He Said-She Said: Living in a Married World
- Thursday, April 28, 2011
EDITOR'S NOTE: Each He Said-She Said column features a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: I work with two other women in my department: my boss and a co-worker. Of course, both are married with young children and I am single, never married, no kids. It seems like all they ever talk about are their kids, their husbands, what their kids did this weekend, how their husbands get on their nerves, etc., etc. I really believe that my co-worker enjoys the fact that she has all this in common with my boss, and I don't. So, I sit there not being able to join in on most of the conversations, and I am really starting to feel like a social outcast and reject. Is there a way that I can properly deal with this, so that I am not so upset all the time by it?
HE SAID: In many ways, it seems as if we do live in a married world, even though there are 96 million singles in the United States (comprised of those at least 18 years old, never been married, divorced or widowed), which is 43 percent of the population according to the Census Bureau. Approximately 61 percent of those have never “walked down the aisle,” totaling nearly 60 million people. It would be a stretch to place singles as a whole into a social outcast status, but maybe we can receive a minority classification.
Nevertheless, having been single since the pre-cell phone days, I do empathize with you. Most of us spend the better part of our day at work in a situation which, if not conducive, has the tendency to affect the rest of our lives. I have to ask though, if you don’t share all of those commonalities with your co-workers, do you really want to take part in their “venting session”?
Here is my honest take on the situation.
First of all, your co-worker probably does enjoy having many things in common with your boss—wouldn’t you in that position? Whether she is trying to “stick it” to you or not, there’s not a lot you can do (i.e. confront her, talk to your boss, etc.) without it becoming a bigger deal in your office and alienating you even more.
You’re at work, so just work.
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world (John 9:5).
When I encounter times at work where I don’t feel part of a social conversation or don’t have anything constructive to offer, I usually bow out and do what I am being paid to do. If you utilize those opportunities where your boss and co-worker are sitting around socializing, and spend it working (with excellence) rather than trying to “fit in” to their world, what is the worst thing that will happen, your co-worker will say, “Look at her, all she does is work”? That won’t score any points or make her look any better.
You will seldom be scrutinized by your superiors for working too hard, and it will clearly separate you from your co-worker even if they do have a lot in common. Don’t feel as if you have to be like them to succeed.
Outside of work, expand your horizons.
I have come so they can have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way (John 10:10).
Instead of trying to blend into their world, establish your own. If you arrive each morning from having “experienced” your single life in the fullest possible way, others will want to hear about it, because they aren’t doing it.
When I worked as a youth worker, I always invited the children of my co-workers to attend the events and trips (even mission), which many did. Although I didn’t (and still don’t) have children of my own, my co-workers and I had much to discuss about the weekend I spent with theirs.
One thing I have discovered from many of my married friends is their lives are fairly “consistent” (some would even call it “mundane,” to describe it politely). I often get many more questions about what I’m doing and experiencing in contrast to their common response of, “Same ole, same ole.”
Don’t spend your time worrying about what you don’t have, but rather experience what you do have—a sense of freedom, more flexible lifestyle, and “free of concern and (seeking) how you can please the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:32).
Live your life to the fullest and be a light to the world—that is how you can properly deal with your circumstances.
SHE SAID: I’m so glad you wrote in and asked this question.
Yes, you, me, Cliff … we are all singles living in a “married world.” Those who have been married since graduating college (or very soon after) have no idea what it is like to be single for many years, even decades. And it is also true that those who have been single for many years (myself included) have no idea what it is like to be married for many years (or even just married at all).
That’s what I tell myself each time I feel left out of a conversation that is all about spouses or children or when it seems like I am being misunderstood or judged for not being married (or having not found someone to date) or that a married person thinks that he or she knows exactly what I’m going through as a single person or has the quick-fix solution to my problems (“You just need to ______.”).
My flesh wants to rail against and to whine and to bite back. But the Spirit checks me and impresses upon me to be gracious. Thank God for his Holy Spirit who moves and guides and convicts us, yes? Otherwise I’d be down a great number of friends and acquaintances by now.
I’m not saying that I’m successful all of the time in responding with kindness and graciousness in situations like the one you’ve described in your question above. Far from it. I’ve just thought about this a lot. My personal conclusions are this: I can’t change those around me. I can’t change their perspectives. And I can’t get them to understand my point of view or what I think I need as a single person. But I certainly can change my attitude and my response when I am faced with any situation where I feel like a “social outcast” and a “reject.”
And I think the key word here is feel. If you asked the two women you work with if they intentionally wanted to make you feel left out or not included in their conversations because of your station in life, I am certain that they would say, “Absolutely not.” They’ve probably never even thought that you could be feeling left out during their conversations that focus primarily on activities or situations that you know nothing about experientially (or even emotionally).
Bottom line, they only know what they know. They are coming from a married world and you are not. They speak a somewhat different “dialect” than you, just like you do as someone who’s coming from a singles world. It’s like taking a trip to a foreign country where you don’t speak the native tongue. You’re trying to maneuver and to communicate and to have a good time. But it’s going to take some effort on your part to make it all work and go smoothly, right? The whole country you’re spending time in is not going to change for you while you’re there visiting (especially if it’s France … kidding!). So you’ve got to adapt and deal and make some changes for yourself in order to have a pleasant trip and come away with some good memories.
See what I mean? (Or rather, comprendre? … if you’re French).
I’ve also found that it helps to take the focus off of myself in conversations and situations like the one you’ve described. It’s very easy to sit there and stew. But it’s also easy to change your POV. But how do I do that? I ask questions. I listen. I ask more questions. I try to get to know the people I’m with and understand their lives and their choices and the messages they are sending through their communication with me. What can I learn from them? Or (and this is where the big girl pants come in) how can I be a blessing to them?
I know. That’s hard to swallow. But don’t lose your cookies quite yet. Stay with me.
I’m simply suggesting you are the one who moves over. Instead of staying in the further away “hey, I’m single and they aren’t taking note of that!” seat, try scooting over and getting closer to them. Spend some time in the “wow, I can really identify with how you were feeling in that situation” or “that’s great and I’m so glad you were able to do such and such” seat.
“But I don’t wanna move!” I hear you. But listen. Go back to Jesus’ example while he was here on earth. He didn’t spend time with his disciples constantly saying to them, “Guys, you’re just an uneducated and spiritually immature bunch of followers. When are you going to get it? You just have no idea of the weight of the world that I’m about to carry on my shoulders. Just no idea.”
Can you imagine?
What Jesus did do was spend time with the disciples by serving them (washing feet anyone?), sharing Truth with them (God’s Word is alive and active and penetrates to change lives) and teaching them, by example, what it means to love God and one another (sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice).
For the next five business days, try taking a different look at your situation and see what changes you can make to reach out to your co-workers. Give it a shot. Five business days. That’s all. And then see how you feel. Call me crazy, but maybe God has some big plans for you to be an ambassador and a light for him in this mad, mad, mad—I mean married—world.
“ … Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:26-28).
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Laura MacCorkle, Senior Editor at Crosswalk.com. She loves God, her family and her friends. Singleness has taught her patience, deepened her walk with the Lord and afforded her countless (who's counting anyway?) opportunities to whip up an amazing three-course meal for one.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the 21st century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
GOT A QUESTION? If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that this column will be an encouragement to you.
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