Prodigal Magazine

Letting Go Of My Single Life

I didn’t always love being single.

I did my share of crying myself to sleep at night, thinking no one would ever love me. I wondered if I was doomed to be alone forever. I went through break-ups that broke my heart, and wondered if it was all worth it.

Single life certainly had it’s ups and downs.

But after twenty-some years I had also just sort of settled into it. I’d become accustomed to the way I could wake up in the morning and make my own choices about what I was going to eat for breakfast, or if I was going to socialize after work or just come home, make popcorn, and watch a movie.

I’d developed hobbies that actually made me really happy. I picked up long-distance running, started keeping a blog that I hoped would turn into a book someday, and would spend Saturday evenings lounging around with a hot cup-of-something and whatever book I was enjoying at the time.

I had friends. Lots of them. I traveled when I wanted, and would make decisions at the last minute about what to do, with who, and when.

I loved my church community and spending time with my family.

I never had to wonder if there was milk left in the fridge because, if I left it there, it would be there, right where I left it.

My life was so predictable. Easy. Under control.

That’s why one day, a little more than a year ago, while I was running with a friend, I told her that I wasn’t sure I wanted to get married anymore. I wasn’t trying to sound strong. I wasn’t covering up a deep loneliness I was feeling (at least as far as I knew). I wasn’t pretending to be more mature or self-actualized than I already was.

I was just really content being single.

Less than a year later, I was married.

When I stood at the altar and committed my life to my new husband, I told him I would be with him in sickness and health, regardless if we were rich or poor. But what I should have told him was that I was laying down my single life for him. I should have told him that it was okay if he moved the milk, or even drank it all, and that I would have grace for him when he left the seat up.

I should have told him that I would love him more than running, or writing.

I should have told him that he would be mine forever, even if he never ran a marathon with me.

I wish my heart was in that place on my wedding day, but it wasn’t. Instead, I stood at the altar and said “I do,” oblivious to the ways that my life would inevitable change after my wedding day.

Relationships I cherished would change.

Hobbies I loved would change.

I would have way, way less control over what is in the fridge.

I’ve heard people say that you have to “be content in your singleness” before you get married

—I guess I understand what they are getting at — that you have to be a whole person before you can offer yourself wholly to someone else, but I wonder if becoming “content” in our single life is actually accomplishing that objective.

I don’t feel like it accomplished it for me.

Maybe that’s because, when I said I was “content” in my singleness, what I really meant was that I was attached to it. The reason I didn’t want to get married was because somewhere, deep down, I knew it would mean giving up what I had.

Packing Light. You have to let go of one thing to grab onto something new.

I wonder if generations before us, or cultures outside of us, have the same concept of a single, adult life we have. I wonder if they are given opportunities to grow attached to their own sense of autonomy, a life they one day have to “give up” in order to be part of a community, a family.

I wonder if they feel the need to become “content” with their single life.

I wonder if they see life with (as opposed to life alone) as all there is.

I wonder if it is our attachment to things, our insistence to bring more than we really need, that keeps us from really enjoying the trip.

Question:

[photo: Braden Spotts]

About The Author

Allison is a writer, managing editor of Prodigal Magazine and author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage (Moody, 2013). She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband Darrell. You can follow her daily on Twitter or Facebook.

  • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

    I think this is very important. Life is really about trade-offs. We give up one thing to get another. $10 for a new album. 2 hours to watch a movie. All that we are and all that we have for Jesus. The key is making good trades. Sounds like you did.

    • http://www.facebook.com/allison.vesterfelt.7 Ally Vesterfelt

      Jeremy — that’s such a good point. I’m not sure I did a good job of explaining that in the article, but that’s where my heart was. We can’t have the best of all worlds. Life is about trade-offs, and when choosing between my husband and my single life I definitely traded up.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

        Actually, I thought you did a good job. Your article made me think of the things in my life that are hard. Sometime I wish I were doing something else and the hardness could go away. The hardness is there because I want it to be. Because I traded for it. Same goes to get rid of it. I have to make that trade back. So I keep moving forward.

