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When Being Single Just Feels HARD

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When Being Single Just Feels Hard |

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.

**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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238 comments on “When Being Single Just Feels HARD”

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  1. You continue to amaze me. I am completely blown away with your vulnerability, inspiration and empowerment. I know that this post is going to give comfort to so many people. I must also add that I agree with all of it. My darkest days of grief are the reason I am on such an emotional cloud 9 with my little guys right now. Without grief, I know I would take so much for granted. It’s really crazy how God works. I also know how much I hated these pep talks during my hardest times so I’m going to shut up now… You are the best, friend!

  2. You very much put into words the day I had yesterday. Being in those moments are not easy and I too just try to live through them and learn. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this :)

  3. While I could likely draft a novella-length response, I’ll just say, thumbs up for being brave enough to be real about it, especially not drafting up “5 easy steps” that aren’t there…

    … and this GIF.

    Cheers, made my morning.

  4. I love that, “The worst thing is never the last thing.” What a great thing to remember no matter what causes you to be in that valley…

  5. This is going to sound crazy but I really had no idea. I’m really sorry and it’s amazing and inspiring that you’re sharing this. I’m sure so many people know exactly what you’re going through. And I hope this doesn’t sound terrible but this makes me realize I need to appreciate my husband even more. Because everything you wrote about coming home to an empty house and not being able to share good news with the one you love, I can’t imagine losing that. We all need to appreciate what we have more. xoxo to you Ali!

  6. Wow – you have hit the nail on the head! I’m 20 years older than you, have never been married, am really content in my singleness, but those moments of sadness really catch me sometimes. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thank you! I randomly came across this post, I had one of these moments last night. It’s nice to hear someone share the same feelings I have. So all I can say is thank you.

  8. Great post, friend. Great words on grief.

  9. My best friend has many of the same sentiments you are having right now, and she is in the midst of planning our friend’s wedding as well as mine since she is our maid of honor. It is absolutely comparable to grief. Not sure what kind of music you listen to, but one of my favorite songs is “Shake it Out” by Florence + the Machine. She says “it’s always darkest before the dawn” and I’ve just always loved that line. Kudos to you for being so honest and vulnerable about something that a lot of people can relate to but are probably too scared to talk about.

  10. Ali, this is beautifully written and equally heartfelt…I love every word! I might add that this can apply to guys as well–and even at my age those moments of grief can hit just as hard as they did thirty years ago…Bless you for posting this! <3

  11. Oh how I needed this today! I came accross your Instagram photo and decided to come and take a look and I’m so glad I did. Thank you so much as I have been struggling with this myself, I’m aware that I’m not the only one, but you have put into words what I have often struggle to do. A BIG thank you to your pastor for the encouraging words “the worst is never the last thing” I love it and will remember it… Thank you

  12. You have done an eloquent job of describing just about every emotion I’ve had about being single. I’m happy with my life too, but I have my moments as well. I can definitely relate to the going to church alone all the time. It just sucks! :-) Thank God for streaming live. :-) I also identify with the weight of doing everything on your own. Trying to explain that to married folks sometimes goes over like a ton of bricks. Again, thanks for your candor.

  13. Ali you really have a knack for boiling things down and getting to the route, and somehow you take the vulnerability and give the rest of us such clarity—single or not. Beautiful words, and I’ll be your devil’s advocate any day. XOXO

  14. Ah, yes. So true. And so beautifully written. Thanks, friend.

  15. I totally get this. I didn’t get married until I was 32 (didn’t start dating my husband until I was 31). It’s hard and it stinks sometimes. But there are great things about it too, but still it’s just hard. And that’s ok. Great that you share your story!

  16. Ali, this article speaks right to my heart. Growing up I always saw myself married right after graduating college but that came and went, and then 25 passed right on by, followed by 30…at times it is so hard to remember that this is all part of His plan. I love how you pointed out that God understands your grief more than anyone- so true! I’ve added you to my prayer list, girl.

  17. Such a well-written post, Ali. Thank you for the courage to share this – I definitely had a moment of grief the other night over unfulfilled dreams, so I can totally relate. xo

  18. This is the best explanation I’ve read about my single-ness. Thanks for posting!

  19. As a parent, there is perhaps no greater desire than to take away your child’s pain. Kissing an “owie” didn’t really make the pain go away, but at least acknowledged it with love. As your Dad, I’m grateful for the gift of your honest sharing. This “kiss” won’t take the pain away either. I hope that it does convey that your pain is acknowledged and that you are deeply loved.

