With holiday season in full swing, each of us now faces the opportunity to spend time with people we do not see often. Whether old friends at a holiday soirée or family at a gathering, in all honesty – it can get awkward. To ease just a bit of the uncomfortableness the joyous season possess, I offer you this somewhat satirical, but also true guide on how to talk to single people. Trust me, this short how-to will benefit everyone involved.
I, Elizabeth Steinocher, a thirty-year-old elementary school teacher, am single. I do not speak for all single people, but the holiday season can suck. In order to offer you more than just my perspective, I asked a few of my female friends in the same boat as I to provide input. Enjoy.
First, let’s all acknowledge most holiday celebrations focus on families or couples, even in the movies. Obsessed with coupling each other off stands true day in and day out, but this phenomenon grows to exponential proportions from thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day. This alienates those of us not in a couple or without our own family. Most people my age where I live coupled off long ago and began to procreate at lightning speed. I still love them and sometimes see them. But our lives look different. Now my own family started making their own families. I still love them also, but you see the created predicament. As time passed our very similar lives took different courses. One version of life does not surpass the other. Each version bears pros and cons.
Because life can look so different, those who check a box other than “single” on a government form struggle to know a life without kids or spouses or someone to come home to each night. Through no fault of your own, sometimes you forget other people lead different lives than you, either by choice or just season. We can’t all be empathetic one hundred percent of the time, but the next time you find yourself at the table or standing in a living room all gussied up by a Christmas tree, at least attempt these suggestions. If not for me, do it for the single people speckled throughout couples at place settings everywhere. Or for the ones still sitting at the “kids table”.
Guideline 1: Care, but Like, Really Care
I know your life might be full of kids, or cooking dinner for you significant other. You may not understand why the single person in your presence does not know about Paw Patrol or why they did not get a family picture taking for their Christmas card this year. There is nothing wrong with any of those things, but their life may be filled with other things. Care about them as a person and care about those things in their life. Like, really care about them. If you cannot muster up the interest to care, then stick to discussing the weather or straight elevator talk only. We love to care about your life, care about ours as well. Remember, single people are full people with full whole lives.
Guideline 2: Do Not Feel Sorry For The Single Person
Multiple single people I asked all said people pity them. I choose to believe this happens without the intention to do so, but I agree it does happen. Just because we did not follow the same timeline as you in life does not mean we are less. Single people create adult lives for themselves the same way you created a life for you. It looks different, not incomplete. Yes, some of us would love to get married and pop out kids, but that’s not where our life is right now. Do. Not. Pity. Us. If you use guideline number one and care, this should follow suit with ease. We can tell when you think our life is an empty hollow vase. Know our life, though rocky at points, does not need pity. It needs true genuine relationship.
Guideline 3: Ask About Life, Not Just Dating/Marriage/Relationship Status
When talking to single people, you will be tempted to ask about their relationship status or lack thereof. You don’t date anymore, so it fascinates you. But just like you do not allow just everyone into the messy issues of your marriage, single people do not allow everyone into the details of their dating life. You pick and choose who you confide in about the intimate issues in your life, we get to do so as well.
Instead, ask about things that are important to us. Again, remember to care for real. If you need to, stalk our Instagram pictures or Facebook us to see what the single person has been up to if you think you may struggle with topics to cover. Ask us about our jobs, community, new adventures, old adventures. Share things with us, but go beyond just marriage and kids talk. We love to care and hear about your life, but we also know your life goes beyond your relationship status, too. Share the whole person with us so we can share our whole person with you. One single friend I asked made a great point. She said, “change how you view the world. Do not let culture identify your single and married friends, allow their identity in Christ to be how you see them.” This simple truth needs to sit at the forefront of all our hearts and minds. It goes for all parties.
Guideline 4: Do Not Set Us Up Out Of Convenience
If your single friend does choose to open up to about dating and marriage, you will likely want to consider and act on setting us up. The problem – you may not know many single people. So you jump at the thought of wanting us to join in you in marriage and tell us about your single friend. The reality for us, they’re just the only single person you know. We see that. You got a meet cute in college or had a whirlwind love story. Why should we settle for “only single person left between mutual friends”? Single people still deserve a great love story, not a forced one. Unless your single friend and the person you have in mind would hit it off on more levels than their both single and love Jesus (two important qualities), do not force it.
Also, though I don’t sit in this boat, not everyone wants to join with another in marriage. For some people marriage is not the end goal. Marriage is a deep desire for me, but I know if I never get married I still lead a full life (most days I know this). When you assume people need marriage, it makes us feel like our life lacks something, like it is less than yours. It may look different, but it is full if we choose to make our life that. Just like you must choose to make your married life full.
Guideline 5: Think Outside of “Couples”
If you find yourself struggling to connect with single people at the holidays, consider how and who you choose to spend your time. If we do not live our life with intentionality we can find ourselves stuck in an echo-chamber of sorts, single or not single. We must all make an effort to surround ourselves with people in different seasons, people who do not look like us, think like us or believe what we believe. All of us need to push ourselves to use empathy and see others perspectives. If we do not, we alienate each other.
My friend found this out at her office holiday party a few years ago. They all met up at a wine and canvas painting party. Good idea, right? In theory, yes. But the painting, a couples painting, did not work for the three singles. It created an unnecessary reminder for the single people they were second fiddle to the married people. It makes us feel like we do not matter or are somehow less than because of our relationship status, or lack thereof.
Happiness and joy are not mutually exclusive with relationship status. Single or married, we must choose to find happiness and joy in the season we find ourselves. But with conscious effort and application of these five simple guidelines, I believe that you can make the holiday season a little jollier for all of us replying “one” to the holiday RSVP.