        • http://www.facebook.com/allison.vesterfelt.7 Ally Vesterfelt

          That’s really, really good. I love this: “The hardness is there because I want it to be. Because I traded for it.” That helps me re-frame difficulty when I can think about how I picked it — I get to own the difficulty, and own the reward. I am not a victim to difficult circumstances. I can trade back… but them I’m moving backwards.

          Love that. Thanks for adding that.

          • http://InkyJazz.com/ Bridget

            Sometimes trading back means moving backwards. But sometimes it’s just taking ownership of our mistakes and fixing them.

            I love Jeremy’s idea of trading because it’s empowering. It’s easy to say we have no choice, when what we really mean is we don’t want to make a hard choice. We always have choices, even if they’re not the ones we would prefer.

  • Michaeleen

    So reading this post, I’m pretty sure you just read my mind….as if you took my thoughts and wrote a blog about it. (I’m getting married Nov. 17! Woot woot!) I actually wrote about my experience with singleness here:

    http://www.caitlinmuir.com/becoming-a-keeper-guest-post-by-michaeleen-rutkowski/

    Thanks for always being open to share your stories. It’s great knowing there are other women thinking the same things.

    • http://www.facebook.com/allison.vesterfelt.7 Ally Vesterfelt

      Michaeleen — wow, it sounds like we’re really on the same page with what we’re learning right now. Congrats on your engagement and marriage, by the way!!

      I think a culture that celebrates autonomy teaches us to be self-centered, teaches use to practice “independence” (which really doesn’t exist) as a value, and makes it difficult for many of us to transition into married life.

      I feel like it’s okay to grieve what I am leaving behind, as long as I acknowledge and appreciate the great blessing of what I am receiving!

      Best of luck to you in the next few weeks of planning and preparing.

  • http://christymcferren.com/ Christy McFerren

    Such truth, Ally. I can relate to everything you are saying – and saying so well! I was also having the same conversation with a friend last summer, prior to meeting Dan. I was really happy with my freedom as a single person to live in the moment and call all my shots. I think in a way, marriage is one of God’s methods of salvation for the selfishness of humankind. There is a daily dying to self, but it’s so worth it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/allison.vesterfelt.7 Ally Vesterfelt

      “Marriage is one of God’s methods of salvation for the selfishness of humankind.”

      Christy, that’s such a great way to say it. It’s not the only way, because marriage is not for everyone, but it is one way. It’s been a very effective tool in teaching me to die to myself, and you’re right, it is so worth it!

      • http://christymcferren.com/ Christy McFerren

        Absolutely – it’s just one way. It definitely doesn’t imply that single people are selfish, either. God is very clever and multi-faceted in his methods!

        • http://www.facebook.com/allison.vesterfelt.7 Ally Vesterfelt

          Amen to that!

  • http://www.caitlinmuir.com Caitlin Muir

    Bold truth! Thanks for sharing the reality of life instead of covering it up with gloss.

    The single life is full of wonderful control. For a long time, I’ve had an idol of independence. I’ve placed value on being able to follow whatever fancy floated my way or just pick up life to go on another adventure. I’m learning now just how much we need each other and the humility that goes along with that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/allison.vesterfelt.7 Ally Vesterfelt

      Caitlin — it’s easy to idolize independence because we live in a culture that teaches us to do it. We’re told that independent people are mature, self-actualized people, and that the more self-sufficient you are, the better off (and happier) you’ll be. The truth is that there is no such thing as independence, and that when we pretend we don’t need people, we’re lying about ourselves and our needs.

      Not all of us will get married, but all of us will become more holistic, mature people as we learn to live well in community with others.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Dude, you have control of your single life? Hahaha I constantly feel like I have very little control. But I’m getting better at admitting that, owning the small bits that I can, and trusting Jesus. :)

      • http://www.caitlinmuir.com Caitlin Muir

        Em, you know. It’s the usual rigamarole of shoes, trips, and awesomeness.

