When Being Single Just Feels HARD
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re interested, here are some other posts I’ve written about being single.
- 30 and Single
- The Word “Single”
- 10 Things NOT To Say To A Single Person
- 10 Things TO Say To A Single Person
- Single For The Holidays
- What I’m Looking For In A Guy (Husband)
**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.
I’m so happy I found this even after the time you wrote it
This is so spot on.. it’s scary!
Relatable and so true…
People don’t understand what it’s like to be single, I mean 2014 was hard but 2022 is so much harder and I have been single for all that time…
Thank you for writing this
This is the first time I’ve ever felt understood in my feelings about singlehood. Thank you so much for this blog!
I totally relate. I’m 51 and still single and it is like a grief…an aching as you so rightly put it. your honest and balanced feelings and thoughts hit home for me. I feel like I relate to so few people. Some days harder than others….it’s a struggle. Thanks for sharing… really appreciate it.
This is me totally. I finally found an article that says exactly how I feel. I’ve been single a long time. And I grieve and that’s exactly what it is. And yes those moments land unexpectedly like a bomb. Doing life on your own is definitely exhausting. I want to be loved and I want to love in return. This article is just…me. Thanks!!!!
Thank you so much for this. I have been long term single – 30 years in fact bar a few longer dating periods, where I got dumped every time. All my friends are in relationships and have children. I always feel guilty that I hate being single because you are supposed to be “free and careless”. It doesn’t feel free or careless. It feels trapped and empty and yes…like grief. And like a weight I carry all the time and the world constantly reminding me that I don’t have anything important to mind, so make way for those that do. All why being told that I am so lucky that I can put myself first. Just get in line and eat the crumbs and be grateful because “relationships are hard”. They sure are. You don’t need to tell me. If it had been easy, no one would be single. But you all cried bloody murder about lockdowns. Some of our lives are lockdown.
Sorry about the vent. I don’t think I have it harder than others at all. But I just hate that when you are alone, it’s like we have to numb our feelings because we are, in many places, second rate citizen (and obviously not compared to people who experience racisms, etc. but this is a went)
I’m really feeling this right now. I’ve been single 5 years and it’s never felt so painful. Some people just walk into relationships, some people are poly and have lots of partners. I only want one. I’m told I’m attractive but that doesn’t help when everyone I meet is married.
Are you still single? I’m 21 and I’m on the verge of leaving the faith because of this exact issue. I’m sorry but the pain of being the only single friend, and not only that but being the least approached, least complimented and least appreciated friend as well as the only practicing christian friend as well. How does it make sense that God keeps me single but all my friends who are sexually active with their bfs or are not mature to be in fun and healthy relationships. I feel like I wasted my teen years pursuing God for Him to turn around and bless those who didn’t even try with Him.
Thank you Ali for you article! Thanks for recognising the valley and reminding me that really is a heartache or a grief! And that just need to be recognised and once we feel better we continue living our lives the best we can! Thanks also for not providing a list of 5 steps to be happy.
Thank you for this post! I needed this more than you probably ever will know. I’m so frustrated and lonely and sad I just don’t understand why I don’t deserve love like everybody else seems to to have but everything you said is exactly how I feel. I am empowered and perfectly capable of being independent and alone but it’s been so long I’m just ready for my person to come along and be there for me … but I know God has a plan for me it’s just hard to wait: especially after years and years of loneliness
This is so relatable. You expressed it so well. 90 % of the time I am ok, but it does sneak up on me and yes, it is a grief and it is a sadness and sometimes I’d add a tiredness too. At 49 , I have come to a certain acceptance, I have made a life, but I’m also feeling restless and the thought of be single as I continue to age can be difficult some days.
Wow, I can’t remember ever seeing my own experience and feelings as a single woman so closely reflected and articulated in writing. I’ve got tears in my eyes. This is amazing ❤️❤️
Hi,thank you so much for writing this, absolutely spot on post.I am in one of those low moments of single hood now,being single for 6 years and that’s officially later than my last relationship,now i realized…and sometimes it is very sad,lonely and very hard.Shout out to everyone who is on the same journey.
I was so emotional reading this post thank you so much.
I just wanna say, thank you so much for posting this kind of warm writing. I’m actually always happy with my status of being single, but for couple of weeks, it feels hard. I don’t understand why, but it feels different. Some people cannot understand the feeling of never having romantic relationship experience. But, thank you for your understanding. Your words help me to think that I’m not a weird person for having this feeling and grief. Also, thank you for all of you who comment this post. It helps me to not feeling alone. Cheers from Saturn!
Hello everyone thank you all for commenting upon this post which so many have clicked with. Everyone’s emotion is 200% valid, it’s crazy to see so many ppl at such diverse ages. I am 20 and just remember that there are so many humans out there experiencing all this no matter what age; with or without any job, friend period, partner, family support, chronic disease etc. who said the most unexpected ppl cry!
I’m happy I found this post, as it describes exactly up to the details what I usually feel. Unfortunately, as a young man (25 yo), it is becoming hard to ignore. Your friends gettin’ laid, married etc, even just talking with some female friends I onced liked in a different way trigger that feeling.
It demands extreme self control and self discipline to hang on and live normally, even though I consider myself to be growing great in the other aspects of life.
Not having that person to hug when you get home is, at least for me, a though reality that sure does hurt when I think about it.
Wish everyone the best!
I stopped believing in God and prayer after 30 long years of being involuntarily single. It’s not fair that so many people find love so easily and I still haven’t met Mr Right and I’m in my 50s. I’m angry, heartbroken,and resentful. Sick of seeing wedding anniversary posts on Facebook, making me feel like a defective freak and a failure. I prayed for 30 long years and I feel like if god existed it’s just telling me “F you, I don’t care about you”. I dread the prospect of reaching my 60s and retiring still single. I dread the idea of being single the rest of my life. I hope I meet Mr Right soon. I’m exasperated, exhausted, angry and feel trapped!