When Being Single Just Feels HARD

When Being Single Just Feels Hard | gimmesomeoven.com

I never quite know when those moments will come, when the weight of being single will come crashing down upon my chest.

Those moments have been fewer and farther between over the past few years.

But without fail, they always come.

And boy, they’ll knock the wind out of you.

The moments

For me, it’s always moments.  I’ve never been one to really get down and stay down for days or weeks on end about being single.  It’s more random moments that hit fast and hit hard, and then take awhile to process and bounce back from.

I wish I could say that I have learned over the years to predict when those moments will come.  Sure, there are some of the obvious triggers like weddings, or holidays, or even just scrolling through Facebook feeds filled with happy couples and babies and families galore.  But more often than not, it is the tiniest of things that unexpectedly cause a catch in my throat and fill my eyes with tears.  Like watching a couple I’m with exchange a knowing look and smile.  Or coming home with some great news with no one there waiting.  Or waking up for the thousandth morning in a row next to an empty pillow.  Or walking into church or a party or gathering alone.  Or watching freaking Parenthood, where even watching the roller coaster of those relationships leaves me wishing I had a Joel or Adam or Crosby of my own.

It’s like grief, the way those feelings sneak up on you without warning and then instantly overtake you.  And while sometimes I’m in public or in the middle of a project and have to just block out those feelings and press on, I have learned from experience over the years that it’s best to just ride out the wave.  And not overanalyze everything.  Because after days or weeks or years of staying strong and holding it together, usually the best thing in the world is to yield to the grief and let it out.

The grief

For those who aren’t single, I know it might sound melodramatic to associate being single with grief.  But I have come to believe that’s exactly what it is at times.

Let me be clear.  I love my life, single and all.  And I have written a handful of times on here before about how I’ve found many things about the single life to be empowering and awesome.  And I absolutely believe in living life — wherever it finds you — to the fullest.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I still would love to be married, and that I have dreamed dreams and hoped hopes over the years that simply were left unmet.  And I grieve those things.

I grieve the fact that I didn’t get to experience young love and marriage like so many of my friends, and alongside so many of those friends.  I grieve the fact that I didn’t get to meet my husband when we were in the smooth-skinned, wrinkle-free, heads-full-of-hair, bursting-with-energy “prime” of our youth.  I grieve that a guy never got to see me lead worship in my first job, and I never got to cheer him on with his first promotion, and stay up late dreaming and planning where our careers would lead.  I grieve that we didn’t get to choose all of our “firsts” together — first city, first home, first set of pots and pans, first Craigslisted-couch, first dog, first car, first broken toilet that we fix together, and on and on.  I grieve that — even if I do meet someone — we will in some ways be years behind so many of my peers in experiencing all of those “firsts” of marriage, and being newlyweds, and starting a family, and quite simply just getting to really know everything about each other.  I grieve that my age is becoming an increasing factor in whether or not having kids of our own would even be possible.  I grieve that there is no one on the horizon.

Sure, I can play devil’s advocate on all of these.  And I often do with myself, because I absolutely know that the years I’ve been single have (for the most) part been wonderful.  And if a guy does happen to come along in the future, I also know that relationship will be great in its own special way.   But that doesn’t discount the fact that I had dreams of how I hoped things would go.  And when those dreams or prayers were not answered as I had hoped, something deep inside me just aches.

The heartache

Really, that’s the best word I can use to describe the really hard days and moments that I have being single.  It’s heartache, in the most literal and emotional way.  You know the feeling, when a weight presses down on your chest so hard that you can barely breathe, and then somehow buries deep into your soul?  That kind of ache.

It’s not really jealousy.  Trust me, I struggle with jealousy and comparison in all sorts of other areas of life.  But with relationships, I’ve strangely always been encouraged by watching other good marriages.  It’s also not really anger either.  Occasionally I get mad about the situation and vent to friends or have it out with God.  But even with God, as counter-whatever it may seem, I’ve always felt like He gets that grief more than anyone.  And He has seen me through so many years and I don’t doubt He will continue to do so.  So there’s no one or nothing really to be mad at.

No, I think the main thing I feel is just that ache of sadness.  Sad that I’m still walking this road.  Sad that it is downright exhausting at times doing life on your own.  Sad that I have absolutely no idea or hint of what lies ahead.  Sad because I would just love the chance to love.  Sad that there’s a decent chance that might never happen for me.

Some days, my heart just aches.

The response

I’m not going to package this up with a nice pretty bow and a list of 5 steps for how to handle these moments.  Because if I read that in someone else’s post, it would probably make me cringe.  But mostly because, like I said, I honestly don’t think there’s a ton to “do”.

