!? I can name three single Catholic women in my small house church group alone. If I widen the friends circle even a smidge, I can name a half dozen more. Do you ever go to Church? Did you ever go to any young adult ministry events? Ever gone on a retreat? I’m not denying that it’s hard to meet the RIGHT person, but how could you not have met ANY single Catholic women?

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      1. A.J., do you remember that the title of this article is “Unhelpful Comments”? You’re at least the second woman to suggest that I live under a rock somewhere. No, I live in the fifth largest city in America, last I looked. And I go to church every weekend. Thanks for asking!

        You may not have seen what I’ve written elsewhere on this site. I moved to my present diocese about thirty years ago, fresh out of college. At the time, young adult groups were just getting started and they were for 18-21. By the time I hit 30, they increased the age limit to 25. Get the idea?

        When you move cross-country away from your relatives and your parish family at home, you lose that natural matchmaking network that past generations relied on. How many of our parents met their spouse at the parish social or a dance or the CYO.

        That’s the heart of today’s problem. Parishes don’t have socials anymore. They put the young adults in one room to goof off. The Seniors play cards on Wednesday afternoon. Young mothers, they meet on another day. An “all parish” social for everyone, including the single adults? Nah, we don’t do that any more.

        So yes A. J., I can honestly say that I’ve never met and talked to a woman that I knew to be a single Catholic who might be open to a date. It’s the truth. Any woman I ever dated was a non-Catholic or an ex-Catholic.

        And now I have in fact re-written everything that I’ve written before. Sorry, Catherine. I really didn’t mean to.

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      2. AJ, I have to assume that you don’t live in the USA since it says that you typed your reply at 12:17 am…I live in the Metro Philadelphia area and it’s now 10:48pm:)

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      3. AJ, I just looked again at my email and the message says it came in at 7:24 pm so I must conclude that you live somewhere near GMT such as Great Britain or perhaps Spain or France. If that is indeed the case then you really should be more compassionate towards Larry and all of us in the continental United States:)

        God Bless!

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      4. I believe Larry when he says he hasn’t met a Catholic women. Outside of extended family I haven’t met a single Catholic women since I was a teenager. And it’s not due to a lack of trying either.

        I think this highlights an important issue facing singles, no one believes our experiences.

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      5. “I think this highlights an important issue facing singles, no one believes our experiences.”

        Very true. I hope that as more singles begin speaking up, this response sill start to change.

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      6. A. J., were you just a hit-and-run poster or will you join the discussion?

        It’s nice that you know so many Catholic women. I have no idea what a “small house church group” is, do you live in a convent of sorts? You didn’t state your age. But I’ll turn the question back at you: do any Catholic men know you or any of your friends? If so, how?

        Do you want men to hit on you after mass? I’m sure you don’t. So how are men supposed to learn who the single and available women are? No one – and I mean NO ONE – has ever befriended me outside of mass to learn that I’m single and say “hey, why don’t I introduce you to our friend’s neighbor’s daughter”. People just don’t do that any more. After mass is a series of nods and a rush for the parking lot. Week after week and year after year.

        What are adult singles supposed to do, when parishes provide no activities that they can attend? Awhile back, I looked through about ten local parish bulletins. I counted a dozen “renew your marriage” and “date night” functions for married couples, and NOTHING for singles. One parish has a monthly Saturday evening “family mass” followed by dinner. I asked if anything similar was available for singles, and even offered to help. The reply was “we’ll get back to you” and of course they never did.

        That adult singles even exist, seems to make many Church insiders uncomfortable. They have failed us, and they don’t know how to help.

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  2. I’m 27 and this year I told a girl whom I only met for roughly 2 weeks a couple years ago that I liked her in the new year. It was predictably awkward, even if she would have said yes otherwise (to a date), the distance is what killed it ultimately. But she said she would consider it so maybe there is hope.

    Where I live I can count the number of available singles on one hand. It seems we need to be open to long distance relationships if we ever hope to get married. Every one of my married friends had to do it that way, some even married living in different cities. I don’t want to wait till my mid 30’s to have a relationship and get married, but lets face it being a young couple in today’s world can be economically and emotionally hard.

    I can see though from observing married people that there is a lot I am able to focus on as a single guy that I wouldn’t have time to do otherwise. Spiritual reading, prayer, learning to Altar Serve. As lonely as being single might be it is an opportunity to grow, we don’t always consider the harder aspects of being married when we are single (when the children start coming and the stress associated with raising a family).

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  3. Ed, I have dated non-Catholic women. In fact, I’ve dated _only_ non-Catholic women, since as you know I’ve never met a single and available Catholic woman. Nothing came from any of that dating, however.

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  4. “1. When you say “no” to sex before marriage, it narrows the dating pool so much that your odds of marrying narrow with it.”

    True, but weeding out the ones you don’t want is not a bad thing. The trick is to avoid making that “no” give the aroma of saying no after marriage too — don’t weed out others you do want.

    “2. You’re doing everything you’re supposed to do.”

    Are you? You don’t want to latch on desperately to every new prospect, but are you presenting yourself as a tire-kicker, or worse, as a freeloader? One practicing chastity has a particular imperative not to string others along without progression toward an end goal of marriage. Be in the market to “buy”, and be decisive.

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    1. Larry, I’ve known this particular gal for more than 3 years online…when you really think about online relationships…it’s not so new…the term used to be “Pen Pals”:)

      In any event this girl and I click. No she is not Catholic, she is Jewish but really doesn’t practice.

      She is however an amateur astronomer, like myself, has several degrees, writes for a few online science mags and she is a political activist just like me.. she ran for office and lost, I ran for office and won.

      Larry, I have never met anyone other girl, Catholic or not that shares the same passions as I do.

      So I just joined her astronomy club…

      Will this relationship come to marriage?

      I don’t know but I figure that if she is willing to notice me and we share so much I think I can’t chance not getting to know her better!

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