  20. Ali, I read this post and felt like you were speaking my heart. And I am on the other side of this journey now… married, 3+ kids, and all that comes with it. And you know what? The pain is still there. I’m still grieving over all the early losses I felt. Missing out on all the firsts you described. And I married a man with kids and a past. Which only amplifies those feelings of grief and missing out. Nothing is his first and sometimes that breaks my heart. Thank you for putting all of this into words and for sharing your heart on this so-often-taboo subject. If I had any advice to give you… it would be to chase your passions down and keep your standards high. No matter what! HUGS!

  21. This is a beautifully-written post, and it has prompted me to respond, even though I’ve always been much more of a blog lurker than participant. I met my husband when we were young, while we were both in high school, and the same way that you explain grieving experiencing “firsts” together, I grieve experiencing some “single life” things. I’ve never lived alone. I went from dorm life and roommates to living with my husband after graduation. When I meet up with girlfriends (or siblings) and they talk about the good and bad parts of the dating world, I have nothing to contribute to the conversation. I never lived in that world and experienced that scene. That doesn’t mean I’m unhappy in my relationship and don’t think I’m lucky for finding my husband when I did. There are just some milestones that I won’t experience and learn from and I think that’s what you allude to in your post. What I’m trying to say is the “grief” can go both ways.

  22. I’m a new reader and am really enjoying your posts. Thank you for this post! I appreciate your openness. I can relate to a long wait (in my case, for a child) and some moments are much harder than others!

  23. Amen to all of that, you couldn’t have put it more perfectly all of the different feelings and emotions that come with being in your 30’s and single. I have felt every single one of those feelings and emotions, all the highs and lows. I am 33 and just got married 3 months ago, we are both the oldest with all of our younger siblings married w/children. I initially felt a lot of “I missed out on being young and all of those firsts.” But let me tell you that there are tons of benefits that come with being older and that maturity, being established in jobs and having a more secure start to your marriage than those young ones do. There are also still plenty of GREAT firsts that I am experiencing! I know we have never met and I have only been a blog follower for a couple months now but you sound like an incredible gal with so many talents and your time will come…sending love and good vibes your way from someone who understands all too well what you are feeling! :)

  24. Everything about this was everything I needed to hear today and wasn’t getting from my own head or my friend’s mouths. Thank you for being brave enough to share your hurts with us.

  25. Beautifully written Ali, thanks for sharing your story, I can totally see how being single is like grief-don’t know another way to express my thoughts on how spot on a description I think that is than to say it is a beautiful description! I met my now husband 4 years ago (we were 25-26 at the time) and before meeting him, being single just flat out sucked, so I get it! But someone as awesome and beautiful as yourself, you’re going to be swooped up girl!

  26. Ali, you’re amazing! Being able to express feelings as words (and not just as tears) is a remarkable ability and you truly have the gift. I am going to hold onto those words that resonate so deeply: “the worst thing is never the last thing.” Brilliant.

  27. That’s it exactly.

  28. This is as beautifully written as anything I’ve ever come across. I think you’re right, it is grief. When life unfolds not-as-we-expected, there is true grieving for what isn’t. It might be a miscarriage, or a diagnosis or a child dealing with a chronic illness, or even just a colicky baby, or being let go from a job you sort of mostly liked…. It might be a divorce…it might be being single when you thought you’d already have a family. Any time you think to yourself “this isn’t how I had envisioned it” it’s grief.

    You are also exactly right in your response. Ride the wave. I had a fabulous therapist who I sought out during a divorce say “just invite those feelings in for tea” — and she was right, making peace with “but this is what is” without fighting or resisting — that is indeed the best long term plan. So really I just wanted to reach out and hug you. To tell you that you are a REMARKABLE writer. And to recommend one book if you haven’t come across it: Loving What Is: 4 Questions That Change Your Life by Byron Katie. Once you read it, you’ll probably start giving as gifts.

    hugs and happiness to you!

  29. I know how you feel! I feel exactly like you describe and its hard. I am not in my thirties but being 28 makes me feel old enough. Thanks for being so brave and sharing what I needed to hear!! I am also going to follow your blog, I don’t follow a lot because theirs little connection or interest. I felt connected just by one post. Thanks so much for being a person I can relate to!

