When I was in college, I watched almost every one of my friends begin to date and start relationships. I was still single, but it felt like those around me were growing into adulthood and making plans for their future. When I logged on to social media, I dreaded seeing yet another relationship or engagement announcement. I begin to wonder if I would ever meet someone, and it didn’t take long for me to start planning my life as a forever-single woman who lived with her stacks of books and a few dogs.
When it seems like everyone around you has a plus one, here are four things you can do to embrace a season of singleness and be present in the moment:
1. Learn how to rest
Many single Catholics battle a culture that tells them they should be dating or engaged by a certain timeline. Some fight against the lie that their lives have an expiration date. But in a season of singleness, we have to learn how to rest in God’s plan for our vocations and not stress if the time line doesn’t look quite like what we’d planned.
This doesn’t mean that you have to give up on your dreams of a relationship and discerning marriage. Instead, it means inviting God into this season, and resting in the knowledge that He is a good Father who is going to show up and keep His promises. The timeline isn’t going to look like what we planned. But the Lord takes care of the birds of the air, He has a plan for you.
You’re not alone if you experience anxiety about things not going according to plan. In the Gospel of Luke, Christ turns to Martha and says to her: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.” But instead of shaming her, the Lord invites Martha to sit down at His feet and rest with Him. He invites Catholic singles to do the same. The plan doesn’t look like you expected, but He has a plan. Sit at his feet.
2. Embrace this season of singleness
I spent a majority of my time in college single and it was easy to fall into the trap of comparison. I thought friends who were in a relationship were obviously happier, had more fun, and generally had it going on. But I also let their joy steal mine, instead of finding the beauty of the season the Lord was inviting me into. Instead of resting, I was constantly looking for what was coming next. If you’re experiencing a season of singleness, don’t waste this season waiting for it to be over.
“I think it all boils down to one word, which is way simpler said than done: gratitude.” Dain Finney says in a podcast episode on being single. “Just being grateful for what we’ve been given, all the while acknowledging that we’re experiencing an ache.” The Lord knows the desires of your heart. But He also calls us to find Him in the present moment. This is a life that He has asked you to partake in, how will you respond?
“When Jesus receives the cross, it’s full of splinters. He looks at it and embraces it. There’s a moment where he quite literally hugs the cross,” Dain explained. “I think for us singles, we’re called to look at that cross and embrace it – to hug it almost as if it were my best friend. Because this is exactly where the Lord needs me.”
Today, write down things that bring you joy during this season of singleness. Do you have a beautiful amount of time that you can use to volunteer at your parish? Have you been able to dive deeper into friendships during this season? Call out the truths of these moments of joy and meet Him in the gifts He has given you instead of those that He hasn’t. Don’t wait until you discern your vocation to encounter the Lord.
3. Rejoice with those who are rejoicing
In his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul talks about rejoicing with those who are joyful. This intentional act of rejoicing with those who are experiencing good things helps us live in harmony here on earth. But how can Catholic singles practice genuine joyfulness for the friends in our lives who are in relationships, when that’s something that we desire for ourselves?
When friends around you are in relationships, getting engaged, getting married, or having their first littles, it’s easy to think of your life as less than theirs. But the real way to rejoice with your friends and reject a mentality of comparison is to get to encounter your friends in the season that they’re in right now. After all, you don’t want to get a random invitation to a wedding of people you don’t know. Instead, ask your friends about how their relationship is doing. Get to know their significant other. Don’t shut yourself out from experiencing joy with them because their life looks different than your own right now.
“We have to put ourselves aside,” Dain explained. “It’s not about ‘well, they’re married before me’. This really has to come from a spirit within our own hearts of ‘it’s about them’ and ‘I’m celebrating them’. That doesn’t meant that you don’t want that, too. It’s just that right now it doesn’t have to be about ourselves.”
4. Learn about yourself when you’re lonely
During my time of singleness, I brought my ache of loneliness to spiritual direction. After listening to my story, my spiritual director encouraged me to learn to be alone, and to be alone well. In all honesty, this was a difficult lesson for me to learn. I thought I liked myself. But then I had to spend time alone with myself and I realized there was a lot about myself that I didn’t like so much. Especially in a season of singleness when it seems like everyone else has someone to spend time with them, the fear of loneliness can settle into our hearts.
What are you like when you’re lonely – do you acknowledge that feeling of being left out and turn inward? Or do you recognize a feeling of loneliness and know how to respond to it in a healthy way that honors your personality? One of these options is significantly more life-giving and happier than the other.