Sometimes I cry, sometimes I pray, sometimes I call a friend, sometimes I go for a walk, sometimes I just snuggle with my dog, sometimes I make myself a bowl of my favorite egg drop soup.  But most times, I try my best to just be present in the moment and listen to my heart.  Sometimes a specific issue will rise to the surface about being single that I need to deal with, maybe on my own, or with God, or something I should bring up with a group of friends or a therapist or something.  But I’ve come to find that most of the time, I’m usually just sad and that’s all there is to it.

And that’s ok.

So yeah.  I’m still that someone who’s all about enjoying life being single, and feeling empowered and chasing after dreams and living life to the fullest.  But I’m also someone who has spent plenty of time in the valleys, learning the outlines of the shadows that come with this territory when all seems lost.  And I’ve come to believe these moments are just as important as the highs.

But as my old pastor used to say, the worst thing is never the last thing.  And somehow, the light and joy that come with the morning always come again.  Always.

So to any of you dear friends who find yourself in the midst of those hard days, I raise my glass to you and the courage and strength it takes to get through.  And I offer that you’re not alone.  And remind you — and myself — that it will get better.

It will.

If you’re interested, here are some other posts I’ve written about being single.

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**Update: I just wanted to pop in and say how completely blown away I am for all of your thoughtful responses below.  I read every single one, and am so grateful for each of you who share.

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Comments

  1. Jared — April 16, 2014 @ 11:05 am (#)

    Ali,

    Never seen your page before but a friend reposted it on facebook. I don’t know you from Adam(Eve I suppose is more appropriate), so forgive the post but it is helping me process through some things myself. Thanks for your words, and despite being a man, I have had the same struggle and many of the same thoughts. Amidst multiple overseas deployments, I have come all too familiar with too little fellowship and too much loneliness, watching many friends build the life I hoped for. While I am far from perfect, I have strived hard to honor the Lord with my life and keep sacred what is sacred should I ever meet my wife…at times I question if its all worth it.

    It is hard to maintain perspective or find understanding as to why, and I can’t really offer any either. I am 30 and will soon be facing yet another trip to the desert. If I can offer hope, however, it is this: you are not alone, and there are men out there who are dealing with the same struggles. I am confident you and I and those who carry similar burdens will find one eventually, its literally just a matter of time. Until then, pursue the Lord as much as you can.

    On an entirely unrelated note, holy crap your food looks amazing.

  2. Kathryne — April 16, 2014 @ 4:24 pm (#)

    Yep. You hit the nail on the head with this one. xo.

  3. The Preppy Vegan — April 16, 2014 @ 5:21 pm (#)

    1. You are awesome. Thanks for being vulnerable and real. So many blogs these days are about projecting “perfection”, which makes me want to gag and scroll on to the next.

    2. If you haven’t already, run (don’t walk!) and buy The Between Boyfriends book by Cindy Chupack. I mean it!

    3. You’re awesome.

  4. Betsy — April 16, 2014 @ 7:15 pm (#)

    I stumbled on your blog through pinterest. Thank you SO much for sharing your heart about being single. I feel like you’re in my head. Thank you, thank you, thank you for articulating what is so hard for me to say sometimes.

  5. Amy — April 16, 2014 @ 8:07 pm (#)

    Thank you. I wish I could accurately put into words how your posts on single life in your 30s have spoken right to my heart. This post in particular came at the exact time I needed to see it. Thank you for being so open and honest; you’re right, sometimes being single just feels hard.

  6. Jenny — April 16, 2014 @ 11:53 pm (#)

    Thank you for your courage and your heartfelt and emotional honesty. Your words brought me to tears since it so beautifully echoed my own grief, sadness and heartache about being single. While I second your comments about loving the single life, it is an odd feeling & experience to describe to another the pains of being single in your 30s ultimately feels like. You’ve written about it with such precision and beauty. Continue doing what you’re doing, loving what you’re doing and things will fall into place.

  7. Norma @ Allspice and Nutmeg — April 17, 2014 @ 6:14 pm (#)

    Wow, your vulnerability is commendable. I don’t know you but reading this beings back memories. This is exactly where I was in my 30s. I was waiting and waiting and waiting on The Lord to bless me with marriage. I started to analyze, no criticize myself pointing out all the things wrong with me for the reasons I’m still single. When The Lord finally opened that door I learned that He just wanted to work more in my heart and the heart of my now husband. I pray for you to be blessed with a Godly man in His time. He makes all things beautiful in His time.

  8. Stephanie Hanson — April 18, 2014 @ 11:22 am (#)

    I commend you for talking about this so openly – you should be so proud. I struggled with the same issues myself and completely empathize. I prayed and prayed and prayed…and often heard “Not yet.” I assure you that God has a plan for your life – but I say that knowing that having that type of faith is easier said than done. Continue doing all the wonderful things you are doing – and when you least expect it your days of being single will be a thing of the past. You are awesome!!!

