Singleness is a good gift from a God who only gives us what is the very best for us—but all of us need reminding of that sometimes. And not just on Valentine’s Day: married friends, as part of the family of God, can be an enormous encouragement to single people all year round. You probably also know how to put your foot in it.
So here are ten do’s and don’ts for helping your single friends from Andrea Trevenna, author of The Heart of Singleness. It’s not an exhaustive list (in fact, you should really ask your friends what would help, and definitely not help, them personally. Everyone is different!).
Things likely to be unhelpful to single friends:
1. Trying to set them up with someone. This gives the impression that you think their singleness is a problem that needs to be fixed, and that until they meet someone they are just passing time until life can really begin.
2. Asking them if they’ve met anyone yet. If this is often the topic of conversation, it can encourage your single friend to focus on this above all else, and to feel incomplete until she meets someone.
3. Asking them why they are still single. It amazes me how many people, especially married men, seem to think that this is a good question to ask! They usually say something like: “So why is a lovely girl like you still single?” Although I’m sure it’s not meant to, it comes across as patronizing and is embarrassing… and how are you meant to answer?!
4. Saying things like: “I’m sure the Lord has someone for you”. I know this is usually said to be kind to someone who is struggling with singleness and is desperately hoping that a husband will come along. But you can’t be sure—God may, in his good and loving plans, not have someone lined up for me, and that needs to be OK. Encourage your friend to keep finding fulfillment in their relationship with Jesus, and trusting him in the situation they are in now.
5. Only doing things with other married couples/families. I know of married couples who are nervous of inviting single people to come round along with married couples, because they think the single people will find it too hard. But do at least invite them and see! I so appreciate being included in plans made by married friends, and really value the friendship and gentle teasing (not about being single!) of some of my friends’ husbands, who are like brothers to me, who look out for me and support and encourage me.
Ways to be helpful for your single friends:
1. Be honest with them about the challenges as well as the joys of marriage. It is obvious to most single women what the joys of marriage are, so it is really helpful for you to let your single friends see the reality of some of the day-to-day challenges up close, which should happen naturally if you share your lives with them. This doesn’t mean being critical of or disloyal towards your husband, or moaning about your blessings (like children). It does mean not presenting your marriage as a place of perfect happiness. Single women do need to be reminded that real marriage is not like it sometimes looks from the outside!
2. Make and value your single friends as part of your family / your children’s lives. It is a great joy and a privilege to be an “auntie” who can just pop round to friends for tea sometimes, help with bath/bed time, babysit or just hang out with the family. Single friends who don’t have children of their own can be a real blessing to you… as well as you being a blessing to them.
3. Challenge them (graciously and lovingly) if they are wallowing in self-pity about being single. It is not helpful to let your single friends constantly feel sorry for themselves and complain to you that life is not fair. It may be difficult to challenge them from the position of “happily married”, but if you are a close friend, this is a way of really loving them and helping them to grow.
4. Pray for them. And pray primarily that they will grow to love and live for the Lord Jesus more and more. Rather than just praying that the Lord will give your friend a husband, pray for them to be growing more like Christ, and for you both to be making the most of every opportunity to bring glory to the Lord in the unique situations he has given you. And you could tell them that this is what you are praying for them.
5. Think about what photos you put in your living room or kitchen. I love it when I go round to married friends’ homes and see not only (or even) their wedding photos, pictures of their children and whole-family holiday snaps, but also photos of other families and friends (sometimes including me!). This reminds me that “family” doesn’t just mean the nuclear family, that I am not on my own, and that as a Christian I am part of a wonderful wider family. It means I’m not being reminded of what I don’t have, but of what I do have.
What are the helpful, and unhelpful, things married people say to you? Want more help with loving and encouraging single friends? Check out The Heart of Singleness by Andrea Trevenna.
This article originally appeared on TheGoodBook.com. Used with permission.
Andrea Trevenna works at St Nicholas Church, Sevenoaks, as Associate Minister for Women. She is also a popular conference speaker.
Image courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: February 16, 2017