If you have not already, I would love for you to take a moment to read my awkward introduction to this post and what inspired me to write on this topic that is quickly becoming close to my heart.
For the married women:
1. See your single friend as what she is: first and foremost, a woman, just like yourself! She is a daughter of God, a beautiful creation, and someone worth taking the time to know. You probably have far more in common that you realize. She is not lesser than you because she has not married or borne children.
2. Don’t make assumptions about how she feels about being single. I think this was the one that surprised me the most. Growing up, most of the single women I knew were desperately single. Finding a husband, or, er, I mean…waiting on God to bring “the one”…was the top priority. But I have discovered that not every single woman feels that way. In fact, my experience has been that no two single women feel the same way about their singleness. Some are okay with being single. Some embrace it with open arms and throw themselves into other pursuits or a career. Others might be angry or frustrated, or struggle with it deeply. Some might be hurting from relationships with men that went wrong. Some are struggling to find their identity.
This may not be a “first date” kind of question – but, as you get to know her, find out how she feels about being single so that you know how to better communicate with her. Find out what conversational topics might be a sore spot for her, but don’t walk on eggshells around her. She actually might not mind hearing about your husband or kids and she might sense awkwardness that really doesn’t need to be there at all. Don’t assume – ASK!
3. Don’t overestimate or over-imagine her negative feelings about your children. This was one thing that I really worried about and wondered how I could make a relationship with a single woman work because I had a kid – but has ended up being a total non-issue. I have been pleasantly surprised by my single friends and their total “okay-ness” with hanging around my son (tantrums and all) and hearing me talk about my struggles as a mom. Some of my friends have a lot of nieces and nephews – and others have been nannies in the past, so being around kids doesn’t phase them at all!
That’s not to say that some single women might not have a harder time being around your kids or hearing you talk about them. Refer to #2 and ask. Let her be honest with you. And if she does express discomfort about being around your children, try to find a time when you can go out alone!
A quick tip: My friend Beth mentioned that because she knows it’s a lot harder for moms to get out, she wouldn’t mind coming over for girl-time during nap time, or in the evening after the kids go to bed! I also have had my friend Kami over during naptime! Discuss your children’s sleep-times as a possible get-together option with your single friends!
4. Find common ground. This is so key. I don’t really have great advice on how to make this happen – for me and my single friends, it just sort of happened. With Heidi, we discovered that we both love science fiction TV shows and essential oils and with Kami, it was music and writing. When we get together we always have things to talk about!
5. Recognize that while your single friend might have more “freedom” than you do, she still has a lot of real-life weight on her shoulders. Unless she is still financially dependent on her parents, she has the responsibility of providing for all of her own needs: rent or mortgage, utilities, health insurance, groceries, and so much more. She doesn’t have a husband’s income to lean on so she must make her way in the world financially. She has no choice but to work and develop her career skills – even if that might not have been the kind of life that she wanted.
6. Be vulnerable about marriage and motherhood. I fully believe that if more married women and mothers were honest about their struggles to single young adults, that fewer people would be disillusioned when they enter that stage of life. And you also never know how their wisdom and support might benefit you in your struggles!
Jenn (single) says this: “Single women aren’t broken or unfinished. We have something to offer to our married friends. Marriages are relationships and everybody has relationships and has to figure out how to navigate them. Don’t disregard what a single person says about your marriage just because she isn’t married and can’t possibly understand.”
And her friend Shamberly (married) says this about Jenn: “She has laughed with me…cried with me, stayed up late with me, kept my kids, helped make my marriage stronger by holding me accountable to be the kind of wife God calls me to be and by helping my husband and I learn to communicate better by holding our feet to the fire when we don’t.”
For the single woman:
1. Recognize that marriage is hard. I have always been nervous to talk to single women about the difficulties of marriage because I don’t want to appear ungrateful for the husband that God has given me or insensitive to their desires for marriage. Marriage is a blessing and desirable and worth all the pain – but it requires a lot of sacrifice and work that you really can’t fully understand until you are there. This definitely doesn’t mean that we can’t benefit from you or even your advice on marriage! Be a safe place for your married friends to vent or express frustration about married life, without snarky or jealous comments about how she has something you don’t.
2. Be a tangible blessing to your married friends, especially if they are younger than you, or a mom – and even more especially if they are both. Being married at 21 and a mom at 23 is not something I regret, but it is something that is just. plain. hard. I never knew how hard it was to be in my twenties. Establishing my own identity and figuring out life in general while caring for the needs of a husband and child and figuring out marriage and motherhood – it’s daily overwhelming to me. Even the smallest of gestures go a long way.
For example, my friend Heidi sent me a Facebook message offering treat me to a cup of coffee at Chick-Fil-A. Win win win all the way around! I got to get to know her better, take a sanity break, and my kid got to play! Look at the skills that you have and the opportunities you have a single woman that she might not have. Drop by with a latte. Text her when you are headed to the grocery store to see if she needs milk or bananas. If you like to cook, bring her a meal – just because. Offer to come play with her kids while she goes out for a walk or to run errands.
3. Be willing to meet her on her own turf. Like I said above, if she has kids, a restaurant with a play-place is a huge sanity saver. Have time on a warm day? Ask her if she wants to hang out at the park! Or, like Beth mentioned – ask if you can come over while her kids nap.
Moms groups are great. They are my sanity. And I believe there is also a big place for singles ministries. But, if your church does not have a group where all women (all ages, marital status, motherhood status) are welcome together, your church is sorely missing out on creating some great community. Segregation of women based on marital status is not helping our churches and is not helping our women.
Women need each other. Single women need married women and married women need single women. My friend Beth mentioned to me that she considered going to a moms group – just to make friends – but that she couldn’t because of her work schedule. It saddens me to know that women are out there who desperately need community but don’t have it because they don’t “qualify” for something because of their marital status.
(Although this is a whole different post in and of itself – women who are divorced, widowed, or childless need a place to develop community as well!)
This is by no means a perfect nor all-inclusive list on what can be done to build bridges between single and married women, but I hope that it has encouraged you and inspired you on ways to deepen relationships with the women around you – regardless of marital status.
If you have any more advice, PLEASE feel free to share it in the comments! I would love for this dialogue to continue!