  9. Joyce — April 18, 2014 @ 11:23 am (#)

    Waiting is such a hard test. I was divorced for five years after suffering nine years with an young man who had a terrible problem with drinking. I knew I was destined to be a wife and mother and yet I too faced the fact that the Lord may had destined me to be single. After five years He brought to my parents door a wonderful Christian man and it was instantly knowing that we were meant to be together. Three months later we were married and have been in the ministry working together here and as full time missionaries overseas for 37 years now with a wonderful son. It has not always been easy for sure…many time great agony, but now we are gloriously happy as we grow older together.

    Hang in there and don’t give up. Things can and do change in an instant. He has all your steps planned and has not forgotten your desires. Just wait a little longer! Maybe sooner than you think.

  10. Suri — April 18, 2014 @ 2:07 pm (#)

    Thank you so much for sharing an other part of real and vulnerable you. I’m totally blown away.

    Have a nice day.

  11. Helen — April 19, 2014 @ 1:08 pm (#)

    Ali, I have just stumbled across this post today and am blown away by how well written it is, how open you are, and how it sums up perfectly how I felt when I was single. I just got married one year ago and I was 39! I can’t tell you how many hours I spent discussing the whys and hows and what-to-dos with my single friends in my 20s and 30s, but I always hoped that my experience (which, you are right, really is a bit like grief) would encourage others if I ever did get married. I know you don’t want to hear any platitudes (I know, you’ve heard them all a hundred times!) but I would like to share that for me the turning point was when I suddenly realised that there WERE things I could do to help myself move towards marriage. I think these things vary from person to person, but for me I suddenly became quite determined and after about a year with this new outlook I did actually find ‘the one’. I’m not saying this is how it should be for you, just what worked for me. :-)
    Obviously I don’t know what your path will look like, but I actually don’t think that 30 is old at all and that you still have plenty of time!
    Oh, the other thing that jumped out at me in this post is what you were saying about grieving having the chance to experience all those ‘firsts’ with a husband. Well … I’ve found that I have actually experienced many ‘firsts’ with my husband in this first year of marriage, and I can’t imagine that it’s with any less excitement and joy than a younger couple would experience. ;-)
    Thanks again for this wonderful read. I have a couple of single friends who I know will really appreciate reading it!

  12. lisa — April 21, 2014 @ 12:24 pm (#)

    I’m almost 50 and single. A facebook friend posted this and I clicked on it to read. I’d just come from the dentist where I learned my insurance won’t cover the $800 crown I need. $800 is a hundred dollars shy of my rent. When I think of married couples who split rents and mortgages, I get the very exhausted grief you describe and think, “Lord, really? I get it that I’m talented and strong and independent and creative and [add self-affirming adjective]. But I am so tired. So tired of doing all this on my on.” I work full time and go to school full time and work out three times a week and am constantly learning new things–but what I wouldn’t give for a hand to hold and a kiss on the forehead. Anyhoo, this helped me. Thank you. Bless you.

  13. Kat Duncan — April 21, 2014 @ 12:52 pm (#)

    Hey girl! This just was so beautifully done! Your amazing! I think my own singleness has pushed my relationship with God in a good and tough way. Trusting His plan is harder then heck these days. All the whys circulate through my head all the time. But I’m choosing to try everyday to put faith in him. My heart,his hands. Ill be praying for you and all the other girls on here.

  14. Rachel Cooks — April 21, 2014 @ 7:44 pm (#)

    Catching up on your blog (aka stalking?) but I just had to comment on this post. You are so brave and I know you’re helping so many people with these posts.

    I love what your pastor said about the worst thing never being the last thing. So encouraging for any situation anyone might be in. So comforting to know God has an awesome plan.

    Also, I have to disagree on one point. Wrinkles? Show me one wrinkle that you have. ;)

  15. Claudia — April 21, 2014 @ 9:00 pm (#)

    Thank you again Ali

  16. Tessa — April 22, 2014 @ 3:11 pm (#)

    Hey Ali, I just turned 30 two days ago and have been fighting one big moment all week. I couldn’t have said it better – so thank you. I don’t understand it, but I know God does.

  17. Sheryl — April 25, 2014 @ 4:53 am (#)

    It was a bit scary reading your post. I mean, I thought you were 50 somethingy but when i realize you were just a beautiful 30.

    Shuck gurl! Chin up!I am 32 and…SINGLE. I have known panic attacks and sudden dropping of BP but i know and i know and i know that my vocation is to marriage and God is Good as his Promises. It WILL happen.
    I am not a dating person either and super-picky but hey, the Lord’s daughter deserves only the best. He is not such a meanie to hold out on you.

    Be sure of your God-given vocation. Then HOLD ON TO IT. TIGHT. It is faith beyond seeing. I would like to call it- Abraham’s-testing-for-single-women-in-the-21-Century.