        But what I was trying to communicate was closer to Ally’s thoughts. I’m just not as great at communication!

        • Emily_Maynard

          Caitlin, Psssh. You are absolutely wonderful and your voice is valuable. NOBODY can think of things the exact way that you do. Keep sharing. I love your communicating! :)

          Ally, thank you for this: “Not all of us will get married, but all of us will become more holistic, mature people as we learn to live well in community with others.” Love that you’re learning this in your marriage. Community changes us, whether it’s the community of a marriage, the challenges of changing roommate or family situations, friends, or our church.

          We have so much letting go to do. We have so much holding on to do.

  • Kristin

    Love this–> “you have to let go of one thing to grab onto something new.” That is something God has been showing me lately. That today he wants me to embrace the season that I am in today, this week, this month, and live it the best I can-but not build my identity in it. My job may change, my relationship status may change, my home may change, but my identity does not rest in my circumstances-but rather in the heart God has been and is cultivating in me.

    • http://www.facebook.com/allison.vesterfelt.7 Ally Vesterfelt

      Kristin — yes, yes. Even in the midst of great change God is teaching me that my identity remains firm in who He is. To add to that, I’m learning that my “identity” (in terms of my preferences, geography, personality, temperament, etc) isn’t fixed, but is flexible and changes over time as I learn and grow.

      I used to feel threatened by that idea (I am an introvert and I will be that forever. Don’t try to change who I am!) But now I feel liberated by it. It feels exciting to think that God isn’t done with me yet, and there are sides of my “personality” I haven’t even experienced yet.

  • ALlie Babare

    yeah, that is good food for thought! Especially the part about our contentedness keeping us single! its true, especially when I look around and see how hard married life can be I am happy to remain single! I suppose we have to stay close to God and soft to His voice so that we get married if He wants us too.. like you did!

    • http://www.facebook.com/allison.vesterfelt.7 Ally Vesterfelt

      Allie — I love what you said about staying soft to His voice. That’s such a great way to put it. People ask me how I knew I was supposed to marry Darrell (especially since we knew each other for only 2 months before we were engaged) and I always say that I listened to the small, quiet voice of the Holy Spirit. There were other voices that were louder — voices of my insecurity, fear, skepticism, etc., but when I got quiet I knew that I knew that I knew I was supposed to get married when we did.

  • Allison Button

    Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for writing this. I just had a conversation with a co-worker where she said she can’t be without a man, and I told her I was the opposite, I’m too good at being single. I thought I was the only person like this. It’s not the normal struggle in society, but it’s still a struggle to me. I am not married, but I am in a relationship, and sometimes it can be scary b/c it’s easier, and more comfortable to be alone.

    • http://www.facebook.com/allison.vesterfelt.7 Ally Vesterfelt

      Allison — you are not alone. Even now that I’m married I sometimes find it easier to be alone than to be in relationship with my husband. What I’m finding is that, when I exert the energy it takes to be connected to him, I am a better, happier, more fulfilled version of myself.

  • Amanda Hopkins

    Thank you! I love your voice Ally. Keep on sharing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/allison.vesterfelt.7 Ally Vesterfelt

      Thanks Amanda! Glad you’re reading — and liking it!

    • http://www.facebook.com/allison.vesterfelt.7 Ally Vesterfelt

      Thanks Amanda! I’m so glad that you’re reading — and enjoying!

  • http://twitter.com/bwitt722 Brianna DeWitt

    I appreciate you pointing out the tension that exists for single people. If marriage is what we truly desire and feel that God has wired us for, living our lives to “make the most out of being single” can become a dangerous mindset. On the flip side, if we live in a perpetual holding pattern, simply waiting for that right person to come along, we run the risk of missing out on a significant chunk of our lives. It’s a tricky place to navigate.

