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Handling mixed emotions when you’re single and friends marry

Unhappy young woman at event

Nicoleta Ionescu | Shutterstock

Cecilia Pigg - published on 02/13/24

As with any state of life, being single comes with its own set of challenges and emotional struggles. Here's some friendly advice on how to handle the journey.

The season of 2024 wedding invitations has begun. If you are single, this can be a particularly challenging time of the year. I spoke with some of my friends about their struggles, past and present, with the mix of emotions you might feel if you desire marriage but aren’t finding the right person. Here is what they suggested.

First, focus on investing in your life as it is now. What are your hobbies and interests? Put time into those. Find places and causes you are passionate about where you can lend your time and skills. Lean into your friendships and spend time building and maintaining new and old relationships. Don’t avoid your married friends during this time either. Their experiences can shed light on your own and vice versa.

Becoming and acknowledging

Become what you’re looking for in a spouse. If you want to find someone who puts you first, has healthy relationships with friends and family, is loving and patient (or whatever virtues you’re looking for), then make sure you are developing those qualities in yourself.

Acknowledge your pain. It is okay to mourn what you don’t have. As one friend put it “if all else fails or isn’t helping, have a playlist of songs to cry to.” Just don’t stay in that place for too long. Grieve a bit, and then find someone to serve or bring it to prayer. Have an ending point and a way to enter back fully into the beauty and the cross of your life as it is here and now.

Friends having fun on drive

Offering and enjoying

One tangible way another friend channels the cross of unintended singleness is this: “Recently at weddings, when the feelings of sadness, jealousy, envy, etc. creep in, I try to redirect these emotions for good. Instead of giving myself a pity party, I try to focus on offering up the sufferings of my singleness for the newly married couple and any hardships they may face in their marriage. (Still not always an easy thing to do!)”

Enjoy the beauty and freedom that being single has to offer. Appreciate simple things like the ability to travel, putting your finances in order and enjoying the freedom of making financial decisions solo, going to fun events and parties, and reveling in the gift of spontaneity. There are benefits in your life, and these can be shared with others.

As one friend put it, “In this time of singleness I am able to give more of my time and focus to those around me. I am able to provide help and/or fellowship to family and friends who are in need. It allows me to give full attention to the students in my religious education class. I am also able to be fully engaged in my job- which I’m learning is the vocation God is currently calling me to.”

Young man with down syndrome and friend

Being realistic and open

Remember that marriage will be a life full of sacrifice and won’t fulfill you completely. You will still experience loneliness and hardship and the temptation to think that the grass is greener in a different vocation or with someone else. Acknowledge that every vocation and state in life comes with its own set of crosses — this can go a long way in accepting where you are in life. 

The timeline of your life may surprise you when you look back on it. One friend who is currently in a serious relationship is able now to appreciate her years of singleness. She realizes that she is in a much better place now than previously when she had hoped to be married and having a family. She is now grateful for a path and timeline she didn’t always appreciate.

Group of friends sitting on mountain in skiing attire

Invest in prayer

Last, but most importantly, invest time in prayer. The only relationship that will ever completely fulfill you is one you can cultivate right now. Pray, delve into Scripture, explore spiritual direction, get involved in your parish, look into lay movements. Find ways to grow your spiritual life. The investment into knowing and loving God is worth every moment you put in and is the key to living your state of life well alongside whatever vocation you find.

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