Singled Out: Singleness After 30
It’s fascinating how opinions and attitudes about singleness from single people cover a really wide range. On the surface, people within this demographic seem to have a lot in common. But the differences can become clear pretty quickly.
Lately, I’ve been teasing my team’s (single) resident because he called me middle-aged a few weeks ago. Correction: he confirmed I was 33 and then called me middle-aged...in a conversation about how someone else my age was too old to be hanging out with the young professional (post-college) singles groups.
It’s not the first time this has happened. A couple of years ago, I was actually attending a young professionals event at a restaurant when a guy came up to me and told me I looked too old to be there. My response? I apologized. I wish I were the kind of witty and confident person who could have made us both laugh with a quick quip. But I also wish that there was more care in the ways people interact with singles, regardless of age.
I feel like that’s pretty on-par for being single in your 30s. Especially when you don’t want to be single. I would love nothing more than to be married and starting a family. But at this point I feel like it’s a testament to my faith in God that I’m waiting until I meet the right person and submitting to His will in my life. In the letter to the Philippians, Paul writes,
“...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
Choosing contentment isn’t alway easy. I’ve forced dating the wrong guy in the hopes of changing my single status, and it sucked. And there are real blessings to being “unattached.” Because I was single, I was able to fully enjoy the adventure of living abroad after college. I’ve had the capacity to be the best babysitter for my cousins and my niece because I have the time and energy their parents are quickly losing.
But there was also COVID, where I went nearly two months without touching another human being. Where I cried in my apartment, alone, working longer hours than everyone else because I was single and others assumed I must have more time than people with families to go home to. Where I was told, relentlessly, how lucky I was to not share my space with a family and how I should be so glad for my singleness (and, in the same sentence, was told how isolated and alone each of these people felt even while surrounded by people).
Clearly, no situation is perfect; it’s all just part of life.
So why is being married treated as the next step, or the next level up? Why am I somehow less than others when I’m in a group?
Why have some younger women, newly married, felt the need to share their unfiltered thoughts about singleness, with little regard for how their words might come across? “Oh, if I were getting close to thirty and unmarried, I’d die.” “Who would want to start having kids at thirty? You’d be ancient while they were in high school.” “What would you even do with yourself alone for that long?”
Why is it so hard to speak with thoughtfulness and care to someone in a different stage of life?
Yes. I’m thirty-three. I’m not middle-aged. I’m not married. I’m not always happy with who I am or where I’m at in life. But it is still my life, and each day still counts.
I went to a conference last week and attended a session on singles ministries in the church. It brought some clarity to my thoughts. The speaker talked about how, just as marriage is a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church, singleness is a reflection of our season of longing and waiting for Christ to return. As singles, we are learning spiritual discipline and devotion in a special way.
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul writes that we each have our own unique gifts from God, that God is the One Who calls us to the meaning of our life, and that our concern in life should be pleasing Him. This applies to ALL believers, regardless of marital status. A life well-lived brings glory to God.
When I was in my mid-to-late twenties and lamenting being single, I felt my life was on pause. I was waiting to make choices in my life until I had a partner to make them with. When I hit thirty, I was able to laugh at the “me” from a few years earlier, because it finally clicked: my life is not on pause. I just have a different pacing than I had wanted. My book is still the same length, I just have different chapters. And I can still live out each chapter for God’s glory.
For those asking “what next,” I’m no expert. I have a much longer list of what I don’t want to hear from others than what I do want to hear. But I know I need community, I need support, and I need to feel seen.
I want to leave you with Ephesians 4:11-13, where Paul writes about the mission of a Christ-follower. It’s a mission to which we are all equally unworthy, yet called:
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)
Whether you are single, dating, or married, or experience a change in your “status,” I hope this passage encourages you to fully live out the beauty of your calling from God.