  30. Bravo Ali! Thanks for your vulnerability. I remember feeling almost all these feelings you shared. I met Adam at 31, married him at 33 and 11 months and 2 weeks. :) Most of these griefs and pains have been healed, but they remain formative to who I am as a woman today. And as you well know, the things you’re missing out on in marriage right now are allowing for a lot of other really good things in their place. I would give up my single 20’s for the world, and there are definitely perks to marrying in your 30’s! Cheers to you friend.

  31. This was really lovely– and captured how so many of us single and formerly single girls feel. A very brave post!

  32. Thank you for this. I am married but will use this to be more empathetic with my single friends.

  33. Ali, What an honest post! I too had a wonderful single life and it was not until I went to a counselor after the death of my grandmother, that I realized that in addition to grieving her death, I was also grieving for the loss of not being married and having children, and all of the other items you mentioned in your post.

    I did meet my husband a year or so later, and at the age of 45, we were married. He has two children and neither of us were interested in having a child together. At that point in my life, I had accepted that it was not in God’s plan for me to have children of my own. Now 6 years later, I am very happily married and waiting for my oldest step-son to go to college next year!

    A co-worker once told me that when she was a teenager, an “old maid” (I hate that term!!) at her church once told her: “It is better to be an old maid, then to wish you were one.” My friend thought that was the stupidest thing until she married as quickly as she could at age 18. Her then husband physically abused her. She said she then knew what that woman was trying to tell her!

    Your dreams are not unfulfilled…they are just different than you expected. Will keep you in my prayers. Mimi

  34. Ali- This is so beautifully written. I just recently got married, but I was the last single one of my friends and my husband was really my first true serious serious relationship of my life, at nearly 30. I agree that there is a grief associated with being single and longing for companionship, and finding someone ‘older in life’ (not that you are old at ALL!) sometimes comes with a feeling of missing out. All those things you mentioned, I didn’t get to experience with my husband. You have such a beautiful soul that you put out here for the world to see on your blog. I know God has someone very special waiting for you that is grieving all of the same things. Thanks for sharing. – Becky

  35. Hi Ali,

    Thank you so much for sharing. I’m in the exact same boat and it’s so hard to put into words the heartache that brings itself. I pray that your journeys through the valleys are short. Thank you for being so open and vulnerable.

    Take care,

  36. I just want to say THANK YOU for this post, and the others you’ve linked. You beautifully articulated exactly how I’ve been feeling lately as the big 3-0 creeps closer and closer (just a few more months!) and I find myself the literally.only.single girl in my friend group. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone, that someone else finds it so hard to be single, regardless of how much you love your single life. Your description of it as “heartache” and equating it to “grief” is dead on, and I find it’s difficult to articulate to friends who aren’t single. Sure, they can sympathize, but they can’t fully empathize. Again, thank you so much for this, especially with wedding season quickly approaching – I need all the encouragement I can get!


  37. Beautifully written. I hated these platitudes when I was 30 something and single but here is my experience. I met my husband at 33. We were married when I was 36. While I wish I would have met him 10 years earlier I know Gods timing was perfect. I wouldn’t have met him 10 years earlier, it wouldn’t be the same if we had. Our life experiences apart made us perfect for each other now. Patience, prayer, and having as much fun as possible in my single hood got me through those times. Now that I’m on the other side I get what everyone meant when they offered up this kind of advice.

  38. Thank you for this!! At 30 with never a boyfriend or prospects, I totally get this. Of course I’m open if God opens that door, and this past year I really have become okay if He doesn’t have that plan. But I also empathize with the pain of being left behind by all these people you were friends with who are getting married, or more and more often showing off their pregnancies.

  39. This was so beautifully written. I too have melancholy moments associated with my single status. I’m the youngest of 5 and also the only child my parents have that never married. I’m in my 40s now. My siblings all take “family” vacations with their spouses/children/grandchildren while I’m stuck home caring for our elderly mother. I feel like crying even as I write this. I grieve having a spouse to talk to about my work stress or about how tired I’m from doing everything for my mother. More and more it hits me that if I live to be my mother’s age, I’ll have no one to care for me (no kids/grandkids). I used to go to dinner or travel with friends but feel like I have to ask my 80+ mother for permission to just go out for a few hours since she’s so dependent on me (she pouts or if there’s even a slight chance of rain she immediately fears thunderstorms). So I end up making excuses and staying home. It’s times like that I wish I had someone (ie , a spouse) to be here for ME.. it’s those moments I realize how lonely being single really is.