    That being said- I’ll carry you in my prayers. This too will pass.

  18. Janelle — April 26, 2014 @ 7:46 pm (#)

    Thanks for sharing, Ali. I know exactly what you mean & have been there myself, more so in the past year around the holidays. I had all out sob fests & have struggled to come to terms with my situation. I also had to remind myself of rock-solid promises found in God’s Word & choose to believe them. Thanks for encouraging me to live life to the fullest right where I am!

  19. Lisa — April 29, 2014 @ 11:19 am (#)

    This was beautifully and truthfully written and I just want to tell you I’ve been EXACTLY where you are. In fact, if I were as eloquent as you I would swear I was reading my own words! I am freshly 39 and did not meet my husband until I was almost 36. I can completely relate to your grief. I grieve all those things too even though I am married. My husband is almost 9 years younger than me and I worry that my age will catch up with me one day and he will want someone younger. I worry that I won’t be able to have a child because I didn’t have the opportunity to even try until just recently — when everyone else has 10 year olds. Some of my best friends who are my age are still single and I don’t know why. All you can do is just trust that you are exactly where you are supposed to be at this moment, and trust in the Lord with everything you have. I will never forget how it felt to be single for SO LONG and I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I think it makes a lot of us feel like we aren’t alone. PS You’re only 30!!!! You have TONS of time to meet someone! Thanks again for sharing yourself with us!

  20. Moji M. — May 1, 2014 @ 12:42 am (#)

    Hi Ali. Thanks for this post; it’s a friendly reminder that even though I am alone, I am truly not alone in this. I am only 22 so I am not worried about marriage or kids (that’s a whole ‘nother decade for me) but I never had a boyfriend nor anything that resembles that. And my first kiss was a opportunity I took just because I was tired of the questions I got from people (and the intense embarrassment) when I said I was 21 and never been kissed. I try to be strong and I try to remember that everything happens for a reason and my happy relationship will come one day but I often feel the ache of loneliness and the lack of partnership in some of the difficulties I go through. But anyways thank you again for the post, it’s a nice reminder that I don’t have to keep it together 100% of the time.

  21. Bridget — May 3, 2014 @ 10:42 am (#)

    Thanks for this post! I know exactly what you’re talking about. In fact, I had one of those moments yesterday when looking at a picture of my cousin with his new baby and our Grandma. I’m so happy for him but couldn’t help feeling that grief and worry that I might not have that moment with our Grandma. Still, I agree that it’s important to recognize those feelings but not let them define or take over your life. Reading your blog is like having tea with a good and understanding friend. It’s nice to know there are others out there who are experiencing similar situations.

  22. Catherine — June 14, 2014 @ 10:34 pm (#)

    Hi Ali, absolutely true to a T. I am in the relationship with my man and am happy still I have grieved for not marrying, no children, no school concerts etc. I too believe in living a full life but my man has done all this and isn’t interested in going another round and my body clock and health is past it. I’ve chosen being with a loving man as the companionship is what I have craved more than anything (just like you).

    • Darren Drader — September 18, 2014 @ 2:01 am (#)

      Hello Ali,thank you for your insightful article as I can relate to what you said all to well.I am a 45 year old man who is single,never married with no children and never been in a relationship with a woman.Life I feel for me is passing me by in that regard and I personally feel I have a lot to offer a woman if given the chance.I cannot even begin to tell you how tough it is to come home to an empty home and waking up alone.I just seem to get by day to day and try to just keep my head above water and other days I just want to throw my arms in the air out of frustration and yell why me?I am currently trying online dating sites but personally begin to feel that it all just a scam and surely there must be an easier way to meet people.At my age I am fearful I will never meet the woman of my dreams and maybe God has a secret plan for me.Life sometimes is not fair at all and but alas tomorrow is another day.

  23. Diane Siegel — July 17, 2014 @ 10:40 am (#)

    Hi there. I’m 72, vibrant, enthusiastic, beautiful and feel exactly, EXACTLY as you describe. D

  24. Rachel — August 21, 2014 @ 8:49 pm (#)

    This was exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you :)

  25. Brian — October 8, 2014 @ 8:34 pm (#)

    So true, especially the part about the different of sadness & the literal ache versus any moments of jealousy or anger.

    I knew that trading out my career in my mid-20s before it began to care for my aging parents would be tough (watching my mother die and seeing my father deteriorate over this past decade), but I didn’t fully foresee how losing out on being an economic provider would rule me out of the dating pool by my mid-30s. I know that they always kvetch that men don’t have the same biological limitations as women, but we have the same “missing out on firsts” issue…

    …and I’ve just spent a painful decade watching the result of waiting until one’s 40s to have children — any kids I do have if I meet someone by a miracle will never know their grandmother and will probably also at this point never know their grandfather.

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