    • http://InkyJazz.com/ Bridget

      Brianna, I hear you. But I’d say no matter how you dice it, two becoming one is hard work. Living in a holding pattern probably doesn’t make the transition any easier.

      In fact, coming into marriage thinking, “Ah, now I can finally start living, be the person I’ve wanted to be, or find out who I really am,” puts a lot of pressure on the relationship.

      So maybe it’s just best to make the most of every day and not miss out on anything. After all, we only have today.

  • Rachel

    Thanks for this post…I can really resonate with what you’re saying! I’m recently married (less than 3 weeks! :) ) and spent a lot my engagement grieving over the loss I was facing as a single person. Not in a ‘I don’t want to get married’ kind of way but in a ‘I know my life is going to change in profound ways and it’s a bit scary’ kind of way. We decided to put a line in our vows that said ‘I promise to sacrifice for you’. After only 2.5 weeks I’m obviously still figuring out what that means in the day to day…but for me it got at the fact that I was choosing to give up and to sacrifice some of what I loved about being single and that, instead, I was choosing to tell an even better story with my husband.

  • http://www.hisgirl4life.blogspot.com/ Tara

    This has definitely left me thinking. I’m one of those who is extremely content in being single and question sometimes whether the Lord even has someone for me to marry… not really in a sad way, just in a curious way. I definitely see your point. Thanks for sharing it!

  • http://twitter.com/mattschaar m@

    …I’m torn on this article, admittedly, and not because of the content (it’s excellent, Allison), but the subject at hand and how we approach it in Christian circles.

    On one hand, I’m a man that absolutely, unequivocally desires to be a husband, lover, father, provider, etc. to another human being (or, in the case of fatherhood, ‘beings’) at some point in my life.

    On the other hand, I find it somewhat disconcerting that we’ve almost turned single living into a ‘trial period’ in preparation for marriage. Even the charge to “be content in your singleness” sounds kinda like single people are handed this pile of over-ripened oranges and should try REALLY HARD to enjoy every bitter bite as much as we would if we were handed perfectly spherical, fresh-from-the-grove oranges.

    I’ve explored several communities of faith that are inundated with singles like me, and it’s the rare one that sees singlehood as just as much of a corporate asset as marriage; the contributions to the community are diverse and far-reaching regardless of marital status, and we break bread together without the nearest hint or suggestion that we’re somehow all steering the group toward shacking up with one another. Marriage and family development is an incredibly binding force in a faith community, but it’s not THE binding force.

    I think the litmus test for when we’ve truly turned the corner, and that the church culture finally sees singles as equals, is when we are able to find some sliver of joy in an amicable breakup between two members of a faith community — not because we masochistically like to see others go through pain, but because they both discovered that it was more honoring to God that they continue down a path of singlehood rather than marry simply because, well, that’s what they’re supposed to do.

  • http://InkyJazz.com/ Bridget

    It was relatively easy for me to say goodbye to my single life. What pained me then and pains me now is the sacrifice of self that true relationship demands. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Do I put up a fight every time? Probably.

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  • http://twitter.com/JonathanMontan Jonathan Montan

    I think all of us mourn the death of phases in our lives. For the simple reason it means something new and strange is going to replace it.

  • Maranatha John

    You know, i think one of the important steps to getting into a relationship is first being content with YOU. You must be happy with who you are before trying to get excited about someone else. Having a life partner will not change your perception of you, nor add fulfillment to your life if it wasn’t there before. Dag Heward-Mills in “Model Marriage” explains all the ins and outs of getting into a relationship into marriage. He goes on to explicate every aspect of marriage as well. It’s a must-have for every married couple; the relationship will be transformed for the best! :)

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  • carol perez

    I love how you finally got married, when you thought you didn’t wanted that…hope both of you are happy

    if some of you want to read a single girls blog:
    mysinglelifetoday.blogspot.com.ar