  40. This is a great post. Being single is something married people just don’t seem to understand (even though they were once in the same boat). You described it to a T. Hang in there! You’re not alone. :)

  41. Thank you so much for sharing this!!

  42. I’ve been feeling the weight of singleness particularly heavily lately as well, perhaps because of another birthday alone last week. (Thirty-two. Yea….) It was really nice to see someone articulate exactly what I’ve been feeling.

    But in addition to the grief and disappointment you describe so well, I feel a growing sense of failure. I feel very strongly that having a family is part of God’s plan for my life, but I’ve struggled for years between wanting to wait patiently for that plan to unfold and feeling that I needed to be His agent in the world making it unfold. And usually I lean toward the latter. (And for the record, I’ve been thinking about this since well before Christian Mingle’s “Sometimes we wait for God to make the next move, when God is saying, ‘It’s your time to act'” commercial.) I wonder sometimes, though, whether this is something that falls more heavily on men, whom our culture at large expects to be the pursuer.

  43. Thank you so much for sharing your heart…I feel this pain too. Being content with my single-ness and even absolutely loving it most days is NOT a substitute for a relationship and things I’m missing out on. But I do trust that God’s plans are better than my own and try to rejoice always!

  44. This was me for so long, so many years. I’ve felt this grief and sorrow deeply, overwhelmingly at times. Then one month before my 38th birthday, I met someone on eharmony. I dabbled on and off eharmony and other dating sites for years (years!!!) with no success. I had pretty much given up hope of ever finding a husband or being able to have children. Out of the blue, this wonderful man appeared, one who I barely gave a second glance to, but since I was considering this my last hurrah online, I gave him a second look. After the first phone call I was hooked, and within a few weeks, knew something was different. Now, five months later, we’re getting married (in 17 days!!!). If you had told me last fall that this was going to happen, I would have laughed in your face. Now I couldn’t be happier, and I know that God worked everything out in his perfect timing, even if I don’t understand it all. I’m hopeful that I have a few years left in me to have children. I don’t want to sound clichéd and say someone will turn up when you least expect it, because I was often quite a bitter and cynical single person, but that’s exactly what happened to me. It took me 38 years to find my one and only…I hope that can bring you some hope!

  45. This was an incredible post and just what I needed to read today. Sometimes it feels like I’m alone with these feelings while everyone around me is in relationship bliss. This was really helpful to read :)

  46. What a beautiful and relatable post, thank you, Ali. While it would be great if none of us had to feel this way, I find it encouraging that I’m not alone in my singleness and how I feel about it. Thanks, everyone, for sharing.

  47. Girl, I can’t wait to see what God does with your dreams and desires, because I know He gave them to you! Your words are beautiful and so honest, but they hurt. They bring back the hurt I experienced while being single (you could have written my words), having 10? roommates and being in 12? weddings? LOL But they also remind me of God’s faithfulness, and to pray for my single friends! I love you so much! In His Time, sweet sister. Love you! (Your daddy’s comment? sniff-sniff:)

  48. I have those moments, the grieving over the things that cannot be, or have passed me by. In the midst of them, I “discuss” them with God (erhm, rather loudly, if you know what I mean). But in the end, it comes to one conclusion:

    I would rather be a life long single in the center of God’s will, than in a marriage, no matter how perfect, that is not of God’s ordaining.

    Nothing else matters.

    It’s not always easy to *feel* that, but that doesn’t mean it is no longer true. Following where God leads, no matter how hard, is infinitely better than trying to go my own way.

  49. Thank you for sharing your heart. I’ve seen this ‘look’ in my daughter’s eyes and and other single women’s eyes who are dear to me and this confirms what I felt they were feeling. Thank you for expressing it in a way for others to understand and feel with you. I can see this has already helped put words to what many have and do feel. God bless you.

  50. I loved this. I have been married, and now I am separated, and it is hard. Like you, I am happy with my life, but yes, there are those moments when I grieve because I am no longer sharing my life with someone.